When Paula moved to the USA 3 years ago English was the last thing she was worried about. After all, she took English classes in Venezuela, her home country, before relocating.
But then reality hit.
The English she was taught in class and the English people actually used in the states turned out to be two different things.
Simple communication such as phone calls or food orders became a torture. Sometimes people couldn’t understand her and she couldn’t understand others.
“People start judging you and think that you’re uneducated because of broken English. I didn’t want that,” says Paula.
So Paula decided to invest her time and heart in learning English the way it is actually spoken. One of the things that helped her the most was making videos in our community on Facebook and that’s how we met.
Then she joined my signature program, Accent Makeover.
Now she’s a confident English speaker and teaches Spanish in English on her very own YouTube Channel.
In this interview, she shares her English journey and her advice to everyone afraid of speaking English and being judged.
Watch the video and tell us in the comments below what inspired you the most in Paola’s story?
Hey, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. And in today’s episode we are going to talk about confidence, fluency, and courage in English. In this episode, I’m going to interview a community member and a student of mine by the name of Paula DeJesus.
I first met Paula when she joined The Fluency Challenge, our Facebook group, now called The InFluency Community. And if you’re not a member, then what the heck are you waiting for? It’s the best place to practice your English, and find conversation partners, and just feel great and safe. I’m going to link to it in the description below.
Back to the story. Paula has started as an active member in The Fluency Challenge. And she started uploading videos, sharing with us her life, and story, and challenges, and beautiful moments, and we really, really connected. Paula has immigrated to the US a few years ago from Venezuela and has been living in Atlanta in the US.
Now, at the beginning, she was really, really struggling with English, and she felt self-conscious. But through the videos, and through the community, and through her work on her English on her own – and then she also joined my course, Accent Makeover, – she has improved so much and started gaining confidence until finally she even opened her own YouTube channel teaching Spanish in English. So, she had the confidence, from someone who was really timid to speak on video, she built that confidence to start her own YouTube channel, and she’s doing a remarkable job.
So, by the way, if you want to learn Spanish and improve your Spanish, you should definitely follow her and subscribe to her channel. I’m going to link to it in the show notes and right here.
So, I can’t wait for you to hear her story about confidence and about fluency, and really about building up courage through videos, through repetitive practice, through changing the mindset and believing that she can. So, I can’t tell you how excited I am to welcome Paula DeJesus.
Hi. How are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
I’m doing great. Thank you for having me here.
Oh, it’s such a pleasure. I’m so happy to have you here. Um, I’ve been wanting to do this for a long, long time, and the time has come.
So, before we begin, why don’t you quickly introduce yourself to the viewers.
Sure. All right. So, my name is Paula. I was born and raised in Venezuela. That’s a country located in South America. So, my native tongue is Spanish. I’m married, no kids so far. I love traveling. I love hanging out with friends and family. I love working out, even though I haven’t done it for a while, but I still love it. And, um, right after I got married, we moved to the States because my husband was transferred from Venezuela to the United States by his company. So, we’ve been living here in Atlanta, Georgia, for three years.
Three years. Wow.
I have to say, it’s been a roller coaster.
Why? Why has it been a roller coaster?
Because it’s so challenging to talk on the phone, to get my services done at the beginning. Because, the funny thing is that I thought, when I knew I was about to move here, I thought, I’m going to be okay because I had a privilege to take an English course back when I was a teenager.
The truth is that I got here, and I couldn’t understand pretty much of anything or anyone.
Yeah. So there was like a huge difference between how you learn it and what you learn in school… Was it like a language school? Was it high school? What was it?
It was a professional course. The the thing is that the teachers there were not speaking English, they were speaking Spanish. Yeah. So, yeah.
So you came in, and you thought that you had it figured out. And then reality appeared.
Yeah. Yeah. It was so hard. You know, ordering food, renting an apartment. Oh my God. So challenging. Yeah. But here we are.
Here we are, like at a totally different place from three years ago, right?
So tell us, tell us what it has been like, that journey from being… Okay, like, scared and without a sufficient level of English that could carry you through. Were you with your husband… Who was doing most of the communication? Was it you or him? At the beginning?
At the beginning, both of us. Yeah. But then I enrolled into ESL classes, English as a second language. Right here. So I joined the classes. He wasn’t in the class because he was working. And, um, so I gained a little bit more confidence, I would say. Yeah. I would do more. Most of the time I would do the speaking part . Yeah.
And, um, okay. And we met about a year and a half ago, right?
Yes. That’s funny because I enrolled to ESL classes, and noone told me, “Oh, you know that you can look up on YouTube, YouTube channels that teach English”.
Oh, you didn’t know it back then.
I didn’t know it. So, I was like, “Oh, really?” So, I’m there surfing on the internet, on YouTube. And I came across your channel through an interview, by the way. So you were there teaching pronunciation, and you were talking about our five day Fluency Сhallenge that you were about to do. And I thought, ‘Hmm, I should give it a try’. So I joined the Facebook group. And that was awesome. It’s been life changing for me, really.
For me as well. So wait, I just want to acknowledge the, um, like, the circumstances here, cause you saw me in an interview on YouTube, and now we are together here. I’m interviewing you, and you have your own YouTube channel now, which you haven’t mentioned, by the way, when you introduced yourself. Something to think about, right? But you haven’t, you want to talk about it for a sec?
Oh, yeah, for sure. So… But the thing is that it all started because The InFluency Community.
Yeah. But back then we called it The Fluency Challenge. Then. Now it’s The InFluency Community because it’s a more empowering word. And then, yeah. And then you joined, and it has been like magic. And back then we did mostly, we’re going to come back to the YouTube channel, that you are avoiding to talk about, but… But I’m kidding. Mmm. Yeah. So, what happened is that we got, we started interacting through videos. Was it the first time you started making videos of yourself speaking in English?
Yeah. It was, I mean, I, I mean, I talked to my family through Skype. But it’s family, you know.
Yeah. Not recorded. No one, no one, it’s not documented, right. No one’s going to see it afterwards, those videos. What was your biggest, um, resist, objection to making videos at the beginning? Like, were you kinda like excited about it or did you feel, “ugh, i don’t wanna…”
You know what? To be honest, back then, I don’t know. You know, when you feel, when your intuition tells you that it’s going to be okay, and you have to go for it. That’s what I felt back then. So, I just recorded a video and I posted it, and I never thought about being judged. I don’t know why. Maybe it was, it was that, it was my intuition working, right? So, I remember that the first question was about, “why are you learning English?” And it was like, “oh, my God!” You know, it’s, it’s been such a journey for me because, first of all, I thought, I don’t want people here think that I’m uneducated, because I speak broken English, right? I mean, I’m a professional. I’m an engineer. So, um, people judging you on the streets just because you don’t speak perfect English… It was like, I don’t want that.
Plus, I want to raise my family here, and I want my children, my future children to be proud of me. I don’t want them to be like, “Oh, mom, you better speak Spanish with us because your English is awful”.
Yeah. Or like, or they would get embarrassed. Like I have a lot of students who are parents. Like the only reason why they come to me is because their kids make fun of them. Because their kids speak fluent English, like native English, and they feel, I mean.. Kids, you should respect your parents, please! But, but at the same time, like, yeah, I get it. I get it. It’s a challenge.
And also, I’m just going to go back to what you said, like moving into an English speaking country. Leaving your job, all of a sudden becoming, you know, like unemployed, right? Someone, a woman like you who’s very independent and competent and, you know, professional. Mmm. And all of a sudden you feel like your super powers are taken away from you, right? Like your language, and you’re a very expressive person. I mean, even like when we just started out, like you would express yourself 100%. Um, and I think, like, I admire that so much in you, but I, I’m, I’m, I can tell that, like, it hasn’t been really easy, that transition. Cause it’s like going all in, right?
Yeah. Yeah. All in. Yeah. For sure.
And how did, okay, so, so did you feel that like through those videos you were able to improve your… Like, how did that affect your English? Your fluency, your confidence, like everything around it.
Yeah. So, my takeaway of recording videos is that you are able to look at yourself and to point out your mistakes.
Yeah. The ones, yeah.
And where, what should it be your priorities? So that’s, that’s huge. And you learn to be aware. It’s priceless.
Right, right. I think that’s the biggest struggle of non native speakers is that they… They learn, and learn, and learn, but they have no idea if they are doing it right or not. So they either practice the wrong way, like the consonant practice. Or they practice the wrong things, like unimportant things, whereas like they don’t notice things that… Umm… That are more dominant or present in their speech, which is important. So, that’s, that’s a good point because a lot of times we make mistakes and we don’t even notice.
Exactly. Yeah. And of course we all want to get feedback, right? Like, “Oh, I need someone to help me. I need someone to correct my mistakes.” But the thing is that you have to learn how to do it by yourself.
Those videos. That’s a good way to do it.
Absolutely. Like you can’t have a speech coach standing right here, always talking to you, and you don’t want it. You know, you want to be able to, to pinpoint your mistakes and to work through that. Um. And that’s also what we do in the program. Like, so you later joined Accent Makeover as well? My signature program, right?
Yeah, I did.
So, when you decided to join, you probably had a lot of things that, um, felt like an obstacle, you know, like probably grammar, right? Or. Umm. The flow, fluency, word retrieval, your vocabulary… Yet you chose to join a program called Accent Makeover. So, obviously it has to do with pronunciation. Of course, it’s not just pronunciation because it’s also the mindset, and the fluency, and the strategies for self-learning, but it mostly deals with spoken English. So why did you decide to go in that direction, and how has it helped your fluency and confidence eventually?
At the beginning, I have to be honest, I was kind of getting mad of people telling me, “Oh, can you repeat yourself?” Right? And I thought it was about my accent. So, I decided to join Accent Makeover, but the most important thing is not about accent. It’s about gaining clarity.
And as you have said before, if you can’t hear the sound, you can’t produce it. Yeah. And the program, it’s all about that. It’s about being aware of the sounds, and then try to produce them, right? And integrate them into your daily speaking copy skills.
Yeah. So, so, so yeah. So it’s really important to improve your clarity, so you are understood. But also I think that it really is important for yourself. Like, sometimes people get so caught up with how they sound, and so it creates that, you know, tension, internal tension, and you feel stressed out. And then when you get stressed out when you speak, then your brain shuts down, right? And then you’re like, ehhh, you know, and then you start forgetting things, or you make stupid mistakes.
So, what would you say to someone who is afraid to speak because they’re afraid of being judged. Cause when you shared your first video, you said, I didn’t feel like I was going to be judged, which gave you the permission to do that. Um, I’m sure it’s also the, like, that specific community and how it felt. Maybe it wouldn’t have been the same in different circumstances, but there are a lot of people who don’t communicate. They don’t speak, because they’re afraid, you know? Because they’re afraid of, of coming off as stupid. So what would you tell them?
You know, the bad thing… The best thing you can do is just to expose yourself. If you want to get different results, you have to do things in a different way. So, we are not going to get ready never until we do it. So we just avoid. And you start from one point, and then you’re going to get better as the time goes by. And that’s it.
That’s really what it’s about, right? Like, and I think the fact that you put yourself out there, you started creating videos at the beginning, it was like, on a daily basis. Right? And then, um, also the fact that now you have opened your own YouTube channel, which is like… Okay, so I’m going to share with the audience that at the beginning, before you opened it, you consulted with me if you should do it in English or in Spanish, right? And, um, what was your biggest fear about doing it in English, which you ended up doing?
Yeah. So I’m teaching Spanish in English, and my fear was that, you know, my English is not that perfect. I mean, there’s a long way ahead of me. So I was afraid of people saying, “Oh, but why should I learn with you if you haven’t mastered your second language? How I’m going to be able to master a second language through your help?” Right? So, it was challenging. But I’m going all for it.
Yeah, and I’m sure it does wonders to your English as well, like the fact that you’re speaking in front of the camera and kind of like, you know, putting yourself out there all the way and, like, in the least comfortable place in front of the camera on YouTube speaking English, you know? So I, I think… Exactly.
So, I think that you are a perfect example of someone who is not letting your circumstances kinda like determine your results or your reality, which is what we, like, we constantly need to remind ourselves.
Like, sometimes we were born into circumstances that are not ideal. Like we are underprivileged in a way because we are not born into English. And especially if you live in an English speaking country. But, you can feel miserable about it, and be like, “Well, you know, this is just me. And like, I don’t, I, I don’t have… I’m not lucky. I don’t have anyone to speak with”, or you can decide to do something about it. Now I can hear it. People are probably saying, “Hey, it’s easy for you. You live in an English speaking country.”
That’s not. That’s a stereotype.
Exactly. First of all, like now life is so accessible online, you can reach out to so many people, like people in our community are from all around the world. And even, when you moved to the US, it’s not like you had, you know, like, your family and your friends to speak with. It’s not like you could practice every single day…
And I need, I have no friends here. I have no family here. I don’t work here. So it’s not that easy to get in touch with people, with America.
Right. So, it’s not like the fact that you live in the US, it doesn’t make you automatically like privileged for living in the English speaking country. Like, you still had to put in the work, and you did it, even though you were slightly isolated. And you have come such a long way from like a year and a half ago when we met in The InFluency Community, and then through the Accent Makeover program, which, you know, you took a few times, right? Like two or three times. Like, you showed up, you know, whatever was important for you, you came back to it, and you focused on it, which was great. And then…
We have membership. So, we can come back whenever we want.
Yes, it’s lifetime membership. And it’s important to say that we are about to open registration for Accent Makeover, and you’re going to be there and kind of, like, mentor all the new people that come in. Uh, but yes. So, um, you’re all invited. And, uh, yeah. And then through your channel, you know, which is so, so beautiful to see… Can you share with us, where can people find you? All your social handles, like your Instagram and your YouTube channel?
Oh, for sure. On Instagram, and YouTube channel is the same, “Speak Spanish with Paula”. And you can find videos about grammar, a little bit of pronounciation, and everyday topics: how to say several things, like how to say “yes” in different ways. On Instagram and YouTube it’s the same, “Speak Spanish with Paula”. And you can find grammar videos, pronounciation videos, everyday topics. And I’m trying to do videos about learning strategies, so you can find your own method to learn the language on your own.
That’s fantastic. So, you guys, even if you don’t want to learn Spanish, go over to her channel and, just out of respect to her journey then, hit subscribe because she’s really, really fantastic. And I love watching your videos, even though I don’t learn Spanish, but I do watch them, so that’s awesome.
Thank you. Yeah. To be exposed on YouTube is not the same as being exposed in the InFluency Challenge, in the Influency Community. Because back there, you know it’s a safe place. You know people are supportive. But on YouTube is the other way around.
Yeah. Yeah. So you really have to deal with criticism, you know, and, like, people saying stuff, and everyone has an opinion, so, yeah. But, like, the most important thing is, is that it doesn’t matter. Like, you really have to know your vision, to know who you’re trying to help, and do the work and show up for them, and not let all those negative voices kind of, like, detour you from what you’re doing. And it’s the same for speaking. So, you don’t have to, you guys, watching, like you don’t have to open a YouTube channel to feel like you’re doing something important.
It’s enough to just speak up in a meeting or, or put yourself in a social circumstance where you have to communicate in English, even though you’d prefer to go back home and sleep, right. Like you’ve got to put yourself out there. Even though you might think or even experience the judgment of others. Because when you are afraid of what other people might think, then they become more important than you, right? Like their thoughts are more important than you, which is ridiculous.
And we have to be aware of that our thoughts drive our actions.
And we have to put off our mind in order to be able to, you know, to speak up and to expose ourselves out there. And yes, just forget about your negative thoughts.
Amen to that. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your experience in the InFluency Community?
Yeah. So, what can I say? You know, I have cried. I have laughed. I have danced. I have acted out over there. Right. So, it’s, it’s been such a great opportunity for me to expose myself, and to gain confidence, and to meet awesome people. You know, everyone supports each other over there. You don’t find that everywhere. It’s not easy to find that, right?
No, not at all. And it’s, it’s really remarkable. I just remembered, when you said “danced”, I just remembered the video that you made for my birthday. Now, that was like a really mean gesture because, not you, like, the entire community. Cause I was in London on my birthday, I didn’t have a lot of internet connection. And, um, all of a sudden I see dozens of birthday posts, and every post is like people telling me incredible things, right? Like, and you, you were there dancing and singing. And I was, like, crying on a bar in London, like alone, but I wasn’t alone cause it had my entire community on the phone. It was so amazing. And, and yeah, I think we had like such beautiful gestures like these. From simple thing, like someone would tell a story, and everyone would come in and support him or her. And, you know, like, it’s really, like, community of the most magnificent people I have ever encountered.
For sure. And, as you said, speaking of loneliness, the InFluency Community came to me in the right time, because I was kind of a newbie here, you know, getting used to this country, this culture. And my husband would travel every two weeks for one or two weeks.
I was at home by my own. So, I just had the internet and the virtual family that we have in the community. Right. So, it helped me a lot to not feel alone.
Yeah. Yeah. I think, you know, like, I think that there’s something about making videos and being honest and vulnerable that really connects people a lot more than just interacting. You know, like, text, social media. Yeah. And then people respect you more. We barely had any incidents where, you know, people would be mean, or rude, or aggressive.
Every day I was kind of waiting for people to post their videos and to watch their videos, and commenting on the videos. Oh, yeah. It’s an awesome experience. You have to join, guys.
And now we do, like, weekly discussions, and we have activities that members create. So, it’s a lot of fun. And we have challenges there. Yeah.
And it’s not “what do you like to do?” No, it’s about controversial topics. It’s about you exposing yourself, talking about nutrition, talking about the law of attraction. So it’s so, so good.
Yeah, because it’s like, okay, how many times can I talk about why, you know, I need to learn English, or what, like, you know, talk about what I do at work. Like we get bored with it. Or we get really good at speaking about it. But then when we need to talk about, you know, like global warming, then it’s like, “how do I find the words?” But that struggle is your gift because, when the words come to you, or you search for them, or you hear other people talk about it, and then you’re like, I know how to handle a conversation about global warming. Yay! You know.
Whenever you get us talk, you write down why you got us talk. Was it because of vocabulary, was it because of grammar point? What’s it? So, yeah.
Absolutely. That’s, that’s really good. Yeah. So, come join us. Yeah. We’re going to put a link to join the community right in the description. So click on it. So, one last question is, um, some people say that pronunciation is just like luxury. It’s not important to learn. Or the accent, the intonation, like, is not important to learn before you know the language really well. And that is just like the icing on the cake, right? And this is not what you’ve experienced when you joined a us a year ago or so. Can you talk a little bit about that, like, why do you think pronunciation is essential from the get go? What can it, how can it help English learners?
Yeah, because sometimes we used to learn a language the other way around, so we started from grammar, and we forgot pronunciation. And we’ve been making mistakes all these time. And then it’s so hard to break that bad habit. The Accent Makeover program has helped me to go through that bad habit and to change it.
Because it’s not like about, like, losing your accent.
No, it has nothing to do with losing your accent. There’s nothing bad to having accent. It’s about clarity. It’s about you empowering yourself in speaking up. And that’s what we do. You know, we, we shadow people, we imitate TED Talks, we act in the Accent Makeover. And that give you the feeling of empowerment. And that’s awesome. That’s really awesome.
That’s really awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And with that beautiful thought, an empowering thought, I want to thank you so much, Paula, and Paula, your Spanish or your American name? I’m going to keep on following you, and if you want to interact with us, come on over to the InFluency Community on Facebook, it’s really good.
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s it. So, thank you so much and good luck with everything.