Succeed in America

Overcome Cultural and Linguistic Barriers. Improve Effectiveness 

Whether we like it or not, we are judged by our voices.If you want to come across positively , you should pay special attention to your voice.When you express yourself at a meeting or make a presentation to a group of people it  is important to have an authoritative and appealing voice. Our voice, its quality and how we create sound when we  speak has a great impact on our ability to influence people, sound credible person and persuade others.

However, if you have these bad voice habits along with a thick accent in addition, you probably often hear “say it again please”, “can you repeat that?” How to fix this? Follow these tips on using your voice effectively.

1. First of all make sure you open your mouth enough when you speak. To do this make sure you do not clench your teeth and also drop your jaw slightly. Imagine that you are chewing a big piece of gum. This will ensure that sound travels freely in the mouth cavity and leave your mouth with a better resonance.

2. Make sure that when you speak that you have at least 2.5 centimeters (one inch) of space between your upper and lower teeth. This will help you to enunciate better, make lips more animated and your voice will sound clear.

3.Before a meeting or presentation, make yourself yawn. This will relax and stretch vocal and throat areas. Do it over and over gain until you feel that your face and mouth muscles are relaxed enough.

3. Drink lots of water. You need enough water in your bloodstream for your vocal cords to be properly hydrated.  We need about 1.5 liter of day.

4. It is very important to evaluate yourself! The best way to do that is to record yourself and play it back. Do it over and over again until you are satisfied with results.

5. Join a Toastmasters Club in your area.  Toastmasters  International is an educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills. It is a perfect place to practice your voice and to get a constructive feedback from other members.

6. To take a step further in improving your voice, download the free Your Speaking Voice manual from the Toastmasters online store.

Remember, your speaking voice is a big part of your image.  Don’t neglect it. Improve and perfect it!

P1030591.PNGPhone technology is not perfect. When transmitted over the phone, our speech becomes less intelligible. Often, some letters and intended sounds may sound exactly like other letters and sounds when pronounced over the phone. For instance, often, it is difficult to distinguish “f” from “s”, or A (letter A) from numeral 8 (eight), sound  sound m. (This is an excerpt from How to Talk on the Phone (Business English ESL). 

To clarify, Americans spell over the phone all the time especially when it comes to names and email addresses. As a matter of fact, Americans provide and request correct spelling more often than other nations do. 

When you need to spell something out over the phone, give words or names that are very common for each letter. For instance,” Is it digit 8 or A as in apple? ” Here is another example, 

“My address is 55 Mill Plain Road, Suite 31-F.”  “Is it S as in Samuel?” “No, F as in Frank……”  

If you are unsure of spelling or do not understand the other party, say: 

-Excuse me, how do I spell that?

-Would you spell that for me?

-I am sorry, would you say that again.

More examples.

– My first name is Nara. N as in New York,  A as in ArgentinaR as in RioA as in Amsterdam.

– My name is Nina Shved. How do you spell your last name, please?

– My name is Nina Shved. How do you spell your last name, please? That’s  S  as in San-Franciscoh as in Havana,  as V as in Venice E as in Europe, D as in Denmark. That’s Shved.

 Remember to give words or names that are very common for each letter. I find using widely known geographical names is helpful when spelling words over the phone.

To be able to spell over the phone you need to know the names of the English alphabet.  The following table contains the names of the  letters and suggested words to identify them over the phone:

The Names of the Letters of the American Alphabet




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tn[2] (2)**Dr. Nara Venditti is the owner of Succeed In America specializing in business communication skills for foreign-born professionals and cross-cultural communication in the workplace. She is passionate about cross-cultural understanding and helping non-native speakers of English succeed in the American workplace. She
 speaks  and writes on Business English and communication across languages and cultural divides. She is  the author of numerous articles and books on the topics available on SucceedinAmerica  and  on  Amazon




Statue of Liberty SpoonIf you use prepositions incorrectly, you will not be understood, or even worse misunderstood, when you communicate in English. This article provides ways to improve your conversational business English by using prepositions correctly.

What are prepositions? These are small, but important words that describe relationships between words in a sentence. They link a word or word group to others. If you misuse them, you will confuse your listeners. Most commonly used prepositions are – of, in, on, at, for, to, from, among, between). Prepositions convey different types of information, such as place (in the room, at work), time (at 7 o’clock, in three hours, on November 7th) or they may give a new meaning to verbs, such as show up, give in, come across.

If you use prepositions incorrectly, you will not be understood, or even worse misunderstood, when you communicate in English.

The challenge in using prepositions correctly comes from the fact that in many cases there is no logic or rules about using prepositions (in other words, in many cases, they have idiomatic or figurative usage).

Here is my position on prepositions – you need to memorize their usage. I repeat, ESL and ELL students and professionals need to memorize which prepositions are used in certain phrases and situations.

Here are three points that will help you to use prepositions correctly in conversational English. 

  1. Be aware of difference of using prepositions in your native language and English and the fact that in many cases they don’t translate directly from one language to another. To make matters worse, in some languages prepositions do not exist at all. Also, there are differences not only in the choice of prepositions, but also in whether a preposition is used at all. Even languages that are relatively not so different from English (e.g., Romance languages, such as French, Italian, German or Rumanian or Slavic languages, such as Polish, Serbian or Russian) may also have challenges with prepositions. And for the same reason – in English prepositions are often used in idiomatic way, rather than governed by grammatical rules or “logics.”
  2. Record preposition usage. Become a “language Sherlock Holmes.” When you read books, newspapers or your co-workers’ e-mails, record preposition usage in a separate file or note-book. Make a list of preposition usage in a sentence. Use a good dictionary to understand their meaning.
  3. Practice. Once you have a list, repeat aloud prepositions in sentences.

So keep these three points in mind, and you will dramatically increase your conversational English. 

One final thought. Keep in mind that sometimes words that look like prepositions, do not function as prepositions. For instance, go over, speak up, get along, or make up. These expressions are called phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs have idiomatic meaning which means that the meaning of two words together does not correspond to the meaning of component words.

Strong accent can have an enormous impact on how people are perceived. In a University of Chicago study, it was found that people with  non-native accents are perceived as”  less credible” than those with native accents.
Many non-native speakers understand this  and  believe that it is pronouncing sounds correctly that will help to make themselves understood and  to make their point. 
This is true but my  advice to you – don’t focus just on difficulties you have with some sounds.  In many  cases, intonation is much more important.
Take so called tag questions.
Tag Questions, or, questions tags, are short phrases that change a declarative statement into a question .For example, “You are Vanessa Del Monte, aren’t you?”,  “aren’t you?” is the tag question.
Just as in many languages, tag questions are more common in everyday spoken conversational English including its business variety. However, in English, different intonation or music in tag questions, carries different meaning.
Two examples of the same statement “You are moving to New York, aren’t you?”: 
      1)     with falling intonation, “aren’t you?” implies that you are sure of something and looking for confirmation.  (I am sure that you are moving and I want your confirmation)
      2)      with rising intonation, “aren’t you?” expresses uncertainty. (I am not sure you moving and I want an answer) . Although a sentence may be grammatically correct and pronounced correctly, the wrong intonation of a tag question may convey unintended meaning.
Consider the following situation involving an ELL and ESL learner.  While on a date at a restaurant you say, “You like this restaurant, don’t you? With rising intonation, “don’t you?” sounds like you are asking if she likes it. However, with falling intonation don’t you? sounds like you are telling her to like it. What do you think her reaction will be?  Right, you guessed.  This could be your last date with this person.
Consider another situation. You are planning a one day vacation and you ask your colleague to cover your desk for a day. “You will cover my desk, won’t you?”  With rising intonation, it will sound as if you are politely asking for help.  With falling it will sound as an order or assignment which you are not  authorized for anyway.
What will it do to your relationship?  You’re right again.  Nothing good.
To summarize, be careful when using tag questions.  Their intonation may send a wrong message.
We are constantly judged by what we say and how we say it. One of the things that could be in the way of  a favorable image is a heavy accent. That’s when accent reduction comes to the rescue. I actually call accent reduction an “accent makeover”.  Why makeover? Just as accomplishing an image makeover, your unique personality is still there but it is a better you.  The same with an accent makeover.  You still have an accent but your speech  is easy to understand and you articulate your ideas more clearly and persuasively.  And we know how important that is in business and in personal life! There are a number of tips that will help you  effectively reduce your accent.  I will list the top three. 1. When you speak English,  speak slowly.  The faster you speak, the heavier your accent will be. For the average American speaker, the rate is not as fast as , say, in Indian languages.  Here is a quick tip for you – stretch your vowel sounds and your speech will be slower and easier to understand. 2. Enunciate.  Enunciating means producing sounds very distinctly.  Pay special attention to word endings and vowels. 3. Read aloud every day and tape yourself.  Listen to the tapes, critique yourself.  Repeat words over and over.  Remember, accent makeover takes practice. Yes, it could be a lot of work, but your efforts will be rewarded.  If you can express yourself clearly and persuasively, you will build better relationships and achieve your career goals faster.
Correct word stress is important for clear pronunciation. To understand and properly use word stress, it necessary to understand syllables.  Simply put, a syllable is a part of a word with one vowel, one beat. All words are made up of one or more syllables. For instance, “son” has one syllable (one beat) and “father” has two syllables (two beats).    English dictionaries will show the different parts of a word. An easy way to demonstrate and gain an understanding of syllables is to clap the number of parts while speaking the word.  Do it now, LOVE [luv] – one syllable /beat,  realistic –RE-AL-IS-TIC – 4 syllables/beats,  colleague – COL-LEAGUE – 2 beats/syllables.