Is my English stopping me from advancing my career?

I have just come across your blog and was interested in earlier problems about deaf people and their English. I was brought up by lip reading and attended hearing schools. I have always struggled with written English and have missed loads by not understanding etc. I have been working for over 20 years and am self conscious about written English in the workplace. This has stopped me going for promotion.
I am aware this is common for deaf people who use sign language as their first language and affects their written English. Is this the same for people like me or is that am just behind like all other hearing people?
Also I have been told that deaf people are in senior roles and I thought their English must be good. Could you tell me how they do it and where they get support?
I have been looking for one to one tuition through emails to give me advice to help me what is my main problems are and had no success. I even attended evening classes on basic English but gave it up due to not hearing and got tired of lip reading. I did do learndirect but unfortunately this didn’t met my expectations for what I was looking for. Another one I went through distance learning hoping I get one to one but unfortunately I didn’t get the support I needed just telling me to read copies of The Telegraph on a daily basis to increase my vocabulary. I still don’t know how or where to start on improving and building up my confidence in writing for work etc.
Hope you could advise me.


Deafauntie says:
All I can say is your English is much better than many of my ex colleagues in the workplace! I wonder what it is you are really worried about? Is it your command of English or is it about feeling stuck? You say you’ve worked for 20 years. You also say you’ve avoided promotion. Maybe this is what we could be looking at instead?
You are probably halfway through your working life (of course I am only guessing) and feeling ‘I need to get a move on.
Maybe if I improved my English, things would get better’. I agree with you that online courses and LearnDirect really isn’t for us (I asked on my Facebook last week for people to recommend online courses – zilch, nada, nothing).
It is true that reading newspapers (maybe not the rightwing Telegraph though) does help or reading novels (I adore Agatha Christie I’m sorry to say). Writing a daily or weekly blog on a subject you like and getting someone to proofread it might build up your confidence.
I think what might be even better is to find yourself a life coach. Yes! It feels to me that you need to take a step back and think about what you want to do next (or even to stay where you are and expand your work horizons even more) and integrate your English worries within your new game plan.
If you can’t afford a life coach there are several good books and ‘life direction’ websites you can look at which are helpful. I’d love to know how you get on.

4 responses to “Is my English stopping me from advancing my career?

  1. I studied for some of my extra work qualifications via Open Learning through ICS which I found was the best way for me. As regards Jennifer’s letter –
    If she could pair up with someone and e-mail anything she may have written in order to have it proof read and corrected where necessary could be a possible avenue for he to explore.

  2. in this day and age, yes English is important with regards to emails, letters and etc. More careers todays demand good maths and English.

    Having read your letter, I am scratching my head wondering what is wrong with this person’s English? Nothing.

    One thing about English in today’s world is good old plain English is desirable rather than the “Thomas Hardy” flowering complicated prose and grammar! So don’t be tempted by that.

    The best way is actually to read books and articles, and to check up words you don’t understand or know. Experience counts.

    I would worry less, and go for any opportunities out there. Keep things as simple as possible and learn as you go along. We all have done that and on going still. So can you!

    If you suspect that your level of English is holding you back there are many many jobs out there that do not need a high standard of English, but other skills. Find the career that makes you happy is the most important choice.

  3. Many hearing people have far worse English skills than you do and I’m not just saying that to make you feel better. You have articulated your problem, so that we know what the problem is, how long it has been going on for, how it has affected you, and your difficulty with finding solutions. Many hearing people would struggle to put all of that across.

    I’m going to focus on the language skills in my response to you. You don’t say where you work, but many workplaces run courses to get the best out of their staff. Is this available to you? I work in an organisation where everyone is an academic. They may have large vocabularies but they still benefit from courses in writing e-mails, effective business writing, and so on. Plain English rather than lots of waffle is the best way. A lot of hearing people use silly jargon phrases and long words that look impressive, fill the page up, but mean nothing.

    If you can take advantage of such courses, do, and make sure they book communication support for you. It will have the extra advantage that management will take notice that you are stretching yourself and put you in the frame to be considered for higher things.

    If this route is not available to you, what do you identify as your weak areas? This will help you find a solution that is appropriate for you.

    What are the areas where you lack confidence? Here are some common problems. Do any of these apply to you?

    Is spelling difficult for you because how things sound and how they are spelt are often two very different things? Hearing people have problems with this too!!

    What areas of grammar do you find difficult, and why? For example, do you find it difficult to use the right endings on verbs because you can’t hear the end. People find it hard to remember that verb endings change, from “I do”, “you do”, but “he does” – some deaf people find the -s or -ed at the end of a verb awkward, because they are often silent. If you can’t hear them, it’s difficult to remember to write them.

    Are you unsure about putting in everyday phrases in your sentences in the right way or in the right place, or do you want to build up your vocabulary?

    Are you most worried about your comprehension (understanding) or does your problem lie with writing? Are you most concerned with “getting it right” or do you feel you want tips on how to get your message across effectively?

    Once you have identified what you find hardest, you can then look at improving those areas.

    A good tip is to regularly use the dictionary which helps you with many different things. Have a look at the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary, which is online and free to use. The dictionary is not just to check spelling, but also to help you understand the meaning of words and how to use them. The more advanced dictionaries tell you about where the words have come from, which is fascinating! Sometimes knowing where the roots of words have come from is a great help to understanding their meaning.

    I hope this helps, and good luck! I think if you can feel a bit more confident with your English, it will help you feel more confident overall.

  4. Jennifer – it’s me again. As we are sharing similar experiences, maybe we could support each other as we go on a similar journey. If you are on Skype or Facebook, email Deafauntie and she’ll pass on your address to me?

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