Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to be a leader in English

Imagine this:

You are a high level non-native English speaker and some new colleagues are hired. They are total beginners in English.

How can you take this opportunity to help them and to become a leader in the workplace?

Find out today!

Today we’ll start with a question from a listener:

“I am one of the everyday listeners of All Ears English podcast and thanks for the great work. I’ve been learning a lot of expressions from you two, and it has been very helpful.  Thank you very much.

I’ve got one question for you. How can I talk to English beginners clearly, nicely but not make them offended? I’ve been living in the U.S for 6 years, but I had been surrounded with native speakers. So the only issue for me was to speak fluently or to use the right expressions but I’ve never thought about how to speak to someone who is at the beginner level.

But I recently got a new job, and here I am exposed to more diverse environments, and I need to communicate with colleagues who just came from foreign country. Since I have gone through the same situation, I understand how they struggle with English, but I also need to communicate effectively, but I am afraid my English is not perfect to deal with this issue.”

-AEE Listener


Our response:

It’s not just about the words that you use to speak to the beginners. Your body language matters.

Think about how you would have wanted to be treated when you were at that level.

You can really “be in their shoes.” This means that you can feel how they feel in this circumstance.

You can also be the leader at your workplace if you have native speaking colleagues who might not understand English.

You need to be sensitive AND work needs to get done so what can you do?

Today we’ll show what you can do in this position.


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How to be a workplace leader in this situation:


1) Push for workplace changes. Make sure your employer knows what these beginners need. Do they need English classes? Cultural training? You might need to make the business case to your employer. Work out how much productivity is being lost or how much money the company is losing.  You’re in a good position to make this argument.


2) Communicate with the beginners:


3) Communicate with others about them:

You are the diplomat in this situation.

You are the advocate.

You can help your native colleagues to understand the situation that these new colleagues are in.

  • Have your eye out for cultural misunderstandings. Even if you are not from their culture you know when a cultural issue might be happening. You can say “this might be a cultural misunderstanding. I know that in my culture….”
  • Try to paraphrase what they are saying for others.
    • “I think what he is trying to say is…”
    • “The point she is making might be…”


The most important thing is to be in their shoes.

Try to stick up for them.

Be patient.


Have you ever been in this situation before?

If so, what did you do?

Let us know in the comments below.

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