Learning to Improve English, Spoken or Written, is Like Learning to Ski

With much of our country wrapped in snow, and the kids clamoring to make a snowman, winter sports such as skiing are on my mind. I think back to my high school skiing trips, and learning the basics of how to start and stop while on the beginner slope. And I realized that learning to improve English, spoken or written, is a lot like learning to ski. In the beginning, you just need the basics, a few simple rules to help you survive.

If you don’t live in an English speaking country, the basics may be all you ever need. But, if you move to a country where English is the common language, you will probably want to improve your spoken English and writing skills.

In skiing, if you want to move away from the beginner slope, you may need some instruction to improve your skills. Some people can watch and imitate a more experienced skier, and they learn all they need to navigate the more challenging intermediate slopes. Others, however, need a few hours of coaching from an instructor to master the skills they need to safely make it down the harder slopes.

Learning to improve your English skills is much the same way. Some people can watch and imitate their friends and co-workers and learn what they need at that point. For others, a few hours of personalized instruction with an accent reduction specialist makes all the difference in their language skills and accent.

And then there are those who really want to ski, but just keep falling flat on their face. No matter how hard they try and how much they watch others, they just can’t figure out how to keep the skis under them. It is important to them to learn how to ski, so they hire a personal instructor who will watch them, determine exactly what they are doing wrong, and teach them the skills they need to be a successful skier.

For many non-native English speakers, the story is the same. They have tried watching others, reading books, and watching videos, but their English pronunciation just doesn’t improve. They really want to speak English more clearly, but they can’t figure out what to do. They need a personal instructor, just like the skiers did, to walk alongside them, show them exactly what they’re doing that isn’t working, and teach them the skills for success.

So, where are you in your journey to improve your English, spoken or written? Have you learned all you need from English classes and friends, or are you looking for the instructor who will guide you in achieving your English pronunciation and writing goals?

If you’re looking for a way to improve your English, start by downloading my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today, by visiting http://www.losemyaccent.com

Can I Lose My Accent Without Giving Up My Culture?

Do you ever worry that if you decide to improve your English pronunciation, you will lose part of your heritage?

Are you afraid that if you want to lose your accent, your family and friends will feel that you are abandoning them and your native culture? Please do not let this fear keep you from doing something that you know will benefit you. Your family and friends love you and want the best for you. If you are living in an English speaking culture now, you want to give yourself every opportunity to succeed, and that includes making sure that your English is easy to understand.

No one is asking you to forget your heritage or pretend you are someone you are not. When we talk about losing or reducing your accent, we are really talking about changing those parts of your pronunciation that make your English difficult for others to understand. Most people, even after completing accent reduction classes, will still have traces of their accent in their everyday speech. Ideally, your goal is not to eliminate the accent completely, but to change the parts of it that make it difficult to understand. Ultimately, the goal should be to have the best of both worlds: an accent that sets you apart as a native of your homeland while still being completely understandable in English.

Would you like to learn more about how to reduce your accent without giving up your heritage? Take a free accent screening at www.losemyaccent.com and find out exactly which sounds you should be practicing!

How Your Accent Could Keep You From the Job of Your Dreams

You’ve worked hard to learn English, gotten the degree you wanted, and maybe had the opportunity to try out your skills in a good job. But now it’s here – the opportunity to interview for your dream job. You’ve waited a long time for this, so of course, you want to do everything you can to get ready for the big day. You research the company, buy a new suit, and make sure you’re mentally prepared.

You walk in, shake hands, and say hello.

And wait.

But it didn’t turn out the way you had hoped.

I know it doesn’t seem fair, but decisions are often made in interviews in the first 10 seconds. First impressions are critical, and communicating clearly is essential. The reality is that the person who speaks standard American English more clearly is often chosen over the one who has superior skills but was difficult to understand.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers says that communication skills is the number one thing employers are looking for — more than computer expertise, and even more than a strong work ethic. That means that one of the best things you can do to increase your chances of getting that dream job is to improve your English communication skills.

I was helping one client prepare for an upcoming interview by rehearsing possible questions and answers and practicing the pronunciation of several words common to his profession. We were brainstorming possible words that he might need, when he said what I thought was shadow. “That’s a word I know I’ll use a lot as a manager,” he said. Puzzled, I asked him to explain how he would use it. We were working together over Skype, and he finally typed the word schedule. The astonished look on my face made him laugh, and when I gave him the correct pronunciation, he was so thankful that we had practiced prior to his interview. “Can you imagine,” he asked, “if I had gone into the interview and said shadow when I meant to say schedule? That would have been terrible!”

I know you don’t want to make a terrible mistake in your next interview, so be sure you polish your English pronunciation before you go!

To get speech tips to prepare for your next interview, take my free online speech and accent screening at http://www.losemyaccent.com. Invest a few minutes in your future success!

How to Improve English Spoken by Chinese Americans

If you were born in China but now live in the United States, you are part of a large and talented group of people. According to the latest census information, there are over 1.6 million Chinese immigrants in the United States. Of these, two-thirds are of adult working age and two in five have a college degree or higher; however, two-thirds have limited English proficiency and need to improve their spoken English.

This means that, if you are Chinese and living in the United States, there is a good chance that you are a highly educated person who has come to the United States expecting to succeed, but you may have trouble advancing in your career because you have not learned how to speak English like an American.

ESL classes are a wonderful place to start and they do a terrific job of teaching the basics of English vocabulary and grammar. I highly recommend them!

The problem comes for many people who have learned to speak and write English but find that they still cannot communicate with native English-speaking Americans. Have you experienced this? Have you had someone ask you to repeat yourself when you thought you had been perfectly clear? It can be frustrating and disheartening, especially for someone who has worked so hard, to find that it is not a lack of education or effort that is holding them back, but the difficulty in being understood.

So, if you have taken ESL classes and you speak English every day, what can you do to be understood more easily? One of the best ways to improve your spoken English is to try and speak with an American accent. You can ask American friends to gently correct you when you mispronounce a word. Write down words you have trouble saying correctly and practice them at home.

Every language has rules to its pronunciation, and understanding those rules is very important to reducing an accent. There are some rules in English that are very different from the Chinese rules, so they can be quite confusing to Chinese speakers of English. Some of these include:

  • distinguishing between the and l sounds
  • distinguishing between the n and ng sounds
  • knowing when to pronounce final consonants
  • understanding the difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants, such as and gp and b, and t and d

These sounds can be very difficult to learn on your own because they are so different from your native language. You will probably experience the most rapid results by working with an accent reduction specialist, who can help you learn to speak English like an American. This professional can recognize where you are having difficulty and teach you new speech patterns that will make speaking English much less frustrating. As you improve your spoken English, you will find that your confidence improves as well, and you will begin to feel more comfortable living in the United States.

To start working on your American accent today, download my FREE report, How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Starting Today.

 

Cross-Cultural Business Communication: Do’s and Don’ts for Co-workers

In our ever-increasing global marketplace, it is more and more likely that you will encounter non-native speakers of English in your workplace. This can be a wonderful opportunity to get familiar with another culture, but the cultural differences in communication can be frustrating, particularly when the other person has limited English or a heavy accent. Don’t give up, though! Cross-cultural business communication does not have to be so hard.

You may not think that you can do anything about it, but actually there are several steps you can take. If the person has very limited English, you could offer to help him or her find ESL classes. If their knowledge of English is good, but their accent makes them hard to understand, suggest to management that they offer accent reduction training for those who need it. In the meantime, though, what do you do if you are working with this person and you just can’t understand each other?

Try these five tips to improve your ability to communicate:

1. DO NOT speak more loudly

Unless the person is wearing hearing aids or has a known hearing loss, please do not speak more loudly to him or her. He or she is not deaf, and shouting does not improve communication. It is a natural reaction for many people who are misunderstood to repeat their statement a little louder each time, as if the listener were a stubborn two year old willfully ignoring the request. Use a normal tone of voice. Your listener will thank you.

2. DO NOT over-enunciate

Another tendency many of us have when faced with awkward communication is to s-l-o-w- d-o-w-n and over-enunciate. Do you hear the words I am trying to say? we think to ourselves in an over-exaggerated fashion. But that is not how English really sounds, and it won’t increase the chances of being understood. It will only make the listener feel belittled.

3. DO speak more slowly

Try to think back to the foreign language class you took in high school. Whether it was French, Spanish, or German, I’ll bet that your reaction to hearing native speakers was something like this: Why do they talk so fast? Can’t they just slow down? I can’t even understand the words they are saying. Now the shoe is on the other foot. English sounds just as fast to a non-native speaker as those foreign languages did to you. I’m not suggesting that you slow down to an embarrassingly slow pace, but be conscious of how rapidly you are speaking. Particularly when communicating technical information, it is important to ensure that the other person has understood every piece of the communication. If you are hurried or stressed, work even harder to slow down. It is very natural when we are stressed to talk even faster, but most likely this is when it will be most critical to speak slowly enough to get your message across clearly. A few extra seconds on the front end can save an endless stream of headaches later on.

4. DO offer to explain unfamiliar words

Most non-native speakers are working hard to improve their English and are extremely intelligent. After all, they are performing their job in a foreign language; not everyone could do that! If you kindly offer to explain an unfamiliar word, you are not only helping your colleague to boost his English skills, but you are building trust and rapport as well.

5. DO ask if they would like your help with pronunciation

Have you ever had one of those embarrassing moments where you had a piece of spinach caught in your teeth, or your fly was down, or you had toilet paper caught on your shoe — and no one told you? Didn’t you wish someone had just said something to you sooner instead of letting you walk around like that? That is how most non-native speakers of English feel when they mispronounce a word and no one tells them it is wrong. Some people are very self- conscious and prefer not to be corrected, but many foreign-born professionals are very appreciative of a little English guidance. It is important to be polite and discreet, though. Correcting someone across the table in a meeting with the boss may not go over so well, but a casual comment afterward could be helpful.

In fact, if you develop a good rapport with the person, you could offer to be their resource contact whenever they are unsure of how to pronounce a word. You could help them avoid many of those embarrassing little moments – and you could become the office expert on effective cross-cultural business communication!

If cross-cultural communication is an issue in your business, please recommend that the non-native English speakers in your office download my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today

Make Your English Magnifique! Tips to Improve English Spoken by the French

Learning a new language can be quite a challenge, and learning it well enough to be understood by native speakers is an altogether different experience. As you may have found out for yourself, just knowing the English words may not be enough if your French accent makes it difficult for people to understand you. Speaking English with a French accent can be quite frustrating, especially if you can’t figure out what to do to make your speech more clear to the listener. If you are tired of being misunderstood, try the suggestions below to improve your spoken English.

You may find that, like many French speakers, you have trouble with the groups of English sounds known as affricates and fricatives.

Affricates are the sounds like:

  • ch, as in child or chicken
  • j , as in judge or jelly

Commonly confused fricatives include sounds like:

  • sh, as in shoe or ship
  • voiced th, as in these or those
  • unvoiced th, as in think or thank you

If you are speaking English with a French accent, you may not make the distinction between each of these sounds that is necessary for understandable English. So, you may substitute any of these sounds for any of the others, leading to confusion for the listener.

A simple request in English, like:

Jane, put these shoes in the chair.

could easily come out sounding like this:

Shane, put zeese choose in the share.

So, what should you do if you are a native French speaker and want to improve your spoken English? Practice, practice, practice. But, you must practice the right sounds. Ask yourself if you substitute any of the sounds listed above for other ones on the list. Be observant in your conversations for words that have these sounds in them, and be sure you are choosing the correct one. Practice the words listed above until you can say each one correctly. Perhaps you could ask an English speaking friend to listen to you.

If you are still not sure how to clarify your speech and you want some personalized help, I want to offer you a free accent screening when you visit my website at www.losemyaccent.com. I also invite you to download my FREE report: How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today.

Why is English Pronunciation and Speaking So Hard for Arabic Speakers?

Arabic is a Semitic language, and so it differs significantly from English, which has a European language base. Native Arabic English speakers may have a particularly difficult time with English pronunciation and speaking because of the aspects of English which do not exist in Arabic, such as certain consonants including v and g, many vowels and diphthongs, and a variety of consonant clusters.

If it is important to you to improve your spoken English, you can learn to speak with an American accent.

The missing consonants v and g may be some of the easiest sounds to work on, because very similar sounds do exist in Arabic. These two sounds are the voiced counterparts to the unvoiced sounds f and k.

Both the f and v sounds are produced by placing the top teeth lightly on the lower lip and blowing. To change the f to a v sound, the voice must be turned on. When you are making this sound correctly, you will feel your throat vibrate if you place your hand on it. Try saying fan and van.

Similarly, the g sound is the voiced pair of the k sound. Make a k sound and then turn your voice on and do it again. It should sound like the g sound. Once again, if you put your hand on your throat, you should feel it vibrate when you say g. Try saying came and game.

English has many more vowel sounds than Arabic; in fact, Arabic has only 8 and English has 22 different vowel and diphthong sounds! Many Arabic English speakers have a hard time with the short vowels, which are rarely used in Arabic but are very common in English. Words such as can, truck, beg, sit, and on could be difficult to understand if the correct pronunciation isn’t used.

Another tricky element of speaking with correct English pronunciation is consonant clusters — groups of 2 to 3 consonants that are pronounced as one continuous sound, without any vowel sounds between them. Many Arabic English speakers put a vowel sound between the consonants, such as saying kulock for the word clock. Practice saying consonant clusters as one continuous sound. Whether the word has the sounds kl, pl, gr, sp, st, or str, they are all pronounced without a vowel sound between them.

If you find yourself getting frustrated,you can learn more on how to improve your English pronunciation and speaking skills by downloading my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today.

Foreign Accent Causes Woman to Miss Bus

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you don’t care where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

But what if you do care where you’re going, but can’t communicate it clearly to the person driving. Or, even worse, what if you are confident that you have the skills to get you where you want to go, but you still end up in the wrong place. Pretty humbling experience, isn’t it?

Let me tell you a story that happened to me when I was in college. I minored in French in college and had already been to Paris once after high school, so on this trip to Paris, I was feeling a bit too sure of myself.

My French was good enough to communicate with those around me, and just for fun, I wandered away from the tourist hot spots to areas with more “local flavor” to try my language skills on the real native speakers. I did just fine in several little shops, which boosted my confidence even more.

I decided that I was ready for a little day trip, and someone had recommended that I visit the Chateau at Chantilly. I went to the bus station, asked for directions and boarded the correct bus. Or so I thought. As the bus pulled away, I looked at the list of bus stops for this bus. Chantilly was not one of the stops listed. How could the attendant have told me to get on the wrong bus?

However, as I looked more carefully at the list of stops, I realized what had happened. I was on the bus headed for Chatelet. I thought my French pronunciation was good enough to get me through any situation, but in this case, a subtle difference in the way I said a word had landed me on the wrong bus.

Fortunately for me that day, it didn’t really matter where I ended up. But, I missed seeing a sight that I was looking forward to and may not ever have the opportunity to see again.

But, what if that day, I had been headed for a job interview, and I missed a great job opportunity because of that little pronunciation difference?

Then, it would have mattered. A lot.

What job opportunities or promotions might you have missed out on because your speech wasn’t quite as clear as you thought? Some very intelligent professionals are so confident in their abilities that they do not realize the difficulties that their accented speech can cause. Have you ever thought about the consequences of being misunderstood? Of missing a promotion … a critical contract … or a better job offer? Did you know that by working with an accent reduction specialist, you could eliminate those consequences altogether?

You know that clear speech and accurate communication are critical to advancing in your career, and an accent reduction specialist can help you to speak standard English like an American. If you are a non-native speaker of English or an American with a regional dialect, you can improve your American accent in just a few short weeks. So, if you have any question about your communication skills, contact a professional who can help you improve the clarity of your speech and the direction of your career.

I don’t want you to miss the bus.

Can I Learn an English American Accent Using Skype?

http://blog.losemyaccent.com/2010/02/24/can-i-learn-an-english-american-accent-using-skype.aspx

Have you worried because you know you have to repeat yourself to be understood, you’re not sure if people understand you, and you wish there were an easy way to improve your English American accent?

The great news is that now there is a simple solution to these worries! If you do not live near someone who can teach you to speak with an American accent, you can now learn from the comfort of your home with just your computer and a webcam.

What would it be worth to you to:

  • be understood every time you speak?
  • never have to repeat yourself again?
  • sleep better at night knowing that your speech no longer negatively impacted your job performance?

Isn’t it great to know that there are very affordable options to help you with your English American accent?

In the past, the only way to benefit from personalized instruction was through a private or small group class. This is a great option for many people, but can be a problem if you have a crazy work schedule, a long commute, or live in a rural area. Now, with advances in internet technology, you can have the same, high quality private instruction that you would get face to face without ever leaving your home or office.

Now, you can learn to speak English like an American through your computer webcam. Using free software from Skype, you can have all the benefits of working with a personal accent reduction specialist right through your computer. Think of the time and money you will save by not having to travel to a class. You can schedule a class at your convenience in the privacy of your own home or office. You need very little equipment (just your computer and a microphone!), and you will be impressed with the quality of the audio and video that are available.

This is a fabulous opportunity for those who live in an area where accent reduction classes are not available in person. In the past, your only options were a terribly long commute to a class or trying to figure it out from a self-study manual. Now you will be able to have the same advantages that those who live in a larger city have had.

Those of you who live in a big city but hate fighting traffic will also be pleased with the convenience of webcam classes. You can schedule them at home or at the office, but without having to build in extra time for the commute to class. You’ll save money on gas, and know that you’re doing your part for the environment by cutting down on driving.

No matter where you live, if you have a good internet connection, a webcam, and a microphone, you will be able to experience a high quality class with less hassle than ever before.

Just imagine being able to communicate more easily and confidently with those around you. And even better, your employer may pay for this training! If you are self-employed, you can deduct it as a training expense.

You might think that in our current economy, you would not want to add the expense of taking these high quality classes. However, consider the cost of not making this change.

What would it cost you to lose your job? To miss out on a great promotion, or lose a key contract because you were misunderstood? Now that you have an easy, no-hassle option, can you really afford not to do this?

Why don’t you take the free online speech and accent screening at http://www.losemyaccent.com? It only takes a few minutes, and I will get back in touch with you for a free 20 minute consult via Skype so you can try out this great way that we can work together to improve your English American accent.

Download my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Starting Today by visiting www.losemyaccent.com

I Can’t Understand My Professor! or Why Accent Reduction Training is So Important

It’s a common problem at many universities. Students are frustrated, and their grades suffer. They attend class, do the work, and still their grades don’t improve. Even if they meet with the professor outside of class, there is little to be done. There is a communication barrier that can’t be fixed in just one meeting.

The Times Online reports on one situation where students simply cannot understand their foreign-born professor because of his accented English. They have approached the university for help, and have been told that the problem is being addressed. But, how? By offering them the option of changing teachers? What if there is no one else, and this professor really is the most knowledgeable one on this topic?

I don’t know how the problem is being resolved in that case, but I do know what would make a difference for the foreign-born teaching assistants and professors in many English speaking schools. Accent reduction training.

Our universities are full of brilliant young students from around the world, many of whom have never studied English with a native speaker. As a result, while their comprehension of English is excellent, their pronunciation is often very difficult to understand. This is particularly problematic when these students, because of their great academic abilities, become teaching assistants or professors without any further training in English pronunciation. Somehow it is assumed that the accent will magically disappear as they live in this country for a while, but unfortunately, for many people, that just doesn’t happen.

The best gift we can give these teachers is accent reduction classes tailored specifically to their individual needs. With instruction and encouragement from an accent reduction specialist, they will see remarkable changes in just a few weeks. If we can help them improve their English spoken in the classroom, they will feel more confident in their speech, be able to relate better to their English-speaking peers, and be more easily understood in front of the classroom or lecture hall. Because they are more understandable, they will be able to communicate their subject matter more effectively, and their students will be able to benefit from their vast knowledge.

And then, their brilliance will really shine through!

If you are a foreign-born educator, or you know someone who is, please accept as a gift my FREE download How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can TakeToday.