Language show jumping

The usual jumping looks bewitching, which cannot be said about the language show jumping. No wonder I chose this comparison. We are used to hearing about the “language barrier” as something in common. In fact, this can mean a lot of things. The language barrier is different for everyone, but it can definitely consist of more than one obstacle. By the way, one more parallel can be drawn with traditional show jumping: in order to learn how to overcome obstacles, you need to confidently control the horse, which means that you need to devote many hours to training. The same rule works for overcoming the language barrier.

Today I will tell you how I overcame the language barrier myself. As a teacher, many, many years ago, I developed a plan to overcome my own language barrier, given the then peculiarities of my English: poor listening skills and manic caution in the use of words and grammar, which made me silent, by the nature of his real chatterbox.


In my opinion, the language barrier can be overcome in different ways. It all depends on what set of poles and racks is typical for you. As for me, everything was the same as for many students learning any new language: I was afraid to make a mistake, especially at work – I “look at everything” there (fortunately, it passed with age). We will focus on overcoming this barrier.

So, many years ago I came to work in an English-speaking company, faced language problems, and this is what I decided for myself at the same time:

  1. I will prepare the skeleton for answers at daily standup meetings. For the most part, they were fairly similar stories.

  2. Based on this skeleton I will prepare daily progress texts for daily standup meetings and stop doing it only when I feel relaxed at the rally. I kept my word: I composed a new small and informative text every day, and then read it aloud (always aloud) several times during the day before and after the rally. Yes, after – also necessary. It’s about overcoming the language barrier, and not just about not screwing up on the mit.

    For example, many Russian-speaking English learners find it problematic to use the present perfect because it is incomprehensible. Either they don’t use it at all, or they flaunt it “for beauty” at any opportunity, even if the context does not fit. And how to learn to do it right? Grammatical tense is the formula “context + verb form” (as I see it). It can be difficult to form the correct time on the go, especially if the skill has not been developed. So when you are preparing the text, then you have time to analyze the context of your statement. If I managed to do something today before the rally, then I have tested (the working day is not over yet, so the past simple somehow does not fit). But what if the rally is still only in the evening, and you have already managed to do a lot of things. Am I supposed to say, “I have tested #123 and commented on it. Then I have had a call and done some research of #345. Also, I have done bla bla bla”? Looks bulky. In fact, you can make it easier: use the present perfect only for the first action, then add “and after that”, and then start the remaining actions in the past simple into this round dance. Read aloud: “I have tested #123. After that I commented on it, had a call, did some research of #345, and also did bla bla bla.” Voice it and understand what sounds comfortable to the interlocutor. Just what you need for a daily standup meeting.

  3. At work I will write in Russian everything that I wanted or even tried to say in English, but could not, then find it on the Internet or ask your native teacher about it, and then try to remember it. I always had paper and a pen on my desk, and if we talk about paper, it should have been A4. Why? Someone writes compactly, and someone (for example, me) – sweepingly, especially if you need to listen to the interlocutor in parallel and not look at the piece of paper. It has always been more comfortable for me to write down a thought in a hurry on the job (after all, the rally continues and it is important to stay as focused as possible), and not think about whether my text will fit on a sticker or not.

    Moreover, often the most simple, if not idiotically simple, phrases that are usually not taught in standard lessons are a stumbling block at rallies. For example, at a rally you were asked about something and you need to look at it in the task, which means you need to quickly say something like: “I’ll take a look now, wait a bit, I’m literally 5 seconds.” You can mutter “One minute please” (perhaps the most common, in my experience), or you can say “Just a moment, let me look it up”.

  4. I will teach collocations and chunks (common native bunch of words), that are not work related. Logic: common working phrases may already be in the active dictionary, but team work often involves easy communication on abstract topics, and here you can’t do without collocations and chunks. The lack of them is especially acute among low-level students when they describe something in English, translating phrases literally, for example, “I walked with my dog” (I walked somewhere with a dog) instead of “I walked my dog” ( I walked the dog).

    So, daily standup meetings often begin with a small talk, especially if you have to wait for someone. Small talk is not so scary if you have some common phrases ready in your head. For example, when the team discusses the past weekend (very standard for a rally on Monday), you can say “I spent quality time with my family” and everyone will immediately rejoice, because this is not just time spent with the family, but quality time is a great time spent when you were focused on each other. Or “My husband and I sent our kids to their granny because we really needed a few hours of downtime”, which would mean that you finally had a few hours of rest from the kids.

Definitely try

As you can see, the work of overcoming the fear of speaking English is a whole set of some gizmos. If your problem is similar to the one I struggled with, highlight your weak points and create a personal plan to improve your skills (you can involve a teacher). Doing something instead of sitting back is always a good thing. And doing something with discipline and having a goal is a high chance of solving the problem.

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