English at Work After 3 Months
I am sharing my experience and feelings about the English language at work after three months of working in an English-speaking team in a Canadian company.
The first month of work was a struggle. My brain adapted as best it could, and by the end of each workday, I crawled home exhausted. I didn’t study much before or after work for two reasons: there was a lot of new material at work, and my head was overheating, and I didn’t feel that the effort I put into studying was paying off.
Nevertheless, after a month, I felt some relief as my head was no longer as exhausted as it was at the beginning.
Around the second month, my conversational skills began to deteriorate. I became afraid of speaking incorrectly and not being understood, which caused me to speak slowly and strain during conversations. It was challenging to relax. Additionally, since my circle of communication at work had expanded, I experienced a significant decrease in my listening skills, and I found it more challenging to understand the new group’s speech.
Furthermore, my role’s expectations started to include organizing and facilitating meetings, which added to my stress. And one-on-one conversations with a wider range of people also began.
Regarding accents, the most challenging for me were Chinese and Indian. Chinese speakers spoke very quickly and monotonously, and Indian speakers tended to swallow some words.
Throughout the month, I struggled to loosen up in conversation and tried to concentrate on what others were saying to not miss anything. I also decided to continue improving my English, but I wanted educational approaches that were less energy-consuming and produced better results in problem areas. I tried different techniques, but in the end, I settled on the following:
- Started listening to local radio on my way to work;
- As an alternative to the radio, I occasionally did listening exercises (listening and answering questions);
- Started using the Elsa app, which helps with speaking and improves pronunciation.
The third month brought relief. I accepted that I speak incorrectly and began correcting myself regularly when I construct a sentence incorrectly. My brain adapted and started to react more calmly when my thoughts were not understood and had to be repeated. I even started to gradually participate in conversations with my own ideas and suggestions.
Unfortunately, I realized that my communication style had changed. While in my native language, I was willing to jump into a dialogue and push my point of view, now I began to agree more with other perspectives. Not because I think they are absolutely correct, but because I understand that I am not ready to engage in debates in English. Fortunately, my colleagues don’t propose anything negative, so there is no harm to the outcome. Just a different approach.
Another interesting observation - I started having dreams in English. My wife says that sometimes in my sleep, I have a one-on-one conversation and arrange the next meeting in English.
In the mornings, I continue to listen to the radio. And a couple of times a week, I communicate with Elsa. And of course, we watch movies and TV shows in English. I also made reading in English a routine. I decided to start with something simple and now I’m reading Harry Potter.
At the beginning, it will be insanely difficult, emotionally first. The brain will strain hard to absorb information in a new format. The good news is that it will get easier with each week and every day. The sooner you can relax, the faster the opportunity to develop will emerge.
In the first few weeks of work, the brain struggles a lot. Instead of torturing it with additional lessons, it’s better to give it time to adapt. A tired brain cannot properly absorb new information.
To prevent English from suffering (and as a result, work), you need to organize your free time differently. Here are some things to pay attention to:
- If you communicate a lot in Russian (for example, on weekends), then English degrades on Monday;
- Poor sleep - English degrades;
- Poor health - English degrades;
- Alcohol the night before work may not be the best way to relax your mind. Even in small quantities. English degrades.
After three months of work, I can say that the most effective strategy is to use crutches and treat specific pains, rather than following some ideal educational track in a vacuum. In the first few months, your task is to survive. The first priority is to reduce stress on the body.
What problems did I encounter and how did I deal with them:
- I found it very difficult to memorize and absorb information. I understood everything in the moment, but the context quickly vanished. I couldn’t remember what I was told 5 minutes ago. To avoid forgetting important things, I started making a lot of notes on paper stickers during meetings and transferring them to Todoist after the meeting. Now it’s become easier and I use fewer stickers.
- In continuation, I started recording online meetings and using their transcripts to double-check that I didn’t miss anything important. I still record meetings, but in practice, I only use stickers. And after the release of ChatGPT, it became convenient to receive summaries of meetings.
- I started working on my listening and reading skills as a problem area. The task is not only to understand what is being said, but also to absorb this information. Now I listen to the radio for 30 minutes a day, read before bed, and continue to watch movies in English.
- To make it less painfully difficult to switch to English on Monday, I talk to Elsa on Sunday evenings.
Translated by ChatGPT