Lingua East

People should hear your ideas, not your accent.

Tag: Corporate Speech Pathology

The Cost of Language Problems in the Workplace

In the corporate world, some of the best talent comes from far away. Hiring managers often have to choose among excellent candidates from India, Venezuela, Mexico, and Germany. A great interview leads to an offer, and soon the new hire is working with native English-speaking professionals on a team. They have solid technical skills and an intermediate level of English as a second language, and everyone on the team is looking forward to the contributions their new colleague will make to the team and the company as a whole. It is often at this point after the interview that communication difficulties begin to appear.

Communication difficulties show up as small written errors in emails and other professional communication. An accent might create a challenge for team members, users, vendors, or others to understand the employee’s speech. When the new hire has difficulty understanding spoken language, it can make for uncomfortable meetings where they fall behind in the flow of ideas and contribute less than is expected of them. It can also lead to errors and delays when instructions are given verbally and the employee does not fully understand.

In addition to errors and delays, language problems in the workplace can lead to wasted resources, costing the company time and money. These undue costs can lead to stress at the level of management, with repercussions in projects when the time or cost goals are not achieved.

In order to improve productivity and reduce the stress and waste associated with language problems in the workplace, corporate speech pathology has emerged to answer the call. Corporate speech pathologists are trained experts in speech and language production. Rather than applying their expertise in the traditional settings such as schools or hospitals, corporate speech pathologists work with companies and their employees to maximize communication and enhance the process of employee development.

Lingua East provides corporate speech pathology services to companies looking to bolster the success of employees speaking English as a second language. We understand that when the employee succeeds, the company succeeds. Contact us today to learn more about our speech training packages for employee development. Services may be offered in person or via videochat, and we may be able to travel to your location.

Chipping Away at an Accent with an SLP

If you read my site, you might find the term ‘SLP’ used quite a bit. An SLP is a speech-language pathologist, a person who has completed a master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders, speech pathology, or another similarly-named program. Here I explain why when you need quality accent modification services (or other communication enhancement services, for that matter), it’s a good idea to look for a speech trainer who is an SLP, a speech-language pathologist.

A certified SLP is a person who has received the Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA). You might see the letters CCC-SLP after their name. I am a certified SLP, which means that I have a master’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and that my first year or so of work was under the supervision of an experienced and knowledgeable SLP.

Anyone can market themselves as a speech coach, and there are quite a few speech coaches peddling accent modification services who are not certified SLPs. Some of them are very good at it, but not all of them have engaged in the rigorous study of the sounds of speech, language learning, motor speech patterns, and what it takes to change the sounds of speech. These are all topics of speech pathology, and they are all topics that your speech coach should be intimately familiar with.

If you’re looking for a certified SLP to provide you with accent modification or other communication skills training services, you have several options to search. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is Google. You can google the services you are looking for and your geographic area. Then, you can weed through the results to see which speech trainers are SLPs and which came to the profession from another field.

If you are unsure if your Google results are certified SLPs or not, you can verify their certification at the ASHA website. You will need their first and last names, their state, and the country to perform this check. Click here to verify a speech trainer’s certification.

A more targeted way to search is to search the CORSPAN database[1]. CORSPAN stands for the Corporate Speech Pathology Network, and it is an international organization of certified speech-language pathologists who provide accent modification, public speaking, presentation skills, voice training, and other communication skills training. At corspan.org you can search for a speech trainer in your geographic region.

Something worth noting about CORSPAN is that it is a membership-based group. There are many more speech trainer SLPs in the world than are in the group, but the group provides an easy way to find a qualified speech trainer in your area. Because one of the requirements for membership in CORSPAN is being a certified SLP, it is more reliable than Google.

Changing an accent is not just an art, it is a science. Groups of speech sounds are interrelated in many ways, and some are a lot easier to change than others. With an individualized plan carefully laying out the speech sounds to address and the order in which to address them, an English speaker with an accent has the best chance at making lasting changes and getting the most bang for his/her buck.

[1] In the nature of full disclosure: I serve on the board of CORSPAN, so I am biased here. However, it is the only group of its kind, and the members are passionate about what they do.

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.

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.

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.

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