Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

Category: confidence

Joking Around in a Second Language

Recently, I found myself in Mexico, sitting at a table full of food surrounded by friends. Everyone was enjoying themselves, eating, chatting, and laughing. The mood was convivial. Speaking Spanish as a second language and having known most of the people there for close to a decade, I felt comfortable. Then I told a joke.

Silence.

The disappointing realization that no one had found my joke funny – or even understood it – crept through my mind, and I had to act fast to clear up the confusion that showed on my friends’ faces.

If you’re like me, you understand the value of a good laugh. Laughter has been shown to decrease stress, improve health, and it helps us connect and bond with others. While there are many ways to make people laugh, one of my favorites is with words.

There are good jokes and there are bad jokes, and then there are really bad jokes.

Some people tend to be more gifted at using words to make other people laugh. Even if you are among the jocularly gifted, if you’re speaking a second language and interacting with people from a culture you didn’t grow up in, then chances are good that from time to time you will tell a joke that people will not find funny.

Why do jokes fall flat in our second language?

People from different cultures tend to find different things funny – or not.

The joke offends.

Depending on where you are from and where your listeners are from, a joke that is hilarious in your culture could be either worthy of laughter, or, in the worst of cases, offensive to listeners from another culture. Jokes that offend usually do so, either with their content, the relationship between the jokester and the listener, or both of those things. The differences in what is and is not funny between Eastern and Western cultures have been explored and described. For an academic approach to the topic, click here.

Poor delivery.

If the content of your jest is not the issue, the problem might have to do with how you tell the joke. We’ve all seen someone tell a joke badly. Either they give away the punchline too soon or they stumble through the lead-in, forgetting crucial pieces of information. This part of telling a joke is universal. When telling a joke in a second language, you definitely want to use the right vocabulary and pronounce it well enough for your listener to understand.

Especially when it comes to one-liners, or zingers, when telling jokes cross-culturally sometimes, people use language behaviors that, while they may work in their own culture, do not work in the culture they’re communicating in. British culture, for instance, is notorious for its use of sarcasm.

Inadequate set-up. | They don’t translate.

Many jokes rely on a shared context. If you don’t know the background information, you might be the only one who isn’t laughing at the punchline. This is particularly common in a second language situation.

If your audience doesn’t know the context for your joke, then it won’t be funny. In a second language situation, many references to pop culture may not be shared, so people may be confused when you evoke the Eugenio Derbez line from Familia P. Luche and start calling your friend Bibi, asking her why she isn’t a normal girl.

What to do when your joke has bombed.

In conversation, when we tell a bad joke, we have several options.

Move on.

Especially if the conversation is fast-paced, sometimes just ignoring the bad joke and moving on with the dialogue is the best thing you can do. Lighthearted jokes do not contain information crucial to a conversation (although they can), but rather they serve to lighten the mood.

Explain the joke.

Different cultures find different things funny, so it may be the case that your listeners understood the joke, it just didn’t tickle their funny bone in the way they’re accustomed to. If you have the opportunity to explain what you meant by your joke and what made the joke funny, then doing so may help your listeners to understand your thought process a bit better, and to shed some light on cultural differences in humor.

Acknowledge the joke was a dud.

From time to time, in order to stay humble, it’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves. A simple statement like, “that sounded better in my head” or “man, I was really hoping you would laugh at that” can communicate to your listeners that you just made a joke and they missed it.

Whatever you do, do it quickly.

Unless your listeners ask for a detailed explanation, it is best to keep the recovery from a failed joke brief, so the conversation can progress.

 

In the case of my failed joke, as the pause of confusion continued, I quickly explained my use of sarcasm and the conversation was up and running again as if the pause had never happened.

If you’re interested in working on your communication skills in English as a Second Language, then let’s talk. Making positive changes in your ability to use English effectively really isn’t that hard, it just takes some help.

No Kidding Man

Making Mistakes and Moving On

I will always remember that day on the beach. I was visiting friends in Italy, and we were taking a break from the searing Sardinian sun under the shade of a giant multi-colored umbrella. I was practicing my Italian by reading out loud from a magazine. With the rules of the language in my mind (remember to pronounce “ci” as “chi,” I reminded myself), I thought I was doing pretty well, until suddenly, the group erupted in laughter.

Feeling myself turning red, I stopped and looked up from the magazine, confused. “That word is in English,” they told me, still laughing, “You read it like an Italian word.”

I looked down. The word that had caused my friends to laugh at me was “live” (as in “live music”). Instead of saying the word live, I had said lee-vay. No wonder they were laughing. Once I understood my mistake, I could laugh about it, too.

Maybe you’ve had experiences like this. It doesn’t feel very good to be laughed at because you made a pronunciation error, and it feels even worse when you don’t know what the mistake was. But when we can identify when we have made a mistake, we can learn from our error and move on. When we do that, we improve.

My experience on the beach that day has, without a doubt, made me a better communicator, particularly with reading. I learned firsthand that the letters on the page do not always sound the same, and sometimes, they might not even be from the same language.

In English, more so than in Italian, letters of the alphabet can represent multiple sounds, depending on their context within a word. If you would like to work on your spoken English abilities and improve your English pronunciation, click here to complete a free speech snapshot.

20 Reasons to Work on Your Accent

Still wondering about the benefits of accent modification services? Let the following reasons convince you.

  1. Be understood. When you work on your accent with a certified speech trainer, the result is clearer communication. People will understand you better.
  2. Be a role model for others. You can show others through everyday conversations that change is possible. The people you know will notice a change in your speech over time. You have more power than you can imagine.
  3. Experience professional success. Get that promotion, build your network, and climb the ranks with improved communication. You will be able to do your job better when communication isn’t a barrier.
  4. Learn more. When you take action to improve your accent, you will be able to learn from other people. Experts will better understand your questions and as a result, you’ll get new information and learn new skills.
  5. Look better. Your stylist will understand you better when you explain that tasteful new cut that will give you the perfect new look you want.ballooning
  6. Share your interests with others. With clear communication, you will be able to share your knowledge, experience, and hobbies with others. Doing this can open doors to unexpected adventures, in the most rewarding way.
  7. Get lost less often. When others understand your speech, asking for directions from strangers in gas stations is a more comfortable experience.
  8. Be better regarded by others. Having an accent is not a bad thing. However, negative perceptions related to accents are an unpleasant reality. The good news is you can improve the way you are perceived by others by working on your accent.
  9. Build your confidence. When you know how to get your point across, you can focus on what’s really important. And that’s a powerful thing. Take advantage of accent modification services and take charge.
  10. Get your point across. With worries about your speech out of the way, you can focus on what’s really important. People should hear your ideas, not your accent.
  11. Have more interesting conversations. How many times a week do you have to explain to people your life story: where you’re from, why you came, and everything else? And if you’ve been in the area a long time, how annoying is it to get the well-meaning question, “How do you like living here?” When you work on your accent, you get these questions less and less often, and you have more time for more interesting conversations.
  12. Repeat yourself less often. Work on your accent so people will understand you the first time. Work on your accent so people will understand you the first time. (Did I make my point?)
  13. Give better presentations. Public speaking doesn’t have to be painful. But for many, it is. Accent modification services can give you the tools you need to wow everyone in the boardroom.
  14. Be happier with your friends and colleagues. When the people in your life understand your speech, it is easier for you to clearly tell people what you want. When they know what you expect, they will fulfill and maybe even surpass your expectations.money
  15. Make more money. Clear communication has its benefits. Impress your boss, take the next step, and reap the rewards. It starts with you.
  16. Increase your chances of being a movie star. Lots of actors work with speech trainers. Work on your accent and deliver your lines in an award-winning performance.
  17. Make a better first impression. Let the true you shine through when you meet someone new. Engage others with your ideas, not your accent, and you’ll instantly charm.
  18. Make more friends/meet new people. When you can communicate clearly, your world gets bigger. Meet new people and make more friends, wherever you speak.talking fun
  19. Be able to spend time with those people in different places. Research shows that people with light accents are better understood in noisy environments. Don’t let your accent hold you back from taking your friends to that loud restaurant you love. If you work on your accent, you will find that communicating in English with the locals in foreign countries is easier, too.
  20. Enjoy talking on the phone. It can be harder to have a successful conversation on the phone with an accent. Without the visual clues that listeners pick up from facial expressions and gestures, telephone communication can leave something to be desired. After working on your accent with a certified speech coach, you will have the skills and confidence to have great phone calls.

Change your accent and improve your life. It all starts with you. Contact us today to get started.

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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