Invest in Yourself: the High Cost of Poor Communication

Workplace interaction… It’s practically a nuanced art form to balance all the relationships and conversations we have in a work day with those around us. But this becomes even more pronounced when language becomes a stumbling block because of a heavy foreign accent or insufficient English language skills. And communication breakdown has a shockingly high cost for companies and personally for the international worker.

high cost

The U.S. Department of Labor just released its 2015 data detailing the demographics of the foreign­-born workforce in America. Of the 26.3 million foreign­born workers, 47.4% are in environments that rely heavily on English language skills.

12.4 million

That’s a lot of people who probably do not speak English as their primary language!

The Cost for Business

When communication breaks down, it results in a hemorrhage of money – in the billions – for business.

400 businesses

In The Holmes Report survey, each company lost an average of $62.4 million… from breakdowns that included employee misunderstandings, misinformation, and job function.

Miscommunication in the workplace comes in a variety of forms. One common form is a literal misunderstanding of the English language between those millions of foreign-­born professionals and their co­-workers.

The Personal Cost

As I explained in a previous article, foreign nationals who have a heavy accent are often misunderstood at work and out in the community, are not working up to their potential because of misunderstandings, and may be disengaged with their co­workers and communities.

Research is showing businesses are ignoring this human component of project management.

Gallup reports that failed and over­budget projects can often be traced back to management tactics that ignore the human, emotional, and social aspects of employees. Merely controlling the rational processes (budgeting, deadlines) of a project is not enough to prevent project failure.

Furthermore, new research just recently released from IMPRINT (Immigrant Professional Integration) is showing how crucial social support and English language skills are for the success of foreign­-born workers in America. IMPRINT surveyed over 4,000 college­-educated immigrants in six major U.S. cities, and found their success was tied to their support system:

44% immigrants

In fact, those who have “many” friends and family were also more than twice as likely to to have achieved career success as those with “no” friends and family.

And, improving their English proficiency also influenced their degree of professional success:

3 times

The key to success for our businesses, cities, and individual international workers and their families lies in social immersion and continued English language skills.

How Should Business Respond?

If you’re a business owner or Human Resources manager with multiple foreign­-born professionals working for your company… engage them about their accent.

Offer to pay for intensive seminars at work on accent reduction with a qualified speech pathologist.

Offer ongoing individual accent reduction training at your workplace.

Invest in your own company by investing in the clear speech and support system of your foreign-born employees.

This is exactly what I do for corporations –including Oak Ridge National Laboratory – and my courses have improved the speech clarity of international professionals by up to 70% in as little as 12 weeks.

How Should You Respond as an International Professional?

Talk with your company about your desire to reduce your accent – they may never have thought of this or know that this training is available!

If there are several immigrant professionals in your workplace, come together to engage your company on this issue, and to support each other in your accent reduction.

But also don’t wait for your company to take the lead – there are steps you can take today to get started on clearer speech.

One easy step is to enroll in my online course coming up June 9!

Speaking and Learning Together

This course combines the support system you need with individualized training from me using my proven methods.

AND, it’s at a much lower rate than my usual one­-on-­one instruction – which makes it perfect for asking your company for reimbursement for this invaluable training.

Register here and find out about all the great resources this course provides!

Investing in clear communication has payoffs for everyone.

Companies: Reduce your bottom line from miscommunication and prevent costly project failures.

Individuals: Improve your professional and earnings success.

Visit Accentuate Communication for more company resources or Lose My Accent for free individual resources.

Springtime Challenge: Grow a Speech Garden

People who love gardening often spend all winter planning what they’ll grow in the spring. They pore over seed catalogs and websites, plot out their flower or vegetable beds on paper, and put aside money for new plants, mulch, and all the other necessary materials to make their garden beautiful and prosperous.

Have you ever thought about tending to your speech the way you’d tend to a garden?

Well, I’m issuing you a challenge!

Springtime Challenge

For Better Hearing and Speech month, we’re talking about how your communication takes care… the kind of care that would go into the planning and maintenance of a lush and healthy garden.

What does it look like to “grow a speech garden” with care?

Identify The Weeds

Any gardener knows that weeds will take over your garden in no time if left to grow! They become harder to uproot as they get bigger. The same is true for your speech: an unhelpful sound left unchecked will make you harder to understand, and will take more work to “unlearn” the longer you continue to use it.

Feed the Healthy Plants!Garden beds need nutrients in the form of fertilizer or compost – and of course watering – to ensure healthy plants and growth. Your American accent can benefit from similar care… so practice the sounds you know are working.

Introduce New SpecimensGardeners are always looking to include new specimens in their gardens – perhaps an heirloom vegetable variety they’ve never grown, or an exciting new hybrid of their favorite flower. When your correct sounds become strong enough that you don’t have to focus on them as much anymore, you can more easily introduce the next batch of sounds that need more work.

So, how do you know which sounds to focus on?

In this video from awhile back, I explain more about how your clear speech is like a garden you must maintain, and how important an individual speech coach or listener is.

And I also want to encourage you to join me for my 8­-week online clear speech course that starts June 9!

This course will tackle exactly what we’re talking about with your “speech garden”… identifying the sounds that give you trouble, practicing the correct sounds, individual attention from a speech pathologist (me, of course!), and listening and support from others who are also growing their “speech garden.”

Speaking and Learning Together

All the course information is right here, so don’t miss this opportunity to change the course of your speech this spring! Just like a garden that produces a bountiful autumn harvest, you can be speaking more clearly by this fall after my 8-week course.

And after you reserve your spot, you can bring a friend for free!

Working with a friend will help you both better tend to your speech gardens.

I hope you take this “Speech Garden Challenge” and commit to working on your American accent this spring… and I hope to see you June 9 for my “Speaking and Learning Together” accent reduction course!

Time to Speak Up! Caring About Your Communication

Tell me if this resonates with you: you’re comfortable in your workplace when it requires reading emails and going through written material… or writing to co-workers and jotting down notes.

But when needing to speak out loud to a co-worker, or asked to speak up at a meeting, you say as little as possible.

You’ve been misunderstood so many times, it’s just easier to stay quiet.

Sound familiar?

Speaking Out Loud FB

If you learned English outside the U.S., you probably spent years structuring sentences, memorizing vocabulary, and listening to English. You excelled in reading and writing, and by all measures became fluent in the English language.

You might have been surprised, then, when you came to America as a scientist, researcher, or engineer, and found that others had trouble understanding you!

Accustomed to learning in a passive way rather than an active one, and without an emphasis on speaking, you prefer to listen instead of engage in conversations. You’re tired of repeating yourself, and misunderstandings have caused embarrassment or perhaps a shy personality.

May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month”, as sponsored by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). ASHA is my credentialing organization, and this year’s theme is “Communication Takes Care.”

ASHA BHSM

So today, let’s talk about how you can “take care” of yourself and others by speaking up!

Make Simple, Creative Daily Changes

There’s no way around it… it’s going to take work on your part to practice speaking out loud and identify your problem sounds.

So let me give you an example of a simple way one of my clients practices speaking out loud:

He purposefully pays his bills over the phone, rather than mailing them in.

This way, he can practice his pronunciation with a variety of listeners, taking note of any words they don’t understand, so he can practice them again before the next interaction.

Here are some other ideas:

TalkEatCall

Use Technology to Your Advantage

The same client I mentioned above also uses voice recognition software to identify problem sounds for him to practice. A program like Dragon® Naturally Speaking is a small investment, but can turn nearly everything you’d do on a PC into a voice command – and it’s instant feedback for you on which sounds you should work on.

Using the voice assistant on your phone, like Siri®, to do web searches or take notes, can also give you great feedback on which sounds give you trouble – and practicing challenging words in the privacy of your home can feel more comfortable.

But I’ve got another wonderful way for you to use technology to reduce your accent… my upcoming 8-week online clear speech course!

 

SALT

I’m so excited to be leading this course once again!

“Speaking and Learning Together” starts June 9… and it includes online training videos and livestream group sessions where you can work personally with me and others who are also working toward clear speech. And right now, you can bring a friend along for free!

Find out more about this fantastic course here and register before it fills up!

If you’re hoping to reduce your accent by simply listening, it’s probably not enough to create a change.

We need the listening skills of others, friends to practice with, and the support of a community around us to motivate us to improve our speech.

So don’t let my “Speaking and Learning Together” course pass you by… and you can also take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.

Hoping to see you on June 9!

April Showers and May Flowers: Vowels, Jokes, and Syllable Stress

April Showers Bring May Flowers (2)We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately where I live in the South, and although it makes for some dreary days, the payoff is outstanding: amazing flowers are blooming and filling our yards and parks!

Americans have a rhyming phrase that helps us get through the wet months:

“April showers bring May flowers.”

This phrase reminds us that all this rain has a purpose! I bring it up because it’s also a timely way of getting you to open your mouth wide for a number of vowel sounds as you practice to reduce your accent.

springtime sounds (2)

 

“April showers bring May flowers” also has the “ing” sound… which you can read more about in this post.

This phrase also has a joke that goes along with it, which leads me to ask you:

Mayflower

Do you know the difference? And how can that little space between “May” and “flower” make any difference? Hear the difference between them, and how Americans use these words for a springtime joke, in this video I made a few years ago:

If this video and pronunciation information 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.

We Need Each Other! Reduce Your Accent through Community

I’m truly excited this month to be sharing with you how interacting with those around you is a major factor in reducing your accent. Why this month? May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month”, as sponsored by the American Speech­Language­Hearing Association (ASHA). Not only is ASHA my credentialing organization, but it does significant scientific research into a multitude of speech and hearing concerns for children and adults.

ASHA BHSM

A major research focus for ASHA has been the overuse of technology and its effect on language and hearing development, specifically among children.

In a 2015 ASHA survey of 1,000 parents:

• 52% expressed concern that technology negatively impacts the quality of their conversations with their children

• 54% say they have fewer conversations with their children because of technology

• 52% are concerned that misuse of technology is harming their children’s speech and language skills.

How does this translate to YOU as an adult professional?

As you work to reduce your accent, and as a professional who is probably using a substantial amount of technology at work and at home, I would ask this question…

Overuse of tech (1)

Speech-­language experts are noticing a significant negative result that the isolating effects of tablets, smartphones, and other personal technology devices are having on children’s language development… and I would put forth that any adult trying to make changes in their speech is experiencing the same effects.

Think honestly about your daily life: does the technology you use isolate you, and slow the accent reduction progress you could be making?

Dr. Judith Page, ASHA’s president in 2015, notes that there is no substitute for listening, talking, and human interaction in developing vocabulary and communication skills, and I would agree!

But as technology is not going away, this brings us to my next question…

more effectively

What would it mean to use technology to reduce your accent? Setting personal limits on screen time to allow for more human interaction would be a great start. Another option is using a video chat service to practice your English with a friend who lives elsewhere, and setting up regular “appointment” times with them offers you accountability in actually making the time to practice. But also I’d like to take it a step further, and get people together who are all on a journey to clear speech and being understood.

Speaking and Learning TogetherWe need the listening skills of others, friends to practice with, and the support of a community around us to encourage us in improving our speech. That’s what my “Speaking and Learning Together” course is all about… sessions where you can work with me and others who are working toward the same goal. We’ll be starting the course this summer, so be watching my blog and social media for start times and early bird specials.

Let’s control the way we use technology to affect our speech, instead of it controlling us!

And I have more resources for your accent reduction… you can take my free accent screening, and receive a free pronunciation guide, at losemyaccent.com.