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How to communicate with speakers of English as a foreign language

Learn how to modify your speech so that clients who speak English as a foreign language find you easier to understand, but without sounding patronising.


What's wrong with the way you speak now?

Natural speech sounds like a stream of noise to people who are still on their way to becoming fluent English speakers. This training course shows you how that feels, and gives you strategies for modifying the way you speak that we promise will get a much better response from your conversation partner.

"I have been really struck by the difference this training has made in my communication with clients. When speaking to people face to face I have noticed a real sense of relief and relaxation in them.

Alice Tichborne, Immigration Solicitor, Tower Hamlets Law Centre.

Who does this well?

You may be good at this already, for example if you have spent years teaching English as a Foreign Language. All the best EFL teachers speak in the 'English Unlocked' way but until our founder Shelley Purchon produced this course, none of them were sharing the tricks of their trade. 

Do you fill the 'awkward' silence?

What if the only person experiencing that silence as awkward is you? On this course you will learn that your clients who are learning English love your silence - they need it to process what you have said. Then they need extra to formulate a response. You will learn to gauge how much silence each client needs and slow down to a speed which works for them. 

How does your client feel?


It depends how you communicate. Some people don't modify their speech much at all for non English speakers, others modify it too much, or in a way that seems patronising. On the course you will listen to a foreign language and try to understand it (for a sneak preview visit this page.) This lays the foundation for all the skills you will learn by giving you a taste of how it feels for the listener. Then you will learn to speak slowly and clearly, in a manner that relaxes your conversation partner instead of insulting their intelligence.

What skills will you learn?

Here is some of what we cover-

  • How to declutter your speech.

  • How to signal word boundaries.

  • The difference between gesture and mime, and which is your safest bet.

  • How to maximise the impact of your facial expressions (timing is crucial.)

  • Why phrasal verbs confuse non native English speakers, with examples.

  • How to recognise idioms and cut them out. 

  • Things that can feel patronising, and how to avoid doing them.

  • When to rephrase, and when it's better not to.

Of course interpreters can help, and this course is not designed to reduce your use of interpreting services. Each workforce should have a policy on when to use interpreters and if your company would like some help developing one, get in touch. We will be happy to help. ​

Bespoke training for your setting


Does your team conduct these tricky conversations over the phone? Perhaps they use scripted questions? Maybe there are some strong regional accents among your workforce? During the consultation process we tease out the particular difficulties faced by your organisation and create bespoke training which tackles them. 

For individuals and for organisations

To find out more about how our bespoke training can help your workforce, get in touch. Book a free 15 minute fact finder here. Alternatively click here to buy individual tickets for our next multi-agency webinar.


Can you tell?

How skilled is your interpreter, can you tell? And how can you make their job go smoothly? Interpreters are an invaluable resource and they can do a better job if you learn how to work with them.


Are you sure?

Are you sure you know what you're saying when you use machine translation? Google Translate does amazing things IF you learn to use it with the caution it deserves.

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