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! 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.

 

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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.

What Does It Mean? “Bury Your Head in the Sand”

Tell me: What involves an ostrich, a myth, and a closed mind?

Give up?

Another American idiom!

 

Bury in sand title

A couple of weeks ago, I used a beach-themed tongue-twister to highlight the difference between the “S” and “SH” sounds in American English pronunciation. Since we’re still in the heat of summer, this week I’m highlighting another “beachy” phrase that you may hear around your workplace.

 

The origin of the idiom “bury your head in the sand” is not really based on fact… but Americans still use this phrase as a way to show their displeasure with someone who is not listening to the facts.

Learn more about it, and how to use it, in my new video:

 

 

Once again, Americans love the beach as much as anyone, and we have a myriad of idioms to prove it. Here are some other “beachy” phrases… do you know what they mean? If not, take a moment to look them up!

 

beach idioms

Is your foreign accent holding you back in your workplace?

Don’t bury your head in the sand…

American pronunciation training could be what you need to gain that next step in your career!

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

America Needs Your Voice

 

Happy 4th

It’s said that America is a melting pot of the nations, and the diversity that the cultures of the world bring here is what makes it unique. I love that professionals from all over the world can work here together. And I want to tell you – the beauty of America is that you don’t need to be born here to impact your co-workers, your friends, your cities, your field of work or study, and beyond. America needs voices and insight from cultures around the globe… that means you!

Probably the most common way to celebrate July 4th is with outdoor barbecues spent with family and friends… and everyone’s favorite, fireworks! But underneath the holiday festivities, Americans are truly proud of the freedoms we enjoy – freedom of speech being one of the most cherished, and certainly very close to my heart. So today on Independence Day, I want to share about your freedom of speech in America, how we need your intelligence and ideas, and how your speech can bring about freedom!

Happy Independence Day… and I hope this holiday reminds you that you are important to America!

Clear speech can help bring freedom to your life… You can get more information on accent reduction and a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.

 

 

THIS WEEK: Personalized Accent Reduction Course Begins

The story with most of my clients is the same: they have studied English for years and consider themselves fluent, but are still misunderstood and constantly asked to repeat themselves.

 

Struggle With

 

It’s disruptive to their work and social lives, and taking another generic English class won’t help.

 

Accent makes you feel like

 

Is this where you are today?

 

Then you need my online course that starts THIS THURSDAY JUNE 9!

 

SALT

 

Speaking and Learning Together (SALT) is designed to focus on increasing your awareness of the nuances of English and improving your pronunciation and conversational skills. 

With online videos, group question and answer sessions, and detailed homework assignments, you can be speaking more clearly by the end of summer!

 

My video below details the valuable resources this course will offer you.

 

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Sign up here

This course is valued at $800, but I’m offering it at an extra-low price.

And after you reserve your spot, you can BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE!

Having a friend to practice with is crucial to the encouragement of reducing your accent.

 

Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll receive.

course includes

 

Check out the SALT page to register and learn more about how the course works.

 

It’s my passion to use my proven speech pathology methods to help you lose your accent and lead a more fulfilling life.

 

REGISTER NOW and your accent reduction journey begins THIS THURSDAY, JUNE 9!

Can’t wait to see you there!

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.

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!

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.

Luck of the Irish : Phrases and Sounds for St. Patrick’s Day

“Top o’ the morning to ya!”

Although that is not a phrase actually used in Ireland, Americans love to say it and embrace all things Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, every March 17th. Mythical leprechauns, pots of gold, and the color green are everywhere as everyone becomes a little bit Irish to celebrate the culture of “the Emerald Isle.”

In fact, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as we know them in America only just began around 60 years ago, as Irish immigrants sought to retain their heritage.

What started as small gatherings quickly became parades and festivities all over America and the world! I love that our country is full of customs and celebrations from people groups the world over.

In my latest video, we’ll learn some phrases for St. Patrick’s Day, practice the sounds in those phrases, and delve into the history of the holiday.

With practice, you may not need the “luck of the Irish” to sound like an American!

If this video helped you, or if you’d like to know more about how accent reduction can benefit your work and personal life, take my free accent screening at losemyaccent.com. You’ll also receive a free pronunciation guide.

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.