The basketball season has finished and many are now watching baseball.

The “three strikes rule” in baseball can also be applied to speaking-clarity and a listener’s tolerance of confusion.   If the listener is still confused after three attempts to understand the speaker, the listener will start to “tune out” the speaker.

How do we keep our listeners’ attention?

Let’s review the first of the top three issues for ESOL speakers from “The Articulate Advantage” March ‘15 article.

 

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.

The listener must have time to make “edits” or they will often quit trying to understand.

How do you slow down? On the website, Baseball Mental Game Tips, the author Patrick Cohn quoted Brad Holman, pitching coach for Triple-A Round Rock Express, “Don’t be too quick. Step back and take a breath.” The same holds true for speaking. Here are three strategies to slow down so that the listener may understand you better.

1. Choose an article from an online news source. An article about baseball might work. Or find another easy article. Find a paragraph that has 100 to 125 words.

  • Highlight and copy this paragraph to a word document. Do a word count to confirm the number of words.
  • Record your speaking while you read this article aloud.
  • Go back and check your time. Did you do it in less than 60 seconds? If so, you spoke too fast. Do it again until you can slow down your speaking speed enough to say it in the full 60 to 70 seconds. It feels too slow, yet this makes you very aware of your own pronunciation and your audience’s response.
  1. Next, Listen again.
  • How long were your pauses between sentences? Where did you put the pauses?
  • Using pauses between sentences allows the listener to edit and understand your content better.
  • Try for .5 to 1 second pauses between sentences. Remember, this helps the listener “edit”.
  1. Did you find words with more than two syllables in the paragraph?
  • Three, four and five+ syllable words often are mispronounced. Underline these words.
  • Use an online dictionary to determine how they are said correctly. Even if you don’t say the vowels or consonants correctly, you must be able to say the right amount of syllables. English spelling often does not give you the correct pronunciation.
  • Record the target word three times. Make certain that you are correct. If not, do it again, until you can pronounce the correct number of syllables correctly. Then record each sentence with the target word.

 

Do you need more help? Contact me for a free initial consultation. If you are a member of a Toastmaster’s Club, check out my article in the July 2014, Toastmasters magazine. “Sound Strategies To Make Sure Your English Is Understood”

What happened?  How did you respond?

Notice – I did not say “react”.  Responding is a more careful planned action or set of actions.  It takes thought, reviewing one’s expectations and making changes to effect a more positive outcome.

Here is how my life changed.

In June, my husband was offered an exceptional opportunity to work with an outstanding company. It meant moving from Wisconsin to Nebraska.  Selling our house and moving to another, as well as moving my office.

Although, everything was planned and scheduled, the moves did not go according to the timetables.  My trip to the Toastmasters’ Conference in Malaysia was cancelled.  Meetings rescheduled or held via phone, while I was sitting in airports or on the side of a road.  I begged forgiveness, asked for advice and thankfully all participants graciously shared similar stories as well as successful strategies.

Clients and colleagues have offered feedback on how to navigate specific situations.  However, they would not have offered if I had not asked.

So, Let me ask you…..

  • What has changed in your professional life?
  • What expectations do you have of yourself for this change?
  • What expectations do your colleagues have?  Who have you asked?
  • What communication expectations do others have of you now?
  • What are your planned responses?
  • How can I help you find the resources that you want?

While you are thinking these through, here is an interview that I had with Helen Fu of HealthFactor, Massachusetts. Helen recently moved from Kansas to Massachusetts because her husband found his ideal job.  She then created her own television show and started a program to increase her speaking skills. All to increase her professional influence in her new arena.

Health Factor Speech Coach with Helen Fu:

 

 

 

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

 

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.

 

A Socio-Economic Activity for Building Business Relationships

“The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.” – Claude Levi-Strauss.

We grow up with our parents telling us to Not to talk to strangers. We study hard, talk to the folks in the next cubicle or in our study groups and then want to find a job. That is when we are usually first exposed to the “socio-economic activity” called Networking. And, it’s absolutely fear-inducing…

A few years go by and we want to advance our careers. Networking is again necessary.

Networking, when done well, offers great rewards. Doing it well is really a scientific activity. And, since scientists work well with a strategic plan and process, here is one to help you. Note that it is best to have someone help with this.

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