Top Tips for Presenting in a Foreign Language

Speaking is the most challenging aspect of learning a language. We’ve all felt that sense of dread when you have your first conversation with a native and find yourself tallying up the mistakes with every word uttered. One way to make life easier for yourself is by adjusting your technique for learning languages.

Still, as a language enthusiast, no matter my level of fluency in German, French or Japanese the challenge of speaking only grew as my studies made it a requirement to present to an audience in that language on topics including politics, the environment and medieval literature.

Sound scary? Well it was. In fact, I still get incredibly intimidated and nervous when I have to present in English let alone other languages. After years of practising and honing my presentation technique in German, French and Japanese, I’d like to share a few tips on presenting in another language.

Don’t translate word-for-word. Resist the temptation to write the speech in your native language and then translate it. Too many of my peers approached language oral preparation in this way and not only does this waste time (as you’re writing the presentation twice) but it will rarely sound authentic. Almost every language student will tell you that you need to think in the language to become truly fluent so put down the dictionary and electronic translator.

Start thinking about the topic in simple terms in the target language. From there, take notes and build a mind-map. Starting in the target language as you write will make the presentation easier to recall in that language as it will help prevent you from slipping into English as you present.

Take more time to prepareto make room for checking correct vocabulary and syntax but also to practise pronunciation. Make the time to find a native with whom you can practise the presentation. Receiving pointers on idiomatic language that can help untangle your presentation is gold.

Practice reading it aloudmore than you would in your native language. Correct pronunciation is crucial in language. The slightest mistake in pronunciation can change the meaning of the word or can result in loss of meaning in the sentence.

Don’t overcomplicate the presentation. Be selective. If you are given a set of phrases that you should be integrating into your presentation don’t try to use every one. You need to demonstrate your ability to use common phrases fluently but also you need to show your ability to tailor your presentation.

To help with the flow you should always know your signpost words well in the target language. An example for German:Erstens, Zweitens, DrittensandZum Schluss. (First, Second, Third, In conclusion). Building these signpost words into your presentation improves the flow.

It’s essential tohave a strong and coherent structure. This is even more important in a foreign language because you cannot think in it as freely as you can in your native language.

Whilst presenting…

When presentingdon’t get bogged down by grammar mistakes. If you’re constantly thinking about grammar rules then your mind isn’t going to be focused on the content of your speech and you’ll start to sound unconfident. In German, it’s especially difficult to use the correct endings so when I present and catch myself trying to recall the correct ending – I stop myself. It’s tempting to want to present perfectlybut a presentation is much more enjoyable for the audience when you speak the language with fluidity and confidence.

Makeminimal use of notes. In your native language, creating shortnotes is a must. The same applies to foreign languages. Having excessive notes can delay and obstruct your free-thinking in the target language so only have a few key words per point (written in the target language).

Overall, like all public speaking the more you do it the better you become. You may still see presenting in a foreign language as challenging but with the right preparation you have every reason to present with confidence.

Do you have your own tips for presenting in a foreign language? Add them in the comments.