When learning a new language, there are a lot of skills you have to learn. Sometimes it can be easy to forget about writing and reading skills when you are participating in one-to-one lessons with a tutor and focusing on conversational English. Don’t fret! We are here to help.
The most important instance for your writing skills is job applications. Your application needs to be 100% perfect. Misspellings and grammar mistakes don’t look great on an application to a potential employer and this could be the difference between getting the job and getting rejected. You may also need to e-mail and do presentations at work, so we’ll give you some tips and tricks for this also!
This is your first impression. It is the first thing that your potential employer will see and they will instantly get a feel of who you are, and more than likely, make a decision there and then whether they like you or not.
Unlike your CV, which is factual, the cover letter should show your personality, as well as showing the potential employer that you have done your research on them also.
Your personality should reflect the position you are going for. For instance, if you are working with children, you should show enthusiasm and a warm nature. To portray this in writing, use adjectives such as “passionate” and “wholeheartedly”. While showing your fun and caring side, with children you should also show a sense of leadership. Using example from your past employment is a great wat to do this. Words that go well with this would be “Influential” and “Determined”.
Leadership is a great asset in any role in any industry, but what if you are in a more technical role? If you are a non-native English speaker applying for an English speaking role in the workplace, they want to know that you’ll be able a grasp instruction and be able to read industry-specific reports. The cover letter is a great place to add a few technical words in to show that you do speak English to the industry’s level. For instance, you may be applying for a SaaS role. Be sure to use terminology relating to the subject and also sticking in a few English spelled acronyms.
First things first, unfortunately, depending on where you’re applying to, this word may change. In American English, a CV (or curriculum vitae) is known as a resume (pronounced res-a-may). One derived from Latin, while the latter is French. Be sure to name the file with the right one as most employers from the US will not have heard of CV and will be very confused!
As mentioned above, CVs are factual and to the point. They need to be short and concise, so don’t try and use flowery language to show off your English skills. This is what the cover letter and interview are for.
Each industry will have different templates depending on whether it’s a graduate program or teaching position or otherwise. Google the industry and position based on experience and lots of free templates will come up. Also keep in mind that different countries may have standard formats too. A format that you are used to at home may not be the same in your now country of residence.
Bullet points are best and in the English written format, we tend to drop the first person pronouns in CVs. Don’t write your CV in the third or first person. It’s understood that everything on your CV is about you and your experiences. For example, if you are trying to say “I headed my team as a team leader in my companies Spanish marketing project”, you should correct this to “Headed a team of 5 in Spanish Marketing Project X” (X being the name of the project). Yes, this is not grammatically correct, technically, but it is the way CVs are written and will show that your English skills are basically native. This can be compared to speaking in slang. It shows that you are comfortable with the language.
If you are able to, a good idea is to input a referee from the country where the job is located. This means that they can contact them easily. Alternatively, if you worked with an international company, perhaps give the local branch name and ask your prior boss to give information to them for the call. If this is your first role in the country, then don’t worry too much!
You may have your dream job already and now looking to improve your skills while in the workforce. Reading and writing emails can be tricky. Especially when higher management answer lots of emails in a day and there may be mistakes and some overlooking. They don’t really have time to decipher.
When writing emails internally in the workforce, writing shorthand is fine. Please be careful in the type of work you are in, but if colleague are writing to you with one word sentences, then why not follow the crowd. For instance, if you are approving something, instead of writing “I approve this.”, correct this to just “Approved.”.
When outreaching to other companies or writing a formal email, things get a little trickier. How you address someone can change depending on the recipient and nature of the email. If the email is an info@ or admin@ email, then the appropriate one to use is “To whom it may concern”. Otherwise, try and do some research on who is behind the email. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the gender of a person. Especially with industries becoming so multicultural! Can you guess if the Irish name “Caoimhe” is male or female? For this, just address the email as “Dear First Name Last Name”, or just “Dear First Name” if you’re not sure of the last name.
In formal emails, always have an opening line in your pocket! The most generic would be “I hope you and the team are doing well”, but my favourite one that I’m happy to share with you is “Nice to e-meet you!”, which means nice to electronically meet you. It’s a little fun and gives off friendly vibes.
A few nice phrases to sign of would be “Stay safe!” (Specific to COVID), “Looking forward to hearing from you.” (quite formal, to someone you don’t know), and “Thanks a mil!” (Very informal, for internal use to a close colleague, meaning thanks a million/ thank you a lot).
For presentations, you will use a lot of imagery and have your speech prepared. There is nothing worse than seeing a lot of writing on the board as a spectator. This means that you’ll need to focus on practicing your speech in front of the mirror or with your tutor, while presenting visual aids.
Be clear in your speech and to the point. Practice until you are dropping the “ums” and “ahs” in between your sentences. If you make a mistake, don’t panic! Many people make mistakes in presentations, mixing up words and skipping a section. Take a breath. Even make a joke about it, if appropriate, and move on. It is definitely not the end of the world!
In terms of your written presentation, this is much like a CV. You can use bullet points and write shorthand. For instance, if you are trying to say “We have reached our revenue targets for the first quarter”, this is quite hard to read and fit into slides. Try writing “Q1: Revenue targets reached at 102%.”.
We hope this will help you gain confidence within an English speaking workforce. If in doubt, there are lots of free resources online to help you along the way. Download Grammarly onto your device and this will correct any mistakes you have. Also, try using the thesaurus, it’s very handy, but always make sure to look up the definition of the new word or you will end up sounding like Joey from Friends when he wrote “They’re humid, prepossessing Homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps.” instead of “They’re warm, nice people with big hearts.”.
If you’d like to go over your documents, try our applications class, where a tutor will help you to get everything up to scratch, as well as practice some mock interviews or mock presentation speeches.