How to explain things clearly in English if English is not your first language


Do you ever struggle to find the right words when explaining something in English? You are not alone! As a language trainer who works with highly capable professionals, I often hear this: I don’t know how to explain things clearly and precisely in English! My clients and colleagues don’t understand me. Despite the their expertise, my clients insecure when communicating in English. The good news is that communication skills can be learnt. In this post, we’ll look at some practical tips to help you explain things clearly and confidently in English.

#1 Create structure

Introduce the topic and connect it to something that the listener already knows. This way, we can connect the new information to what we already know, and it creates a foundation for understanding new information.

Order the points in a logical order. It is a no-brainer but, sadly, many people forget about it. In my professional experience, clients appreciate it if I take a few seconds to think about the topic or problem at hand. Taking a moment to organise your thoughts before speaking demonstrates professionalism. It shows consideration and seriousness and allows for clearer explanation. If you need to, you can take a sheet of paper and quickly jot down the main points or elements. After that, you can just focus on the explanation. It frees up short-term memory power and your explanation and language will be much clearer.

#2 Use linking words and connectors

These words and expressions help us show the relationship between the ideas. There are many of these words and I am sure that you are already familiar with several of them.

Linking words can be used to show the order of the ideas (first, second, next, after, before, etc.), addition (also, too, furthermore, moreover, etc.), and contrast (however, nonetheless, on the one hand, on the other hand, etc.).

Then, we can show the reason (this is because, for this reason, as a result of, since, etc.) and consequences (so, therefore, consequently, thus, etc.)

These are just a few examples. If you would like to see the full list, click here: (it will take you to an external link)5uu

#3 Use simple language

Many people believe that complicated sentences and vocabulary will make them sound more knowledgeable. However, the truth is that complicated language can, well, complicate things. It can very easily result in losing your audience. So, what should you do instead? I recommend using clear language.

What does clear language look like in English?

The sentences are usually short and contain only one relative clause or participle clause. You can add adverbs and adjectives to emphasise the important points. Moreover, you can, and often should, include linking words (see paragraph above).

#4 Vocabulary

Have you ever felt that you didn’t understand what your doctor was saying to you? We’ve all been there. The reason for this is that we don’t know the same words the doctor knows. When we hear the words of our profession every day, there is the temptation to use jargon and profession specific words when we talk to everyone. It comes naturally to us, after all. It is all right to do so if you know that your conversation partner knows these words.  Nonetheless, if your job is anything like mine, most of the time you will have to talk to people who come from a different background. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid jargon and use words that they will definitely understand.

#5 Pronunciation

English is an international language whose native and non-native speakers come from all over the globe. As such, several accents have developed. Nowadays, there is even something we call International English. In other words, there isn’t one standard, accepted accent but many. The best accent is your own accent! Nevertheless, you need to make sure that you speak clearly.

On the other hand, it is also important to consider speed. Many people, including myself, have the tendency to speak faster when nervous. It might be ok if when you are speaking your native language, but it can cause serious pronunciation problems for second language speakers because the speed of speech impedes clear pronunciation. Just a take deep breath and remind yourself that you can do this.

While speaking a foreign language can be daunting, following the tips above will empower you to communicate clearly and confidently.

Would you like to know how to explain things in English?

I have prepared this guide on how to explain things in the office for professionals just like you!

Download my guide to Frameworks to Explain things well in English on the link below.