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?

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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:

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

3 Ways to Keep It Simple: Connecting with International Co-Workers

The American workplace is more and more an international one. Through internship or residency programs, we work daily with non-native English speakers who have been in the U.S. for only a few years, or who even arrived just recently. Online, we’re communicating globally through video chats and e-conferencing. Modern travel and the internet have blurred the borders of our world.

 

What does this mean for the American professional whose co-workers now come not only from across town, but across the globe? Your international co=workers probably dedicated much of their time and energy to learn English in order to have the job and life they desire. We, in turn, should appreciate that effort by evaluating how our communication skills can welcome them into our workplaces and help them continue to improve.

In this ongoing series on cross-cultural communication, today I offer three ways to…

 

1. Use Plain English

Keeping it simple for your foreign-born co-workers means paring down the words you use. It doesn’t mean you’re dumbing things down for them… after all, these are professionals who are performing their job in a second language. That alone requires skill and intelligence! However, that doesn’t mean they’re familiar with all the vocabulary in the English language.

For example, say “moving” instead of “transitioning”… or “friendly” instead of “amicable.” If a co-worker has to constantly stop to look up words you’ve used, you have slowed productivity for them and your team, and reduced their confidence in communicating with you. You want just the opposite.

 

 

2. Repetition is Helpful

Call a spade a spade… and keep calling it a spade! Changing the word you use to reference a project or piece of equipment will only confuse a non-native speaker, who thought they had already learned the word you wanted to use.

Repetition of labels allows an international worker to become quickly familiar with these ideas, and move past the learning stage to a deeper level of confident communication.

 

 

3. Offer to Explain

Remember to kindly ask if there are any words that were unfamiliar to them, or any concepts that they would like repeated or explained in a different way.

This simple gesture will show you care that your co-worker understands you, and that you value their communication with you. To know they can ask you for an explanation without feeling embarrassed builds trust for your professional relationship.

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.

Easter Traditions : Know your Vowels and Vocabulary

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This weekend, Americans are once again celebrating another springtime holiday: Easter. For many, Easter is an important holiday in their Christian faith. For others, it’s a welcoming of the spring season and new life.

did you know... easter

You’re probably seeing Easter candy in the aisles at all the stores, and hearing friends and co-workers talk about their plans for this weekend. Perhaps they’re having a big family meal after their church service, or attending an Easter egg hunt with their children at a public park.

In this video, I’ll take you through the Easter story and many American Easter traditions, both religious and secular. I’ll also help you with several vowel sounds and how to pronounce the “R” sound, while we explore Easter phrases you should know to be able to talk about the holiday with the Americans in your life.

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.

And however you celebrate, I hope you have a Happy Easter and a beautiful spring season!

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.”

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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.

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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.