Because all of our communication with clients happens in English, it is extremely important that we can all read, write and speak the language fluently. Being able to communicate in a clear and concise way is a sign of professionalism and has a tangible impact on the quality of our work.
Improving your English
If you feel like you're still not entirely comfortable with the language, don't worry! We've all been there and everyone else at the company is also constantly improving their English. There are several ways to improve your skills - here are some of them!
There is no replacement for good, old fashioned coaching. A professional coach will not only follow your studies and always be there to answer any questions, but they will also be able to create a custom learning path for your learning style and the specific contexts where you expect to speak the language. While they may seem intimidating at first, coaches are there to help you and are one of the best ways to expedite your learning.
A lot of folks here at Nebulab have used and strongly recommend italki, where you can choose your coach and interact with them remotely, but feel free to choose the online or offline platform that best suits you. It's on us!
We usually recommend holding a 1-hour session with your coach every week. However, as this varies with your learning style and experience, only your mentor will be able to provide tailored guidance and tell you how many classes you need to take.
This one is quite straightforward: as most of our clients are based in the US, you probably already have access to some native speakers you can interact with and learn from. Even if you're not confident enough to speak (or write), you can learn a lot just by reading their messages and/or listening to meetings.
Because most of the communication with clients is work-related, this is a very good way to learn business-specific terms and phrases, which go a long way towards establishing your professionalism when you interact with people.
On the other hand, our clients are spread all across the US, which means we get to hear a lot of different accents. Native speakers (who are not coaches) are also often not entirely aware of the difficulty of trying to explain and/or understand work-related concepts in a foreign language, so you may find yourself a bit lost at times. When this happens, don't be afraid to ask them to repeat! It's much better (and cheaper) to have a client say something twice than have a developer re-write a feature that was misunderstood.
Articles and books
Reading articles and books can be very helpful, because they give you all the time you need to research the meaning of a foreign word or sentence. It doesn't matter whether the content is technical or not, and it's actually far more important that it's something you're passionate about. The most clever and well-written book in the world won't do you any good if you find it boring.
A good way to start is to ask your mentor to suggest some English content. Mention your interests and any challenges you have faced in the past, and they will be able to offer something you will like! You can also try to go back and re-read any books from your past in their original language.
Podcasts became a big thing in the last few years. Now, you can find a podcast on nearly any topic: science, finance, world news, technology… you name it.
The good thing about podcasts is that most of the podcast apps let you increase the playback speed, so you can start a bit slower than normal and then, as you get to know the speaker and the language, increase the speed until it's just outside of your comfort zone.
You can easily find good podcasts online or through your mentor - don't be afraid to ask!
Movies and TV shows
Movies and TV shows are also great, because you get to experience a variety of different accents and language registers. Also, you can use subtitles, either in English or your language, until you're comfortable enough to turn them off.
You're probably not going to need any recommendations, but just in case, we're here for you!
This can be a bit hard to do constantly, but travelling is one of the best ways to learn a new language - visiting a new country is a full-immersion experience and can be very helpful.
As a company, we frequently organize trips abroad for conferences, client visits and other occasions, so you should hop along whenever you have the chance if you want to improve your English. We also encourage you to travel in your free time as much as you can, it's a really great experience for so many reasons.
Testing your English
In order to ensure that we all have a good command of the language and to aid with matrix evaluations, we all test our English levels regularly.
You’ll take the test at least once per year, but the frequency is variable and tailored to your learning pace and needs.
The test consists of a 50-minute listening, reading, writing, and speaking assessment.