Initial Strategies:

Realize that it takes lots of practice to gain a new skill.  Resolve to do what it takes. This story and video from Fast Company demonstrate the practice across time that each skill takes.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3015027/leadership-now/want-to-conquer-a-new-skill-do-it-every-day

Professional Software:

The best interactive software that I’ve found in the last twenty years is English Talk Shop.

http://www.englishtalkshop.com/

I’ve tried so many software programs and can only recommend English Talk Shop as a premier program. It starts with mastering one’s listening discrimination skill and continues up to common response found in the working world.   *Contact me for a discount code on each program.

Sequential Strategies:
1. Find a Mentor:  It’s best to have a native North American English speaker as a mentor to help when there are questions.  Toastmasters International clubs:  http://www.toastmasters.org/  are good place to find and use mentors. Look up “Find a Club” on the upper right or on the Left sidebar to find clubs near you.  Visit those that say “Open to All”.

Listening discrimination: Can you hear the differences between two words with the two different sounds in single words or short phrases?

If we cannot hear the differences in the speech of someone else, then how would one be able to detect if we are pronouncing it correctly or incorrectly?

Your ability to hear the differences in all of your accent targets must be at 90% accuracy across ten sets of ten lists (100 trials). English Talk Shop has an excellent tool to help a student accomplish this.

3. Speaking:  Speaking Speed:  Many individuals think that English speakers speak very quickly.  Then they try to do this without having control of the English sound system.  It does not work.

All languages have different sound systems that are intricately coordinated by muscles of the mouth and throat. One must speak slower in order to monitor and correct the differences in these movements.

The Rainbow” passage is a standard used by linguists to assess differences in speaking speed of connected words in English.

When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act as a prism and form a rainbow. The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors. These take the shape of a long round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon. There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end. People look, but no one ever finds it. When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

To gain Control of your speaking muscles: You must say and record this paragraph in 55-60 seconds consistently 9 out of 10 times.

4. Speaking: Single Words: Basically, one cannot run correctly if they are not walking correctly. We must start with single words.

  • One sound at a Time –
    • Target three (3) words with the sound that you want to change
    • Practice these at ten sets of each one in single word level initially with your mentor.
    • Attain a 90% correct level on each set of three.
    • Choose 3 more.  And continue the process until you have 20-30 words with that target sound in the initial middle or final positions of words.

5. Speaking: Phrases: Use is English Talk Shop phrases. Record, listen and assess yourself 20 to 30 times.  Listen and assess.  Are you at 9 of 10 correct?  If not, ask a mentor to listen.

6. Speaking: Sentence Reading: Use the sentences in English Talk Shop. Listen and score your efforts.  Did you make the correct sound/stress pattern/linking 9 out of 10 times?

7. Speaking: Sentences / Phrases:

  • Create your own sentences and phrases with the words with target sound.  Or you can type the target word into “Google”.  There you will find multiple sentences from articles or websites.
  • Read and Record these and play each on back.  Does it sound correct? If not, do NOT proceed until you can make the sound correctly.  Ask your mentor to help.
  • Next:  Pull out a word or phrase and design a new sentence without writing or reading it.  Record this.  Does it sound better or worse?
  • Say 90% correctly.
    • Cannot determine this as yet?  Record a “memo” on your phone and text or email it to your mentor.  What do they say?

8. Speaking: Paragraph Reading:

  • Choose a paragraph from a favorite newspaper or professional publication.  Even better, a white paper related to your industry.  You want to increase your clarity in your industry to increase your prospects of advancing.
    • Hi-lite one target sound in all of the words of a paragraph with yellow. For example:  For all of the /th/ sounds throughout the paper.
    • Read, Record, Replay and Assess: Did you produce 90% of them correctly?  If not, do it again.
      Still uncertain if it is correct or not?  Record a “memo” on your phone and text or email it to your mentor or to me at: p.thesier@accentmgtgroup.com. I will be happy to listen.9.  Speaking: Multiple Sentences: 30 Second Reply:  Approximately 50 words: 5-7 SentencesMost of what we do throughout our workday is respond to questions from colleagues and clients on the phone or in meetings.  These are usually “extemporaneous”. This means that we often know what we are talking about, yet it is not a “prepared” speech.  However, these situations often cause individuals to speak less clearly.

      • To practice, have a mentor at your work ask you questions and have you record your responses.  Again, Record, Replay and Assess. How did you do?  If it is not 90%, try again.


      Finally
      :  If you are having a difficulty changing your muscle movements to make the appropriate sound, find a speech pathologist that specializes in Accent Training or contact me at p.thesier@AccentMgtGroup.com.  AMG can help you with your initial issue and then guide you to one of several training options through Accent Management Group, LLC.  We have on-site, on-line individual, group or combination options for training, feedback and practice that start at  $29.95* per hour per person.  [*Group of 5 – Distance Coaching + Mini-Assessment]

Last week, I spent several days with one of my “accountability partners”.  I call them my AP’s.  You may call them a Mentor.

I work with one who guides me through social media.  She gently guides me and gives me next steps.  This works “a bit”.  I am posting a bit more.

However, my “Accountability Partner” for business strategies is tough.  She has pushed herself harder  toward her goals than most others I know.  And she pushes me to become better.  Analyzing specific steps and actions that I take, having me rework and redo.

Having to be told, “Not good enough.  You can do better.” is not pleasant, yet, I get better. She demands more. It’s startling and I work to meet her standards.

This is what you want in your own Accountability Partner – Someone that listens to your practice of your speaking speed, your target word lists or paragraphs, analyzes it with you and says:

“Not good enough. You can do better.”

You practice, get feedback and try again.

If you want to get better at programming, you share it with an experienced programmer and get their feedback. Then, go practice again.

However, I hear so many folks say that they cannot “find” someone to listen to them.

Have they asked, really?

 

The greatest word in the English language is “Help”.

Most Americans that I know in the workplace want to see their international colleagues succeed.  All they want to know is how to help.

Here is how to ask someone to help you with reducing your speaking speed:

  1. Choose a set of three (3) different paragraphs; each at 100 to 120 words.  Find paragraphs with shorter words and sentences in them.  News articles are designed for this.
  2. Practice each of the paragraphs until you can say each in about 55 to 60 seconds.  Yes – Practice! Honor the other person’s willingness to help you.
  3. The day before the set time – The 20 or 30 minutes that they work with you – Send them the three (3) paragraphs and tell your AP that you want to do these in 55 – 60 seconds.
  4. On the meeting day – be ready with your own recorder (Try the voice memo app on your phone.)  Have the paragraph color-coded at the commas and periods, so you can tell where you are pausing.
  5. Be ready – to accept Feedback: You WANT feedback. So that you try again and again until you feel comfortable speaking slower in front of another person.

This is the goal.   You want to be able to be understood in front of a listener.

 

Now, it’s my turn.  I want to use social media more.  I think it’s time to ask my Social Media AP to get tough with me.  Do more practice. And, get more feedback.

 

And next, ….. Who is your Communication Accountability Partner  that is giving you feedback? Go ask a Toastmaster, a co-worker, a teacher, someone who will be honest with you, so that you may Effectively Communicate your Brilliance.

 

When I was in my first year of college, I was given the Book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck.  The first sentence resounded with me as I struggled with emotions.  I had just lost my mother in the middle of a week of very difficult university tests.  The rest of the paragraph gave me comfort and insight.

“Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth, because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I was determining my direction in life and this helped to move me forward.

 

On visits home, my father had often invited me to come to one of his Toastmaster’s clubs.  In his downtown club was a gentleman who had been a favorite of mine as a teenager.  Courtney had been to radio announcer for our local city radio station. He had once had a deep resonant voice with a range of pitch and volume that could entertain even the most aloof listener. Now, he had lost his larynx and very nearly his life to cancer of the throat.

 

Yet, here was Courtney, arduously manipulating the limited electro-larynx, sounding like a robot and working to develop pacing and strategies that would somewhat humanize his speaking. To understand him, the audience had to listen very closely.  Each of us had to analyze, edit and wait as he spoke and closely watched his audience for cues; cues on what he was to change or repeat to be more readily understood.

 

His audience was a group of patient and supportive Toastmasters. The group was composed of a couple of farmers, two professionals – One a scientist from India and another an Asian engineer that were from the local research division of an international company; three or four local business owners, my father among them, a physician and Courtney.  We all listened raptly.

Please remember that I was a nineteen-year-old, not known for listening.  Like most, I liked to hear the sound of my own voice and have others listen to me.

This group of Toastmasters and Courtney taught me a fascinating lesson.  Listening was an invigorating experience.  I listened with my eyes and ears, watching and discerning each movement and analyzing how Courtney managed to make a robotic voice come alive.  I listened to the sounds and words, finding that I needed to edit and then come back to the speech, working to keep abreast of the story.  I watched Courtney observe his audience. He listened to their sighs, adjusted and repeated as needed, adding gestures and facial movements to illustrate his points. He did all this with a robotic-sounding, battery-powered mechanism he held against his scarred neck.

He worked as hard or even harder at listening and observing as the audience did.

Life, then, was extremely painful and difficult for Courtney.  He had accepted it and was moving on, trying, failing, retrying, learning and excelling.

The lesson gained from Courtney and Toastmasters was to:

  • Listen more intently
  • Observe more thoroughly …..And….
  • Find out how to help individuals of all types to become better speakers.

How to develop an “Articulate Advantage”, no matter what our circumstances.

In my flexible editorial planning calendar, I had wanted to talk about how to dress for summer business events….then, I spotted Kare Anderson’s June 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review.

It reminded me that most folks won’t care what we are wearing when we listen to them attentively. When we do, these folks think we are the most interesting person in the world…. Ms. Anderson stated that the value of giving undivided attention is as beneficial to the giver as the receiver.

As a child, I spent many hours in an Andrew Carnegie library; the kind of library with granite steps leading up to solid doors that opened into a world of ideas, experiences and wondrous stories. I also spent time at my father’s real estate office. His office was often the gathering place of business people. They spoke about their own world of ideas, experiences, wondrous stories and life’s learning.

In my mind, the people I met at my dad’s office were each like libraries – I needed to learn their content too. It was easy: all I had to do was sit back and be enlightened, educated and entertained.

Learning how to listen, how ask the right questions, how to empathize and still contribute meaningfully is a life-long endeavor. However, attempting to be the center of attention is so much more work and, more importantly, ineffective. Our audience gets bored with us.

There’s a professional association with chapters around the world where people go to learn how to listen well and speak well: Toastmasters International. Visit a club near you; you can get invited as a guest (for free).

I’ve belonged to clubs in several US cities as well as China. By participating, I’ve benefited from many fascinating stories and a wealth of knowledge.

The world is full of walking libraries that come in all sizes and shapes. Two-year-old to 102 year-old folks are equally fascinating. Especially when you actively listen.