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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

“What Does It Mean?” Phrases about Snow

We’re still in the month of February, which means winter isn’t over yet! There’s always a chance we’ll encounter more snowy weather before springtime warms us up. Americans are so used to dealing with lots of snow that we have many phrases using it.

What does it mean- Snow

In today’s video, I’ll explain how combining “snowed” with different simple words – like “in,” “out,” or “under” – completely changes the meaning of the phrase:


If you found this video helpful, take a look at my other video here on how to pronounce “snow.” You can also receive a free accent screening and pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com. Happy winter, and stay warm!

Why YouTube Isn’t Enough

If you’ve been following my blog or Facebook page for any length of time, you know that I enjoy posting videos of American pronunciation and culture on YouTube, and I hope you find them helpful! And there are, of course, many more language pronunciation videos out there as well. But is viewing free online videos enough to help you be understood by your co-workers, clients, patients, and American friends?

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If you are still actively learning English vocabulary, sounds, and grammar, YouTube videos may be great for you right now. But if you’re reading this article with ease, you are probably already beyond that. Take a look at the following question and try to answer honestly:

What kind of English Speaker are you- (1)

If you answered anything other than “I’m always understood”, you are probably ready to take the next step in your English pronunciation: personalized accent reduction!

Depending on which dialect you speak, the English language has anywhere from 44 to 52 different sounds… and non-native speakers usually only have 10 to 15 of those sounds that are affecting the way they speak and are understood. How do you know which are affecting you, and which to actively work on? That is an answer YouTube videos just cannot provide.

The English Language Sounds

So what are your options for reducing your accent?

You may have looked into home-study software kits, a local small group for speech training, or a number of online speech training programs… and you’re probably wondering which is right for you. I like to go back to the familiar saying, “you get what you pay for” when it comes to accent reduction, and what you pay for should definitely include heavy one-on-one attention from a speech coach. You need the feedback of a trained American listener to help you concentrate on the right sounds for you.

No matter which program you go with, do your homework before purchasing to make sure you will receive individual attention to your accent. And as always, I’d love to be your coach! You can receive a free accent screening and pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com. With personalized attention and practice, you’ll be able to say, “I’m always understood!”

Broken Rules: Learn how to say Snow Plow

Some people like to say that “rules are made to be broken.” Well that’s certainly how it seems to be with the English language sometimes! Just when you learn a pronunciation rule, it seems there is a group of words that break that rule.

learn to say...

 

This often happens with words that have the same spelling, but are pronounced completely differently. In this video, we’re going to talk about that wintertime white stuff – snow – and the phrases and sounds that go along with it.

If this video was helpful, my free pronunciation guide and accent screening can help you with these sounds and more. Check it out at losemyaccent.com.

 

The Most Important 10 Seconds of Your Career

Here’s the situation:

You currently have an excellent degree for your field and good job, but you’re looking to take the next step up in your career.

Or perhaps you’ve just finished an advanced degree that could land you your dream job.

And now with your great technical skills, you’ve made it to the interview portion for a job you’d love.

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We all know that the first few minutes of a job interview are that all-important first impression.

But as a non-native English speaker, your interviewer may size up your communication skills in just your first 10-second greeting.

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Will those first ten seconds show that your English is strong, clear, and easily understood?

Or will that first greeting leave your interviewer wondering if they’ll be able to understand you through your accent on a regular basis?

A recent survey of over 2,000 hiring managers by CareerBuilder shows how important “soft skills”, including clear communication, are to employers:

Employer Survey

You’ve probably seen that “excellent communication skills” are overwhelmingly a top requirement in a job listing.

Furthermore, the National Association of Colleges and Employers says that communication skills are the number one thing employers are looking for – more than your technical prowess.

These statistics show what could be your reality: the person who speaks standard American English more clearly may be hired over the one who has superior skills, but is difficult to understand.

So what’s the best thing you can do to increase your odds in getting that dream job?

Improve your English communication skills!

Polishing up on your pronunciation – or even better, learning which sounds in English are giving you the most trouble – is the key to your future success.

Prepare for your next interview with my speech tips and free online accent screening at losemyaccent.com. Make your first ten seconds count!

What To Do When You Say it Wrong

Don’t you hate it when you have worked really hard on your American pronunciation, and then it all comes out wrong in the middle of a conversation? I know it is frustrating, and this video will give you some tips to make those frustrating moments happen much less frequently. You’ll soon be speaking with a much clearer American accent!

 

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.

 

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?

 

Do Accents Matter? Clear Communication is Key

The recent uproar over whether Southern accents should be changed has led to discussions about regional dialects across the country. Are they an important part of our heritage, or should they be neutralized to a more standard pronunciation of American English?

The answer is – it depends.

As I explained in this interview with the Farragut Press, some people are concerned about perceived stereotypes and want to eliminate any barriers to clear communication. For them, neutralizing or reducing their accent helps them feel more confident and communicate more clearly with people from outside of their region.

Lisa Scott teaching American pronunciation

Lisa Scott teaching an accent reduction class

Others feel that their regional dialect is a deeply ingrained part of who they are. Reducing or changing their accent would be giving up part of who they are as a person and the suggestion that they should do so would be offensive. For them, clear communication means speaking in the way that is most natural and comfortable. This can be a distinct advantage in business dealings with others from the same region.

Is your regional dialect a vital part of your success in business or a hindrance to your professional growth? It all comes down to how clearly you communicate with those around you.