English is my second language. I didn’t start learning English until I was a teenager. Even then, my learning was limited to memorizing words, studying grammar, and preparing for exams. We even had a phrase in Chinese to describe this type of English language learning. It is called, “mute English.” I am a victim of this.
Within this context, I am extremely conscious of my accent and pronunciation of English words. Ironically, I am a college professor and I make a living by talking. The irony of life, indeed.
If English is not your native language and if you have not embraced live video because of your concern of your language like I once did, I have two tips to share with you.
Tip ONE: Just DO it
Yes, I know. I wish I had a better answer or a secret weapon to share with you. But, no. I don’t. Take Snapchat as an example. For a long time, I was holding back to embrace the platform because of my fear of my accent and of not pronouncing words as accurately as native speakers. Let me be completely honest with you. Certain English letters are very hard for me to pronounce such as “L”, because my tongue muscle has never been trained that way.
Of course, my English has improved since I came to the United States in 2003. However, I still remember how stressful it was, during the early days, to engage in phone conversations with people. Because you have to completely rely on voice only, you cannot use any nonverbal cues to make yourself understood or to understand others.
Thankfully, Snapchat is a relatively more private social media site and I didn’t have any followers when I started snapping. To this day, I have been snapping daily for more than a year and have developed an amazing circle of friends and community. I am grateful for the baby steps that I took to be where I am today. I learned from my experience that
Tip TWO: It’s content that helps you shine through the digital noise
Stop worrying about your English. The truth is, if you are reading this article, you are probably an adult. It is probably too late to completely get rid of your accent. Then, why not embrace it? And maybe that’s what will make you unique. At the same time, focus more on what you can control. That is, the content that you are producing.
Spend more time and energy producing quality and rich content than worrying about your English.
At least, this is the biggest lesson that I learned. If your content is good, people will make an effort to listen and to understand your message.
Your content is a magnet. If it is strong enough, it will attract the right people to you.
Tip THREE: Be Yourself
This is probably the easiest and hardest to do at the same time. It took me quite some time to realize this point. I am not anyone but myself. Your storytelling is the best when you are yourself. You can pretend to be someone else for a few weeks or even months. But, being yourself is your currency to the digital space. Spend time understanding who you are, identifying your interest and expertise, and using that as an anchor to tell stories.
When you are yourself, your stories become live and magnetic.
One of my favorite YouTuber is called Maangchi who is a native Korean and has a popular cooking channel. If you have ever watched her videos, you can clearly hear her accent but it’s her personality and content that keep thousands of people coming back to her channel. After all, she has more than one million followers on YouTube. She is a compelling example to illustrate the stages of “just do it,” “creating quality content,” and “being yourself.” From her first video to today’s video, the difference is substantial. It’s quite an inspiring story.