It’s not that you haven’t worked in English before. In fact, you’re a veteran at it. Perhaps you worked in India, where British English is heavily used in business and higher education. Or maybe you learned, and worked in, British English in Europe.
Either way, you had no problems using English for work communication. And no one had a problem understanding you. Life was good!
Then your employer offered you a chance to relocate to the U.S. — another opportunity for growth. You eagerly made the move.
But then reality set in. Life suddenly became very, very different.
While others used to understand your English just fine, here in the U.S. you’re constantly asked to repeat yourself.
Ordering at drive-throughs is hell.
If you’re in New York, people talk so fast you just can’t keep up.
If you’re in Boston, the fact that everyone seems to leave the letter R out of words makes it hard to understand conversations.
If you’re in the South, you might find out that while your colleagues have been smiling and nodding politely, they’ve actually had no idea what you’re saying. You’re probably also wondering why they never seem to finish their words and what this “y’all” word means.
You’re terrified of talking on the phone.
You don’t speak up at meetings.
And you keep all your amazing ideas in your head instead of sharing them at brainstorming meetings.
This isn’t good — for you or your employer. So how can you improve your ability to work in the version of American English that’s spoken in your region?
Dialects Are Like Languages in Themselves
First, show some compassion for yourself. You’ve probably been underestimating how difficult it is to work in a different culture even when you’re familiar with the language. You’ve probably also been underestimating how much a language can vary depending on the context in which it’s spoken. At the beginning of your relocation, you may have thought to yourself, “Hey, I know English. This won’t be a problem.” But then you ran into all those weird Americanisms, and Texas-isms, California-isms or whatever other regional-isms you have to deal with.
This is a lot to process. And you need someone on your side to help. Specifically, you need private English lessons from a native speaker who can also be a support source — a guide who can walk you through this new dialect, accent, way of speaking and culture.
You might be hesitant to ask your employer for this kind of support. A lot of folks in your situation are. At Fluency Corp, we hear things like this from employees who call us about language training:
“I don’t want anyone to know I’m doing this.”
“I can’t have lessons at the office or on lunch break, because I don’t want anyone to find out.”
“I wish my company would pay for accent training, but I’m too afraid to ask.”
If you’re experiencing this kind of anxiety, you’re holding yourself back. Let’s talk through your fears.
How to Get the Language Training You Need
Maybe you’re nervous about talking to your employer about language training because you don’t want others to know you’re having trouble communicating. But I have to break some news to you: They probably already know. And they probably are looking for a way to raise the topic with you. We get a lot of calls from employers about this.
Telling your employer you’re interested in language lessons or accent training isn’t a sign of weakness. It shows you’re proactive and dedicated to excelling in your job. If you were my employee, I would be thrilled that I had hired someone who cares so much about contributing to the team.
Remember also that if your company paid for your relocation, then they are very invested in your success in the U.S. If your relocation fails, they’re out a lot of cash (and potentially a great employee if you decide to leave the company). Your bosses want to hear about anything that’s keeping you from doing your best so they can fix it. In my experience, companies are usually more than willing to pay for language training as a way of supporting you.
Ready to go for it and ask for the language and dialect support you need? Here are a few more tips to help you get to “yes.”
- Do your research. In other articles on the Fluency Corp blog, you can learn more about the kind of language training that really helps people feel at home in a new language, culture and dialect. Study up so that you can talk about how language training will work and how you’ll benefit.
- Tie it to the bottom line. Before you approach your bosses, it helps to understand the business case for language training. Be ready to talk about how improving your language skills will enhance your ability to collaborate and how it will help your company tap your full potential.
- Plan and prepare. There are lots of great articles out there about how to get your employer to pay for training. You can even find some scripts that can help you shape exactly what you want to say.
Becoming more fluent in the English of the U.S., and of your particular region, will make a huge difference in the quality of your work and the quality of your life. (No more drive-through anxiety!) Need some help making your case to your employer? Contact Fluency Corp for a free consultation.