When I first became an English teacher it was to be able to work and travel around the world... Until the day I was standing in a classroom here in Cape Town, South Africa in front of 12 students from 12 different countries. That’s when I realised I didn’t need to travel to see the world. The world was coming to me!
This was almost nine years ago and to this day I continue to teach, with enthusiasm and excitement, because of the magic behind teaching English as a second language.
I have taught hundreds of students in physical classrooms, but there is just something so incredible about teaching English in a global, women-only community - online! The possibilities and opportunities for connection really are endless.
In this day and age, we are communicating more and more with people online. Of course, throughout the COVID lockdowns, communicating online is often the closest thing we can get to seeing someone in person. These days, almost everyone is familiar with Zoom and other online video platforms, so it’s important that we learn how to improve how we connect with others online - in English.
Some people think that it’s impossible to create the same level of connection with others online as you would in person. But I disagree!
So ladies, I have 4 practical tips for you to create genuine connection next time you’re talking to someone online! Are you ready?
Tip 1: Use body language
It’s not only about the words you speak! Hand gestures, body language, and facial expressions are just as important to build connection. Make eye contact with the other person (not the video of yourself). Don’t limit yourself physically - nod in agreement, smile, take a moment to think, laugh - these small natural reactions are SO important for building connection - because otherwise people don’t know what you’re feeling!
Tip 2: Be curious!
Ask other people questions. Create opportunities for others to participate and enjoy the discussion with you. When you approach a conversation with curiosity, you begin to ask more questions to get to know more about someone, rather than jumping in to get your own thoughts and opinions across. Curiosity is the key!
Connecting with someone is all about being genuinely interested in the other person. And that is where the magic happens!
Tip 3: Show up, and be truly present
When you meet with someone online, it’s important that you give them the same respect you would in a face to face conversation. Make sure you turn your camera on so they can see your face (and read your facial expressions!).
Always sit down - walking around, folding your washing or making dinner while in the conversation shows that you are not fully present... And it comes across as rude. So I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you have no distractions around you (yes, that includes your mobile phone!).
Tip 4: Find a safe online space
My fourth and final tip for creating genuine connection with others online is to find a safe online space to practise speaking and improve your English skills. By joining an online learning community, you access a world of opportunity, growth and empowerment.
In our online, women-only community, I’m partly amazed and, on the other hand, not surprised at all about how much women are learning about the world through each other, through English. When we have a language in common, it enables us to find out what else we have in common. It is a space that supports curiosity.
Ladies can find all the beautiful similarities that connect us as well as differences that make us unique and keep us interested in finding out more.
Every time I facilitate a conversation or event in our community, it takes my breath away. In this online space, I can have 10 (or 20! Even 30!) ladies attend, from completely different parts of the world - and I get to chat to them from the comfort of my living room! This is the beauty - the power, the magic - of learning and practising English here, online.
Even though we may be miles apart, there is really no distance between us.
All of a sudden, women don’t have to take time off from work, leave their families, travel all the way to an English speaking country to enrol in an English course.
They can access this incredible, multi-cultural dynamic from their kitchen tables. Mind blown.
I truly believe that “when women come together with a collective intention – magic happens". I’ve seen it in the classroom and now, I’ve seen it happen online via our global community of women practising English. The list of benefits of joining an online learning community for women with dynamic, inspired and supportive teachers and enthusiastic, passionate women keeps growing.
As a woman, an English Coach, and a communication facilitator – I strive to create a safe space where people from different places and cultures can firstly, be supported in having a meaningful English conversation. And secondly, through this exchange, these women can authentically expand their language, improve their fluency and accuracy, and become the confident English speakers they’ve always dreamed of!
There’s real connection and authentic communication online. Women to women. Women empowering women. Through English.