Hello, everyone! I’m Georgia, and I’ve been working as an intermediary at Communicourt for the past year and a half. I was born and grew up in Greece and moved to the UK over five years ago for my post-graduate studies. English is my second language, and I must admit that I didn’t always feel confident in my English proficiency.
I began learning English during my primary school years, but it was more of a basic level, similar to how students in the UK start learning French or German in primary school. About a year before moving to the UK, I took fast-pace English lessons to reach a more fluent level. At that time, I could communicate quite well in English, although I wasn’t nearly as skilled or confident as I am today. My journey has been an incredible learning experience, and I would like to share some of the insights I’ve gained along the way.
One of the initial difficulties I faced upon arriving in the UK was dealing with various accents. Learning English from a Greek teacher didn’t fully prepare me for the many different British accents. I distinctly remember struggling to understand people during my early days here. I remember being at cafes when they asked, ‘Stay in or take away?’ and I had to ask them to repeat it. It took me a few months to get used to the British accent.
Little did I know that five years later, I would be working as an intermediary, communicating daily with court professionals and people with communication difficulties, in many different parts of the country, with a host of diverse accents and dialects. This experience has massively improved my ability to adapt and understand different accents. Through my experience, I’ve learned that building rapport and spending time attuning to each others is essential when meeting someone with an unfamiliar accent. Also, patience and active listening play a crucial role in bridging communication gaps.
Hearing various accents has not only improved my understanding but also made me appreciate the linguistic diversity that exists in the UK. It’s a testament to the beauty of language and the importance of inclusivity.
I understand that my own accent is unique, and individuals who are not used to hearing it may initially find it challenging. However, I’ve not yet experienced problems with court users understanding my way of speaking. The key here is the same: patience and building rapport can assist people to comprehend diverse accents. In my role as an intermediary, I always speak at a slow pace and break down information using everyday, commonplace words . This approach helps those who are not familiar with my accent and also ensures effective communication with every court user.
Idioms and non-literal language
As someone who speaks English as a second language, I rarely use figurative language or idioms. This isn’t because I don’t understand their meanings, but rather because idioms can vary significantly from one country to another. This aspect of my language background has proved to be very helpful when working with court users, many of whom struggle with non-literal language. For me, simplifying language or avoiding idiomatic expressions comes naturally, making communication smoother and more accessible for those I assist.
My ability to convey information in straightforward terms has been an asset in the courtroom. It ensures that the court users I support are better able to comprehend the proceedings and can actively participate in their legal matters. It’s a reminder that clarity and simplicity can transcend language complexities and can make it easier for others to understand and connect with the message being conveyed. In other words, less is more when it comes to effective communication.
Overcoming the fear of mistakes
Being fluent in English doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes when speaking or writing. Conversations in formal settings can be nerve-wracking for anyone, and adding the complexity of speaking in English as a second language only heightens the stress. However, my experience at Communicourt, along with the extensive training program, has significantly reduced my worries by helping me to feel more prepared when going to court and assisting court users.
As intermediaries, we are held to high standards in terms of our English language proficiency, but I’ve learned that it’s okay to make grammar mistakes from time to time. What truly matters is our understanding of the subject matter, our understanding of each court user, and our ability to effectively convey information. I’ve learnt that it’s also okay to ask for help when you need it. Openly acknowledging when we find something challenging and actively seeking assistance can set a powerful example for those we assist. By demonstrating our own willingness to seek support, we can inspire court users to overcome their hesitations and reach out for help when they need it most.
Additionally, I was nervous about making grammar mistakes when writing reports which are essential for my role. However, I’ve come to realise that writing a grammatically flawless report is an unattainable goal (even in Greek I would have struggled to do that!). What’s more important is the content of the report and ensuring that important information is accurately documented. With that said, I’m enduringly grateful to my colleagues for their proofreading (all Communicourt reports are quality checked by our colleagues).
What I’ve learned
My journey as an intermediary at Communicourt has been a transformative experience. Embracing the challenges posed by language, accents, idioms, and the fear of making mistakes has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I’ve learned that effective communication goes beyond perfection in language; it’s about understanding, empathy, and connecting with others.
In a few words, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, remember that your unique language characteristics can be an asset. Your linguistic journey is not an obstacle, in your career, nor in life. Embrace the challenges and use them to progress toward personal and professional growth. Language is a bridge (yes, I just used a non-literal expression in English!), and the journey across it is a beautiful one, no matter where you start.
- Interested in working as an intermediary? Find out more about the role and our Intermediary Development Programme here.