I am bad at speaking English

This is a common problem. I have seen lots of students restrict themselves from doing things because of their fear of speaking in english. Somehow, they think that they really are unable to speak well in the language and hence stop short of even giving it an attempt.

Taking the specific case of scholarships alone, I’ve seen how many students who speak not so fluent english create video testimonials and write essays that have eventually won them scholarships. What is to be understood here is that you are evaluated on the basis of what you have already done and not how you look or how you speak.

It is during my recent visit to Singapore that I noticed how people from different countries have different accents and different forms of english even.

For instance, Singaporeans speak colloquially in Singlish — which was quite hard for me to understand. To even convey to them that I need vegetarian food, I’d have to break apart words and say only vegetable, no meat, no fish.

When we get into the cabs, we couldn’t understand most of what the drivers would say. We struggled the most in the Casino, where we knew nothing about gambling or Singlish. The whole scene then became dumb charades! 😛

Language centre at NTU.

Coming to the universities we visited in Singapore, what I did notice is that people are understanding and respectful of individuals and always have in mind the kind of background each student has come from. The culture is quite inclusive. NTU also has a language and communication centre where they offer non-english speaking students help in chiseling the language in their assignments and research papers.

What I’ve come to realise finally, is that English is just another language you use to express your ideas and thoughts.

There’s no need to pressure yourself into speaking or writing a certain way. Own your accent and style. There’s no need to fake it or imitate someone to be something you’re not.

What matters is that you are able to communicate a message the way you intend for it to be communicated. There’s no end point to getting better at communicating. The effort to articulate our thoughts well and communicate better should always be on!

A personal note

I did not start speaking and writing english on day 1. In school, I had friends who’d communicate extensively in English and in order to communicate with them, I had to figure out speaking in English.

Likewise, in school, English was one of those subjects I was only average at. Writing blogs and speaking to people in English has been a deliberate attempt to get better at the language. Once I took out the fear of being judged and stopped bothering about making spelling and grammatical errors, I started speaking and writing more. That then led me to getting way more comfortable with the language.

To my surprise, I also had people tell me they enjoyed reading my articles because it was simple, to the point and easy to understand. I would have never been able to predict that what I thought was my weakness would turn out to be one of my biggest strengths.

Quick tip

The only way you’ll get better at something is by practising it.

Keep reading, keep writing, keep speaking english and you have no other choice but to get good at it over time.