Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

Category: communication (page 2 of 2)

The Hidden Meaning of Small Talk

Different cultures treat workplace communication differently. Many people working in the United States for the first time may be shocked at the casual nature of conversations between colleagues and their superiors. In the United States personalities really come out (ever heard the phrase let your freak flag fly?), and while a subservient attitude toward the boss in all situations may be a norm in a native country, that is simply not the case here.

Small talk is a crucial aspect of communication. The brief conversation you have every morning with your colleagues in the hall as you make your way to your desk may not seem to matter much, but it does. If you learn the hidden meaning of small talk in US corporate culture, you can use it to your benefit.

Pro tip #1: Remember personal details that your coworkers mention in small talk (such as names of family members, pets, hobbies), and ask about them later.

Small talk is a good way to form a personal connection with each of your colleagues, no matter what level they may inhabit in your organization. This personal connection will affect how they interact with you on more professional matters, and will impact their attitude toward working with you. That is why it is important to make a good impression – and to maintain that good impression – through small talk.

Pro tip #2: Show others you are interested in what they have to say. You can do this by making a comment on what they have said and encouraging them to keep talking such as, “I didn’t know that, can you tell me more?”

Another function of small talk is to set the stage for future interactions. For example, as members of your team and a few other departments are arriving in the conference room a few minutes before a Monday meeting, the group may engage in light conversation about what they did over the weekend. This conversation, while seemingly unrelated to the meeting that is about to occur, sets the mood. This conversation helps everyone there to relax and to open up so that when the meeting does begin and the conversation turns to more important matters, everyone there will feel good about participating, and will be more willing to share their ideas in an open discussion.

Pro tip #3: During small talk, stay calm. To maintain an overall positive attitude in the group, do not interrupt others, even if you really want to. Let them finish what they are saying before jumping in. (This is a good rule of thumb for any interaction.)

It is not uncommon for small talk with the boss to be on a more personal level. In other countries, it might be unthinkable to discuss relationships outside of work, activities done in your free time, and current events, but in the United States, these topics are fair game. It is certainly not recommended to be open about everything; every company is different.

Pro tip #4: Observe others in your company engaging in small talk and use their conversations to guide you.

small talkThe best way to figure out what is appropriate is to listen carefully to topics that others bring up in conversation and use those topics as a gauge. Of course, you should only share information that you are comfortable with sharing. The main point is to engage in casual small talk with as many members of your organization as possible, so that you can forge those personal relationships that will help you to excel in your position.

Pro tip #5: Make an effort to engage in pleasant small talk with everyone in your organization. This will help to set you apart as someone everyone wants to work with.

Small talk can open doors to greater opportunities. It is never a waste of time to engage in small talk with a person, especially if you do not know that person very well. By having a casual conversation with someone, you can, little by little, learn more about him or her. A casual conversation can also help that person to learn more about you. The more they learn about you the more likely they may be to volunteer to help you with that project you’re trying to get off the ground, or to introduce you to a higher-up in the organization you’ve been hoping to speak with.

Small talk is a skill that you can learn, like a yo-yo trick, or playing the banjo. One of the best ways to learn and improve your small talk skills is to watch others and pay attention. Listen carefully to the topics they discuss and their word choices. Look at their body language, hand gestures, and facial expressions, and listen to the tone of voice used.

Pro tip #6: Practice small talk. Practice it everywhere and with everyone you encounter. Practice with strangers (unlike in other places, talking to strangers is a completely acceptable thing to do in the United States). Practice with the grocery clerk, the librarian, and that lady at the café who remembers how you like your coffee. The more you practice, the closer you will be to mastering small talk.

FontCandy (50)Everyone does small talk a little differently. Using your observations of many different people, develop your own small talk style. The comments you make, the way you raise your eyebrows, what you do with your hands, and the tone of your voice when you say, “Wow!” all come together to make an impact on your listener. Your small talk style is unique to you.

The best way to really learn something is to seek out someone who can help you. A speech coach can help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses in the area of small talk, and can help you practice and perfect your small talk. At Lingua East, we want to help you succeed, and we’d love to help you develop your own small talk style. Contact us to master those small conversations that can lead to something bigger.

Accent Modification Services at Lingua East

At Lingua East we provide a range of communication training services. The service that is most near and dear to us is accent modification. Our accent modification services help individuals speaking English as a second language to improve their pronunciation and clarity, so they can have greater success in their professional and recreational lives. We have firsthand experience of that uncomfortable feeling you get someone identifies you more by your accent than your ideas. We believe that if you bothered to learn another language, then you obviously have some great ideas Let us help you communicate better.

workbooksOur accent modification service starts with a thorough assessment. We will ask you to pronounce different words, sentences, and to read longer passages, so we can learn more about you and your language history, your speech production, and other characteristics of your communication. For our clients, part of the assessment just feels like a conversation. But for us, it is a time to analyze your typical speech. Most people communicate in more than one word at a time. We tend to pronounce words differently when they are in sentences, or connected speech.

After we’ve explained to you the results of your assessment, we’ll work together to come up with some realistic goals for your speech. This is a collaborative process, and we want the goals to benefit you most at work or wherever your English matters most. We’ll discuss how the different aspects of your speech affect how others hear and understand you, and come to an agreement on the best targets for accent modification training.

Goals are selected on an individual basis. Your goals may be different from your friend’s goals, even if you share the same native language. At Lingua East, we pride ourselves on providing customized training to optimize success. Your training objectives are expertly designed, just for you.

The training process is easy and fun. Training session activities, like goals, are specially designed to help you master the accent and communication skills that can take you to the next level. Activities may include word drills to perfect your pronunciation of frequently used work vocabulary, simulations of professional conversations (for example, explaining the setup of a new database to a coworker), work with kazoos, or more. Activities are selected with consideration for each individual client’s communication strengths and needs.

Outside of training sessions you will be asked to complete practice activities, based on your objectives. These activities serve to give you greater independence with your new communication skills and help to solidify concepts addressed in training. The tasks also save you time and money by helping you to advance your skills and get closer to meeting your goals outside of training.

Researchers have demonstrated that change in second language skills cannot occur without feedback. Knowing this, our licensed, certified speech-language pathologist will walk you through the accent modification process, giving you the correct level of feedback, each step of the way. We will even teach you something new about pronunciation, using visuals to explain challenging speech sounds. Feedback is a big part of learning (just ask B.F. Skinner). Wherever you are in the process, we adjust our feedback, so you can experience maximal learning.

conversationSometimes the way we talk can interfere with how others understand us. When you come to Lingua East for accent modification in Charlotte, it’s all about you. From assessment to goal selection to training activities, our accent modification services are custom designed for you, the individual. We refuse to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to accent modification, simply because we want you to be as successful as possible. After all, we want them to hear your ideas, not your accent.

If you are ready to start working on your accent with a qualified professional, start exploring our services or contact us to get started today!


Like this article? Check these out!

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The 4 Challenges of Changing An Accent

 

10 Tips for Communicating with Customers with Disabilities

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.”

-Kevin Stirtz, Strategy Manager at Thomson Reuters

 

 

 

If you work with the public, you want to give your customers the best experience possible. Whether you have ten employees or ten thousand, your business depends on it. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve probably gotten really good at communicating with the typical customer.

 

But what about the customer who’s a little different? There is a whole world of communication impairments, and millions of people have them. Communicating with these customers may present a bit of a challenge. You may have to approach the interaction differently. However, if you’re prepared for anything, you’ll be able to turn those prospective customers into repeat customers who refer all their friends to you because you give them great service, every time.

Following are some tips to guide you as you strive to give all your customers a great experience:

  1. Respect. Do not laugh at, mock, or interrupt your customer. This is a no-brainer. You wouldn’t do this with your other customers, anyway.
  2. Do not finish your customer’s sentences. It may be tempting, especially if your customer seems to be having a really tough time getting the words out. Even if you know what they’re going to say, let them say it.
  3. Give your customer enough time to respond. Some people take a little longer to process information. Be sure you are giving your customers enough time to react to your questions or comments before repeating yourself or adding to the conversation.
  4. If you do not understand what the customer says, tell them. It will save a boatload of trouble from you guessing at what they want.
  5. Let them see your face. For some hard of hearing customers, it may be easier to have a conversation if you are facing them in good lighting.
  6. If your customer is having difficulty understanding you, use shorter sentences with simpler vocabulary. Sometimes you can communicate the same idea in three short sentences instead of one long sentence.
  7. Think about your surroundings. For customers with a head injury in their past, it can be difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying if there is a lot of movement and noise in the background.
  8. If you are in the position to do so, you might want to show your customer what you’re saying by neatly writing it down or having key points of your message typed out. This can be helpful to those customers for whom memory is not their strong suit.
  9. Use gesture and facial expression wisely. Think about what your hands are doing. Make sure that every gesture you make is meaningful and that you are not just flapping your hands around. Think about what your face is doing. Try to keep your facial expression appropriately neutral or friendly. Inappropriate gestures can distract from your message.
  10. Be patient. If a prospective customer feels like you’re in a hurry, they may be more likely to turn around and go straight to your competitor. Take a relaxed position and communicate your willingness to help the customer with everything they need, and your customer will be more likely to stick with you.

The key to successful communication with customers with disabilities is the same as with any other customer: put them first. Give your customers a great experience every time and they’ll come back, again and again.

If you have any questions about how your organization can improve your communication with individuals with disabilities, let us know. Contact us and we can provide you with more information, tips, and strategies in an individual consultation or group seminar.

11 Tips for Talking with Teachers

A reader asked for a post of the tips from the Communicating with Teachers in English handout. So, without further ado, here it is!

For a child to get a good education, parents need to have good communication with teachers. Be a good role model for your children – talking with the teacher is the key to your child’s success.

Here are 11 tips for communicating with your child’s school:

  • Communicate with your child’s teacher early in the fall, and throughout the school year. It is easy to write an email, make a phone call, or show up in person, and it will show the teacher that you care about your child’s education. Teachers like to get to know parents.
  • Let the teacher know the best way to contact you. Make sure they have your phone number and know what part of the day you can take phone calls.
  • Find out when parent-teacher conferences will be scheduled so can put it on your calendar well in advance.
  • Arrive on time for meetings. If you are going to be late, call the school to let them know.
  • If you know what you want to say, but are not sure how to say it in English, ask for an interpreter.
  • Minimize noise when you talk with the teacher. It will be easiest for others to understand you in a quiet environment.
  • If you don’t understand what the teacher is telling you, tell them and politely ask for clarification. “I don’t understand. Could you explain that please?”
  • If the teacher does not understand you, or they don’t seem to be following what you’re saying, try to say it another way. Add information, use different words.
  • Ask questions. Ask about how your child approaches tasks at school. Ask about what you can do at home to support your child’s learning. Ask any question that comes to mind. Questions can start conversations that inform teachers about how best to teach your child. When you ask questions it shows the teacher that you are interested in your child’s education.
  • If your child has experienced any big events outside of school (like moving to a new home or the birth of a sibling) share that information with the teacher. Big life events can affect how kids behave at school, so providing context will help the school to teach your child.
  • Volunteer to help out in the classroom for an hour or two. Volunteering is a great way to see what happens in the classroom.

When you get to know your child’s teachers, you are teaching your child about the importance of education. Feel free to share your ideas and to work with the school to make it the best education possible.

If you’re still having trouble communicating with your children’s teachers in English, let us know. We just might be able to help.

Communicating with Teachers in English

I was talking recently with a speech-language pathologist who works in the schools. She shared with me the difficulties the parents of her students often have in communicating with the schools in English.

As many immigrants will tell you, it is not always easy to live and work in a place that does not share the language and culture of the place you grew up. Schools in the United States are quite different from schools on the other side of the world.

To help parents communicate better with the schools, we have created a handout with tips for communicating with teachers. We currently offer this handout free of charge in English, Spanish, Hindi, and Vietnamese. Check them out!

 

Communicating with Teachers_English

Communicating with Teachers_Spanish

Communicating with Teachers_Hindi

Communicating with Teachers_Vietnamese

skeleton school

Let us know if you would like this handout translated to another language and we’ll make it happen. Contact us!

8 Confidence-Boosting Tricks for Better Communication

Communication difficulties are at the core of many of the problems we face in our day-to-day lives. How many times have you stumbled through an important conversation, knowing exactly what you wanted to say but feeling like you were failing to get your point across? Communication problems affect everyone from time to time, some more than others. If you often find yourself feeling embarrassed or ashamed of how you talk, or if you have trouble getting your ideas out with the right meaning, that can affect your confidence. This problem can prevent you from sharing your great ideas with the people who need to hear them.

Confidence on Hand

Here are some steps you can take to speak with greater confidence so you can wow others with your ideas:

  1. Write down what you want to say. If your message is complex, try to organize your ideas into their simplest forms with transitions that flow from one idea to the next. Index cards are great for this, because you can put one idea on each card, lay them all out, and move them around until the order makes sense. Add your transitions in between the ideas when you have the order just how you want it. Another bonus to using index cards is that they fit in most pockets in case you need to refresh your memory in the parking lot or the elevator.
  2. Put a key message on a stone or small piece of paper and keep it in your pocket. While you’re speaking, slip your hand into your pocket. Sometimes just feeling that stone or paper can trigger you to remember what you wanted to say. At the same time, it can help you remain calm and relaxed.
  3. Practice what you want to say. Practice anywhere and everywhere: in the mirror, in your car, with your cat, with a friend. The more you practice what you want to say, the more automatic it will become. Then, you can put your energy into…
  4. Body language – use it to add meaning to your message. Think about what you might want your hands to be doing. If your arms are crossed in front of your chest, you’re sending a negative message that tells others that you’re closed off to their ideas and input. Standing with your hands on your hips is a position that emanates power. Use a mirror or ask a friend to find out what kind of a message your body language is sending and work to figure out the right position for your message. On a similar note…
  5. Stand in a powerful position for a few minutes before you have the conversation. Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology last year showed that when people stood in a “power pose” before a job interview, they did better in the interview than people who had a more withdrawn position before the interaction.
  6. Do something before the conversation that relaxes you. Take a walk outside, draw a picture, or simply stop to smell the roses. If you’re calm going in, you’re more likely to be calm going out.
  7. Take care of your body. You have better control of your mind when you get enough sleep, eat good quality food, and drink plenty of water.
  8. If you’re concerned about your accent, try practicing what you want to say, with stress on the appropriate words. If that’s difficult for you to do on your own, or if you still have concerns, seek help from a speech pathologist or ESL teacher. People should hear your ideas, not your accent.
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