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10 confidence-boosting tips for presenting in a foreign language

Giving a presentation in any language is a challenging task. In fact, it’s estimated that around 75% of people struggle when it comes to public speaking.

The best way to confront the fear of public speaking is to stand up to it, to fight the fear and to believe in yourself; to be confident. In this article we give you 10 confidence-boosting tips to build your armour against the fear of presenting as a non-native (or native!) speaker.

 

  1. You’ve already won

An important and empowering thing you must remember is that you are doing something (presenting in a foreign language) that the majority of people in the UK would not even be able to attempt! So, you’ve already garnered respect for doing something most of your audience could only dream of doing. Embrace this and allow it to boost those all-important confidence levels! If you don’t believe me, do a little experiment: if you work with native English speakers, ask them the question ‘how would you feel about doing a presentation in a foreign language?’ I have a feeling I know how they’d react.

 

  1. Fight your fears to make them your strengths

Pronunciation is often the Achilles’ Heel of a language learner; non-native speakers of any language may feel that giving a presentation will shine a spotlight on their vulnerabilities. If this is how you feel, you shouldn’t ignore it, you should fight it. Pick out the words in your presentation which you find most difficult to pronounce and follow the steps below. Let’s use the word ‘strategy’ as an example: 

 

       a) Break the word into syllables:

 

stra   -    te   -    gy

 

       b) Mark the stressed syllable(s):

 

stra    -    te    -    gy

 

       c) If you know the phonemic chart, write the word phonetically:

 

/stræ  -   tɪʤ   -   ɪ /

 

       d) If you don’t know the phonemic chart, write it phonetically in the regular alphabet:

 

strah    -    tuh    -     jee

 

Now practise! Say the word using the prompts above a few times, then add them into a sentence and practice saying the whole thing a few times. Don’t over-do it, though! Just until you’re happy that the word is clear enough to understand.

 

  1. Don’t memorise

Tempting though it may be, don’t fall into the trap. Memorising a 5, 10, 15+ minute presentation is a huge task and it will only add to stress and pressure. You’re more likely to whizz through it too, which will be detrimental to your pronunciation and overall delivery; not to mention how unnatural and less relatable it will be. Instead, use small cards to write statistics, key words, and the words you find particularly difficult to pronounce (see above). You may not even need these cards in the end, but they will certainly provide a powerful placebo effect and boost your much-needed confidence.

 

  1. Know your limits

Be aware of your linguistic limits and don’t use this as an opportunity to push them. Don’t try to replicate (or translate!) what you would say in your native language. Imagine the stress of dancing the salsa in public without knowing the moves, don’t do it to yourself! Use shorter, more literal sentences than you would in your own language, this will ensure you feel as calm and as confident as possible.

 

  1. Work out!

Before a big race, not only will an athlete train on the tracks, but also at the gym. You should do the same: practice speaking out loud. Say anything you want (not just lines from your presentation), whenever you have a spare 5 minutes to yourself, as long as it’s in your target language! This will build your speech muscles and add to your confidence in speaking out-loud.

 

  1. “A picture is worth a thousand words”

This famous English adage is as true now as it always has been. If you’re creating a PowerPoint slideshow for your presentation, use images. One image could communicate a complex message or idea in a matter of seconds, without any words required.

 

  1. Culture-wise

Just to make sure you don’t make any cultural faux-pas, do a little research into the culture of the people you’ll be presenting to. This way you’ll avoid any embarrassing situations or potentially offensive jokes or content. It’s not that likely that you would offend, but just by doing this little bit of research, you’ll be confident knowing that your presentation is appropriate for the group you’re delivering to.

 

  1. Rehearse!

Practise your whole presentation a couple of times with a native speaker. Ask them for some honest feedback and any suggestions they have to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the language used. 

 

  1. Breathe

This may sound like the most obvious piece of advice ever, but it works wonders. Nerves are going to be high in the build up to your presentation, keep them under control by practising a simple breathing technique if you have a few minutes before you start. It’s all about slow, calm breathing. If you’re not sure of the technique, there’s plenty of videos on YouTube to help you.

 

  1. Expert advice

Here at PLS, we’re fortunate enough to work in an office full of non-native English speakers with outstanding communication skills, so I took the opportunity to ask them for some words of wisdom on how to tackle a presentation in a foreign language. Here are some highlights:

  • Use ‘power positions’ (i.e. make yourself as tall and 'solid' as possible)
  • Make eye contact
  • Ask the audience questions
  • Remember the acronym, ‘KISS’: Keep It Short and Simple

 

If you're interested in building your second language for communication in a business environment, get in touch to see how Professional Language Solutions can help.

 

 

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