3 Ways to Slow It Down: Connecting with International Co­Workers

We’re living and working in an age of international connectedness. Your co-­workers or clients may actually be living overseas and speak English as a second or third language, connected to you through internet chats and teleconferencing. Or, you may work daily in person with non-­native English speakers who have been in the U.S. for several years or only a few months.

No matter the situation, you need to be able to effectively communicate with your team.

In my last article on communicating with non-­native English speakers, I outlined how to keep language simple in the workplace. Today, we’ll talk about slowing down.

Slow It Down!

Right now I’m going to ask you to stop and remember:

• A foreign language class you took

• A time you were shopping in an international market

• Any time you overheard a foreign language conversation

Do you remember how the other language sounded? Was it incredibly fast and jumbled to you? Did you wonder how they could talk so quickly?

An international worker can feel just this way when trying to understand our language as well.

Be Aware of Your Speech.

You know how it is when you get on a roll with an idea… your speech speeds up as you get excited, and your words can hardly keep up with your brain. Or perhaps you’re pressed for time, and you rush your message or instructions. Even the everyday pace of your language can be too fast.

Be aware small

When speaking with an international worker or client, take the time to evaluate how quickly you’re actually talking. Even asking your co­-worker, “Am I talking too quickly?” shows that you care that they understand you. However, be aware that they may answer that you are not, in order to not seem unintelligent or rude.

Slow Down, but Don’t Exaggerate.

When we slow down our speech, we tend to start over-­enunciating our words or stretching them out. Try to avoid this.

Exaggerating small

Exaggerating words makes your listener feel belittled, and your speech no longer comes across the way English actually sounds. Again, just be aware of your pacing instead.

Slowing Down Saves Time.

It seems counter-intuitive, but we all know that taking our time on any project produces a better quality product and fewer headaches later on because of mistakes. Your language in the workplace is no different.

Miscommunication smallThis is especially true for highly technical environments, in which the precision of instructions and language is vital. Take a few extra seconds to slow your speech and make sure your message is clear, and you’ll be glad later that you did!

If you’d like more strategies on communicating with the non­-native English speakers in your workplace, or would like to offer your workers accent reduction classes or seminars, please contact Lisa Scott for a consultation… and visit AccentuateCommunication.com for more on how we can help you break down cross­-cultural workplace barriers.

Just How Do You Say “Pecan”?

 

learn to say Pecan (1)April is National Pecan Month, and it’s only natural for Americans to love pecans: The pecan is the only nut tree native to North America. It’s been growing wild and in cultivation from the northeastern United States all the way down to the river valleys of Mexico… so naturally, all these regions from north to south have developed a different way of pronouncing “pecan.”

Ways to say “Pecan” (1)

In fact, the linguistics department at University of Wisconsin­ Milwaukee identified eight different ways Americans say “pecan”, and plotted them all out on this fun map.

Take a listen to these various pronunciations and learn a little more about the beloved pecan in my latest video!

 

So, just how do you say it?

More fun than saying “pecans” is eating them. Here’s a tried and true pecan recipe that makes a great snack or gift.

Spicy Glazed Pecans

adapted from Spiced Pecans by Alton Brown

1 lb. whole pecans

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cinnamon

1⁄4 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

1⁄4 c. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. water

Place pecans in a large saute pan and toast over medium heat for 4­-5 minutes. Stir frequently until just browned.

Add butter and coconut oil and stir to coat pecans.

Add spices and stir to combine.

Add sugar and water; stir and cook until mixture forms a glaze.

Pour the pecans evenly onto a sheet pan to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Enjoy!

Find more great recipes at ilovepecans.org.

If you’d like more information on accent reduction, take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.

Take a Deep Breath! Reduce Your Accent by Reducing Your Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month, and we’re continuing this month with ways to improve your accent by bringing down your body’s stress level. In last week’s article, I asked you to loosen up the muscles that control your speech with exercises for your shoulders, neck, and jaw. If you haven’t tried those, take a minute to look back at my previous article and stretch out those muscles.

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some helpful stretches, let’s move on to an important part of your speech you’ve probably overlooked: your breathing.

Take a Deep Breath (1)

I’m sure you don’t notice your breathing until you get into a stressful situation: a presentation at work, a tense moment of disagreement with a co­worker, or an important meeting. You probably become aware of the quicker, more shallow breaths as your heart rate and stress level rise.

Let’s explore what causes this, and work to calm things down!

Try the following exercise, and notice how your chest and stomach both behave:

Hands on Stomach SMALL

If your stomach moved in with your breath, and your chest rose and fell, you are chest breathing.

In a higher stress situation, this creates quick, shallow, less efficient breathing… but perhaps more importantly for you, your voice won’t sound as rich and full as it could if you were relaxing your chest muscles.Chest SMALL

The last thing you need during a presentation is for your body to be working hard just to breathe, especially if you’re trying to project your voice across a room. You also don’t need your lungs working overtime if you’re trying to make a good impression!

Instead, I want you to use your diaphragm muscle to expand the lower part of your lungs. This deeper breathing automatically slows your heart rate and stress level, while reducing tension to the muscles that control your speech.

Try the stomach breathing exercise again, and this time make your hand pop out with your stomach while you expand the lower half of your lungs.

If you’re still having trouble making this happen, here’s a tip!

Lie Flat SMALL

With repetition, you’ll be able to draw on this deep breathing technique when you need it most.

Slow, deep breathing is probably the quickest, most effective way to calm the nervousness before and during a meeting or presentation. And I have some other ways to help you prepare and feel confident for those big work responsibilities. I originally made the following video during Halloween season, but the presentation preparation tips in it for non­native English speakers are still very true. Take a look, reduce your job stress, and be understood!

If this video and article helped you, or if you’d like more information on accent reduction, take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.

Relax! Reduce Your Accent by Reducing Your Stress

Improving your speech or reducing your accent takes a lot of self-awareness… it requires listening to yourself and regular practice in order to improve. But today I’m going to ask you to be aware of something other than the sound of your voice.  I’d like you to be aware of your body’s stress.

 

Relax!

Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I’d like you to take time this month to notice where you hold stress and tension in your body, as this greatly affects the muscles that control your speech and pronunciation. Let’s take a look at a few exercises that will help you relieve speech muscle tension.

 

Shoulders and Neck

Controlling your speech begins further down than your tongue and cheek muscles. It starts in the shoulders and neck, a place where many of us carry stress and tension.

 

Roll Shoulders

 

 

Cheek and Jaw

Many of us clench our teeth or tighten our cheek muscles when stressed. Try to be aware of this, and try the following exercise when you notice yourself doing this.

 Fingers

Be sure to follow through by massaging all the way up into your cheekbone.

Now… hopefully I’m not boring you, but I want you to give a big yawn!

 Yawn

These exercises can help you reduce your tension, to help reduce your accent and be understood!

However, no one will be perfectly understood all the time… and missteps with your speech and accent can be a great source of stress if you’ve been trying to improve. In my video below, I’d like to encourage you with some helpful things to remember for the times when you are misunderstood. I made this video a couple of years ago, but the suggestions in it are timeless.

 

If this video and article helped you, or if you’d like more information on accent reduction, take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.