French people are famously known for their lack of skills in English. As I can easily read everything in English without difficulties, writing is more complicated and speaking even more. Last year, I decided to work to improve my skills and to make progress through a series of actions.
The starting point of this journey was a conference I attended. A big company's French CEO spoke on stage with better English than mine. Nevertheless, he needed a more extensive vocabulary, better pronunciation, and more energy to provide his message with a tangible impact on the audience. I felt terrible for him because his message was valuable, but the communication could have been way more efficient with a better English level.
This day, I settled I would significantly improve my English so I would never be in this situation! The goal I set was to be able to give a conference with excellent English and the ability to share a message effectively with the audience.
I knew I needed to work on my English with an intensity I had never put in before. Initially, I thought one year could be sufficient, but I quickly realized I needed at least two years to reach my goal. Two years, with a real commitment.
My English level was enough to read English books for years, watch videos, and understand the main idea. My writing was ok but required time, and my vocabulary was limited. The most serious difficulty was conversing with someone with the proper pronunciation. Finding my words, constructing grammatically correct sentences, and clearly expressing my idea was hard. Of course, I could have business conversations, but It was always challenging and never fluent.
To reach my goal, I decided that learning English was now a priority in my life. So I took different actions.
The first one was to take English courses. I wanted to have 1:1 lessons with a teacher. I also needed the flexibility to adjust the timing to my busy schedule. Then, it was crucial for me to work with a teacher with a business understanding.
After conducting some research, I discovered Preply. On this platform, you can book videoconference lessons with a native English teacher. The service seemed promising, so I spent a few hours finding the right teacher. As with every hiring I make, I wanted to find the best one! Each teacher on Preply has a small presentation video, so I took the time to review many of them! I finally found a teacher that matched my requirement, and my first lesson confirmed my first impression.
Since then, I have taken one or two weekly lessons and can feel the progress. I learned a lot about pronunciation, and I enriched my vocabulary. I know my most common mistakes, and we work to improve them.
Another action I took was consuming more English content, especially in audio. I resubscribed to Audible to listen to audiobooks but also looked for shorter formats than multi-hour audio. For that, I found Blinkist. It's a mobile app summarising non-fiction books and providing a written and audio format. In 20-30 minutes, you can have the main idea of many books. That's the perfect format for my everyday car commute!
To improve my grammar skills, I started to use the Babbel mobile app. It allows me to train myself on short exercises for a few minutes daily. It also helps me to enrich my vocabulary. I plan to give it a try to Duolingo in the coming weeks to experiment with their gamification system, a field we want to explore with the user community of our Chargemap app.
The latest regular action I took is to write in English on this blog! For that, I'm using Grammarly, an app that helps improve my writing quality. As I'm writing, it corrects my grammar and suggests alternative words or sentence formulation. Some suggestions are not always relevant, but they make positive improvements in most cases.
I know that there is considerable room for improvement in the English I use on this blog, but I'm confident I will make some progress week after week.
All these actions helped me a lot in only a few months. I can feel the progress, and I started to enjoy learning English. I'm using every occasion to improve my skills, and I will continue to work on it regularly until I reach my goal!
I hope this post will help and inspire some struggling with English or another language. For the others, if you have some tips to progress in a new language, feel free to share them in this post's comments!