Skills in English for the non-native speaker

Skills in English?

You probably get the part about “non-native speaker”. Intuitively we all can picture who a non-native speaker is. But why “skills in English” and not just “English” or “English classes”?

Because what you want is skills. And you want to use them in English. You may have some of those skills in your mother language, but if you want to do anything with people who do not speak your language, doing it in English is probably the alternative.

Skills in English include such diverse things as playing tennis, having drinks, closing a business deal, enjoying a musical play in a Broadway theatre,  or deciding which of the options for a medical treatment you should choose. Anything, including catching up with gossip about your neighbours requires skills, abilities.

Being functional in English (or any other foreign language) goes beyond learning grammar and vocabulary. It also goes beyond speaking fluently. It requires hard skills and soft skills. It requires reading between the lines and listening before speaking, so you don’t put your foot in it. It requires keeping an open mind and remembering at all times that the way things are done in your culture is just a possibility and not necessarily better or worse than others. Just different.

It requires patience, a sense of humour and an adventurous mind. 

Each of these requirements are skills. They are not unique to English, but rather universal skills we take for granted or which we dismiss as secondary. But these are the skills required for successfully acquiring a new language and being able to do things in it.

And in that way, feeling as comfortable as any native speaker of that language. In the process you will get closer to sounding like a native speaker. But it will happen for the right, objective reasons and not motivated by an irrational need for approval.

Why bother?

The most important thing is what motivates you. Be honest with yourself. If it is a professional motivation, check that it is you and not your boss or your company that is putting this need in your head. The first and foremost question is:

Where do I want to go? How do I see myself in the future?

Because if learning to do things in English is going to be in your future, it should be connected with the things you see yourself  doing in the future. If you are going to make the effort, it should be worth it.

Plan ahead, English included.

The most important skill you are going to need is planning. You may feel insulted by the obvious or you may be thinking “Oh he is right!” . So write down what you want to do with your life. Then decide how you are going to do it. And if English is part of the plan, I can be part of the solution: drop me a line!