By: Marina Mendes
11 months ago, I started my journey to the US and faced one of my biggest challenges, learning a new language. I came to New York not only to improve my English skills, but to also understand public relations from a big city perspective.
I previously worked in the communications field in Brazil and Portugal and even though the same language was spoken in both countries, the culture of working was completely different. So I had no idea what to expect as I walked into my first day as an intern for Momentum Communications. All I knew is that I was excited to be in a new environment and part of a new culture. I was ready to learn, and oh man…. I needed to learn quickly.
At first I was like a fish out of water, everything around me was message to be decrypted. Media monitoring, pitching, building lists, clip books. What did it all mean? I quickly realized that I wasn’t only learning English; I was learning the language of public relations.
After working at Momentum for several weeks, I definitely have a new perspective on public relations. I want to share a few tips that will help you not feel like a fish out of water if English is not your first language:
1. Choose an internship environment that you feel comfortable at
The environment you are working in can contribute greatly to your success. Remember, learning a new language also involves learning the intricacies of the culture. Therefore, it is important to network with colleagues.
2. Do not be afraid to ask questions
Some of the things you learn in the work environment cannot be learned in a lecture hall. You have to treat the internship as a learning experience and the best way to do that is to not always say yes, but to have the courage to say I don’t know what you mean.
3. Listen and observe
Listening to colleagues in the work environment will help you gain the skills and fluency you need to become a better communicator. It will also help become familiar with the patterns and sounds of English speech.
4. Do not get discouraged
You are learning two languages, PR and English. Learning one language, let alone two, will not happen overnight. Keep positive and you will be sure to succeed.
5. It is OK to make mistakes
As in public relations, what matters is getting your message across, not whether you use all the right words, inflexions, tenses, cases, etc. Once you are able to get your message across you can always improve on how you do it.