Flash news: my mother language is Hebrew. In the past few years, however, I’ve needed to speak English almost daily with investors, board members, customers, and other entrepreneurs.
I admit, I have tried to avoid it as much as possible. I was afraid of sounding silly or of not being understood by the other side. In every situation, I thought, “Thank God my business partner is an American; he can handle all the English conversations.”
But then one day, three years ago, I realized that when I was seventeen, I wasn’t afraid to consult enterprise companies for security audits, build crazy technologies, and quit my day job without a paycheck so that I could work on startup ideas. So why did I let the fear of a foreign language take over my life and stop me from sharing my ideas, interacting with people and fulfilling my dreams?
I decided to meet Nitzan Miron (with whom I co-founded 6Scan) and asked him if we could chat together in English every day, every minute. I explained to him how important it was for me to fight my fear and add fluent English to my toolbox. Since then, I have pushed myself to speak and write in English as much as I can.
There are great tools on the web that can help you improve your language and teach you how to interact better in writing and speech.
One good example is Lingua.ly. While you are browsing the web, it helps you to improve your vocabulary, it get recommendations for texts that are appropriate for your reading skills, and basically it is your private tutor.
Another great tool is Verbling.com, which pairs two people who speak different languages but who want to speak each other’s language. For example if you speak German and want to learn English, you’ll be matched with a native English speaker who wants to learn German. You interact with the other person through a video chat session using the many tools to help you communicate with each other.
My last recommendation is a great service that I have been using for a while, Wordy.com. It’s a service for copy-editing and proofreading the text that you have written. It works super fast, and you get great results from professional editors. It’s great for avoiding small mistakes and making sure that everything you publish can pass the “shame” test.
Bottom line: A second language is one of the most important tools you can have in your entrepreneurship toolbox. Don’t avoid your foreign language fear: deal with it! Share your anxiety with friends and colleagues, and find someone who can mentor you. A partner to chat to can help you to excel in speaking the language, and do so comfortably.
Yaron Tal has been working on turning ideas into marketable products for more 12 years. Currently, Tal is CTO of security company 6scan and blogs at Startup Internals.