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Storytelling: A Great Equalizer for Non-Native Speakers

What you are about to read may surprise you. It could even shock you.

I was amazed to find this out 10 years ago when I started my leadership storytelling journey.


You do not have to be a native speaker to be an effective storyteller.


Am I serious? Yes, I am 100%.

Non-native English speakers do not have a steeper storytelling learning curve than native ones. In reality, non-native speakers have an advantage because they tend to have a more limited vocabulary.


Keep reading as I describe why this matters.

Non-Native Speakers: Challenges Become Opportunities

I notice a trend whenever I meet non-native English speakers. They all seem to face a common challenge.


Non-native speakers lack confidence when speaking in public.


Why? They feel anxiety and stress from speaking a language that is foreign to them.

Some act shy or try to blend in with the crowd.


I can only imagine what it feels like to be in their shoes. Even though I taught myself Korean when I worked at Samsung years ago, I would feel similar anxiety if I had to deliver a presentation in a foreign language.

  • The thought of messing up sentences

  • Mispronouncing characters

  • Not enunciating words enough


I would have to spend time prepping myself for speaking in public. It is a lot to think about.


In life, every challenge comes with an opportunity. In this case, non-native speakers lacking public speaking confidence have a secret weapon.


Non-native English speakers have a hidden superpower in storytelling.


Storytelling is a great equalizer for non-native English speakers.

It is also one of the most impactful communication skills they should practice and develop.


This is because effective storytelling follows basic communication principles.


Simple storytelling ➡️ Great results

Complicated storytelling ➡️ Mixed results


simple stories are better than complex ones

Here are three reasons why storytelling is a powerful asset for non-native speakers:

✅ Storytelling forces you to simplify complex thoughts.

→ No need to over-explain ideas. Communicate them in the simplest form.

✅ Storytelling builds an emotional connection with the audience.

→ The audience will remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

✅Storytelling structure helps speakers pace their delivery.

→ Having a beginning, middle, and end is essential to capturing and maintaining attention throughout the story.



Check out clips of my favorite non-native English-speaking storytellers:


What similarities do you notice about their storytelling?


The most popular answer I hear is that all three speakers use simple language when they tell stories.  

In the workplace, simple storytelling is effective.

As a storyteller, you are the puzzle builder.

Your audience is the puzzle solver.

The goal of telling your story is to convey a message to the audience so they can put the puzzle pieces together.

When you overly complicate a story by adding too many details, it makes it more challenging for others to see the bigger picture. They can't follow along and finish the puzzle.


puzzle avalanche


Avoid the puzzle avalanche. Level up your storytelling skills with these actionable tips:


1️⃣Simplify complex thoughts down to concise soundbites (8 seconds) Original complex thought: "After years of navigating the challenges of adapting to a new country and culture, Juan Martinez has utilized his unique experiences and insights gained from these personal trials to foster a community support network for immigrants, facilitating their integration and success in a foreign landscape, thus embodying the spirit of resilience and community service." 8-second soundbite: "Juan turns his immigrant journey into a lifeline for others facing hardships."

2️⃣Enhance the impact of your words by injecting vocal variety. Remember to use them strategically:

  • Speed ⌚ 

  • Pitch 🎵

  • Tone 😃

  • Volume 🔉

  • Emotion 💓

3️⃣Connect to your emotions and feelings through body language:

  • facial expressions (eyes, mouth, eyebrows, forehead, etc)

  • gestures (waving, pointing, nodding, etc)

  • posture (straight vs bent)

When you convey meaning to the audience, over 50% comes from your body language.

Do not underestimate its impact.

Your Communication Equalizer

Are you ready to explore how storytelling could strengthen your public speaking confidence? Please visit my website to explore various storytelling products and services that will advance your career.



David Ghodsizadeh is the founder and storytelling coach at Storytelling 4 Success.


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