I'm from China, currently doing my internship in an art gallery founded by a French art dealer. Our gallery exhibit artworks from a variety of countries and have broad social relations abroad. As an intern, I'm engaged with welcoming visitors and introducing artworks on show to them. Almost 1/3 of them are English speakers, which I seldom expected before. (The rest are mainly Chinese.) This troubled me a lot, mainly not because my spoken English is too bad but I'm far from self-confident, especially when visitors are "big" people.
Here with the case:
1. One day an art collector came by and I showed her around nervously. She asked me casually (in English) how certain paintings were rendered, which I had answered 50 times skillfully, I replied with uncontrollable stutter at that time, however.
2. Once an art journalist came for a visit. He spoke so fast that I could not catch what he meant exactly. I asked him to slow down a little but after a while he sped back up, which embarrassed me.
Similar things recurred several times. I knew my coworkers next door, who are all Chinese and advanced English users, especially my demanding director, all heard the way I talked, which made me frustrated and feel like a fool. This is my first formal internship and it's an opportunity for my future career. The more I try to do a great job, the more worried I become about my performance. My director occasionally praised me for translating gallery paperwork from and into English (which is what I take care of, too) and doing some other chores, and I value her positive impressions on me. Even I cannot do the greeting thing as well, I don't want to be thought poorly of, due to my spoken English. There's another intern who majors in English literature and had been an exchange student in the U.K, able to chat in English naturally. I'm not jealous or mean to compete, but feel the pressure from time to time.
In fact, I'm not always as anxious. Despite being an introvert, normally I can socialize with people and do public speaking. I also have a few English-speaking friends, with whom I'm not-that-easily inclined to chat in anxiety. They know I'm still a learner between intermediate and advanced, thus they'll never mind my speaking speed, which may turn slow when idiomatic expressions suddenly escape me at certain topics. When I have trouble understanding their speech, I ask for clarification without hesitation. (But we don't meet up frequently, so there are not enough opportunities for me to speak English after work. Maybe it partially explains my anxiety.)
It's so hard to be myself at work. I persuaded myself several times that my director and those visitors are just people and they will never bite me, but I can't help feeling anxious.
How can I overcome my nervousness when I need to welcome English-speaking clients?