The DIRTY DOZEN. 12 Things Not To Do In English Today.
Promise me. You’ll stop doing this.
If you do, your life (and mine!) will change for the better.
I will become unemployed, but your English will be fabulous!
Here we go:
1. Overestimate your English skills (yes, I mean you)
Just because you laugh during South Park does not mean your English is good. It means you have developed your listening skills and can understand the context of the show’s humor. It does not mean you can give a kick-ass presentation or negotiate a deal in English. Do keep that in mind the next time you realise your speaking skills are much lower than your listening and/or reading skills.
2. Take the bus every day and complain that you’ve never won the Formula 1 race because you forgot how to drive
You have to use it or you’ll lose it. If you are not using your English actively and getting feedback on a regular basis, you won’t grow as an active communicator in English.
3. It is good enough for you so it must be good enough for everyone
Just because your English is functional, does not mean it’s always professionally appropriate. When I coach someone, I point out that you can actually create 10 different degrees of formality when it comes to making a request, for example. Most people don’t realise that there are so many nuances in English when it comes to formal and informal language. There’s a good chance that you’re coming across as slightly ruder than you intend to be. And no, we’ll never let you know. (Except me, of course.)
4. Bore us.
If you are using words like ‘good’, ‘nice’ and ‘big’ to describe things or situations, you’re using words that have little or no impact. There are so many tools out there to increase your vocabulary. Use them.
5. You think it’s about you…
when it comes to giving a presentation. But it’s not. You need to think about your audience first before you even start to prepare. What do they already know? What are they interested in? How can I make it attractive and useful for them? If you don’t have the right bait, you won’t catch any fish.
6. Packaging Schmackaging
If a native speaker does not like how your message is packaged (tone/style/use of formal language, etc), he or she will not like the message. Packaging your message appropriately is essential for being an effective speaker in English. Using humor is appropriate for your presentation when you’d like to entertain your audience, but it might not work when you have to inform your staff about low sales figures.
8. Use an English-Dutch (or English-French, or English-whatever) dictionary
Every time you look up an English word and get a translation of it, instead of the real meaning, you are leaving the English world and stepping back into your own language. If you do this often enough, you will not be able to think in English and will say stupid things like “My wife is an excellent cock” because you will think that “cook” means “kok” because that’s what the dictionary told you. Don’t let this happen to you. Start by learning what a word means in English.
9. Red is red
It’s not. If you ask a designer to make you a logo in red, she will. If you ask a gooddesigner to make you a logo in red, she will first ask you “Which red? There are over 285 recognised shades of red. Which one do you want?” Can you do the same in English?
10. Focussing on your pronunciation while you are talking, presenting or singing.
You should have done this before this moment. If you present or sing while concentrating on your pronunciation, you will sound like you are talking or singing with a book balanced on your head. And that’s the biggest mood-killer there is. Get feedback before you have to present or sing. Please!
11. Ending your emails like an alien.
Don’t go there.
12. Thinking that you can do it on your own.
You don’t have to. There are great courses out there that can really make the difference in how you communicate professionally. Wink wink, nudge, nudge, the Dutch finger in the eye thing.
I hope that my Dirty Dozen has helped clean up your English!
And hey, even if you forget my list from time to time, you know I still love you. Even if you’re dirty.
Wishing you a super-clean Monday, full of vivacious vocabulary, no books on your head, and no aliens in your email!
Your coach buffi xx