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What is it like to work through your second language

User: Sandian - 01 November 2012 01:38

Dear all I am really keen to apply for a postdoctoral position in France but i am a native english speaker with 'okay' french.I know the Head of the research institute, and I would LOVE to work with him. I would like to hear about people's experiences of working in a second language. I know soo many people do it, and still do a fantastic job, I just feel a bit overwhelmed by the thoughts of it. Can anyone give advice? Many thanks Sandian

User: reenie - 06 November 2012 16:23

Can anyone with experience advise Sandian?

User: DrJeckyll - 06 November 2012 17:02

Hi Sandian, I am not a native English speaker however I am doing a PhD in a UK university. A big advantage was that I was exposed to English through movies, songs etc over most of my life. I don't think that it would be equally easy for me to study in a German university, although my qualifications in German are higher than my English. My German is terribly rusty at the moment, I think I remember less than 5 words. Anyway, coming to England, I thought that I would hear the BBC accent my teacher had. In the first few months I could not even communicate in the supermarket. I could only assume that they were asking me if I needed a bag. During the first year I struggled with my written English, as a consequence of both my background and the language. English was an additional barrier, as I was not used to express myself with small, direct sentences. In my mother tongue it is common for a sentence to be as long as a paragraph. What really hurts me is that in English I have lost all the different shades to express thoughts and emotions. I feel part of me is amputated and cannot be put in words, because words do not have the same meaning (regardless what the dictionary says). And I feel this has taken toll on my personal relationships. Anyway, writing for research does not require this level of detail. Most of the words are technical words (and what a horror! most of them I cannot translate back to my mother tongue) and it is now easier to speak about my research in English! I learned how to structure sentences and managed to publish a few papers. I can still do with a little bit of help from my native English speaker supervisor, but sometimes his corrections are too advanced even for an English speakers :) Good luck! I am sure that after a few rough months it will get easier and easier.

User: marasp - 07 November 2012 06:13

English is not my maternal language and I have struggled to write my thesis, but I know you can do it. My advisor is German, teaching in the UK. His English is not great, but he is very good at his teaching and research.

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