Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

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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.

Changing Your Accent is Hard (But Not Impossible)

When you’re a kid, you can learn languages – your native language and successive languages – pretty easily. Your developing brain is able to soak in all the sounds, words, and structures of a given language.

By the time we are four years old, our brains and mouths have linked up to form the speech patterns that will accompany us for the rest of our lives.

By the time we are four years old, our brains and mouths have linked up to form the speech patterns that will accompany us for the rest of our lives.

By the time we are four years old, our brains and mouths have linked up to form the speech patterns that will accompany us for the rest of our lives.

By adolescence, our speech patterns have become so ingrained that if we learn a second language, we are increasingly likely to speak that second language with an accent. Furthermore, it is around this time that learning another language becomes much more difficult, requiring hours of study. Even if you are able to master the grammar and vocabulary of Farsi at the age of 16, you’ll probably still speak the language with an accent.

Accent encompasses the sounds, rhythms, and intonation of a spoken language by a group of people. It could be confined to language, such as Estonian, or region, such as the Texas Panhandle. While everyone speaks with an accent of some sort, we usually don’t think about having an accent in our native language.

The sorts of researchers who study how babies respond to different sorts of language have found that at a certain age, babies prefer the accent of their own group. In other words, a Jamaican baby would show a preference of Jamaican English over a Minnesota accent, and a baby from St. Louis would prefer a drawl over an Australian accent. We know that babies can tell a difference. What about adults?

The adult brain works through the accent like a sculptor, chipping away at the surface to get at the meaning underneath.

The adult brain works through the accent like a sculptor, chipping away at the surface to get at the meaning underneath.

When a typical adult hears someone speaking with an accent, their brain has some extra work to do before he can understand the message the speaker is trying to convey. The adult brain works through the accent like a sculptor, chipping away at the surface to get at the meaning underneath. The processing of the accent happens mostly on a subconscious level, unless the accent is particularly strong.

Accents can come with a lot of baggage in the form of how listeners perceive someone who speaks with an accent that is different from theirs. People who speak with a certain accent may be seen as more intelligent, sophisticated, or educated. People who speak with a different accent may be seen as more likely to be dishonest. And none of this has anything to do with the person himself, just his accent!

While I have discussed before how as a listener, the only way to overcome any subconscious biases you may have is to increase your exposure to those accents or dialects that might be seen in a negative light, many wonder, what can a speaker do about her own accent?

Petra is an individual who learned a second language when she was a little older. She has an accent. This accent is there because of the speech patterns that Petra developed as a little kid in Hungary. Petra, who works in the corporate offices of a chemical company in the US, wants to change her accent.

She has an accent because of the speech patterns that she developed as a little kid.

She has an accent because of the speech patterns that she developed as a little kid.

She had always had some apprehension about communicating with her team and outside vendors, but as she rose up in the ranks, her accent started becoming more and more of a problem. Petra knows that she is knowledgeable, experienced, and hardworking, but she feels that at times, her interactions with colleagues and vendors are not as clear as they could be, because of her accent.

She’s tried apps on her phone, working diligently to tap and talk to her phone on a daily basis. Didn’t work. She’s tried mimicking the voices on the television. That didn’t work, either. Petra finally realized what was missing: professional feedback from a native English-speaker.

So Petra went to Human Resources and asked about speech coaching. The training director at her company set up an appointment for Petra to meet with a speech coach. Petra chose to do the training over the computer, because it was more convenient for her.

Working with the speech coach, Petra got more than just the feedback that she needed to improve her speech. She was given special exercises to practice that were tailored to her needs, based on science, and recommended by a professional. Petra found the sessions enjoyable, and learned something new every week.

After working with the speech coach for three months, Petra still has an accent. However, she is able to speak English much more clearly than before, and some of her colleagues have even commented on how her speech has improved. She feels more confident in her position, and her feelings of apprehension about communicating with colleagues and vendors have reduced significantly.

If you or one of your team members would like more information about accent modification services, contact us. We’ll be happy to tell you more about our program. If you’re ready to change your accent using a speech coaching program that works, take our online screening to get started. People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

Why Your Vocal Folds are Like Jellyfish, or The Four Kinds of Voice

Your vocal folds are like jellyfish. They’re like jellyfish in that they are surprisingly complex and they move in an interesting way. You can see this in videos recorded with a strobe (so the vocal folds look like they’re moving in slow motion) like the one here.

As you saw in the video, there are different ways you can use your vocal folds to create different types of voice. In general, there are four different ways you can use your vocal folds, and each way creates a different type of voice. The four voices have different pitch and quality characteristics, and to produce each voice, you use your vocal folds and the surrounding muscles and tissue in a unique way.

jellyfishThe first kind of voice is the voice you use when you’re talking normally. In the speech world, this is called modal voice, and singers call it chest voice because the sound vibrations are more in the chest cavity than anywhere else. This voice is loud and clear.

Like trying to tickle yourself doesn’t really work, trying to get to the right pitch when you’re thinking about your voice is not easy. You can use an easy trick to find your ideal pitch. I recommend you do exercise while sitting down. If you try it standing up, your tensed abdominal muscles will make it difficult. First, shake everything out and relax. Then, in as low a pitch as you can before it gets uncomfortable, hold a prolonged “oh”. With your index finger, poke your belly a couple inches above your belly button.

As you do this several times, you will notice that the sound of your voice changes. You should hear your voice rise in pitch as your finger goes in, and fall back to the low pitch you started at as you move your finger away from your body. The highest pitch your voice reaches during this exercise is your ideal pitch. If it helps, try doing the exercise and holding “oh” at your ideal pitch as you move your finger away from your belly.

The second kind of voice is still clear, but it’s quieter than modal. It’s a thin voice, or in the singing world, head voice. When you produce this voice, your vocal folds spend the same amount of time apart as they do together, and have a bit more tension on the outside.

To find your thin voice, there’s a simple singing exercise you can do. Produce a prolonged “ee” at a comfortable, perhaps even low, pitch. Put your hand on the back of your neck. You should feel the vibrations of your voice there. Now, increase your pitch, gliding up to as high of a note as you can while keeping your voice [relatively] smooth. Pay attention to where the vibration goes. You should feel it moving up your throat into your mouth and even higher in your head. Isn’t that cool?

The more you practice getting into each voice, the easier it will be.

The more you practice getting into each voice, the easier it will be.

The third kind of voice is stiff, but you probably know it by its other name, falsetto. In stiff voice, there is a lot more tension in the vocal folds, which are actually apart at the back. Therefore, stiff voice sounds breathy and quiet.

You can get to your stiff voice using the same pitch glides that you used to find your thin voice. When you increase the pitch, you’ll reach a point where you have to shift things around in your throat to go higher. That shift, in case you’re wondering, is you releasing contraction of the interarytenoid and lateral cricoarytenoid muscles and moving your vocal folds apart in the back. After you’ve made that shift and gone higher, you’re into your stiff voice. How does it feel different from modal or thin voice?

The fourth kind of voice is the kind that has been getting quite a bit of mainstream attention in recent years, slack, or glottal fry. Just do a Google search of “glottal fry” and the results will convince you that this type of voice is a fad among young women and it will ruin your life. While shocking search results may be enticing, there is nothing to worry about.* fry is a normal part of voice that speakers of all genders use to varying degrees in different dialects.

There was a great article a few months back in the ASHA Leader about glottal fry. You can read it here.

This kind of voice sounds creaky, and quieter than modal voice. With glottal fry, your vocal folds spend more time closed than they do open, and they vibrate inconsistently. You probably already know how to produce this type of voice: block off the air in your throat by closing your vocal folds and slowly let the air out. Hear the creakiness?

It is remarkable to think about all the things your vocal folds do for you. They help you sing, laugh, pick up heavy objects, and to tell that special someone that you love them. Be sure to treat your voice well. Check out my article on Why You Should Be Kind To Your Voice to learn some tips for keep your voice healthy.

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*If fry is the only thing your voice is doing, then seek help from an ENT, as that could indicate a voice disorder like muscle tension dysphonia or vocal fold lesions.

Improve Your Speech with PESL Speech Training

An accent is a part of who you are. It is part of your cultural and personal identity. At Lingua East, we love accents, always have. However, we recognize the negative impact an accent can have for people speaking English as a second language, both professionally and personally.

Miscommunications occur all the time. When a listener does not understand you, because of word choice, pronunciation, tone of voice, or some combination of the above, the results can be disastrous. We know what it feels like to not be understood when speaking a second language. And we are dedicated to providing quality accent modification services to decrease the chances of having that happen when you communicate in English.

Your accent is a part of who you are.

An accent is a part of who you are.

Our accent modification services are provided with the ultimate goal of reducing the negative impacts that accents can have on a person’s life, and enabling that person to meet their goals and go further than they imagined. We don’t want to eliminate your accent. It’s part of who we are. We do want to give you the tools for effective communication, that you can use at will, as needed.

The Compton Pronunciation of English as a Second Language method, known as PESL, is a program we use to help individuals who speak English with a noticeable accent. The PESL method is based on research done by Dr. Arthur J. Compton and is provided by speech professionals who have completed formal training in the method. For decades, this method has been in use. It has benefitted tens of thousands of participants.

Participants in PESL training work with a certified speech trainer once a week for about three months. This training may be offered on an individual basis either in person or via teleconferencing, or in a small group setting. The result is clear, effective spoken communication.

The program begins with an assessment that identifies speech sounds that differ in the participant’s spoken English, and any speech patterns that may interfere with the intended transmission of information. It continues with a series of engaging sessions that are customized so the participant may learn more accurate pronunciation of the sounds of Standard American English. We like to keep the training sessions interesting without sacrificing quality or value.

Training may individual either in person or via teleconferencing, or in a small group setting.

Training may individual either in person or via teleconferencing, or in a small group setting.

After completion of the training sessions, a final assessment is performed to measure overall improvement. Typical participants in PESL training demonstrate improvements in their speech of 50 to 80%, along with additional benefits that are not so easily measured. These include improved voice control, increased confidence, and a significant improvement in professional performance.

Speech training with the PESL method is particularly beneficial to individuals who interact with a large network of people, such as professionals in the corporate world, healthcare practitioners, IT professionals and consultants, and students and professors in academia. Really, anyone who speaks English with an accent can benefit from PESL training.

At Lingua East, we are certified to provide PESL speech coaching. If you would like to become a more effective communicator, complete a free screening today or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you and to help you take the first step toward clear communication. Let them hear your ideas, not your accent.

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.

How to Change Your Consonants

When it comes to accent modification, there are two big general areas of speech that may be changed. In the speech pathology biz, those are called segmentals and suprasegmentals. In short, that just means sounds and intonation, respectively. The sounds can be further divided into consonants and vowels. This post is about consonants.

twofaces

Consonants are fun.

Consonants are fun. They [usually] involve some part of the mouth making contact with another part of the mouth and can be explained a lot more easily than the squishy vowels and the vocal tract that is sensitive to changes in volume (which can drastically change vowels). If you want to learn more about vowel squishiness, check out my previous post, A Tour of the Vowel Quadrilateral.

When people speak a second language, they already have the ability to produce all the consonants in their first language without even thinking about it. Those consonants and the way that they may be combined with other speech sounds will depend on the language and dialect. Some languages don’t have many consonants. Hawaiian, for example, only has eight consonants. Other languages have scores of consonants, like Ubykh, a now extinct language that was spoken in Turkey that has an inventory of 84 consonants!

There seem to be three ways people learn the sounds of a second language:

  1. The sound in the second language is a sound from the first language. This is the easiest because you don’t have to learn a new sound.
  2. The sound in the second language is similar to a sound from the first language, so the language learner produces the similar sound that they already know. This results in a distortion that native speakers of the L2 can hear, but the second language learner may not hear. For a while I produced my ds in Spanish more like an r. I had no clue until someone teased me about it.
  3. The sound in the second language is completely new. The language learner may learn the new sound perfectly or imperfectly. The key to learning a completely new sound is hearing the difference between the sounds in the native language and the new sound.

In short, when you learn a new language, some of the second language’s consonants will not be a problem, some will be similar enough to consonants from your L1 for you to get along, and there will likely be a third class of consonants that will be tricky to get the hang of. If you really want to get good at producing these new sounds, the best thing you can do is to diligently work on your listening skills. If you can hear the difference between the sound you’re trying to learn and the similar sounds in your first language, you’re much more likely to learn the new sound.

If you want to improve your pronunciation, work on listening skills.

If you want to improve your pronunciation, work on listening skills.

If you’re geeky like me and want to learn more, this is part of Jim Flege’s Speech Learning Model (the original article is here; I also recommend you visit his site – he’s a really neat guy!).

So after years of study and work to learn a second language, despite all your efforts, you still have an accent. How can you change your pronunciation of consonants? One of the best ways to do this is with an accent coach. And I’m not just saying that because that’s what I’m selling.

Accent modification services with a professional (someone with CCC-SLP after their name) is best because you need someone with a native ear to listen to your productions and give you feedback about your speech. An accent coach can also explain to you what you need to do differently to improve your pronunciation. Contact us today to improve your pronunciation of English. Let them hear your ideas.

A Simplified Way to Understand Vowels

tourWe have mentioned the vowel quadrilateral before, in our post about learning new vowel sounds. The vowel quadrilateral is a four-sided shape marked with symbols representing different vowel sounds. It serves as a useful visual tool for describing what you need to do with your mouth to produce a target vowel sound.

The challenge of learning new vowels is describing them. How do you describe the sound in the middle of the word cat? If you’re well-versed in the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, you can just write the sound as ӕ. However, how do you describe the sound of that vowel? Using the vowel quadrilateral, this is possible.

One Version of the Vowel Quadrilateral

One Version of the Vowel Quadrilateral

The vowel quadrilateral describes sounds by placing them on a point somewhere between two opposites. The two main oppositions are high-low and front-back. On the vowel quadrilateral, high is at the top and low is at the bottom. (What a surprise.) Front is toward the left, and back is toward the right.

The high-low opposition describes the height of the tongue during production of the vowel, and the front-back opposition describes the degree to which the tongue is at the front of the mouth or at the back of the mouth. As you might imagine, these oppositions are not binary. In other words, there are many positions between the highest and lowest and most front and most back positions.

Since there are many positions between high and low and front and back, people use other descriptors to describe vowels. Mid is used along the high-low axis and central is used on the front-back axis. The very middle of the vowel quadrilateral – in mid-central position – is where you can find schwa, written ә in IPA, the most neutral of the vowels. A schwa is what you get when you open your mouth a bit and let your voice out. (Like in unstressed the.)

tongues

By protruding the tongue and blowing forcefully, the result is called a ‘raspberry’. It is not a speech sound, but boy, is it fun to do!

Another descriptor used when talking about vowels is roundedness, which is typically all or nothing. Roundedness refers to whether or not the speaker is rounding his lips. So a vowel sound like the one in the middle of the word booth is rounded, but the vowel sound in the middle of ball is not. Any spot on the vowel quadrilateral can have two vowels that correspond with that spot: one is rounded, one is not rounded. (In a French course I took many years ago, to learn some of the trickier vowels in the Language of Love, I was instructed to produce a rounded vowel I could already produce, but without rounding my lips. It worked!)

Arguably, when speaking English as a second language, the vowels are the most critical sounds of speech for the listener to understand the speaker. The difficult part about mastering the vowels of any language is figuring out what your mouth needs to do to come up with a perfect production. Luckily, we have the vowel quadrilateral and professionals specializing in accent modification to help you learn.

Contact us to improve your vowels today! After all, people should hear your ideas, not your accent.

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.

We are now offering a discount of 33% off accent modification services until February 28, 2017. Contact us to take advantage of this deal today!

5 Simple Tips for Preparing a Good Presentation

There are several pivotal moments in life when a good presentation can mean the difference between something good happening to you or something unpleasant happening. Whether the good thing is an academic degree, an amazing new job, a promotion, or simply the good feelings that go along with knowing you did a good job, it is worth it to put in a little extra effort while preparing to give your presentation.

  1. Organize Your Ideas

The meat of your presentation is not your PowerPoint, it’s the stuff that comes out of your mouth. Therefore, in order to give a great talk, you need to be able to share your ideas in a way that makes sense. Use concise summary statements to introduce each big idea, and use all the information you have about that idea to support your summary statement.

  1. Tell a Story

Use your collection of main ideas to walk your audience through the presentation. The best presentations address a problem and attempt to provide a solution. Tell a story with your presentation with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Beginning: Introduce yourself. Introduce the problem or the goal you’re trying to accomplish with your presentation. Define your topic and explain succinctly why it is worth talking about.

Middle: Talk about how others have approached your problem and describe the results of their efforts. Then, explain your approach and why it’s so great.

End: How does your story end? Provide a resolution to the problem you introduced in the beginning. If there is no resolution, talk about where to go in the next attempts to solve the problem.

  1. Use Transitions

So you have the beginning, middle, and end of your story. Now, you have to connect them (and the information contained within each section). Transitional language, words and phrases that are used to connect ideas, can do this in a fluid, conversational way that will make you sound more natural and not like a wooden mannequin. Some examples of transitional language are: “similarly,” “on the other hand,” “[un]fortunately,”, “Keeping this in mind…,” “In other words…,” and “It is important to note that…” All you have to do is google “transitional language” or “transition words” and you’ll find a number of pages of more transitions that can bring your presentation from yawn-inducing to edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

Keep things exciting

  1. Practice

Once you have written down all the information you want to share with the transitions, read it out loud. Then read it out loud again. And again. And again. Add, remove, or rework awkward lines or phrases until it sounds good and everything comes out smoothly. With each successive reading, try to look up from your notes more and more, until you can give the entire presentation with only an occasional glance at your notes to make sure you’re not missing any details. After all, you’ll want to spend most of your presentation time looking at the people you’re talking to. Don’t hold yourself to memorizing a script of your presentation to the point where you’re regurgitating it verbatim; keep the tone casual, like you’re explaining something to a friend.

  1. Show Enthusiasm

There is nothing worse than a monotone presentation that makes the inside of your eyelids more interesting. To keep your audience awake it’s best to present on a topic you’re interested in. If that is out of your hands, then try to find some aspect of the topic that is interesting. You might have to look at your topic from a different perspective to find the side of it that you can get excited about. If you can feel some genuine enthusiasm about your topic, that enthusiasm will flow like a current of electricity throughout your presentation, and will make for a much more engaging presentation.

A good presentation starts with good preparation. You did the research and have all of your information, now it’s time to put it together and practice it in a way that will make your talk interesting to other people. Follow the tips above and good things will happen.

What is a Dialect?

A dialect is a form of a language. Languages can have one or many dialects, differing in pronunciation, vocabulary, grammatical features, and that fuzzy stuff that laypeople refer to as “reading between the lines” and linguists refer to as pragmatics. Dialects are usually shared by a subgroup of people with something in common, be it ethnicity, geographic region, social class, or something else. Usually, people who speak different dialects of the same language can understand each other.Dialects represent the beauty of language: it’s so fascinating that two people who use different communication systems can not only understand one another, but also share, learn, and laugh together about the eccentricities of their respective dialects. The first time someone used the Southern phrase “slap your mama good” to describe some tasty food I laughed for a week.

Unfortunately, dialects can also be at the root of injustice. All over the world, people face discrimination based on their dialect. Again and again, we see that when an individual has an accent that is different from that of a superior – a hiring manager, for example – chances are disturbingly good that they will be seen in a negative light.

It seems that dialect discrimination affected the court proceedings following the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin. One of the key witnesses in the trial was Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Martin’s who had been on the phone with him before and during his fatal run-in with George Zimmerman. John Rickford, linguistics professor at Stanford, pointed out that had there been another speaker of African American Vernacular English serving as judge, transcriber, attorney, or jury member, Jeantel’s critical testimony would have been understood, and the outcome of the trial would likely be very different. Marguerite Rigoglioso with Stanford News published an excellent article on this topic here.

According to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA):

Given that SAE [Standard American English] is the linguistic variety used by the government, the mass media, business, education, science, and the arts in the United States, speakers of other varieties of American English may find it advantageous to be able to speak SAE. In these cases, the role of the speech-language pathologist is to assist in the acquisition of the desired competency in the second dialect without jeopardizing the integrity of the individual’s first dialect.

Being able to speak the mainstream dialect of English can, without a doubt, open up a whole new world of possibility for native speakers of other dialects. However, as ASHA indicates, the goal is not to replace the way you walk with the language they speak on television. It’s about code-switching, communicating in the most appropriate dialect, given the situation.

However, when it comes to the topic of dialect/linguistic discrimination, the solution cannot be focused on the behavior of the speaker. While there is certainly no single, simple solution, and linguistic discrimination is just a part of the systematic discrimination that occurs against minority groups every minute of the day, part of the solution must be to listen to and learn more about the different dialects of speakers you know and are likely to meet. The more you hear these dialects, the more you will understand. In short, listen more.

If you are interested in code-switching, let us know. People should hear your ideas, not your dialect.

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