Public Speaking Tips: Five Tips for ESL (English as a Second Language) Speakers

As if speaking in public wasn’t challenging enough, imagine having to translate your thoughts on the fly into another language while speaking in front of a group. Well this is a challenge that many speakers who emigrate from a country where English is not the primary language to an English speaking country face.

I know many people who are trying to overcome this challenge. So I’ve put together a list of tips to help (I’ll get into more detail on some of these tips and list more in future posts):

Tip 1: Record yourself.

Whether you record just audio or video as well, this is the best way to help you become aware of areas in your speaking that you might want to improve. You may notice patterns of certain sounds that you have trouble with such as “r” sounds or “ch” sounds. It can also help to have a native English speaker watch or listen to your recording to help you identify these sounds. Remember, knowing what you need to improve is half the battle.

Tip 2: Ask for feedback.

Ask people if they can understand your words. Do you mispronounce certain words or do you speak too fast or too slow? Do you combine words or make grammatical mistakes? It’s good to get feedback from others as they may notice things that you don’t.

Tip 3: Don’t beat yourself up.

My native language is English. I took Spanish for five years when I was in school and although I can understand it, I don’t feel comfortable giving a speech in Spanish. This is why I, and many others who are only truly fluent in one language respect and admire those willing to learn to speak in public in their second (or third) language.

So you’re taking a big step, one that others admire. Don’t beat yourself up if you make common mistakes. The key is that you’re improving and the more you keep at it, the sooner you’ll reach your goal.

Tip 4: Write out your entire speech.

Even if you only plan on using notes during your presentation, write out the speech. This exercise will help you improve your grammar and it will show through when you deliver your speech. If you write using a word processing program with a grammar checker, you may identify some areas that you weren’t even aware that you were making mistakes in. You could also run your written speech by friends or coworkers to ensure your grammar and pronunciation is correct.

Tip 5: Practice, practice, practice.

The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel. If you can practice in front of a mock audience, then do it. You’ll get great feedback and you’ll quickly identify and fix those problem areas. If you’re looking for a mock audience, try a Toastmasters club.


13 thoughts on “Public Speaking Tips: Five Tips for ESL (English as a Second Language) Speakers

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  8. kate

    How to overcome the habit of reading from notes?

    I tried to consolidate my thoughts in points form and convey the messages in my natural tone, but I messed up the grammars and sentence structures. It seems like the fear is one of the factor that affect my speech delivery.

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  10. Tim Ackerman

    Great tips!

    I really believe that public speaking is something you can acquire or learn to. It is something that you can study and work on it to improve your communication skills.

    Practice is the key to it — practice to improve.

  11. Catherine

    I teach public speaking at the university level, and writing out a speech is typically not recommended unless the speech is going to be memorized, which is only appropriate for special occasion or short messages. In most cases, speeches are delivered in an extemporaneous style because manuscript style speeches (written out) restrict naturalness and enthusiasm, which also means it restricts natural body and hand gestures, as well as facial expressions and eye contact. There are better ways to practice grammar and pronunciation. Writing out the speech will not help your delivery.

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