Hispanic Heritage & Your American Accent

celebrating-hispanic-heritage-month

¡Hola, mis amigos!

It’s an honor to be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month once again with my Latino friends and followers across the country and the world! It’s a time to recognize the rich traditions and culture that have brought so much joy and unique perspective to the United States.

I have a couple questions to think about as you celebrate your heritage: Is it possible to improve English pronunciation while holding onto your culture? Will you lose part of your heritage if you decide to work on your American accent?

This can be a worrisome topic for anyone with an accent: You worry your family will think you’re letting go of your culture, or that changing your speech will somehow change you. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way, and that you really can have the best of both worlds! When we talk about reducing your accent, we’re really talking about changing the parts of your pronunciation that make your English difficult for others to understand. You will still have your culture, your heritage, and your accent… just an accent more easily understood by native English speakers.

In fact, I was just featured in an article for El Sentinel, the Spanish-language version of The Orlando Sentinel newspaper, on this very topic. The article highlights how Latino workers are seeing their career prospects improve after their company offered them accent reduction training… not to eliminate their accent, but to make it more easily understood.

So which sounds are difficult for Latino speakers?

Most of the pronunciation issues for Latinos have to do with voiced and unvoiced sounds. Check out my video below to learn more about this concept, and use it to practice these most commonly mispronounced sounds.

1

S and Z use the exact same tongue and mouth shape; the difference is in the voicing. The S sound is produced without the voice, but the Z sound requires the voice. To feel the difference, put your hand on your throat and try saying S-s-s-s. You should not feel anything. Now try saying Z-z-z-z. You should feel a vibration in your throat. Practice saying words like “Sue” and “zoo.”

2K and G sound are both produced in the back of the throat, but the K is unvoiced and the G is voiced. Try saying K-k-k and then G-g-g-g. You should feel the tickle or vibration on your throat when you say the G sound. Practice saying “coat” and “goat.”

3

P and B are both made by pushing the lips together and releasing them. P is made without using the voice while B uses the voice. It’s important to hear the difference, because one letter sound can change your entire meaning, as with the words “cap” and “cab.”

4

The V sound is made by placing the top teeth on the lower lip, turning on the voice, and blowing. If you put both lips together and blow, you get a B sound instead of the V. Practice with words like “very” and “berry.”

5

If you put the top teeth on the lower lip and blow without turning on the voice, you will make an F sound. To make the V sound, you need to turn on your voice. Practice by saying “fine” and “vine.”

 

Again, the goal here isn’t accent elimination, the goal is to be understood… and I think that’s a goal that you, and your friends and family who love you, can get behind!

¡Hasta la próxima, amigos!

 

If this article and video helped you, check out my free pronunciation guide and accent screening to further explore personalized accent reduction.

 

My corporate accent reduction and professional presence training engage communication issues 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.

 

   LisaAuthorityBox-August2014-vertical2

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.

Watch Your Language! Florida Companies Urged to Invest in Foreign-Born Workforce

New research for Miami area shows immigrant professionals – with a little help – are ready to move up the ladder.

 

Watch Your Language! LMA

 

KNOXVILLE, TN – August 2016 – Speaking at the 2016 HR Florida Conference in Orlando, 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.

 

“I’m especially interested in the high diversity of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and excited for the potential that companies there have to reduce the English language and cultural barriers even further – to minimize those communication breakdowns that cost companies billions every year,” said Scott.

Invest in Yourself

New research on foreign-born professionals in Miami is especially encouraging. In a 2015 survey by IMPRINT (Immigrant Professional Integration), Miami-area college-educated immigrants were less likely to experience job-search discrimination and more likely to have a strong social network than immigrants in the other major cities surveyed.

 

This puts well-educated Miami immigrant professionals at greater potential to succeed financially and professionally from these social benefits.

 

“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, nearly half (49.7%) of Florida’s foreign-born workforce hold management, 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.

 

“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.”

 

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.

 

    LisaAuthorityBox-August2014-vertical2

 

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.

Summertime Sounds: The difference between ‘S’ and ‘SH’

We’re in the middle of summer now, and most of us (especially if we’re landlocked) dream of heading to the beach this time of year. Hearing the crashing waves… getting the sand in your toes… soaking up the sunshine… Americans love enjoying the beach as much as everyone around the world.

A popular beach-inspired “tongue twister” (a phrase that is difficult to say) goes like this:

She sells seashells by the seashore

Not even most Americans can say that quickly without switching up the ‘S’ and ‘SH’ sounds!

-She Sells Seashells- LI

So let’s use this little phrase to hear and practice the difference between the ‘S’ and ‘SH’ sounds… an important distinction no matter what the season.

And with practice, you just may be able to say this phrase “ten times fast,” as Americans like to challenge each other to do with tongue twisters!

Don’t stop with my video… use these other beach-themed words to practice the ‘S’ and ‘SH’ sounds.

Practice Saying (1)

Practice Saying (2)

Practice Saying (3)

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.

Have a safe summer season in the sunshine! (Say that ten times fast!)

 

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!

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.