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Stop communication crash

Jenga blocks falling
Chris via Flickr
Speak faster and improve your English communication skills by changing the way you think

When you speak English, do you stop or speak very slowly? You cannot find the words or the grammar to express your opinion. You fail to communicate. A simple technique will help you communicate much better and speak faster. You can improve communication now with a different way of thinking and avoid the language crash.

But before we talk about that, let's think about what the language crash is and why it happens.

As adults we are used to saying what we think. We can express our opinions clearly.  We want to express complex ideas. We can say what we want easily in our first language, so we want to do the same in a second language. However, our language skills limit us. We lack the right words and phrases. We speak like children, but think like adults.

Many students make a mistake. They try to translate their ideas directly into English.

But they crash.

They do not have the language skills to express their ideas perfectly. They stumble. They fall silent. Communication fails. There is a difference between their thinking level and their language level—thinking and language are not in harmony.

You should change the way you think. Before you try to say a sentence in English, simplify your idea in your native language. Create simple sentences that are in harmony with your English level.

Look at the picture.

Before you use this technique:

  1. You start with an idea in your native language;
  2. You try to translate the idea directly into English;
  3. There is a language crash: your English level is lower than the level of your native language. Communication fails and your English is bad.

After you use this technique:

  1. You start with an idea in your native language;
  2. First you simplify the idea as much as you can;
  3. Then you translate your sentences into English. There is language success!  You communicate the most important points of your idea.

This is the way to stop the language crash. Good communicators do not directly translate their idea. They explain what they think. Do the same, and you will be a good communicator.

Put simply, imagine that you are speaking to a child, and you will simplify your thoughts. Put those thoughts into English, and you will communicate quickly and clearly. With clear thinking, you can speak clear English.


Here is an example. I did this with my student. I asked her to translate a long, complex Japanese sentence. First, she tried to do it directly. It took a long time and a lot of meaning was lost. Then she tried again. She thought about it in a simple way and translated the sentences into Japanese. This was much faster and she was able to communicate the idea very clearly.

Direct translation: communication 50%

Well... uh... eerrrm... Japan is not big, is small, right? It's a farm, でいいの? Make some vegetables and it's a share work and to... you know... 

Simplify → translate: communication 90%

日本のように地理的に狭く、農作業のために共同作業を必要とした国では、人々は共同体や社会での和を守るため、時には自分の正直な考えを述べずにいることがあります。 日本はせまい。日本人は… Japan is small. Japanese people needed to work together on farms. So, to keep harmony, Japanese people did not say their true feelings.
The translation: In Japan, where geographic space is limited, and group labor was once necessary for farm work, people often avoid mentioning their honest feelings in order to keep harmony in their communities and society as a whole.

From ALC.
  • Matthew's picture
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan and Brazil for a long time, but now I am back home in Auckland. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).

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