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Communicate Effectively

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 6 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Communicate Effectively Communicating

As any school child taken on a trip to France will know, learning a language and learning to communicate effectively are not always the same thing. To communicate effectively, especially in a situation where the other person does not speak your language, requires confidence, a knowledge of the way the language works in practice and a good deal of facial, and other, expressions. To communicate effectively is not the same as to speak a language fluently. In fact, some people who call themselves fluent speakers of a language are unable to communicate effectively with native speakers of that language.

Always remember that learning a language and then putting it into practice are not the same thing. That is why the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the place where it is spoken. If it is not an option to live there, then make sure you have a native speaking teacher, holiday there and read newspapers and books from that country. Textbooks alone do not teach you how to communicate effectively.


Confidence is crucial in enabling a speaker of a language to communicate effectively. This is true even of people who are native speakers of the language. Look at the business presentation. These are all about communicating, and the speaker will only do so effectively if they have confidence in themselves and what they are saying.

So, when speaking your new language, hold your head high and try not to stumble over words. If you make a mistake, carry on rather than getting flustered about it. If you are speaking to someone who knows the language well, they will be able to follow your meaning anyway. And when listening to someone tell you something, if you are not following, have the confidence to ask them to go more slowly or to repeat themselves. Asking someone to speak more solely is a crucial phrase to learn in any language.

Language in Practice

The phrases you learn in textbooks and on language tapes can be very useful, but there is no guarantee that the helpful replies also included will be the ones spoken to you in practice. The person you are conversing with could say anything. So, to communicate effectively, you will need to know how the language works in practice.

For example, in French classes at school, people are usually taught to say Je voudrais… in a restaurant, literally, I would like. But in practice, people would be more likely to say Je me prends…, literally, I take for me… It is these differences that will mark you out as someone able to communicate effectively, because you have to know what people mean when they reply to you, or at least the gist of it.


Gestures are a major player in learning to communicate effectively. People who speak all languages gesture and once you learn to do this and have the confidence to, you will find people understand you much more quickly. Basic gestures can be pointing in a direction, or looking happy, sad or angry. But there are more complicated ones too and these are the ones, which come more instinctively, such as waving your arms around to signify confusion.

In different countries, some gestures will mean different things so always try to be aware of these. But in reality, gesturing should only help you to communicate more effectively.

Learning to communicate effectively is something that comes with time and no new speaker of a language can expect to do it from the off. But if you utilise these tips, people will certainly understand you much more easily. And the more you speak and are spoken to, the more your language will improve anyway as a result of the conversation. So it is a win win situation for anyone hoping to be fluent in the language of their choice.

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