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.
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.
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:
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.
Work with a professional to improve your speech
Sometimes practicing on your own doesn't give you the changes you really want. In that case, it might be time to work with a private coach. To learn more about how you can do that, click here.
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