«My English is awful and I’m anglo-shy». Yes, then practice it, once a week
If you work with contents – unless you work only with visual communication and be sure you can do without text – you will have a huge problem with a language other than your mother tongue.
When I try to speak English, I become shy. I call this state of mind anglo-shyness. I don’t know actually why it happens. It’s like when you listen to your voice in a recording and you feel ashamed. And I just know that I’m able to read in English. I can watch tv series in English – often with the subs, which make me more self-confident about my comprehension. But if I have to sustain a conversation, well, everything becomes difficult.
I become sure that I will not able to understand my interlocutor. I look for difficult words (just like “interlocutor”, which is actually very similar to the Italian “interlocutore”, but I had to check it). I become afraid that I won’t be able to make [edit: to aks] the right question if I have to make an interview, just like this short one with Jeff Jarvis.
Writing is not so different. I write using complicated grammatical constructs, convoluted, unnecessary.
So, I turn my certainty that if I’ll try to do something in English I’ll miserably fail in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Moreover, I work with concepts which require a good control about words and language. Add to this the fact that I suffer the impostor syndrome and you’ll have a perfect mix to explain my frustration about this issue.
I’m convinced that my English is awful.
So, I decided to practice it for a lot of reasons.
The first one is my work on a documentary movie (News Feed) which will force me to listen to a lot of English conversations (we interviewed Mark Thompson, Craig Silverman, Jeff Jarvis, and it’s just the beginning).
The second reason is Medium membership program. I asked to pay for the first month, then I subscribed the closed feedback group on Facebook. There, I’m forced to write in English if I want to give my feedback and be a true member in the sense of the word and not just a subscriber. Last week I wrote – with enormous difficulties – a piece about Medium business model and journalism to save.
The third reason is my work. I talk and write and teach about journalism and content marketing, SEO and social, television and videos. All my personal and working story is about contents, people, ways to let those contents found, ways to distribute those contents and so on. Also, this should have forced me to write in English from a lot of time.
Of course, it’s not as simple as it could appear. Writing this short post costs me almost half an hour, a Wordreference tab always opened in my browser, another tab with Google Translator and the hard-to-resist willing to surrender and leave this bad purpose alone on a remote side of my mind.
A deep voice comes from that side: «Come on, Alberto, write and speak in Italian. It’s ok. You’re almost 39, what do you think you can do?».
But I don’t want to listen to that voice. I know I have to practice because I need my works to spread outside Italy, where I have my readers-niche but where I also face a very closed labor market.
Just to give you an example, some times ago I wrote a piece about journalism and business model in Italian. I’ve sent it to some other journalists, but nobody seemed to be interested. So I translated it in English – thanks to a friend of mine – and then I put it here, on Medium. After a couple of weeks, I was contacted by Ingrid Cobben and my theory founded its place on the Wan-Ifra Blog.
It’s a big lesson for me. There’s no way: I need to practice my English. And this will be the gym where I’ll train.
I’ll try to practice my English writing at least once a week. It’s the only way to win my anglo-shiness.
[Note: Thanks to Debora Aru, this text has been edited using a surprisingly useful tool, Grammarly]