Speaking a foreign language can be incredibly difficult. But I’ve worked with many English-speaking clients who face the same challenges non-native speakers do. Like speaking too quickly, navigating unfamiliar words, and lacking the confidence to deliver their message with style and poise. Dr. Seuss can help with that!
Maryam, a computer science post doc at MIT, was concerned she was talking too fast. She felt that while presenting scientific papers to her peers some concepts were getting lost in her accent.
Her primary language is Farsi. When we sat down to look at her speech patterns, I assured her she had already mastered the technicalities of the English language. The next step was to face the same challenges everyone does who wishes to deliver information with confidence, clarity and strong personal presentation. Slow down, articulate, and as a college theater coach once told me, “stand there and mean it.”
This is good advice for all kinds of speaking situations.
To slow Maryam down we read “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” by Dr. Seuss and walked through the unfamiliar language. Reading the wibbley-wobbely words forced her to recognize her pace and deliver each thought with clarity.
On the first day we made a recording of her reading from a technical textbook so she could hear what her presentations sounded like. At later sessions we ran exercises that focused on breathing, diction, volume and pace. We regularly replayed the first recording to track her progress.
After our last week of working together she delivered a paper at a science symposium and got glowing reports from colleagues who praised her improvement.
It’s comforting to know that what might seem like an intimidating problem – shuffling your native language around the idiosyncrasies of the English language – can be addressed using the same techniques everyone can benefit from. Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?