Professional Presence: Finding Your Voice

professional-presence

Picture yourself in this everyday office scenario:

The staff is gathered for a presentation on a new company initiative.

The presenter passes out their information, and in a monotone fashion proceeds to plod through the slideshow presentation on the topic with seemingly little enthusiasm.

At the end they announce, “We really want everyone to get excited about this.”

Are you excited?

Have you bought into your company’s new project?

Given the lackluster presentation, probably not!

 

Maybe this presenter really is excited about the initiative, but they don’t know how to convey that to others… or don’t even realize how their demeanor is being perceived by everyone in the room.

And what would the ramifications be if this had been a pitch to a client, or prospective investors?

The non-verbal communication in this situation was the difference between increased morale at the launching of a new project, and just another boring meeting!

 

The 7 Percent “Rule”

You may be familiar with a “rule” that states communication is only 7% verbal, the other 93% being vocal tones (38%) and facial expression (55%). While the studies from the late 1960s that originated this “rule” have been widely misinterpreted – and the results really only apply to the circumstances of the study – it was still a benchmark in recognizing how we interpret messages based on our physical sound and presence… and other studies still reinforce how nonverbal communication influences how we perceive messages from others.

 

Take for example, a later study indicating that the combination of many non-verbal cues had over 4 times the effect of simply verbal cues. And a study out of Harvard University published in 2003 showed how tone of voice increased or decreased subjects’ perception of politeness in statements and questions.

 

Even so, science may not always be able to pin down a statistic about our use of nonverbal cues… but the evidence exists in those won or lost clients, daily engagement with customers and co-workers, and surveys of employee satisfaction.

 

It’s What You Say, AND How You Say It

We know the words we choose are important… no one wants irrelevant, illogical information or interactions. But it’s not just our words – strictly the information – that influences others, and determines their perception of us. Even when our words are in the right, is that enough to convey our meaning? In the example above, the speaker’s overall tone hindered the message of company enthusiasm. No doubt you’ve experienced either embracing or rejecting projects, ideas, or initiatives because of the way the message was delivered to you.

 

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Dr. Ann Utterback, a vocal coach exclusive to broadcasters, says that the world is looking for “comfortable communicators”: presenters who make you feel like you’re the only one with whom they’re interacting. In an interview with Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, she describes one aspect of this as ‘vocal energy’ – “focus and passion for what you’re saying.”

 

So just knowing how to run the slide software isn’t enough… the balance of what you’re thinking, feeling, and projecting creates the dynamism to win and keep customers, influence investors, and excite and engage those around your on your team.

 

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Ultimately, your vocal presence can either enhance or break down your meaning.

And this presence is made up of many components… some you may feel comfortable with, and others that may need work in order to really find your voice, and allow others to hear your true meaning.

My corporate professional presence training breaks down these components:

Vocal quality

Vocal variance

Rate of speech

Accent clarity

Body posture and gestures

 

And you may be surprised how factors outside of your physical voice can be used to great effect in magnifying your “voice” and message:

Crafting a powerful story

Knowing when to speak, and when to listen

Adjusting responses to questions for different audiences

 

We’ll be exploring these components of your professional vocal presence in the weeks to come!

 

My corporate professional presence training engages the issues of vocal presence to increase productivity, create stronger client relationships, and improve clarity of internal and external presentations and processes.

Learn more and contact us today at AccentuateCommunication.com.

 

Watch Your Language! Knoxville Businesswoman Urging Florida Companies to Invest in Foreign­-Born Workforce

Local CEO and speech pathologist brings her expertise to Orlando’s emerging tech hub.

Watch Your Language! LMA

KNOXVILLE, TN – August 2016 – Speaking at the 2016 HR Florida Conference in Orlando, Knoxville-based speech pathologist and Accentuate Communication CEO Lisa Scott has a clear message for Florida businesses: Investing in the language skills of your foreign-born professionals is crucial to financial growth.

 

“Orlando is positioning itself as a hub for technology and start-ups, and has an opportunity to learn from the English skills work we’ve been doing with foreign-born professionals at major research labs in the Knoxville area,” said Scott. “Specifically, we’re helping foreign-born engineers improve their American accent to better relate to the Knoxville and surrounding communities, and minimize those communication breakdowns that cost companies billions every year.”

 

In Tennessee from 2000 to 2010, the number of foreign-born workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jumped more than 84 percent. And in Florida, almost one in four STEM workers with an advanced degree was a foreigner in 2010.

 

“The language frustration is real for companies with a significant non-native workforce,” said Scott. “They’re seeing grants slip through their fingers. They’re losing out on big clients. And many talented internationals can’t move up the ladder because their English just needs a little more work.”

 

And new research is now backing up how improved English-language skills are helping college-educated immigrants succeed all over America.

Invest in Yourself

In a 2015 survey of college-educated immigrants by IMPRINT (Immigrant Professional Integration), respondents who did not speak English as a primary language – but had strong English skills – were “dramatically more likely” to have achieved professional success than those who didn’t.

 

“This research proves what those of us in the field of foreign accent reduction have already known – that increased English-language proficiency correlates with all measure of immigrant economic success,” said Scott.

 

According to the Migration Policy Institute, over 41% of Tennessee’s foreign-born workforce – and nearly half of Florida’s – hold management, science, business, sales, or office jobs: fields where a heavy foreign accent and cross-cultural miscommunication can routinely cause costly delayed projects, missed funding opportunities, and “brain waste” of skilled immigrant professionals.

 

But Gallup research is showing that companies are ignoring this social component of business and project management.

 

“That’s where Accentuate comes in, to help companies take hold of the potential their international team already possesses. Clear speech – and strategies to understand each other cross-culturally – are the missing link for effective, happy employees and increased profits for businesses.”

Scott is a featured speaker at the upcoming HR Florida Conference on Monday, August 29 with her session “Beer and Bounced Checks: Why Diversity Initiatives Can’t Stop at the Front Door.”  

The 2016 HR Florida Conference & Expo runs August 29-31 at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando, attracting over 1,500 human resource professionals from across the state of Florida and the world.

 

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As a certified speech-language pathologist and CEO of Accentuate Communication, Lisa Scott is trusted with accent reduction services at several of the country’s top research labs, and has influenced a myriad of other world-class institutions in her over 25 years of experience.

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!

Siri® Understands Me Now: How Accent Reduction Aids in the Use of Voice-Recognition Technology

Siri Understands Me Now! (2)

Most of us recognize the voice of Siri®, the iPhone’s voice – assisted technology. But Siri® doesn’t recognize the pronunciation of everyone who attempts to communicate with her. Apple says that she handles 1 billion voice requests per week, but many non-native speakers have reverted back to text-based requests after Siri® failed to grasp what they were asking.

As an accent reduction trainer, I received a flood of new inquiries from internationals in the US when Siri® was first released. People who had thought for years that their pronunciation was good enough were suddenly faced with the fact that this new technology told them otherwise.

Granted, the technology itself is partly to blame. As analyst Jeff Kagan reported in this Fortune article, “[These technologies] are still in their very early growth and frankly get more wrong than right.”

Siri Voice Assistant (2)

But it’s not going away. And it’s not just in phones any more. We see voice-assisted technology in cars, in our homes, and even in new wearable technology. From warehouse floors to laboratories to hospital wards, more and more employees are using hands-free devices that require that their speech be easily understood by a computer.

Certainly, the technology will continue to improve and understand more variations on the pronunciation of words. But in the meantime, what can non-native speakers do to use Siri® and other similar programs more effectively?

Accent reduction classes can be very helpful, both in increasing the accuracy of pronunciation and in building confidence.  According to one of my clients, an engineer named Baskar, “the course has helped me tremendously to understand the subtle differences and nuances in the usage of many words.”   Determined to meet his personal accent reduction goals, he thought of a unique way to use voice-recognition software to his advantage. Dragon® Naturally Speaking has become his practice companion. He takes note any time the software misunderstands a word he says, and then uses that list for further practice. As he explains, ” It helps to see what others hear when I say a certain word.”  His English clarity is improving, as is the ease of using a variety of voice- recognition programs. 

After several weeks of working with me, another client, Hari Nallan, proudly announced at the beginning of a session, “Siri® understands me now!” His confidence was boosted by this objective measure that his speech is clearer now than it was just a short time ago. It’s carrying over into his business, too. His clients don’t ask him to repeat himself as often, which makes for smoother transactions as he builds his business worldwide.

Investing the time now to work on pronunciation will pay off quickly, since the need to be understood by voice recognition software is growing rapidly. In fact, according to comScore, 200 billion searches per month will be done with voice by 2020.

200 billion (5)

No longer will saying that your English is “good enough” actually be good enough for the voice recognition software that will be an integral part of our daily lives at home and at work.

If you’re not certain that your English is good enough to be understood by the latest voice- recognition software, then it may be time to get an outside evaluation of your pronunciation.
Don’t know where to start? Visit losemyaccent.com to take a free accent screening.

Why Spring Training is Important for Accent Reduction

The days are starting to warm up and spring is just around the corner. In America, this not only means everyone is excited about the weather changes, but many sports fans also get excited for the start of a truly American game: baseball! Right now, major league baseball teams are just starting their practice games – called “Spring Training” – to get themselves ready for the real season.

Spring Training

Training your own speech is just as important as an athlete training his or her body – before the big event in your life that requires a great American accent, like a job interview or important presentation.

A few years ago, at the end of baseball spring training, I shared a video about the importance of taking the time to train your speech – and how to pronounce the “ing” sound that is a problem for many non-native English speakers.

Learn to say ING

Take a listen to my tips for this sound – and I hope your spring is filled with your own training and practicing of your American accent!

If this video 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.

5 Reasons You Need an Accent Reduction Trainer

Accent reduction training is gaining popularity with many non-native speakers of English. The personalized classes can be a great way to improve your American accent quickly and effectively. But how do you know if it is the right choice for you?

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1. You’re tired of repeating yourself

You’ve been studying English for a long time and you have a good grasp of the vocabulary and grammar. But being understood easily when you speak? Well, that’s a different matter. You just want to be able to carry on a conversation without having to repeat yourself every time you speak. An accent reduction trainer can quickly pinpoint the sounds and speech patterns that are causing the greatest difficulty and can help you make significant changes in how easily others understand you.

2. You’re frustrated when other people finish your sentences for you

You know what you wanted to say and you thought you made your point clearly. But someone else stepped in and interrupted you or rephrased what you just said. You’d just like to make your point clearly and be able to finish your sentence without someone else trying to do it for you.

Sometimes, the problem lies in the pronunciation of words and sometimes it is in knowing the necessary vocabulary, grammar, or expressions to make your point clearly. An accent reduction trainer can help you identify the source of the problem and coach you in phrasing your sentences more succinctly so that there will be no need for anyone to finish your sentences for you any longer.

3. You got passed over for a promotion or a new job offer

You had all the right skills and experience and you thought the job was yours. But you never got the call back that you were expecting. Later you heard that the job had gone to someone else -someone that you know wasn’t as qualified as you but whose communication skills were better.

Communication skills are one of the top skills employers are looking for today. Surprisingly, this often ranks higher than experience and training! You may be really good at your job, but if you can’t communicate clearly and confidently with coworkers and clients, you may never have the opportunity to work to your full potential in your career. Investing in accent reduction training has a great ROI, as it opens many doors for advancement that might otherwise not be available to you.

4. You’d like to order a meal in a restaurant without a struggle

Grilled chicken and a coke. That’s all you want. How can it be so hard for the waiter to understand that? Just once, you’d like to be able to sit down at a restaurant, order whatever you’d like from the menu, and have it brought to you with no questions asked. But most of the time, it’s not that simple. Each item on the menu is a struggle to communicate, and even when you finish ordering, you’re not completely sure you are going to get what you wanted.

Often, the communication breakdown occurs on several levels. It’s loud in the restaurant, some of the vocabulary is unfamiliar, and even when you know the words, the pronunciation just doesn’t make sense.

An accent reduction trainer can work with you, not just on the basics of pronunciation, but also on the specific skills of ordering in a restaurant. You can learn to ask for your favorite foods by name and actually get them. It’s a great feeling to master this aspect of American pronunciation!

5. You just want to fit in and not be asked “Where are you from?”

Moving to the US has been a culture shock on so many levels. Clearly, your way of life is different and you don’t really want to give up everything about your home country and culture. But it would be nice to feel like you are part of a community here and to fit in with those around you. If people would just ask “How was your weekend?” instead of “Where are you from?”, you would know that you were making progress.

The more comfortable you become speaking with an American accent, using American expressions, and even adapting your body language to those around you, the more easily you will fit in. That doesn’t mean you need to give up your heritage, but it might mean that you want to work with an accent reduction trainer to help point out the differences in your pronunciation, vocabulary, and even body language.

Some people come to the US, master the English language and its nuances, and fit right in to American culture. But far more people come with what they thought was a good grasp of the language – until they tried to survive in daily life. And most do survive. But you didn’t come here to survive, did you? You came here to thrive! You came to build a better life for yourself, and you are willing to do what it takes to have that life you know is possible.

If you identified with any of those five reasons, you will most likely benefit from hiring an accent reduction trainer. To see if it would be a good fit for you, take a free accent screening here and get personalized feedback on how you can begin speaking clearer English today.

 

Speaking English: What Your Non-Native Coworkers Wish You Knew

You’re in yet another meeting that has lasted too long, and you’re having trouble understanding the person who is speaking. It’s not really his fault; he’s doing his job well in a foreign country, speaking a language that is not his mother tongue. He’s frustrated, too. He knows what he’s talking about, but can see that other people aren’t quite getting what he is saying. The tension mounts on all sides, as everyone just wants this to be over. So finally, a co-worker steps in. “I think what he is trying to say is….” And the meeting adjourns.

Business people in conversation

We all want to be able to communicate clearly, and most non-native speakers are painfully aware of how hard this can be at times. As a corporate accent reduction trainer, I’ve worked with internationals from many different backgrounds, and I consistently hear the same points of frustration. Here are a few tips that can help to ease the tension and improve the flow of communication.

1. Pay attention to the person’s speech patterns.

Most non-native speakers have a few consistent sound substitutions that they make in their speech. When you recognize those, you can mentally change the sound and understand the words more easily. For example, you may learn that one person always uses an E when he means I, so you know that when he says “leave”, he really means “live”. Or a person who says P for F will say “pine” when they mean “fine”. Knowing a few of these patterns can make their speech much easier to understand.

2. Speak a little more slowly

Try to think back to the foreign language class you took in high school.Your reaction to hearing native speakers was probably something like this : Why do they talk so fast? Can’t they just slow down? 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.

3. Speak in a normal tone of voice

Unless the person is wearing hearing aids or has a known hearing loss, please do not speak more loudly to him or her. If the person is not deaf, 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.

4. 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 or her English skills, but you are building trust and rapport as well.

5. 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!

6. Be sure your department offers communication skills training.

If you are in a managerial role, check with the HR or training department to see what types of soft skills training are offered. An accent reduction trainer can offer specialized training for the non-native speaker to improve the clarity of his or her speech. The trainer may also offer courses for native speakers to improve their ability to understand accented speech. Instead of worrying that the non-native speakers will be insulted if you offer the training, present it as an opportunity to improve their professional speaking skills because you want them to continue to advance in the company. Investing in training on both sides can go a long way in improving the efficiency and ease of communication between employees.

 

If you have questions about accent reduction training or are looking for someone to provide those services for your company, contact Lisa Scott at www.losemyaccent.com for more information.

 

 

Accent Reduction Classes: the Key to a Better Quality of Life?

Have you ever been misunderstood when you thought you had been very clear?

Do people ever ask you to repeat yourself because they don’t understand what you said?

Are you concerned that you may miss a job opportunity or promotion because of your accent?

If you have ever experienced any of these things, you may have wondered if there were any way to solve these problems without losing your native accent or regional dialect.

talking1You’ll be happy to know that the answer is YES.

By working with a trained speech professional, you can increase the clarity and accuracy of your English speech, often by 50% or more, without completely losing the accent that reflects your heritage.

Would it improve your self-esteem to be understood every time you speak? Would you gain self-confidence if you never had to repeat yourself again? Would you sleep better at night knowing that your speech no longer negatively impacted your job performance?

If you answered yes to those questions, then accent reduction training could be right for you.

First, look for a speech trainer or coach who specializes in accent reduction. Speech pathologists have specialized training in how to teach you to pronounce sounds correctly and show you how to form those sounds in your mouth.

To determine if an accent reduction class will be beneficial, ask for a screening or consultation and tell the trainer exactly what concerns you have about your speech.

A quality program should include a customized evaluation and a training plan tailored to your individual needs. It may include either individual or small group sessions, since it is often beneficial to hear others practice even if their native language is different from yours.

Your classes may be held in person at your office or at the office of your speech coach. Alternately, you may choose to have individual lessons via webcam, a more private and time -saving approach.

During the sessions, you should learn to hear the differences in your speech, discover a new way to pronounce troublesome words, and practice your new skills in relevant conversation.

Reducing your accent will require a time of dedication and practice on your part, but by working with a qualified speech professional and practicing at home, you will soon find yourself communicating more easily with everyone around you.

As Anthony Robbins says, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”

Don’t you deserve a better quality of life?

 

American Pronunciation of Stare and Steer: What’s the Difference?

Welcome! In this video, you get some American pronunciation practice as we talk about the difference between the words stare and steer. We’ll talk about the double meanings of each word and how they are pronounced, and you will improve your American accent as you learn how to say each sound.