Confessions of a bilingual construction guy

April 19, 2013

His candor surprised me. I’ve never had anyone actually admit it.

But there it was. In digital ink on the email in my Inbox.
The question that elicited the response was direct.
I simply asked a participant in a Red Angle Safety Spanish program if he had used any of our content on the job yet. 
I was not expecting an honest, straightforward response that included an admission of anxiety.   
"It surprised me, how much anxiety trying to speak another language caused." 
So many of us feel anxiety about trying new things (and the possibility of failure), but few of us come clean and admit it. To strangers no less. 
There’s an awful lot of testosterone on the jobsite.
Admitting anxiety and fear are rare.
I admired the participant’s candor.
It would have been far easier to write, “Yep - going great. Thx!”
But he didn’t.
And his example should inspire us all. 
Anxiety and fear stemming from forcing yourself to walk up to a group of strangers and speak is normal. 
It’s human. 
Whether it’s speaking another language or introducing yourself to that cutie on the other side of the room. 
Anxiety is normal. 
I’ve got a confession: I still feel anxious when I walk up to a group of Hispanic construction workers and break out my redheaded Spanish bit. And when I don’t get those butterflies, it’ll probably be a sign I need to do something else. 
Anxiety is normal.
I’ve met hundreds of people who have said, “I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish, but….”
The but isn’t time. 
It isn’t paperwork.
It isn’t family commitments.
It isn’t IQ.
It isn’t your inability to roll your R’s.
It’s anxiety.
Use anxiety as your north star, pointing the way to conquer the very thing that’s causing it. 
It was Goethe who said, “Doubt can only be removed by action.”
So… have a bias for action.
Surprise yourself.
Once you act, you’ll be surprised how quickly that anxiety transforms to elation. The excitement that comes from becoming a better YOU. And this emotion will lock in those language skills for life. 
You’ll never forget them. 
El Presidente

Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente of Red Angle, a Spanish language training firm focused exclusively on the construcción industry. Hartmann has been successful improving Safety, Productivity and Profitability by speaking Spanish on the jobsite. Hartmann lived in Guadalajara, México, during his undergraduate studies and later earned his MBA. Hartmann also teaches Construction Spanish at Purdue University’s Building Construction Management Program. He has authored two books: Spanish Twins: Start Speaking Spanish on the Construction Site with Words You Already Know and Safety Spanish: Simple Spanish Skills for Solving Safety Problems. Hartmann would love to hear your thoughts digitally at or at 630.234.7321.