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How to Speak English Confidently with a Foreign Accent

I work with a lot of students who struggle to speak in English with confidence. They second guess themselves, stumbling over their words, buying time with verbal pauses, and self-consciously correcting their wording.

This lack of confidence can really hurt you on the TOEFL. With enough verbal pauses and overcorrection, you can easily run out of time on a TOEFL Speaking task. This lack of confidence can also hurt you in real life. It makes you very hard to listen to, and it makes your ideas—when expressed in English—seem like they aren’t very credible.

It’s tempting to tell yourself that you should wait until your English gets better before working on confidence. Once your grammar gets perfect and your accent is reduced to a near-native sound, you’ll be fine, right? Well… maybe. But the truth is, most adult English language learners never completely get rid of their accent, and may never reach 100% perfect English language use.

And confidence is as important as any other second language skill. You need to learn it at the same time as other skills, not after you’ve mastered other skills. To be a truly effective English speaker, you can’t just wait until all your other skills are good before you work on confidence.

One of the best places to find examples of confident English speech by non-native speakers is TED.com. TED Talks feature excellent public speakers from all around the world, giving speeches in English. Below are three great TED Talks that showcase confident English speech by individuals with Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Indian accents. These talks can serve as an example of confident speech for our many readers in India and Northeast Asia. I will also do a few future posts that highlight TED Talks in Middle Eastern, African, and European accents.

 

Learn to Read Chinese… With Ease (speech by Shao Lan, a native Mandarin Speaker from Taiwan):
 

You can also see Shao Lan’s video on TED.com—with a full transcript! Go here.

 

My Escape from North Korea (speaker Hyeonsoo Lee, a native Korean speaker from North Korea)
 

Direct link to the speech on TED.com (with transcript) here

 

The Best Kindergarten You’ve Ever Seen (Takaharu Tezuka, Japanese Accented English)
 

See Takaharu’s speech with its interactive transcript on TED.

 

The Thrilling Potential of Sixth Sense Technology (Pranav Mistry, an English-lingua-franca speaker form India)
 

Again, you can view this video directly with transcript on TED.com.

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