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I am not a native English speaker. I’ve spoken the language (to the best of my abilities) since I was a kid. Thanks to my mother, I started to learn the language pretty early in life (6 years old), while games with lots of English text gave me the necessary push to actually go to the classes she paid for.
Unfortunately, I don’t speak English as good as I’d like to. Of course, I can make myself understood, I speak pretty fluently, but I often feel the wording I use is not the best or the terms I use have a different meaning in a specific context. Case in point: “I speak pretty fluent” or “I speak pretty fluently”? :D
Anyway, I don’t have an issue with people that don’t speak the language. I get it, it’s not easy for all of us (a German guy will have a hard time saying “v” as [vi] instead of [fi], I know), but you need to speak it. And, until today, I had no argument for pushing this other than the fact that everybody in our world (startups in tech) speak English: investors, co-workers, partners.
Today, though, I read this interview with Paul Graham from Y Combinator, and this is what he says when he is being asked about signs of a potential bad team while selecting them for YC:
One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent. I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and can’t if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent. I just know it’s a strong pattern we’ve seen.
I know, life’s not fair. Not everybody was born in an English speaking country. Does it really matter?
P.S.: this is my Demo Day presentation. The tremble you hear in my voice is stage fright. After all these years…