You’ve worked hard, earned the degrees and certifications, acquired a position at a successful corporation, developed and contributed to successful projects, yet the significant promotions are elusive.

Your manager has asked you to:

  • Do Contribute more in meetings,
  • Be more assertive,
  • Do speak up.

It’s a constant question. What does one do or say to contribute more, to be more assertive, or speak up? Some get frustrated thinking that they have really tried multiple times, and still were not really understood.

And here is what you have:
A variable awareness of the issues without adequate transformational knowledge
or the strategies for change across increasingly demanding communicative situations.

 

Using Clear, Effective Leadership Phrases

Think of a stool. It must have at least 3 legs to be stable. Likewise, we must stabilize a new skill at all three (3) levels of practice to habitually have access to new skills.

Here’s how you can harness the Power of (3) Three within this series.

In the coming months, read each article, note the targets. Then write each of them on your Smartphone, a Post-It note or somewhere that you will see the targets daily.

  • Three (3) executive level words/ phrases of NAE (North American English)
  • Three (3) target pronunciation goals within these phrases.
  • Three (3) example situations in which to use these new phrases.

 

Practice and implement:

  • These specific pronunciation targets within the words and phrases.
  • The examples that are given or Executive Communication situations, while also developing and expanding your own Executive Communication responses in sentences through multiple sentence responses
  • Three (3) times per day, everyday, for (3) three weeks.

The top three issues for most English Speakers as an Other Language (ESOL).

Why? When these issues are intertwined most native English listeners will not be able to clearly understand the ESOL speaker no matter how much the listener tries.

  1. Speaking Speed:
    Speaking too fast often causes the speaker to eliminate key syllables within words, make sound substitutions and use incorrect linking or stress patterns.
    If the speaker is speaking too quickly, the listener also has less time to make “edits” and will often quit trying to understand after two or three requests for clarification.
  2. Rhythm:
    The two rhythm aspects of NAE are: Linking – NAE words often link the ending sound of words with the beginning sound of the following word. Example: “Sound of = soun-duv”
    NAE is a “stress-timed” language. High content words, such as nouns, active verbs, adjectives and adverbs. having longer duration than “function” words, such as prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verb [is, are.am..].
  3. Vowel Substitutions: In most languages, vowels carry much of the meaning of a word.
    NA English has many more, as well as some very different, vowel sounds [18] than Spanish [5], Mandarin [~5], And different uses of vowels than French [12 pure & 7 total semi & nasal vowels], Tamil [13]; Persian [8].

Resources:

The First Step :   Listening Differentiation to understand the differences between different sounds or pronunciations. If one cannot hear differences from one individual speech sound to another then they will not be able to make their own attempts at a target sound correctly:

Best: English Talk Shop has an excellent Listening component / “Listen and Choose”/ to their different versions of the American Speechsounds online software ($75.00 -$150.00). One must attain a 90% on their first choice of each task to be considered “proficient”.

It also will list the all the target pronunciation segments (Rhythm and stress patterns, consonants, all vowels sounds) for multiple background languages.

Purchase through Accent Management Group, LLC / p.thesier@accentmgtgroup.com, for a significant discount.

Good: American English Pronunciation Practice – Many-Things: Free: This has short lists and a small listening component of only consonants and vowels. However, does not give as much information for languages sound differences.

 

The Second Step:   Get an Accountability Partner. It must be someone who speaks NA English proficiently; A Canadian or American with whom you are comfortable. This could be someone at work, or in the community. If you belong to a Toastmasters club in your community, ask another member to be your accountability partner for only specific pronunciation targets.

 

The Third Step:   Record your efforts and redo each effort until you and your accountability partner agree that you have achieved 90% on your three targets.

Upcoming Resource Lists for Practice: Executive Leadership Phrase Examples:

  • Target Vowel – Long /I/: “I would like your advice.”
  • Target Vowel – Long /A/: “Negotiate in good faith”
  • Target Vowel – Long /O/: “Focus on our goal”
  • Target Vowel – Long /E/: “ Acquire by a feasible means ”
  • Target – /Split Vowels/: “Establish our Pri-orities”; “Good exper-i-ence”

Are you working on getting your great ideas understood?  You have worked hard to develop these ideas.  Now is your time to shine.  Here is how.

With all that we are asked to do, it is often difficult to recall the sequences of steps necessary to add the American accent.  Here is a quick “review”.

The Review from October 1, 2013: In order of importance:

  • Resolution: Realize that it takes lots of practice to gain a new skill.  Resolve to do what it takes.
  • Professional Software: The best interactive software that I’ve found in the last twenty years is English Talk Shop.  http://www.englishtalkshop.com/.   Start with the “LISTEN & CHOOSE” segment.  You can’t say a sound that you can’t hear!
    Contact me for a discount code on each program. 
  • 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.
  • Decrease your Speaking Rate to 100-110 WPM [Words Per Minute]: Often, your listeners must “edit” what you are saying. That means that it will take them extra time to determine the words.  If they have to edit more than 2 or 3 times in a couple of sentences, they often stop listening.

The “Rest of the Story” May, 2014

  • 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 we 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.
  • 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 –

EXAMPLE: *Target three (3) words with the sound that you want to change

*Practice these initially, at three sets of each target sound in single words. Do this with your mentor.

*Attain a 90% correct on each of three successive sets of each of the sounds.

*Choose 3 more. And continue the process until you have 20-30 words with that target sound in the beginning, middle or final positions of words. Example: “Those: mother: bathe”

  • Phrases: Use the “English Talk Shop” phrases or something similar. 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 and grade you until you are at 90% for each set of 10 phrases.
  • 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? If not, again, use your mentor.
  • Responses in Sentences & Phrases: EXAMPLE:
    *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.
    *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?
  • 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-light 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 until you can do it three (3) times in a row.
  • 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 and give you a free analysis.
  • Finally!    Multiple Sentences: 60 Second Reply: Most 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% across three successive tries….Try again.  You must be able to have control at an “automatic” level.

UPDATES:

I’m traveling again this summer.  If you are in any of these places, too, Contact me!  Let’s have a cup of tea or coffee.

May 30, 2014 – June 15, 2014: Clients in Massachusetts at TechSandBox.org

June 5, 2014 – TV Guest of Helen Fu: Your Health Compass: http://www.westfordcat.org/

June 5, 2014:  9am – 10:30am Toastmasters at TechSandbox.org

August 20  – 27, 2014: Malaysia:  Toastmasters International World Conference

 

This is the second in the continuing series giving you tips and strategies how to help you ADD the English accent to your speaking style.

English Clarity Basic Strategies: Here is the set of strategies and an interactive software program, “English Talk Shop” that can help you attain better English clarity.   In the following segments, we will address the primary consonants, vowels and other segments that differing languages differ from the North American English [NAE] “Accent”.

Three Things You Need to Know:

  1. The letters in English words do NOT have the same sound rule system as Spanish.
  2. English has many different sounds, rhythm and stress patterns rules that are different than Spanish.
  3. Spanish only shares 20 sounds of the 41 English sounds. And 12 of the 25 rhythm-stress rules.

Sound Components You Need to Know:  All language sound-systems have muscle movement components that make up how each sound is made in a very rapid tiny muscle movement sequences.

Consonants have three components. Place: Manner and Voicing

  • PlaceWhere is the sound made in the mouth? For English Consonants, there are seven (7) possible places.
  • Manner: How is it made?
    • With friction (Fricative):
    • With friction + stopped. (Affricate):
    • With a exPlosion feature? (Plosive);
    • As a gliding sound / (Glide):
    • Or as a liquid free flowing sound? (Liquid)
  • Voicing: Ask yourself – For each consonant in English – Is the larynx (voice box) turned on when the sound is said or is it off?

Vowels of English are made using the voice moving across different select tense or relaxed movements of the tongue and openness of the mouth and jaw.  Other English vowels are blended combination of two single vowels – called diphthongs. For example: /Bet/ (Single vowel sound) versus /Bait/ (a Diphthong )

Differences:  With Consonants, we often see that most substitutions are because of voicing and / or a difference in place (where the tongue goes to make a sound).    Vowel differences between languages are usually in response to:

  • Not having the sound within your first language sound system (“mother tongue”)
  • Difficulty forming the sound around consonants that are not usual sound combinations within the your first language.

Yet, with differing versions/dialects of many languages, it can be most of the components are involved in the substitutions or omissions.  When tired or stressed, muscle groups tend to revert to old learned sequenced sound patterns of movements of the first languageEven though the vocabulary may be English. It may not sound like it.

Although Latin American Spanish has many variances across countries, it is mutually understood in many of the countries.  Spain has some larger variances, yet Latin American Spanish is usually understood in Spain.

The NAE / English sounds that differ:  NOTE-Spellings are often different.    Phonemes in NAE – English that are not found in Spanish include the following vowels and consonants:

Vowels: Spanish has only 5 vowels: English as 17+: Spanish vowels are much shorter in duration than English vowels, so the word will sound “ cut-off” to an English listener

* /ae/ sound as in “ pack” – Common substitution may be an /eh/ as in “peck”

* /ai:/ diphthong – long “I” sound as in “pie” — Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /ei:/ diphthong – long “A” sound as in “ pay;” — Common substitution may be an /e/

* /eh/ short “e” sound as in “pet” — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /ah/ sound as in “pot” — Common substitution may be an /e-/

* /uah/ diphthong – sound as in “foot”  — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /ih/ sound as in “pit” — Common substitution may be an /ee/

* /ow/ diphthong – sound as in “Brown” — Common substitution may be an /uh/

Consonants: There be either final consonant deletions or these substitutions; Many consonant blends may have one sound dropped OT with /s/ blends – There is usually an added /eh/ as in “estreet”

* /v/ sound as in “various; river, love”  — Common substitution may sound like  /b/ or /f/

* /z/ sound as in “ zoo; easy; knees” – Common substitution may be an /s/

* /sh/ sound as in “sheet; social; quiche” — Common substitution may be an /s/

* /zh/ sound as in “ vision; beige” – Common substitution may be an /s/ or /z/

* /ch/ sound as in “ chair; nature; watch” — Common substitutions may be an /sh/:

* /J/ sound as in “jeans; logic; package” — Common substitution may be /ch/

* /th/ voiceless – sound as in “ thick; healthy; with” — Common substitution may be a /t/ or /f/

* /th/ voiced – sound as in “these; either, smooth” — Common substitution may be a /d/ or /z/

Listen to each word on a pronunciation website such as the Merriam Webster Dictionary You can see the spelling, the simplified pronunciation, the IPA spelling as well as Hear the pronunciation of the sound in the word.    Record your effort – Have Mentor listen – Then record each word correctly 9 out of 10 times.

Next continue to follow the steps as listed in the English Clarity Basic Strategies from a single word

Now that you have a set of strategies and, hopefully, an interactive software program, or  “English Talk Shop”,  you can attain better English clarity. Here are some English accent targets.

In the following segments, we will address the primary consonants, vowels and other pronunciation code systems that differ from the North American English [NAE] “Accent”.

Sound Components You Need to Know:

All English consonants and vowels have behavioral components that make up how each sound is made in a very rapid tiny muscle movement sequences.

Consonants have three components. Place: Manner and Voicing

Place:  Where is the sound made in the mouth? For Consonants, there are seven (7) possible places.

Manner: How is it made?

  • [a] With Friction (Fricative):
  • [b] With friction + stopped. (Affricate):
  • [c] With a plosive feature? (Plosive);
  • [d] As a gliding sound / (Glide):
  • [e] Or as a liquid free flowing sound? (Liquid)

Voicing: Ask yourself – For each consonant in English – Is the larynx (voice box) turned on when the sound is said or is it off ?

Vowels of English are made using the voice moving across different select tense or relaxed movements of the tongue and openness of the mouth and jaw.  Other English vowels are blended combination of two single vowels – called diphthongs.

Differences:  With Consonants, we often see that most substitutions are because of voicing and / or place.

Vowel differences between languages are usually in response to:

  • Not having the sound within the that individuals mother 1st language sound system or
  • Difficulty forming the sound around consonants that are not usual sound combinations within the first language.

Yet with differing versions/dialects of many languages, it can be all components that are involved in the substitutions or omissions.

When tired or stressed, muscle groups tend to revert to old learned sequenced sound patterns of movements of the first language.  Even though the vocabulary may be English.

LANGUAGE SOUND SYSTEM DIFFERENCES:

Mandarin: Mainland Standard: Although Mandarin has approximately four “dialects” / versions, it is mutually understood across most of China.

The NAE / English sounds that differ:

NOTE- Spellings are often different.

Phonemes in NAE – English that are not found in Mandarin include the following vowels and consonants:

Vowels:

* /ae/ sound as in “ back” – Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /ai:/ diphthong – long “I” sound as in “lime” — Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /ei:/ diphthong – long “A” sound as in “ grey;” — Common substitution may be an /eh/

* /i:/ long “E” sound as in “green” — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /eh/ sound as in “Red” — Common substitution may be an /ih/

* /ow/ diphthong – sound as in “Yellow”  — Common substitution may be an /ah/

* /oo/ sound as in “Wood” — Common substitution may be an /uh/

* /ow/ diphthong – sound as in “Brown” — Common substitution may be an /uh/

* /u:/ long “U” sound as in “ “Blue” — Common substitution may be an /ah/

Consonants: There be either final consonant deletions or these substitutions;

* /v/ sound as in “various; river, love”  — Common substitution may be an /f/ or /w/

* /z/ sound as in “ zoo; easy; knees” – Common substitution may be an /s/

* /sh/ sound as in “sheet; social; quiche” — Common substitution may be an /s/

* /zh/ sound as in “ vision; beige” — Common substitution may be an /s/ or /z/

* /ch/ sound as in “ chair; nature; watch” — Common substitutions may be an /ts/:

  • (/ts/  & /dz/ are common sounds in Mandarin)

* /J/ sound as in “jeans; logic; package” — Common substitution may be an /dz/

* /th/ voiceless – sound as in “ thick; healthy; with” — Common substitution may be a /s/ or /f/

* /th/ voiced – sound as in “these; either, smooth” — Common substitution may be a /d/ or /z/

Listen to each word on a pronunciation website such as www.dictionary.com.  You can see the spelling, the simplified pronunciation, the IPA spelling as well as Hear the pronunciation of the sound in the word.   Record your effort – Have Mentor listen – Then record correctly 9 out of 10 times.

It takes practice to override old learning. 

Resolve to do what it takes.   Practice and desire make magic happen.

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.

 

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.

The Steps:

  1. Find a Mentor:  It’s best to a native North American English speaker as a mentor to help when there are questions.  Toastmasters International clubs are good places to find and use mentors.
  2. Decrease your speaking rate to 100-110 Words Per Minute (WPM).  Why? Two reasons:
  • It’s a muscle process.  The procedural memory for making speech sounds is automatic.  In the new learning process, your muscles will revert to your first language sound system if you are not consciously slowing down to give your brain time to set up the new sounds.
  • It shows respect for your listeners.  It gives them time to edit and understand what you are saying.
    • Measuring Speaking Speed:
      • Find a paragraph from an article that is ~ 100 words long.  Use the Word Count option of your word processor program to determine this.
      • Audiotape yourself speaking this paragraph.
      • To Count the WPM.  1.  Divide the # Words ÷ # Seconds.  2.  Multiply this # times 60.  This will equal the WPM.   EXAMPLE:  100 words ÷ 40 seconds = 2.5 words per second: THEN Multiply by 60 = 150 WPM
      • Repeat this to until you get to your target.  Do this 2-3+ times.
        Only use professional software that has robust listening discrimination components:  The best interactive software that I have found after searching the last twenty years is American Speechsounds through “English Talk Shop”.

I have 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.

We will discuss more steps in the upcoming articles.

Remember: 1. Find a native English speaking Mentor. You cannot do this alone. 2. Measure your speaking rate and S-L-O-W down.  Your listeners really do want to understand you. You owe it to yourself and them.  3. Invest, yes, Invest in only software that has full systems listening components.

Contact me at p.thesier@accentmgtgroup.com for a discount code for the American Speechsounds from www.EnglishTalkShop.com

Recently, I gave a presentation and a workshop to a large group of International MBA students at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Three second-year MBA students assisted me.  Two of them were from China.

Each had a story of  “code-switching” of accents and grammar when they were doing their internships. They noted that when they spoke Mandarin with another student from China before going to a meeting where they spoke English, they found that their American colleagues less understood their English.

After listening to a meeting recording, they understood.  They were “code-switching”: In effect, using some Mandarin sound system, rhythm and grammar rules when they were speaking English.

The confused listener did not understand and stopped listening to the speaker.

Does this happen to you?

A Sports Analogy

All of us watch or play an athletic sport, correct?  And in each one of these sports, the players use the muscles in their legs, arms and hands in similar yet also different moves, timing and strength, dependent upon the desired target movement. Those muscles are the same muscles for each sport, yet moved differently.

As one moves the muscles the same way consistently, the muscles develop adaptation and facilitation to produce the similar sequence with out conscious thought.  This is called procedural memory.

Coaches highly discourage playing different sports during a season so that the athlete does not “confuse” the muscle -procedural memory. Confusing the muscle memory makes them less effective players on the field.

The same holds true for speaking.  Sound systems are practiced repeatedly within our mother tongue or with peers who sound as we do.  Yet when we change to a different language the “accent – procedural memory” of our first language over-rides and code – switching ensues.  Now the listener is confused. The accent that the listener is accustomed to is the one that they grew up with.  When we “code-switch” or use sounds systems/accent of our 1st language with a 2nd language, the listener cannot understand the sounds, rhythm or words to understand the message.

Our listeners try, yet have difficulty understanding and stop listening.  We lose our listener.  And maybe the sale or a promotion………………

Knowing the Different “CODES” 

Sound System or Codes

Sound systems in speaking are produced by muscles in the mouth and throat using with specific movements of the lips, tongue, voice and breath to generate the target sound or movements in coordination with following movements. The timing of the each of these muscles and muscle groups yields changes in sounds, voicing and voicing timing, pitch tones, air-flow, linking, place of the articulators, resonance and rhythm.  Then there are accepted subtle body language behaviors that also contribute to communication.

Talking is another “sport” where we move the same muscles, approximately 72 muscles, and muscle groups around for the same desired results – Winning the game of “Effective communication” in the language we are using or ”playing”.

As said before, languages of the world share some sounds, yet not all.  In the following articles, you’ll see which sounds North American English (NAE) does not share with other languages.

Although there are many, other differences that we will also discuss include:

  • Clusters or consonant blends,
  • Word endings
  • Sound linking between words
  • Rhythm
  • Stress patterns and tones

NEXT TIME:  The strategies for the the sound system and accent “code” of North American English (NAE)

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.

Resistance to Change?
I periodically work with executive and communication coach, Suzanne Bates of Bates Communications and subscribe to her blog. Her weekly blog post, “Thoughts for Tuesday” struck a cord today.

This week’s “Thoughts for Tuesday” post was about moving and change…. something that most of my clients have done in a big way. Moving from one country to another. I understand. My husband and I have moved many times, both domestically and internationally.

Resistance happens.

It’s what my mother-in-law (my husband’s mother) calls the “Moving Crazies”.

With every move of many different extended family members, each individual has had to learn new ‘cultures” and communication styles of the regions, new traffic patterns, new foods, find new friends, support systems. And adapt to new schools and work environments.

It’s hard to learn new lifestyle habits. Our brain has its own resistance to change.

Having to learn new communication skills as well as new cultural behaviors can create “Resistance”. Most resist and then tentatively try again. You gain what seems to be an “acceptable” communication style, which works…for a while.

Then you get a new position, a new boss, or new co-workers. There are miscommunications and missed opportunities. You resist and ignore these, thinking that it will be okay. Yet, it’s not. You find more missed opportunities because you are left out of conversations or miss pieces of information.

I have great admiration for those who follow their careers to a totally new country, leaving family and familiar support systems far behind. I’ve done this.

Resistance happened.

And, as I’ve learned from a many of my clients, co-workers and friends… When misunderstandings happen;

Ask for help. Find out what you do right as well as what’s wrong.
Get advice for one to two actions that you can work to change for 30-60 days.
Daily practice that action. Nothing happens without practice.
Get an “Accountability Partner” to give you honest feedback every week or so.
When you can readily and easily do these actions, choose two more.
Celebrate your successes with a friend, a reward for habituating your new skill. When our success is celebrated with someone else, we are more likely to maintain that skill.
Enjoy and embrace the exhilaration of new learning. Change is worth it.