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037 / Public Speaking Confidence

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I came to the UK in October 2008 to join my husband who was studying towards an MBA. I had just completed a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management in Madras (now called Chennai), in India. For the first few months that I was in London I looked for jobs but it was very difficult. The only one I could find was working at a call centre but they didn’t pay me properly so I left after a few weeks. A few months after arriving in the UK I became pregnant with my first child.

I became a very shy person, not confident about myself or about speaking English. I found it hard to talk to people and I found it hard to understand what they were saying. I hardly met anyone during the first few months of my life in the UK. I stayed at home most of the time and my confidence disappeared completely.

I first heard about City Gateway Women’s Project from the Idea Store where I was attending Bengali group sessions. A friend I made there told me about City Gateway Women’s Project where she was studying ESOL and she took me there. I went because she said it was a place with courses you could take for free and I wanted to take any opportunity available to me. I registered at the Centre and the advisor I met there helped me get a place on the Public Speaking course.

On that course I started practising speaking English with a group. At first I was so shy I could hardly introduce myself but I saw lots of other women around me speaking confidently, even those with less education than me, and that motivated me to practise and get over my shyness. The topics we talked about gave me practice at speaking, learning new vocabulary as we discussed different topics and learning how to talk about my thoughts and feelings in English in a positive way. We wrote and spoke speeches on the topic of ‘I have a Dream’ and I shared my dreams by speaking in front of the class. It made me feel good when I was finally able to talk in front of a large group of people.

At the end of the public speaking course, my confidence had improved enough for me to ask for the opportunity to volunteer as an Admin assistant. I worked on the reception desk, answering client’s enquiries on phone and in person, registering new clients, scanning documents and sending emails. This improved my confidence even more because I was meeting and dealing with different people every day, using computers and speaking English with clients face to face as well as by telephone.

Through this placement, getting to meet new clients at the centre I have been able to encourage others to practise their English, to gain skills and to grow in confidence. I have also helped with Entry Level IT courses, helping clients to gain basic IT skills.

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