7 Must-Know Tips for Public Speaking in a Non-Native Language

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7 Must-Know Tips for Public Speaking in a Non-Native (for you) Language

What can be more challenging than giving a public speech in front of a large audience? How about delivering a speech in a language other than your mother tongue?

Many of us experience public speaking anxiety. We have a fear of being judged. We are afraid that what we say will be misinterpreted. But things get much more tricky when we also need to speak in a language we are not so fluent in. 

If you have to speak in  a non-native language, the chances are you are embarrassed about your accent and find it difficult to pronounce some sounds that are not natural for you, or some long, complex words. 

But don’t worry. You don’t have to be fluent in the language you speak in to succeed as a public speaker. If you put some extra effort into speech preparation, you will rock it.

Write an outline

Many people believe that the best way to prepare for a public speech is to write a full script and learn it by heart. 

But the most effective public speakers are those who speak from short notes or an outline rather than a full script. Why? Because when public speakers — non-native speakers in particular — get anxious, they start reading their script rather than giving a speech. 

Public Speaking Tip_Write an outline

When you have notes only and you encounter difficulties, you have no choice but to pull yourself together and continue the speech.

You should always start preparing your speech by writing an outline:

  • Come up with an attention-getter. Think of what you can say to start your speech.

  • List the key points you will discuss. Write down the main statements you will make, and most importantly, highlight the words you tend to forget.

  • Write the close. Analyze speeches of popular native language public speakers to get ideas of what you can say to close your speech.

Check that you really know the meaning of the words you will use

In most languages many words have a number of meanings. The sense of the word always depends on the context. If you choose a word that doesn’t fit the context of your speech, your audience may misinterpret your message.

Public Speaking Tip_Choose words wisely

To prevent that from happening, you should choose words wisely. If you don’t know the meaning of a specific word, you should research it or skip it. 

Reach out to your native-language-speaking friends and ask them to assist you with polishing your speech. Or, visit forums for language learners — there are many people out there who can help you understand the meaning of the words that you’re having trouble with.

Avoid hard-to-pronounce words

One of the biggest mistakes non-native speakers tend to make is using hard-to-pronounce words. 

Public Speaking Tip_Avoid hard to pronounce words

Speakers feel awkward when they struggle to pronounce specific words — they doubt whether the audience will understand them. That negatively affects speakers’ confidence and the quality of their presentation.

You can avoid this problem and improve your speech by finding a synonym for your problem word. For instance, if you can’t pronounce the word “asterisk” [ˈæstərɪsk], don’t use it in your speech. Instead, use the word “star” or “reference mark” (depending on context). 

Get familiar with the slang 

Are you going to interact with your audience and answer questions? 

Public Speaking Tip_Get familiar with the slang

We highly suggest you do the prep work and learn the specialist and slang words relevant to your speech topic. It will help you better connect with your audience.

Let’s say you are going to give a speech about financial aid and grants. Your target audience is students and high schoolers.

Your task is to get familiar with the slang words that native-language-speaking students use. You should learn the terms associated with essay writing, exam preparation, and life on campus. If you don’t learn these slang phrases in advance, you will have trouble understanding audience questions.

Manage the pace of your speech

The pace of your speech can heavily impact how well it lands. If you speak too fast, it may be challenging for the audience to understand the words because of your accent. And if you speak too slowly, you will likely have trouble retaining the audience’s attention.

So what’s the best way to pace your speech? 

Public Speaking Tip_Manage the pace of your speech

Imagine that you are discussing recent events with your best friends and keep your speech flowing naturally. 

Once you realize that you are talking too fast, take a breath, pause, and then continue with your speech at a more steady pace.

Leverage visual tools

Public Speaking Tip_Leverage visual tools

It will be easier for you to convey your message if you use visuals. 

Create a PowerPoint presentation, put important phrases on slides, and you will significantly boost your communication efforts. It will be easy for your audience to follow your speech. People will understand your words regardless of the strength of your accent.

Don’t be afraid to make a mistake

Nothing bad will happen if you make a few minor mistakes. If you mispronounce one word, it will not ruin your reputation.

Remember that the more you worry, the more likely you will be to make a mistake. 

Public Speaking Tip_Don’t be afraid to make a mistake

The best thing you can do to improve your public speech is to relax and focus on positive outcomes. 

Also, don’t forget that the more you practice, the easier it gets. Practice your speech thoroughly and you will make fewer mistakes in front of your audience.

Wrapping up

English is important for global collaboration and global work. So if you want to excel in your career, you should learn to deliver a speech in English. But the advice in this article applies equally to any foreign (to you) language that you wish to speak in. 

We hope these seven tips will help you achieve public speaking success in a non-native language.

About the author

Kristin Savage is a speechwriter, content creator, and blogger at https://subjecto.com/. She uses her skills and knowledge to help newbie public speakers to make their speeches sound more professional and convincing. Also, Kristin works as a grant writer for educational institutions and local non-profits.

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