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.

 

 

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...

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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?

 

 

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...

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We Need Each Other! Reduce Your Accent through Community

I'm truly excited this month to be sharing with you how interacting with those around you is a major factor in reducing your accent. A major research focus for American Speech­Language­Hearing Association (ASHA) has been the overuse of technology and its effect on language and hearing development, specifically among children.

In a 2015 ASHA survey of 1,000 parents:

• 52% expressed concern that technology negatively impacts the quality of their conversations with their children

• 54% say they have fewer conversations with their children because of technology

• 52% are concerned that misuse of technology is harming their children's speech and language skills.

How does this translate to YOU as an adult professional?

As you work to reduce your accent, and as a professional who is probably using a substantial amount of technology at work and at home, I would ask this question...

 

 

Speech-­language experts...

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

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." The software doesn't get everything right, but it is constantly improving.

 

 

And...

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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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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 –...

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Prepositions of Place: “In,” “On,” & “At”

Last week we discussed how the small connecting words of the English language are just as important as mastering a larger vocabulary... but the correct usage of these tiny words can sometimes fall through the cracks for non-native English speakers. You may start to use words like “in,” “on,” and “at” interchangeably, when they actually each have a specific purpose. Incorrect usage of these prepositions can cause native English speakers to question your fluency, or become confused by your meaning.

 

 

In my last article, we looked at how to use “in,” “on,” and “at” when describing time... This time, we'll follow the same principle when using them to describe locations.

 

If you can remember this order, “IN, ON, AT”... then you can remember this general rule for how to describe places:

 

 

 

See again how “IN, ON, AT” progress from general to...

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Prepositions of Time: “In,” “On,” & “At”

 

Have you ever asked a co-worker to join you “on 3:00” for a meeting?

Perhaps you mentioned to someone that your birthday was “at Friday.”

Though you may not have realized it, you were using these prepositions of time incorrectly!

 

 

In trying to grasp a larger vocabulary, a student of English may start to overlook the small connecting words that bind language together, but these prepositional words have a great impact on others’ perception of your mastery of the language. Using them incorrectly could cause confusion with co-workers or make you feel insecure in your speech.

 

If you can remember this order, “IN, ON, AT”… then you can remember this general rule for how to describe points in time:

 

 

See how “IN, ON, AT” progress from general to specific as you read their descriptions:

 

 

At the beginning of this article, the correct usage would mean the...

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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!

 

 

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 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!

 

 

 

 

...
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Professional Presence: Finding Your Voice

 

Picture yourself in this everyday office scenario:

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

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

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

Are you excited?

Have you bought into your company's new project?

Given the lackluster presentation, probably not!

 

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

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

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

 

The 7 Percent...

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Are You Fried, or Flowing? Improving Your Vocal Quality

 

Have you ever listened to or watched a recording of yourself, and cringed at the sound of your voice? Perhaps when giving presentations, you know your voice isn't projecting the confidence you'd like... or maybe your company has realized it's time to give employees an edge with clients and shareholders by investing in their voice.

 

This component of your professional presence is called vocal quality, and it's a major factor in how your message is perceived by others. I'd like you to first think about how you'd describe a voice that you find irritating in presentations or meetings... one that distractsfrom the presenter's message. Your list may have some of these descriptors:

 

 

Now take a moment to reflect on what makes a voice sound pleasant to you – one that enhances the message rather than distracting from it. It may be easiest to think of an actor/actress, broadcaster, or other public figure whose voice you find...

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