Recently, one of my new students at Smith’s School of English, Kawanishi スミス英会話川西校 asked me to review a presentation in English that she was to make at work (she works for an large American pharmaceutical corporation). At her trial lesson in March I had assessed her as a good Red, and her subsequent lessons had supported this. However, when she showed me her slides and the script for her presentation they were so full of errors that… some points were difficult to understand. There were several types of error, the main ones being: incorrect prepositions, incorrect or missing articles, incorrect use of singular/plural, and some strange word order. I was initially surprised because her English was usually good. Then I realised, and confirmed by asking her, that she had written the whole presentation in Japanese, and then translated it into English.
I remembered what another student, a senior manager in a major public corporation had told me. He frequently had to make speeches in English to mutilingual groups. He said that earlier in his career he had written his presentations in Japanese and then translated them. Because of the great differences between Japanese and English grammar the translation had been so difficult that he had changed his approach and started writing them directly in English. This had been difficult at first, but became much easier with practice, and was a far more efficient way of approaching speech or presentation preparation.
I discussed this with my new student, and she agreed. She had started the project in Japanese because she lacked confidence in her written English. This is almost the opposite of what we usually find where students lack verbal confidence. She has agreed that she will try to start her next presentation directly in English, with my help if necessary. In the meantime I can work on building up her overall confidence in using English during our future lessons.
She told me in her lesson last night that her presentation had gone really well (and brought me a nice bottle of something as thanks).