I Make Mistakes In Writing

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about mistakes in English as a second language:

I am working with a supervisor from Germany in one of the high rank English University. He is kind and well-disciplined person. My question is sometimes I doing mistakes in email communications. For instance there was a misunderstanding between us. Unfortunately I have not expressed myself well. I said I am suffering from Cognitive heart failure. However I have a cardiac arrhythmia related problems. These problem are not life threaten problems. Furthermore in the past I did mistakes like that many times. The problem of mine is I am not native English speaker and it took long time for me to learn the language. However he believes that I should have learnt the English language after 7 years in England.

Obviously it took long time for foreign national to reach professional English Standard.I am not saying he does not like me. However many years he was not happy the way of my work. How I handle the job tasks. You see, academic work requires intensive study and practice. Nevertheless I completed my tasks successfully and I am moving to another university. I completed my BA, MA and M.Phil. I am really hoping that he will write a good reference. Overall If I compare myself with other employees I enormously progressed in handling the job and in the English language. Do you think he will write me a good reference? What do you suggest if I will write a greeting letter before I leave?

Signed, Second-Language

Dear Second-Language:

You don’t say for what kind a position you want your German supervisor to write a recommendation. Are you seeking an academic job, and if so, in what field? Or are you seeking a job in a field of teaching science? Or are you applying to industry or business? Do I assume correctly that you are seeking work in Great Britain? How you answer these questions has much to do with whether your supervisor from Germany will recommend you. Why??? Because it is apparent that you have not mastered English.

Undoubtedly you have learned much, but your letter displays major mistakes. Therefore, your supervisor, who thinks you should have learned English better in seven years, probably will be reluctant to recommend you for jobs that require standard of English.

Usually, before posting a Q&A, I correct the grammar of questions sent. I have not done so with yours. But I advise that you get special tutoring in English if you are seeking a job that requires it. Your use of English might be no problem if you are qualified to do technical research; however, if that job would require reports in English, you would need someone to help with your writing.

Your example of improper description of your “cognitive heart” condition illustrates that English could prove to be a problem in your future employment and that therefore would make your supervisor hesitate to recommend you. Also you asked, “What do you suggest if I will write a greeting letter before I leave?” Greetings are at the beginning of a meeting. One does not write a “greeting” upon leaving. Rather you probably wanted to ask: What do you suggest that I should say in a letter of thanks to my supervisor before I depart?

My advice at this juncture is that you should schedule a meeting with your supervisor. In that meeting ask his advice about the next steps in your career. Ask him where he thinks you might find a job. Ask for his candid advice about your capabilities in your field or study. Are you skills adequate? Will problems with English usage prevent you from getting and holding a job? If so, where might you get the training needed and as quickly as possible?

Next I suggest that you find a well-educated friend or two for whom English is their native language. Ask that person or persons to edit some of what you have written, such as the email that you sent us. They should work with you sentence by sentence, making corrections and suggestions of alternative appropriate English wording. Now regarding a letter to your professor. I recommend a short letter of thanks. Mention one or two specific ways he as helped you.

More generally say you hope to keep in touch with him after you have left and that you will benefit from his continued counsel from time to time. My best wishes as you venture forth from your schooling. Words rarely can express accurately all that we know and feel, but other than our gestures and body English, they are about all we have with which to communicate. So do not allow your sometimes-problematic use of English as a second language freeze you for speaking and writing. Possibly, you can apply for work that benefits from one who can communicate in more than one language. Think of your abilities as an asset.

Often those individuals in a country not of their native tongue are more successful than those who take their language for granted. The more you speak and write and seek honest feedback from others the faster you will learn. It takes everyday persistence and discipline. Take the time to nurture friendships, especially with those who like to interact in conversation and via email. You will get the help you need if you can be excited about life and learning. Being a cheerleader of others is instrumental to making mutually beneficial connections. If any of these suggestions make sense, after a few weeks please let me know how your job hunt is going. Working together with hands, head, and heart (and that means with friends and/or at work) takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden