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How to be your authentic self when speaking another language

Worry less about whether or not your intelligence is coming through when speaking another language and focus more on who you're speaking with.

A lot of us are too worried about making mistakes or not coming across as our intelligent selves with the vocab and grammar we currently have.

One of my Spanish students, Ellen, seemed really self-conscious in our first class. She was telling me about how she recently met up with some native Spanish speakers.

Ellen confessed that she didn't think she sounded as intelligent as she actually is.

Ellen on one of her many adventures

But the thing that came across to me as she was telling me this story, all in Spanish mind you, was how intelligent she was. Add to that empathetic, enthusiastic, and genuinely interested in her listener.

Her eagerness to be understood and to share her story was clear to me, as I'm positive it was clear to the person she was talking about.

All of this came across to me regardless of her struggling to grasp the right vocabulary and not knowing which grammatical tense to use.

Another student of mine, Cris, was in English class one day. She expressed how anxious she was about a workshop she had to lead in English with participants from all over North America.

We went over several times her introductory speech, as well as the segues she would have to do between workshop sessions. She was sure she was going to mess up somehow and just not come across as the industry leader and specialist in her field that she is.

However, I was positive that it was impossible for anyone not to know what a leader she is.

Cris leading her workshop with other environmental agencies from across North America

Cris's boss took her aside after to give her the biggest accolades. She had done a fantastic job leading the workshop, as well as getting people from several different government agencies across the continent excited to back their program.

Cris was her authentic self, even when nervous about her performance in English, just as I knew she would be.

Honestly, every student I've known has managed to still sound like their authentic, intelligent selves even if their vocabulary was pretty basic and their grammar all over the place.

Most native speakers will make an effort to understand you regardless of what level of language you speak.

Yeah, there are those few who are dismissive jerks. But you wouldn't want to talk to them in your own native language, would you?

So don't let them get you down. Instead, focus on the folks who are interested in you, regardless of how well you speak.

Here's what Ellen, who now works with Spanish-speaking patients in her own occupational therapy practice in Tennessee, USA, had to say about her Spanish classes.

And here's what Cris, who today owns an eco-friendly product line that's quite a success here in the US in, had to say just today about hers.

If you need some more confidence-boosting tips like what I gave Ellen and Cris, just message me.


Jackie Donaldson is the owner and director of Amidon Studios Language Studies. She started Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru. She's taught students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, baking, and exploring the globe.

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