One of the joys in my job is interacting with so many folks with international connections. There are just not that many nationalities I haven’t interacted with while teaching/training. And while the language barrier or accent in the same language (I only speak English well, despite some 5+ years studying German) can be tough at times, I find that there are some pretty consistent principles at work. People who are good communicators in one language typically aren’t bad in another. And the word “um”, is translated into virtually every language.At Toastmasters a bit ago, we had a speech from a person who does not speak English natively. She had an unbelievably good use of pauses and intonations. I asked if she thought in her native tongue and translated and was told “no”. Today I heard another speaker (whose native tongue was coincidentally the same, but I know from experience this is not a trend) do the same thing. I asked the same question, and again the answer was “no”. My theory was that if you thought in one language and then translated the thought into another, you had time to pause and get a clear thought into words. This is not apparently the method these people used, but I’m thinking that it would have advantages. I recall a story where a former Russian prime minister would always ask for a translator when dealing with the pig-headed Americans even though he spoke fluent/flawless English, because it gave him twice the time to think of a response.And I further thought that if you took the time to think through what you’re about to say, you frequently would say it better. It’s probably not a bad tactic to try — translating everything you say — and allows you the time to provide emphasis and pauses for your audience to stay with you.

Speak as though you are translating your thoughts.

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