I teach a new seminar, Presentation Skills for Speakers of English as a Second Language (ESL); it’s a variation of my regular presentation skills class. In this class we get to emphasize the language and cultural issues that can affect ESL speakers when making a presentation in the US. Here are two of them:
--The use of jargon, as the above example illustrates, can cause confusion. Another participant in a seminar told of her bewilderment when she was being assigned a project that was considered a “hot potato.” In the US we use a lot of jargon and when you think about some of the expressions, they can seem strange. Can anyone really explain why “raining cats and dogs” makes any sense?
--Volume is a powerful nonverbal that can vary greatly among cultures. There is an Asian proverb that says “loudness is a sign of lack of refinement.” Yet in the US, we have the saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Using your voice powerfully, including speaking loudly enough to be heard, can help you command attention when making a presentation in the US.
As a former ESL teacher I know that there are many differences in presentation styles around the globe. Understanding these differences, whether speaking English as a first or second language, can help make you a successful speaker wherever you are in the world.