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In my capacity as co-owner of FAIT ICI, I am sometimes offered French language media opps.

While I speak French well, it’s not my first language. But because the business mustn’t lose out on the exposure provided by media coverage, the second language thing cannot be a deterrent.

What do you do, if you are not “perfect” (whatever that means) in a language but really do not want to pass up the chance to do a media interview? The answer is really about honest self-assessment and prep.

Here are 4 tips for prepping for second language media interviews:

  1. Know your level of linguistic mastery: Whether you’re “ready” do to an interview in a language other than your mother tongue begins with knowing – very precisely – where you stand with that language. Be honest with yourself, are you good enough to do a live spot or is a more forgiving pre-taped format the only way to go?
  2. Know your media outlet/host/show: The interview I did last week was on a fairly light-hearted TV show. The level of language was thus relatively basic. More complex, headier subject matter – the kind one gets on NPR or Radio-Canada – usually requires better command of language. Knowing about the outlet, show and host will help you discern the level of language required.
  3. Knowledge about the subject of a piece is even more important in a second language interview! The more you know about what an interviewer is going to ask about, the better prepped your answers – and language – can be. Make sure you ask lots of questions about the topics a journalist wants to cover.
  4. Let the media know about your (or your spokesperson’s) level of proficiency: This is SUPER important. Being upfront about it creates a rapport with a journalist or outlet and also manages expectations. Letting the media know about where you stand helps them prepare and makes the process smoother for everyone.

If you prepare, and are honest with yourself and the media about your linguistic proficiency, then RELAX – all will be well. The calmer you are the better it will go.

Do you have any other tips/techniques to add?

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Krista says:

    First of all, congrats on the coverage! It’s great to see helpful posts like this based on real experiences. I did a lot of work with the Spanish-language media previously, so I know the importance of prepping for an interview in another language, even if my spokesperson is bilingual or fluent.

    I wouldn’t have much more to add based on my experiences, except that you make a good point to clarify the level of language proficiency beforehand and to obtain any questions or discussion outline in advance. Prepping for media interviews in any language should be just as diligent.

  • Thanks K!

    You’re right about prep for ANY interview being broadly similar. Prep for second language opps just means doing things a little longer/more thoroughly.

    Hoep you’re well

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