New year – no more wasted opportunities

Well, we’re over halfway through January now. How many of those new year’s resolutions are broken already?

We might have set out with good intentions, but for all kinds of reasons, what started off as a great idea might now just feel like at best a lot of hard work, or at worst an insurmountable challenge!

There can be all kinds of reasons for this – an unrealistic goal, no plan to break the goal down into smaller steps, or just no time because life started again and the good intentions got pushed aside.

Sometimes it’s not about a goal though. I don’t have resolutions as such this year, but I have some intentions, both in my work and private life. Not things that I want to start doing, but things I want to do more of, or to do better. It’s time to change some habits for the better.

I found asking this question helped: “what do you want to be different by the end of next year?”

Then: “what do you need to do to get there?”

This article is based on episode 168 of my podcast so if you’d rather listen than read, you can head on over to the podcast instead.

What are missed opportunities for learners of other languages

One thing I want this year, is to have fewer wasted opportunities as a speaker of other languages. Ok, I’m not learning English as many of my readers are, but I use one other language every day at work (German) and I speak a bit of several others.

We were in France at the beginning of this month, and I spoke hardly any French. I could have, but chose not to, because it wouldn’t have been beautiful, perfect sentences. I’d forgotten most of my school French. But I could have tried.

So, what is a wasted or missed opportunity for language learners?

It can be all kinds of things, depending on your personality and the situations in which you use the other language, particularly at work.

  • Not contributing to a discussion because you’re not sure if what you want to say sounds right
  • Not speaking up in a meeting when you have a good idea
  • Not applying for a job because you know you’ll need to communicate more in English, either in the interview or if you were successful in getting the job
  • Not putting yourself in a position where others will notice you more

What can you do about it?

Sometimes you need to just get on and do the thing that scares you!

I’m a bit scared of face to face networking. I don’t mind talking to people – after all, that’s generally one to one, but I don’t like the whole “go and find someone to talk to” thing – partly because of my visual impairment and the practical challenges, but also because I’m an introvert and generally not a fan of big groups.

But I felt that doing some local business networking would be a good idea, so I signed up for a meeting.

I didn’t want to go

I made things easier by arranging to go with someone

I still didn’t want to go

But I went

And it was good!

I’m now part of two networking groups and have at least one new customer from them. Finding new customers wasn’t the reason I signed up, but I’m definitely happy about it! Sometimes you just need to get outside your comfort zone. Ok, this has nothing to do with language learning, but I felt that it illustrates my point. You can do all kinds of other activities to prepare yourself, but sometimes you just need to get on and do the thing!

I didn’t like speaking German in public, so I practiced with my friends. Then I worked in a voluntary role and spent about a year hiding behind emails. I never called anyone – I just sent them an email. That was warm and familiar, like a cosy pair of slippers.

Eventually we decided to get everyone together and I went to a face to face meeting in Germany. It was hard, but I did see the value. I had to push through the fact that I couldn’t really be myself in the other language. I was overwhelmed by all the conversations going on at once – I understood most of them, but by the time I’d got my thoughts in order, the moment had passed.

I went to another meeting a couple of years later. It was still hard, but not quite as hard as the first time. People remembered me from the time before, and I felt that if I needed to ask them for help with something in our project, it was a bit easier because they had a better idea of who I was, or they’d had a coffee or glass of wine with me.

I know that the socialising part of some of my customers’ jobs is the part that they like the least. Some of that is a personality things, but for some it’s the fact that you can’t plan for a spontaneous cup of coffee in the same way that you can for a presentation. It’s easy to find reasons not to go, but this time can be a really good investment if you’re meeting up with the right people.

Later I did a German course. Nobody asks about this course, but it gave me confidence.

I now use German every day at work. It’s part of what I do. I often have in-depth conversations in German and don’t think anything of it – apart from I’m speaking in front of a larger group of people, or writing something myself that a lot of people will see. Then I need to give myself a good talking to so that I don’t make a run for it!

In many ways it’s easier for me to work with another language that isn’t my native language, but I didn’t always do this

Sometimes I sat in meetings and wished I could contribute something. I had the answer that other people were struggling to find. I kept quiet and maybe sent an email afterwards, but it would have been so much better if I’d used the opportunity I had waiting for me.

Before working for myself, I wanted to work for a multilingual company. Part of the problem was I didn’t want to work in sales, and there were so many sales jobs, but the other part was I didn’t think my language skills were good enough, even though I had qualifications to say that they probably would have been.

I never publish my own content that I have translated

I never do podcasts in German

I still hate it when I record bilingual vocabulary for one of my beginners.

So maybe I am still missing some opportunities that could help me to grow or move forward with my business when I’m using German.

So were there any missed opportunities for you last year in terms of using your other languages?

If so, what could you do to change them into opportunities?

Sometimes you just have to do it! Apply for that job! Ignore your fear and speak up in that meeting! Make that call instead of hiding behind the email.

Sometimes you need a bit more help

I offer services such as
My language and communication training,
in which I help people to become more confident about communicating in English. I help people with grammar and to understand the mistakes so they don’t keep making them. I offer specific help with presentations, whether that’s a presentation about a product or service, or presenting yourself at an interview.

If you think I may be able to help you, send me an email and we can set up a discovery call to talk about what you need and how I can help you.

Maybe you don’t need anyone’s help – you just need to practice more, or make more time for developing your English. Maybe there’s a book that you’ve been meaning to start, or a local group that you’ve been meaning to join.

Whatever it is, if you think you’ve been missing some opportunities to, or that being worried to try has somehow held you back, think of some language goals and what you need to do to meet them. That way they don’t end up being those resolutions we all make and forget about.

If you’re not learning a language, is there something else that you would like to do
But never find time for?

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Kirsty working with students

Author: Kirsty Wolf

I am an English teacher and a language enthusiast who also speaks German and Romanian. I help motivated professionals to improve their English so that they can communicate confidently and authentically.

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