My not so good spoken English is hurting my career a lot
Sorry to hear this - I hope the following advice is helpful, and if things ever get really bad, I'm just a ping away on the Taro Premium Slack! I'm always happy to lend an understanding ear 😊
First, I recommend this video: English Communication Is The Most Important Skill For Immigrant Engineers. It's from Rachel Zhao, head of Search Engineering at Airbnb, who also didn't learn English as their first language.
English was my 2nd language (Mandarin was my first), but since I was born in the US, I was privileged enough to have it effectively be my 1st language (and now it's my primary language). I'm not the closest to this problem, so would love for folks who didn't have English as their 1st language chime in with better advice than mine.
Anyways, here are my thoughts:
- Put yourself out there and talk to your teammates in English as much you can - Language is very much a "muscle memory" type of skill: You get make the biggest strides getting at it by just doing it. This was the most helpful for me as I was learning Spanish (I'm more fluent at Spanish than I am in Chinese now). It's going to feel awkward, maybe even painful, initially, but if you have a good team, I'm sure people will be very supportive. When it comes to the work environment, there's 2 avenues to practice this:
- Meetings - This is the best place to train up your communication skill but also the scariest. If you're feeling scared, I recommend following the advice here: "I struggle to come up with things that add value to a meeting - What do I say?"
- Casual hangouts - Back before the pandemic, team lunch was the prime setting for this. It's a great place to just talk in a relaxed environment with 0 stakes. If you're too uncomfortable speaking up in meetings, you can maximize being active here first and then "move up".
- Tap into people's kindness and ask for feedback - At the end of a long communication (either long or written), you can add something like, "If anything I said doesn't make sense, please let me know! English isn't my first language, and I'm trying really hard to get better at it.". This humility really activates people's empathy and makes them really want to help you. The clear feedback will help you improve quickly as well!
- Try Toastmasters - It's a nice organization that helps you improve your public speaking and communication skills. I went to a session once a while ago, and it was all pretty wholesome. I think it has a good chance of helping.