English is the international language of business, which means that many work environments require at least some knowledge of the language. If you’re a non-native speaker working with native English speakers, you may have no choice but to practice English at work every day. However, using English at work doesn’t have to be a pain.
In fact, having to speak English at work can be a blessing in disguise. Many people who speak English as a second language don’t have the opportunity to practice every day. If you have to work in an English-speaking environment, you’re obligated to make English a part of your daily routine.
You should take advantage of the opportunity to practice and learn as much as possible! But what steps can you take to learn English at work?
5 Ways to Learn English at Work
If you work in an English-speaking environment, you probably know how to have a simple conversation in English (at the very least). However, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to learning a second language.
Improving your English can help you socialize with your coworkers, impress your boss, and even perform your job better. So, here are a few ways to effectively practice and learn English at work:
1. Don’t Get Stuck on Autopilot
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “autopilot” refers to a device that allows a vehicle to drive or operate itself. However, when a person is “stuck on autopilot,” it means that they are doing things without thinking. If you’re stuck on autopilot, you don’t change your behavior to fit the situation. Instead, you simply do things automatically without using your brain!
This is especially common when a person feels insecure about their English-speaking abilities. For example, if you know how to talk about the weather in English, you might want to talk about the weather with your coworkers as much as possible. This is a natural reaction because talking about the weather feels comfortable and familiar to you. However, this is a bad choice.
First of all, talking about the weather all the time would be very boring! Both you and your coworkers will want to talk about other things after a while. So, when you find yourself wanting to talk about the same things over and over again, push yourself to find new topics. Don’t let yourself get stuck on autopilot! If you’re in need of new things to talk about, check out our guide on making small talk at work.
2. Make Practicing English Your Second Job
It goes without saying that your boss hired you for a reason. Regardless of your position or job title, you have certain responsibilities at work. Fulfilling your work responsibilities should always be your number one priority.
That said, if you work in an English-speaking environment, learning English should be your number two priority. In fact, you should treat practicing and speaking English at work as your second job. As long as learning English doesn’t cause you to shirk (avoid) your work duties, your boss will probably be very pleased that you want to improve your English!
Try treating each work day like an English class. When you hear a new phrase or word, write it down on a notebook or a document in your work computer. More importantly, when you get the opportunity to speak in English, use it! Speaking English at work is the best way to improve your abilities and gain confidence as an English speaker.
3. Speak Until You Are Understood
If you speak English for long enough, you will eventually have to deal with misunderstandings. Maybe you used the wrong word or said something in a confusing way. Sometimes it is no fault of your own; maybe the other person just wasn’t paying attention.
In any case, you shouldn’t just give up when someone at work doesn’t understand you. Instead, experiment with different ways to express the same thought.
More often than not, native English speakers will be able to deduce what you mean if you try to explain yourself more than once. This also forces your brain to be pragmatic (practical) when using English at work. It allows you to see where you’re making mistakes so that you can fix them in the future.
This is difficult for many non-native speakers, as it can feel daunting (intimidating) to continue speaking after making a mistake. However, it’s important not to give up. You’ll feel much better knowing that the other person understood you, even if it takes a few tries!
4. Prepare Yourself for Common Situations
Do you work in an office? Do you frequently speak with people over the phone? Are you required to write emails to your coworkers? In order to make the most out of practicing English at work, you will need to consider how you use English in your workplace.
Naturally, the type of situations you encounter will vary based on your industry, job title, and even the country in which you work. That said, there are several situations and activities that apply to a wide range of jobs. Here are a few of the most common situations and activities that you might encounter at work:
Once you’ve figured out which situations and activities apply to your job, you can begin to prepare speaking English in these scenarios. This may require you to practice outside of work, but it will be well worth it. Practicing these situations in advance will help you feel more confident when they actually happen at work!
5. Ask Plenty of Questions
Even if coworkers always (or almost always) understand you, you may not always understand them. Native English speakers usually speak very quickly, blend words together, and use lots of English idioms. As a result, understanding everything you hear at work can be a challenge.
Unfortunately, many employees are hesitant to ask questions at work for fear of looking unprepared or unqualified for their job. However, this fear is usually unwarranted. Asking questions at work is a vital part of learning and performing your job effectively. It’s even more important for non-native speakers who need to speak English at work.
If you’re confused, don’t be afraid to say so. There’s no shame in telling someone that you don’t understand. If you stay quiet and don’t say anything, it may come back to bite you later on, as people will just assume that you understood the first time. So, to avoid any embarrassment, ask questions and get clarification whenever you need it!
We hope you found this guide useful! If you’d like to learn more about practicing English at work or find a highly qualified English tutor online to help guide you, visit Magoosh Speaking today to try an introductory lesson!