A Simple Technique to Improve Your English Confidence

For non-native speakers, speaking English can range from being a chore to downright terrifying. In this video we discuss one simple technique that will help improve your confidence.

Yinso:
So, yeah, I think we were inspired today. Let’s go for our third question. [inaudible 00:00:05], what’s the question that we want to talk about?

Mikhail:
So I was thinking we can talk about one specific technique that people can use in their English learning, or more specifically communication skills learning. I think this technique is really useful. I mean, I found it from my own experience, of course. I found it useful, but I think it also helps you to build confidence because this is some part that most English learners are struggling with and they always ask me, “So how do I get more confident?” And I think one particular way, or one solution here would be to use the technique called paraphrasing.

Yinso:
Okay.

Mikhail:
So trying to paraphrase what you’re saying and basically saying the same thing in different words, using different phrases, different expressions. Just one additional benefit of using this technique would be basically, when you start paraphrasing, you get your message across easily. So at least people will probably, they will not understand what you’re saying first time, but once you rephrase it, once you put it into different format, once you probably slow down next time when you’re explaining it, people will be able to understand what you’re saying and [crosstalk 00:01:38].

Yinso:
Okay. So I think you’re onto something here. So let’s just kind of explain in a little bit more detail. So when we say “paraphrase,” are you saying that say the same thing that you said earlier with different words?

Mikhail:
Yep.

Yinso:
Is that what it means? Because the-

Mikhail:
Yup.

Yinso:
… paraphrasing, a lot of times, also can be used in different ways. So I just want to-

Yinso:
… make sure that we’re talking about this, that you’re saying the same thing that you said earlier with different words instead of saying the same thing that someone else has said earlier in different words. Which way are we talking about?

Mikhail:
I would say each of them will have benefits. I mean, each of these two techniques, I would say that both maybe fall under the category of paraphrasing. So sometimes we need to paraphrase ourselves and sometimes we need to add some additional details or just paraphrase what other people were saying. I think we can talk about both or [crosstalk 00:02:44].

Yinso:
Okay. So let’s do that, then. Which one do you like to start with? Should we talk about paraphrasing yourself first?

Mikhail:
Let’s talk of [inaudible 00:02:50]… Yeah, myself. So paraphrasing yourself. So what’s he best way to do it.

Yinso:
Okay. So, I mean, as [Math Out 00:00:02:58], we actually talk about this in the earlier video, that we say use different words to explain yourself and use more words, try to describe the word that you want to talk about. Right? That’s what we said earlier. So, “How do you paraphrase yourself?” Is the question, right?

Mikhail:
Yep.

Yinso:
So paraphrase, honestly, it’s kind of an interesting concept that you say the same thing in different ways. So for example, if I use a word that you don’t understand, let me just try to think of a word that you might not. I mean, obviously you will understand this more by now, but let’s just say that I use the word “project management.”

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
Now you don’t understand the word “project management.” So I say, “If you learn project management, you’ll be able to accomplish a lot of things.” And you’re like, “I don’t know what project management is,” now I need to find a way to tell you what project management is. Right?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
So as I say, “Okay, so if you learn the technique of trying to ensure that many things are coordinated, so that way they all come together and try to accomplish a single goal within a certain amount of time, then you will find that you will be able to accomplish a lot of things.”

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
Right? So I just take one single word and I tried to try to describe that word with other words.

Mikhail:
Let me try again. So you can ask me the same question, and I will try to explain what project management is just without preparation and just [crosstalk 00:04:45].

Yinso:
Sure. So if you learn project management, you will be able to accomplish a lot of things.

Mikhail:
Yeah. When I think about project management, so the first thing that comes to mind is like projects in general, like we do all sorts of projects. Think about any project that you’re doing now, whether it’s an education or maybe software. Why is it challenging? Because we have to manage our projects, right? So, okay. So project management is just about getting things organized, getting everything in a specific schedule and knowing the roles and knowing the people who perform those roles. So that’s what project management is about.

Yinso:
So just so that we’re on the same spot, before you spend the time to learn project management did you feel like you could have paraphrased that?

Mikhail:
No. No, I don’t think. I mean, I could, I could. Maybe my answer wouldn’t necessarily be very bad, but I think with now, of course, I understand a lot more about project management, so I’m more fluent on this topic, basically [crosstalk 00:05:51].

Yinso:
Okay, that’s fair. So just so I’m on the same page as you are, is what we’ve been talking about so far what you have in mind?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Yinso:
Okay. So let’s try a little bit more of that. Let’s try to think of some way that we can paraphrase things. I mean-

Mikhail:
Specific [crosstalk 00:06:11].

Yinso:
… for me, it can be a bit tough just because I’m kind of used to,

Mikhail:
I can easily guide you in this case-

Yinso:
Okay.

Mikhail:
… because basically I have a lot of cases from just my experience because very often… Let’s start with simple example.

Yinso:
Sure.

Mikhail:
So you ask me a question, but I don’t have answer to, necessarily, for example, there are many different ways to define something. One question could be, “So what’s your favorite food?” Right? And of course I have many different types of foods that I like, so it will be very difficult for me to actually answer that question straight, yeah? So if you ask that question to a typical English learner, for example, “What’s your favorite food?” The answer will be, “Uh… food. Food. Hmmm.”

So that goes on and on and on until you start asking me followup questions, right? So after, I will start answering it. So now maybe this is just a simple example, but I just want to try to answer the same question in a more natural way.

Yinso:
Okay.

Mikhail:
So of course I don’t have the answer to this question. I have no idea what is my favorite food. To be honest, I even feel lazy to think about it because maybe it’s not a critical question for me. There is no stake answering that question, but still I would try. So, okay, what’s my favorite food? Well, I don’t know. I mean, I have so many different types of food that I eat every day. I don’t know. I like Japanese food. I like Russian food. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s really hard to say. I mean, there are so many different options.

Yinso:
So where is the paraphrasing coming in?

Mikhail:
For me, instead of saying something like, “Hmmm,” you are trying to answer in a more natural way even though you don’t have the answer to that question. You are just saying things that go through your mind.

Yinso:
Okay. I think I understand what you’re talking about now, because I think this is actually an interview technique, as a matter of fact. Interviews, this is one of the things that we use to kind of, what’s it called? Fill the dead air. Because by the time the interview asks you a question, then you’d be like, “I don’t know the answer to that question. How am I supposed to be answering it?” And if you don’t actually try to fill the dead air, you’re going to feel that you’re very stressed. You kind of feel like, “Oh my God, I can not answer this question. I’m starting to look really bad.” And you’d be like, “Uh. Uh.” And the more you stress about it, the worse the answer comes out to be.

So one of the techniques that, like you said earlier, when does your favorite food, although this question is not going to come up in a interview, but it is a very similar in this situation that if someone asks you a question, you have no idea how to answer it. So you want to say the same thing, basically. I asked you a question, “What’s your favorite food?” And you say, “What is my favorite food?” So that’s your paraphrasing. You’re paraphrasing the question back to the person so that way you buying yourself time. Not only buying yourself time, but also trying to buy yourself additional understanding of it.

So for example, a lot of times developers will be asked a very tough technical question and, obviously if I try it right now, do you want to try one?

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
Since you’re not a developer, you’re not going to be an answer anyway, but try to answer it.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
Okay?

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
So what is… Actually, let me just ask a straightforward [inaudible] question. How does encryption work?

Mikhail:
Encryption? Well, I think my understanding is encryption is some kind of-

Yinso:
Wait, wait, wait. But you didn’t have to try to paraphrase it. You tried to jump in to answer the question immediately. So this question didn’t trip you. Let me ask you a question that could trip you.

Mikhail:
Okay.

Yinso:
How does operating system load itself?

Mikhail:
So how does the system load itself? Well, I only have experienced with Windows, and I don’t think I have an expert level experience, but yeah, actually I still need to learn how the operating system works.

Yinso:
That’s fine. But you see, when I asked you that question, first thing you do is that you answer the question back at me.

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
You tried to show me that you heard my question, and that is very important when it comes to the conversation, and I’m glad you bring this up because even though this is an interview technique, I did not think of this for English learning purposes. So you definitely want to basically repeat your question. You repeat the questions back… to show understanding. And we’ll talk about this more when we gain to interview-specific sets of videos that we want to record, but that’s a great point. A great point that you brought up, that it can also be used for English learning purposes. So that’s awesome.

Mikhail:
Yeah, and also that would be the first step. The second step would be when you start answering the question, don’t be afraid to basically, I’m giving advice to people who are still learning in English, don’t be afraid to say the same thing again and again and again, until you get the feeling that the other person understands what you’re saying. Because very often we don’t understand what you’re saying and there are multiple reasons for that. So one reason is your pronunciation, for example. That’s why you still need to work on them. Lack of vocabulary perhaps, or maybe you are making mistakes when you are saying something. So obviously people can not understand what you’re saying. Maybe sometimes the person you are talking to is not listening to you. That’s another reason.

So no matter what the reason is, so the best technique is just to slow down and repeat the same thing again, but using a different phrase. So because first time, if you repeat the same phrase, maybe they won’t be able to understand it. So you can say, “I saw the operating system while I…” yeah, I don’t know. I actually know. I don’t work with operating systems. Maybe I own no Windows, but what are other types of operating systems? I have no idea. At least you say something and at least you try to get that message across to the person you’re talking to. So kind of, for me, that’s also one benefit of paraphrasing. You don’t just keep silence. You don’t just drag yourself more and more into that in confidence like, “Oh, what should they say? Or did they understand what I say?” So just keep talking, keep saying, try to explain it, answer questions, and hopefully you’ll get your message across.

Yinso:
Yeah, and that’s a very good point, but let’s expand this a little bit more. here’s the thing about communication. We’re saying, “How do you fill the dead air for a very specific purpose?” But also, like you said, because part of it is that you are trying to ensure that your confidence level does not get damaged by lack of understanding and unable to answer questions and things like that. Another thing is that when it comes to communications, a lot of people need to remember communication is a two-way street. What does that mean? It means that it’s not going to be just one side asking you questions and you answer it. You also gets to ask the question back.

So for example, if I asked you the question and say, “How does operating system load itself?”, you know the word “operating system,” and you kind of also know the concept of loading yourself, but you don’t know how this whole thing will go together, and maybe you don’t know one of those pathetic concepts, then you can just say, “Oh, how does operating systems load itself? I’m sorry, but what I’m thinking about is do you mind explaining to me what loading itself means? Do you mind explaining to me what is operating system?” I might assume it to be a very simple question given our knowledge right here. But it might be a very difficult if this is the wrong industry. So for example, a lot of people is not going to know what the term “asset-backed security” is. So if I say, “How does asset-backed security work?” Then you’re going to say, “Oh, so wait, how does asset-backed security work? Wait, what is asset-backed security?” Do you know what asset-backed security is, by the way,

Mikhail:
I know a little bit about it, but not [crosstalk 00:15:21].

Yinso:
Do you remember the Great Recession?

Mikhail:
Yeah.

Yinso:
It’s one of the drivers, apparently, from my understanding.

Mikhail:
Right.

Yinso:
So repeat what people have asked about, try to repeat it back, understand it, but don’t be shy. If you have questions, don’t try to answer the questions by yourself. Ask questions. And this is the same in interviews as well. If people ask you questions, it doesn’t mean that your job is to just answer questions. You should also ask questions. Any questions that you don’t understand, please ask. Basically.

Mikhail:
Yeah. It really helps you to build confidence, both in interview settings and just any communication and your learning sort of setting. Even if you’re a native speaker and even if you’re learning new things, I think it’s still a great technique for you to learn

Yinso:
Oh, yeah. This is a technique that the native speakers also need to learn specifically for interview purposes. For sure.

Mikhail:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Yinso:
Okay. That sounds good.

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