Tips on How to Overcome English Language Barriers

Even native English language speakers have trouble communicating sometimes. Communication problems occur when the connection between a speaker and a listener is lost. At some point along the way, the information being transferred is lost or mixed up.

Here are some ways communication problems can occur:

  • The speaker is not expressing himself clearly enough.
  • The speaker uses a language that the listener does not understand.
  • The listener does not understand the speaker.

There are ways to prevent miscommunication, both as a speaker and as a listener. All you have to do is remember three very important rules of communication and follow some basic tips to really improve your English communication skills.

The 3 important rules of communication

In any language, there are three extremely important points to remember when communicating with someone.

1. Say what you mean. It can be hard to express (say) some ideas clearly, but if you’re trying to avoid miscommunication, it’s important to say exactly what you mean. Be clear and to the point.

2. Ask questions. Communication is two-way, which means you can’t be the one doing the talking all the time. To make sure your listener is engaged (interested in what you have to say) and understands, ask questions. See #5 below for good types of questions to ask.

3. Listen. We mean really listening. Listen to what your speaking partner has to say and try to understand what they mean.

Following these three rules will make you excellent at communicating in English (and probably in your native language, too).

Of course, as an English learner, you may find it difficult to communicate in English due to the language barrier. Don’t worry, here are some tips you can use if you want to understand (and be understood) better.

Important tips for clear communication in English

1. Keep talking

The problem: You may have trouble speaking fluently if you’re unsure of your grammar or vocabulary. However, stopping too long when you speak can make it hard for people to focus on what you’re saying.

The solution: Know your filler phrases!

They fill in the silences so that your speech is not interrupted. However, they don’t really add anything to the conversation, so they give you a little time to think about what to say.

Some examples of filler phrases are:

eh eh

You know…

To be honest…

Really…

Try it for yourself: find a topic that you can comfortably talk about for a few minutes (you can use one of the conversation starters here). Record yourself talking about the topic in English for a few minutes.

How often do you stop? How often do you use filler phrases? Try to record yourself talking about the same topic again, but this time be careful about using too many pauses or filler phrases.

2. Find a good rhythm when speaking

The fix: You need to work on your rate of speech, or the speed and “sound” of your speech.

Finding your perfect speaking rhythm will really help improve your fluency. A good pace of speaking is comfortable for you and the listener, keeps you focused, and gives you plenty of time to think about what you want to say.

Try it yourself: To find the perfect rhythm, you may have to experiment a bit. Find a short section, or even just a judgement to say. (You can try using some of these silly one-line jokes. Bonus points for understanding the humor!)

Say the sentence slowly, then again faster and again. Once you get to a speech you don’t feel comfortable with (it’s too fast), slow down. Repeat this with a few sentences and you’ll soon find the perfect speed.

Once you find the right speed, you can work on the rhythm, which is the emphasis and intonation (how high or low a sound is) of your voice when you speak. For the sake of illustration, we’ll talk about watching videos on Fluent, but you can adapt these tips to other platforms.

Play the pronunciation clip over and over until you can clearly distinguish all the sounds in the word. Then try to get your own pronunciation as close as possible to what you just heard.

You can recheck your pronunciation of any word in many places on Fluent, including flashcards (which also let you hear the word in other videos), transcripts, and quizzes that accompany the videos, and flashcard sets. If you’re on the iOS or Android app, there are also quiz questions that let you practice your pronunciation by speaking your answer.

3. Make sure they understand you

The problem: Because of the language barrier, you’re never sure if people really understood what you meant.

The solution: just ask them. Most of the time, you can make sure someone understood what you said by asking them to repeat it.

If you’re worried about sounding rude, you can remind them that you’re still learning the English language and want to make sure you express yourself correctly.

Try it for yourself: Practice with a speaking partner, or just try this in any English conversation: Next time you give instructions, directions, or information, follow up with one of these phrases:

I want to make sure you have that. Would you mind repeating it?

I’m not sure if I said that right. Can you please repeat it?

Can you pass me that please, so I know you have it?

I would like to be sure that I am communicating myself clearly. Could you tell me what I just said, so we know we’re on the same page?

By having the listener repeat what you said, you can make sure they understood you or clarify anything they didn’t understand (understood).

4. Repeat what they tell you

The problem: Sometimes you’re not sure you understand what others mean and you don’t know how to check it.

The solution: Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat it. Most people will agree that repeating yourself is better than misunderstanding. An even more effective way to make sure you got it right is to repeat what you heard.

Anytime you get information and you’re not sure you understand it, just tell the speaker in your own words. This will give them a chance to correct what you didn’t understand or confirm that you heard correctly.

Try it yourself: You can also practice English language with a speaking partner, or in a real conversation in English: repeat the new information back to the speaker.

You can use these phrases before information:

I want to make sure I did it right

So let me see if I get it

You mean…

If I’m understanding you right,

You can also try this with anything you read or watch. After reading or watching something, take a moment to explain in English what you just learned. This will help you work on your summary and comprehension skills.

Try it for yourself: The types of questions you ask will vary depending on the conversation you’re having. You can still practice asking good questions with a partner by playing games like 20 Questions.

To play, your partner thinks of a person, place, or thing. You have to find out what they’re thinking by asking yes or no questions, like “Is it a living thing?” or “Do you like to take naps in sunny places?” (If the answer to both is “yes”, maybe it’s a cat!)

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Conclusion

You can practice asking clarifying questions when you don’t understand something in an English class. You can also practice this when you read anything on the Internet. As you read, ask yourself questions about anything you don’t understand or any missing information. If you read this article, for example, you may be wondering “How much is the discount?” or “How much does Starbucks throw away instead of recycling?” Asking these questions will help your communication skills, reading comprehension skills, and general understanding of the world around you.

Edward Nick
 

Edward Nick is the founder of DisplayBenchmark. He is a PC enthusiast as well as engineer with a keen interest in PC hardware and all stuff related to tech and games.