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Own photo

“How was your holiday in Barbados? Wow, you look so dark. You look like a nig- nog.”

‘Nig- nog’ is a pejorative term used to describe a black person. It dates back from colonialism when Britain claimed half the world for itself and reminded everyone of their superiority.

These were the first words a close White relative uttered as I stepped out of the car. “He was only joking. He didn’t mean what he said. He wasn’t thinking.” This was my husband’s defence of his relative.

Yes, he did. He knew exactly what he was saying.

I have just had a business lunch with a client. Before I leave, I give him my business card with my Sri Lankan name on it. “Oh”, he says, “you’re Indian. The trouble with the Indians in this country is that they don’t mix with anyone. They stay within their own community.” …


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If you need, you can rely on support from your colleagues, whether it’s a quick chat beforehand, leaning over to ask them for clarification or reading people’s body language.

Now, though, you’re stuck at home with only a screen and a microphone to help you in that virtual business meeting (VBM). You’re on your own with your English. No quick chat, leaning over towards your colleague or clear body language.

Plus there are tech issues like knowing how to work the system, dealing with connection problems, people who switch their videos off and mute their microphones so they can do other things. …


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Photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

You’re ‘locked-in’ at home, but you have successfully adjusted to working from home (WFH) with all the issues that that involves, managed the children and connected virtually with your team.

And yet, by the end of the day, you feel deflated. You’ve spent the whole day extinguishing fires, participating in strategic meetings and trying to keep your international team’s spirits up.

You’re trying to stay positive but it’s getting harder and harder. You’re trying to bolster your team by starting each meeting with some small talk. But no one’s really in the mood for what feels like meaningless chit chat. …


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Photo by Lawrence Makoona on Unsplash

You know that friend, colleague, family member and ex-collegemate? They have it all, don’t they?

➤ The college mate has a thriving business.

➤ Your cousin has an enviable lifestyle.

➤ Your friend is wealthy enough to take 4 holidays a year.

➤ And as for your colleague, their communication skills in English are unparalleled.

You look at yourself and your achievements and wonder where it all went wrong.

Ok, that’s a little dramatic but let’s be honest, when we’re wallowing in self-pity, being dramatic is our life saviour.

The temptation for comparison is all too real today. It can be positive, but all too often it’s pernicious. It eats away at our self-esteem until we’re left with an empty shell where our soul used to be. …


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Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

“I realised my audience didn’t care about my English grammar. They were more interested in understanding my message.”

I couldn’t believe it when Giorgos uttered those words in our catch-up call two weeks ago.

For the 2 years we worked together, Giorgos was obsessed with achieving perfect English grammar, using the latest buzzwords and acquiring a more sophisticated vocabulary in his business presentations.

Despite my attempts to get him to focus on communicating with the English he had.

He believed, as many international speakers of English like you do, that in order to be taken seriously in the international world and to build a credible reputation, he absolutely needed to be fluent and grammar-perfect in English. …


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Photo by Adrian Trinkaus on Unsplash

From the day we’re born, our life’s path is driven by expectations — our parents’, extended family’s, school’s, peers’, culture’s, society’s.

It’s expected we lead a certain life, make certain choices, go down a certain road. Veering off that path is not negotiable despite our soul screaming to be released.

We then arrive at the 2nd half of our life and look back in disbelief at our lack of courage. Why was I not brave enough to follow my heart? My soul?

Take your approach to English.

For years, you were told by your English teachers the ONLY way to be fluent was to master grammar, complete vocabulary sheets, take exams until you were mistake-free. …


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Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

“I realised my audience didn’t care about my English grammar. They were more interested in understanding my message.”

I couldn’t believe it when Giorgos uttered those words in our catch-up call two weeks ago.

For the 2 years we worked together, Giorgos was obsessed with achieving perfect English grammar, using the latest buzzwords and acquiring a more sophisticated vocabulary in his business presentations.

Despite my attempts to get him to focus on communicating with the English he had.

He believed, as many international speakers of English like you do, that in order to be taken seriously in the international world and to build a credible reputation, he absolutely needed to be fluent and grammar-perfect in English. …


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Photo by karl chor on Unsplash

“I’ve got a crazy schedule over the next few weeks. I’ll get back to you sometime in August to start some coaching.”

“I truly want to do that reflection programme, but life’s so hectic at the moment. Give me till the end of summer.”

“Something’s come up. Can we postpone the start of the programme by 3 weeks?”

“I’m travelling over the next few days, can we start the programme later?”

I get it. With all that busyness, who has time to exercise, read a book, go for a walk, or start that language programme, right?

I don’t either. I am far too busy doing stuff. I am not sure what, but my days are filled to the brim. I bet yours are the same. …


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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

You and I are so alike.

We have a dream. We think we know how to achieve it.

We are also impatient, so we look for ways to fast track its realisation.

We create a to-do list we believe will help us achieve our dream as quickly as possible. A to-do list that’s filled with words like ’top tips’, ‘how to (fill in the blanks) in 10 days’, ‘ intensive’, ‘immersion’, ‘mistake-free’, ‘fluent’.

But the results don’t materialise in the way and as fast as we want them to. In fact, we appear to be going backwards, not forwards.

To make matters worse, we can’t help comparing ourselves to others on social media, at conferences, during networking events, online summits. What do we see? Someone who’s doing things SO MUCH better, more efficiently, more professionally and more successfully than us. …


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Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Your ultimate ambition is to ‘free flow’ speak in English during your business meetings.

I am not talking about the ‘free flow’ speaking associated with presentations and public speeches.

I am referring to the usual conversations you have during a business meeting where you’re asked for your opinion about an issue or asked to give a progress report on an ongoing project.

‘Free flow’ in those situations means to speak without thinking (or so you believe).

Why ‘free flow’ anyway?

You do it all the time in your first language.

It demonstrates your effortless grasp of the issue being discussed — competence. …

About

Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat

On a mission to crush the grammar worrier and release the communication gladiator in international speakers of English. Am at https://englishwithatwist.com/

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