Hispanic Heritage & Your American Accent

¡Hola, mis amigos!

It's an honor to be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month once again with my Latino friends and followers across the country and the world! It's a time to recognize the rich traditions and culture that have brought so much joy and unique perspective to the United States.

I have a couple questions to think about as you celebrate your heritage: Is it possible to improve English pronunciation while holding onto your culture? Will you lose part of your heritage if you decide to work on your American accent?

This can be a worrisome topic for anyone with an accent: You worry your family will think you're letting go of your culture, or that changing your speech will somehow change you. But I'm here to tell you that it doesn't have to be that way, and that you really can have the best of both worlds! When we talk about reducing your accent, we're really talking about changing the parts of your pronunciation that make your English difficult for others to...

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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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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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