Tips to learn a language

“How many languages do you speak?” is a question that people often ask me. 

My answer is 5 (French, English, German, Dutch and Italian). And when I say I speak 5 languages, I mean that I can also write them as well as train, coach and present in those 5 languages. 

I know a lot of people who say they can speak different languages. However, try to have a conversation with them and soon, you’ll realize that when they say they ‘speak’, they actually mean they can only say hello, order drinks or food and ask for directions. 

Luxembourg is different. Most Luxembourgish people usually speak at least 3 languages (French, German and Luxembourgish) and many of them also speak English (and Portuguese) as well… From a young age, children learn 3-4 languages at school. Radio and television play songs and movies in these languages. In the cinemas, films are usually in the original version and have subtitles in French AND German!

How can you learn a language when you do not have the opportunity like people in Luxembourg? 


My personal tips

The best way to learn a new language is to go and live in the country for a while. There is no better way to immerse yourself and be surrounded by local people so that you are forced to learn. I noticed that you will learn a language quicker if people do not speak English (or your native language) as you are forced to learn and practice it. When I was in the Netherlands, I often had to tell people to speak to me in Dutch as, since they were hearing my French accent, they were often automatically switching to English when they wanted to speak to me. While when I went to Italy, barely anyone was talking English or French so I had no other way but to speak Italian. 

Another great way to learn another language is to have a partner that speaks that language. Even if you work in a country or a company that speaks your native language, you can then speak and practice another language at home with your partner.

However, these 2 options are not the easiest, especially in the current period where traveling has been limited. So what other options do you have if you want to learn another language?.

✅ You can take language classes (group or private lessons). You obviously will have to pay for the lessons, but having a language teacher can really help you learn the basics of the language, the grammar and help you understand the subtleties of that language in a structured and clear way. 

✅ If you cannot take language lessons, buy a (grammar) book on how to learn the language. There are thousand books you can find and each book will have a different way to teach you the language.

✅ With the smartphones or tablets, you can also download a language app on your phone and learn while you go to work for instance. Instead of listening to music, you can listen to the app, learn and repeat what is being said (The one I used and recommend is Babbel).

✅ Watch movies in original version. Start with watching the movie in its original version with subtitles in English or in your language. Then re-watch the same movie in the original version with subtitles in the language of the movie. Soon, you’ll start to understand more and more. And before you know it, you’ll be able to watch movies without needing the subtitles. With internet, you can find a lot on Youtube, Netflix, Dailymotion, etc. 

✅ Read comic books in the language you want to learn (such as Mickey Mouse, Asterix, etc.). This may seem silly, but trust me it works. When you read something and do not understand, by looking at the drawing/cartoon, you will understand what is written. Apart from French, I’ve started to learn all the languages I know by reading comic books. 

✅ Find out via the embassy or consulate about groups, communities, associations of people (of the country you’re trying to learn the language) and visit them. This is especially easier if you live in a (big) city as you often have lots of expatriates who gather and meet each other on a regular basis.

✅ Another way is to exchange language lessons. You can give lessons in your language in exchange for receiving lessons in the language you want to learn. This is really helpful especially if you do not have much money to spend. After a while, you can practice both languages with your language buddy. 


If you are abroad

If you are working and/or living in a country and would like to learn the local language, you can also do the following:

✅ Immerse yourself completely. Watch TV only in the local language. Listen to local radios. Spend time with locals. When I went to work in Italy, I could only say ‘Ciao!’, ‘Pizza’ and ‘Spaghetti’! After immersing myself completely, I managed to be able to speak Italian (and deliver presentations) in 3 months. 

✅Join a local club such as a sport club, a Toastmasters club, Internations, etc. You’ll not only be able to practice what you want but you’ll also be able to make some new acquaintances and friends with whom you’ll be able to practice the language

✅ Read ‘easy’ newspapers such as ‘Metro’, with the basic news. Reading these types of newspapers will help you get better with words, the grammar and the spelling. Some languages like French are challenging to learn as most of the time, words are not pronounced the way you say them. Reading a book or a newspaper is the best way to learn. 

Note that nowadays, with the internet, you do not need to be in the country to listen to radios or read newspapers and magazines. You can do that from anywhere at any time!


Final thoughts

Whatever option(s) you use, remember this:


👉🏽 Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You WILL make some (and when they are funny, you will not only remember them, you’ll never make that same mistake again!).

👉🏽Don’t pay attention to what people say. Some people will laugh at you. Some people will not take you seriously because of your accent. Disregard them and focus on your progress. Usually, people who laugh at you can only speak their own language. You are at least trying to learn another one.

👉🏽 Like everything, practice makes perfect. Practice makes permanent. There is no secret that you need to practice on a regular basis if you do not want to forget. Take every opportunity you have to speak and practice/refresh your language skills.


Speaking other languages will provide you so many advantages. It will:

Bring you opportunities you never thought you would get, 

Allow you to communicate better with people from other countries and cultures and help you better understand them.

Help you build stronger relationships, 

But most importantly, it will help you embrace diversity and open your mind in ways you probably have not imagined. 

#vlvcoach #leadership #language

This article was also published on Linkedin.

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Managing a virtual team

“I have been offered a job abroad but I don’t know if I can do it. Managing a virtual team is completely different than managing a team that is physically located around you”


This is what one of my clients told me when she reached out.


Yes, managing a team virtually is different.

You do not see or hear each other every day

Sometimes, you may have communication issues as some people may not be fluent in English (or another language) or because of the time difference.

You may be struggling with team performance…


But it is not impossible!

Nowadays, we can be connected to each other in so many ways

We just have to be creative in our way of doing things

And we have to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes


Just like in a ‘normal’ team

Take time to know your people

Listen to them and ask them for feedback

Involve them in your decision making process


And before you know it

Your team will be engaged

They will be working hard to achieve goals

And having fun with each other! 


Have you ever managed a virtual team? 

If so, what did you do to build the team and improve/sustain performance?


I would love to hear your feedback

#vlvcoach #leadership #teamwork #team

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Pay attention to your body language!

Communication is 70% body language, 20% tone and 10% words. Surprisingly, that non-verbal communication is far more important than words being said.


When we communicate, our body language tells much more than the words we actually say. The way we stand, how we move our hands, where we look, etc. are also communicating ‘something’.


Body language may not seem so important. However, it is actually the unspoken characteristic of communication. 


To communicate effectively, you need to ensure you look and act confident. 


You need to stand tall, with your 2 feet grounded if you present something. 

Your shoulders are back, your back straight and your arms open. 

You need to look at your entire audience and not just one person. 

You need to smile and stay calm. 


Think about this:

If you are nervous and you look down or start to play with your hands or start shaking your leg(s), people will notice. Your message will be lost.


There is however some good news.

It works both ways! 

If your audience is not engaged, you will also be able to read the signs. They may be sitting with their arms crossed or look bored. It is then YOUR chance to change the tone of your voice, your story and/or your body language. Doing so will help you bring them back into the message you’re trying to convey!


This post was also published on and on Linkedin.

#vlvcoach #leadership #communication

Want to communicate better? Observe and listen!

Shhhhh…. Listen (or in this case read further 😉)

In my previous article and posts, I gave several tips on what to do to become a great communicator (if you missed any of them, you can go to the blogs on my website under Blogs/Communication).


However, did you know that to be a great communicator you also need to NOT talk, but observe and listen?🤔

Yes, I repeat: to be a great communicator, you need to stop talking and start listening and observing your audience or counterpart(s).




Because when you stop and listen to your counterpart(s), especially if they are not native English, you give them the opportunity to:

  • Absorb or digest the information they have just received
  • Ask you questions
  • Provide you some feedback or some new insights
  • Teach you something new

When you stop and observe, you are able to notice whether your audience is motivated or bored, understanding or confused, ready to listen to more or impatient. Even a short pause will stop your audience from daydreaming and will bring them back into active listening. Once you have noticed how your audience feels, you can then adjust your message to keep your audience engaged till the end. 


The best leaders are excellent communicators, They know they do not know everything. They are willing to learn to continuously improve. That is one of the reasons why they always listen to their audience.


Remember: there is a good reason why we have 2 ears, 2 eyes and only 1 mouth! 😀


“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say” – Bryant H. McGill – 


👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, communication, diversity or team performance! 


#vlvcoach #leadership #communication #publicspeaking #toastmasters


This post was also posted on Linkedin  and 


Pay attention to cultural references

When we use some cultural references, we always have to be mindful of who we are talking to… Especially nowaday, in a world that is getting smaller and smaller, we often communicate with people who are not originally from the country where we come from. 


When you want to convey something, 

Whether it’s by doing a speech, delivering a presentation or just having a conversation,

Make sure that you do not use cultural references that only people from your own country would know and understand

Whether you want to use literary, historical, religious references, or…

If you want to talk about the cartoons you were watching in your youth

Or a TV program

Or a ‘famous’ person or place…

Always check that your counterparts are familiar with the reference if you want them to engage.


Even when you speak to someone who is English native. 

What may be familiar for you in the US for instance may not be something known in the UK (or vice-versa). 


If you use cultural references that are not known globally, you will lose your audience. People will keep wondering what you meant, what they are missing… and will feel left out.


And if you intended to make a joke, the joke will be on you if you do not provide additional explanations.

 Like I wrote in one of my recent posts, think about your audience! 

Be mindful and do not assume that everybody knows what you’re referring to. 


This post has also been shared on and on  Linkedin.

#vlvcoach #communication #diversity #culturaldifferences


Start with your audience!

Start with your audience! 

Whether you need to present something verbally or send an email, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you providing an update to your team members?
  • Do you need to present something to your leadership team?
  • Is your audience new to your industry or organization?
  • Are all participants native English speakers? 
  • Are people experts in their field? 

When you communicate something, always think of who is your audience. 


Whatever the situation, make sure you always use words, expressions or abbreviations that everyone can understand. Never make assumptions. Never think ‘everybody knows’.


When you know your subject, it’s easy to use ‘technical jargon’. However you can easily lose your audience if you are not mindful about the words and expressions you use.


If you use abbreviations, spell them out, especially if people are new. What is obvious to you may not necessarily be obvious for someone else. 


Remember: if you want to be a powerful communicator, it’s not about you.

It’s about your audience and what’s in it for them. 


#vlvcoach #communication #leadership


This post was also posted on Linkedin and


Be succinct!

I often found myself in a situation, 

Where I was in a meeting

Or reading a mail

And thinking:

‘What is the point he/she is trying to make?’


The person kept talking and talking, beating about the bush,

Or repeating the same thing over and over again in a different way


➡️ If you want to communicate effectively


‼️ Be succinct ‼️  


You may have to provide some background information, 

But make sure you get to the point

As soon as possible


And to follow my own rules, I’ll stop here 😉 😊


Do you agree?

#vlvcoach #communication #leadership


This post is also shared on Linkedin as well as on

It takes two to salsa

Dancing salsa and effective communication… What do the two have to do with each other? 


A few weeks ago, I posted an article on how to communicate effectively and provided general tips.

And a few days ago, I wrote a post on Linkedin about dancing salsa, taking a break and recharging my batteries…


So again, what do dancing and communication have to do with each other?



When you dance, you also communicate. You do not talk while dancing but you have to be clear in your communication.


You have to indicate to your dance partner what she is supposed to do. Does she need to:

  • Turn once, twice or more?
  • Turn right or left?
  • Dance more slowly or quicker?


This means you cannot hesitate. You need to be clear in how you communicate this information.


The same goes with verbal or written communication. You need to take your audience into account:


  • Are you trying to provide an update? 
  • Are you trying to share a story & convey a message?
  • Do you need some information?


Whatever message you’re trying to share, you have to be as clear as possible so that there is no confusion. People have to know what your values are,  what is important for you, what you stand for.


When you communicate things clearly, your audience will react as expected. If not, you may receive lots of questions  and will have to clarify your message.


I like the expression ‘It takes 2 to tango’. To me, it says it all. It’s about what one person does or say, and how the other person reacts. Action <-> reaction. If the first person has not been clear in his/her message, the second person will be confused, or will react in a strange way. Or will ask questions to really understand the point the first person is trying to make. 

So yes, it does take two to tango!

In my case, I say ‘It takes 2 to salsa!’ 😉😊

#vlvcoach #communication #leadership #dancing


Verbal or written communication?

Verbal or written communication?

A few days ago, I published an article on communication. In there, I provided a few general tips on how to communicate effectively (

Today, I want to go a bit deeper. To communicate effectively, you need to ensure you are using the right ‘media’. We sometimes think it’s easier to just send an email but it is definitely not always the case. 

Which type of communication should I use?

Are you hesitating between sending an email or having a call or a meeting (whether it is a one-on-one meeting, a team meeting or a meeting with your stakeholders)? Then you have to assess the best way to communicate something. Because it all depends on the situation.


If you have to provide some constructive feedback to someone or give them important news that impacts them (such as informing them about some reorganization), have a one-on-one, ideally face-to-face or via video.

People should never get a surprise via mail or in a team meeting.


If you need to provide an update or discuss complex issues, have a team meeting or a conference call so that you can provide details and so that people can ask questions.


If you need a decision from your senior leaders, ask for a meeting with your leadership team so that you can outline your project/idea, answer questions & hopefully get the green light.


From my experience, emails should be kept to:

  • Inform someone in advance about the topics you’d like to talk about in a meeting
  • Summarize / confirm what has been discussed in a meeting with the most important points
  • Send some documents to review/read
  • Give some general information


What else would you add?


This article has also been published on Linkedin and

Note: Picture from

#vlvcoach #communication #leaders #leadership



Leadership Brand: How to build one


We all have heard about a ‘leadership brand’. But what is it exactly?
According to Norm Smallwood, a recognized authority in developing businesses and their leaders to deliver results and increase value, a leadership brand conveys your identity and distinctiveness as a leader.

It’s a powerful idea or opinion that comes to mind when people think of you.

When we think about people such as Oprah Winfrey, Steve Job or Gandhi, we all have specific words tthat pop up in our head to describe them…. Some words are very positive, some others not so much. However, nobody can deny that these three people are (or were) leaders in their own area…

Things to take into consideration to build a strong leadership brand

To build a strong brand, like these people did, you need to take a few things into consideration. Remember to do the following:

  • Be consistent: you need to keep repeating your message, so that people know your values and what you stand for. They should all be clear of what you represent.
  • Be clear: you need to communicate clearly so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding in your message
  • Building your personal leadership brand takes time. This is not something that is built in one day. This is not something you just do once. No. This is something that takes weeks, months or years to build so that you are being recognized as an expert and a leader in your field.

When you have a strong leadership brand, people will trust you more. You then can inspire, motivate and/or influence others.

However, do not take it for granted! It takes time to build but it can be gone within a few days/weeks!

👉 Contact me for help on multicultural leadership, communication, diversity, team performance!

#vlvcoach #leadership #leadershipbrand #personaldevelopment #communication

This article was also published on Linkedin.