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