As a non-native English speaker, when we are required to talk speak English confidently, it is natural for us to feel inferior to the native speakers.
We tend to worry that we may not be able to fully understand others and express our ideas clearly.
While this is a completely natural worry to have, it is definitely possible to turn the situation around – your seemingly disadvantageous imperfect English skills can be your advantage.
Sounds too optimistic? - Here is an anecdote from my life.
As a chess grandmaster, I had recorded a lot of online chess classes.
One day, I decided to review the very first course that I had recorded a couple of years before.
Can you imagine my reaction to this? I was really angry, embarrassed even! My command over English was terrible.
I had mispronounced so many words. The acoustics made it seem as if I were sitting in the toilet while recording!
In fact, you can click this link, and see for yourself, just how bad my English was.
I was terribly upset about this. So, I decided to ask a native speaker to re-record the same video. Here is the link. Just listen to a few seconds of it, so that you know what I’m talking about.
In my view, this was the perfect recording. He is a native speaker. He had a great voice. Everything seemed to be nice. And so, I decided to sell the re-recorded course video.
To my surprise, all of a sudden, I started receiving negative feedback from my customers. They preferred hearing my voice!
I couldn't understand why people would prefer my imperfect English and accent to a native speaker!
I decided to clear my doubt – I conducted a massive survey with my 15000+ subscribers, asking them if they’d prefer classes recorded by me or by a native speaker.
An eye-opening result: vast majority of the people preferred my voice! I realised then, contrary to what we all believe, that your imperfect English skills could actually be used to your advantage.
In this article, I will share with you the answer to, ‘How to turn your imperfect English ability into your advantage?’
YOUR Advantage #1: Other Non-Native Speakers Would Probably Understand You Better Than A Native Speaker.
Native speakers not only use complex grammar and words but they also tend to speak very fast. Therefore, for a foreigner, it will be difficult to understand a native speaker.
Conversely, it is easier to understand non-native speakers as they usually use a more basic language.
In fact, check it out for yourself. In this link, you will find a video where I am asking people to participate in a ‘Ask me anything about Chess’ event. Again, the content is not relevant, so just watch it for a few seconds.
I am sure that you were able to understand what I am saying in this video. This is because, as a non-native speaker, I am using simple words and sentences and speaking at a slow pace.
To sum up, other non-native speakers will be able to understand you better than a native speaker. This is definitely your competitive advantage as there are so many people, whose mother tongue is not English, and they would prefer talking to YOU.
YOUR Advantage #2: Your Accent Is What Makes You Unique.
One guy from USA once told me something that made me question my beliefs.
He said, “You know Igor, American pop-culture and style of behaviour is everywhere, and to be honest, I am so tired of it! It is nice, from time to time, to hear your accent because it so different.”
If you check out American TV shows, you will realise that the style of presentation is mostly the same across all shows. Therefore, think of your accent as your Unique Selling Point (USP). Your accent is what makes you unique. It differentiates you from the rest of the crowd.
YOUR Advantage #3: Unlike Other Native English Speakers, You Can Converse Fluently With People Of Your Origin.
These days, all big cities have become very cosmopolitan. There are people from all corners of the world. Therefore, there will be for sure, a lot of people of your origin. You can talk to them fluently in your mother tongue.
Other English native speakers usually know only English properly. Therefore, it is harder for them to converse with people from other nations.
You can think of your advantage this way – native English speakers only know 1 language, whereas, you know at least 2! Therefore, you are in a more superior situation.
For instance, if you know Hindi, you can talk to everybody who speaks English as well as 551 million others who speak Hindi. This is a great benefit!
Similarly, I know the guy who lives in USA and has Arabic roots. Recently, he received a promising job offer and moved to Norway, where he is required to speak with Arabic refugees and help them settle.
This guy could only move to Norway (one of the most developed countries in the world), because in addition to English, he could speak 1 more language.
Therefore, you being bilingual is actually an advantage!
If you are non-native English speaker, you may feel inferior to the natives. However, think about the opposite side of the coin, and you realise that you have many advantages:
- Other non-native speakers probably understand you better than a native speaker.
- Your accent is what makes you unique.
- Unlike other native English speakers, you can converse fluently, in your mother tongue, with people of your origin.