Succeed in America

Overcome Cultural and Linguistic Barriers. Improve Effectiveness 

As Carrie Underwood once said, “My cell phone is my best friend. It’s my lifeline to the outside world.” I would add that it is becoming more and more common to make business-related phone calls over a cell phone. However, due to connection s


pecifics, it may be challenging to sound professional especially if English is not your native language. For this reason, I am providing some samples that you can use in various situations.

Want to watch a YouTube clip on this topic first? Click here.

In this short article, I am going to list some useful and important cell phone phrases.[pullquote] I didn’t catch what you just said [/pullquote]

A fading or weak signal

  • I’m sorry, I’m losing you. Please call back, or can I call you back?  
  •  I can hardly hear you. Please let me call you or call my land line number.
  • You are breaking up. Let me call you back.
  • I am having trouble hearing you. Could you call me back?
  • Sorry – I didn’t catch what you just said.
  • I’m afraid the line is pretty bad. I am afraid that the signal is quite weak now.

A lost call

  • Hi, it’s Gloria again. Sorry I lost you. It appears that we got cut off.
  • Hi, it’s Gloria again. My cell phone dropped the signal.
  • I am driving. We are getting into a no connection zone and I will lose you shortly. Can I call you back in a few minutes?

From: How to Talk on the Phone  — Business English ESL (Phone Etiquette for both ESL and Native Speakers of English in  the Business Environment), Succeed in America Books, 2016. The complete guide can be found on Amazon.

Want to watch  video  on the topic?   Click here.

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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 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 amazon-underground-app-us-black.    


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.
When T&H are spelled together, they can denote two  sounds – /θ/  theta  and /ð/ eth. And I know, I know.  These sounds may be very challenging to pronounce. Even American-born children who grew up speaking English almost normally learn these sounds last. With the exception of Castilian Spanish and Greek, English is the only language that uses these two sounds.  To pronounce /Θ/,
  • place your tongue in between your upper and lower lips
  • slightly blow the air the air through your teeth (as if you are blowing on something hot)
  • if you look into the mirror, you should see the tip of your tongue.
In some  cultures, it is inappropriate to stick your tongue out. But the more you practice, the less obvious it will be. So go to your bathroom or mirror and just practice.
  Here are some words to practice: Thankful, thank you, three, thermometer, think, growth, path, math, South, North, seventh, thousand, oath, cloth  Sound   /ð/ Pronunciation sound /ð/ is the same, only it is voiced (which means that your voice cords vibrate). The, this, these, those, together, there, thanks, withdraw, think, throw  TIP: If you putt a finger or two on the throat when pronouncing ‘Th’ for the voiced sound /ð/, e.g., . ‘The’, ‘This’, ‘That’, ‘Them’, ‘They’, ‘Those’ you will feel vibration.  When you do that    for the unvoiced ‘Th’ sound /θ/ , as in ‘Think’, the throat does not vibrate. Hopefully, you have learned how to pronounce these sound.  If you still have difficulty, do not hesitate to contact me.
It is a fact of life.  English language usage can be confusing. For your information, I am going to list some of confusing groups of words.  Read them through and then download  a useful tool for communicating in Business English,  Succeed in America Guide to Most Commonly Mispronounced, Misspelled and Confused Words in Business English. Download here. 1. Some words sound alike and spelled alike but have different meanings. These words are called homonyms. course – direction (as in  “the ship took course for the island”) course – series (as in “course of lectures”) course – track (as in “golf course”) bow [bau] –  as  in “to bend over at the waiste” bow [bou] – a decorative looped knot waist [weist] — usually the thinnest part of the body between the ribs and the hips waste [weist] — throw away, misuse vast — very big, huge Others sound alike but have different meaning and spelling.  These are called homophones. piece – peace weight – wait plain – plane And then there is another group of words called heteronyms. They have different pronunciation and meaning but the same spelling. polish [‘poulish],  as in nationality – polish [‘palish], as in polish your car live [liv], as I liv in New York  – live [laiv], as in live lobsters tear [tear], as in tear a paper – tear [tiar], as in she was in tears bow [bou], as in  1.  bend over, 2. loped knot – bow [bau], as in tree branch And then there is a fourth group of words that are spelled differently, mean different things but have somewhat similar pronunciation and esy to confuse. alteration – altercation sedative – sedentary – seductive perceive – persist shovel – shuffle vacation [vei‘keishn] – vocation [vou‘keishn] walk – work And finally, there are words which are may mean almost the same thing, but cannot be used interchangeably assure – ensure – insure fewer – less It is almost impossible to avoid mistakes with English usage, but you can avoid many of these mistakes by using  Succeed in America Guide to Most Commonly Mispronounced, Misspelled and Confused Words in Business English. Download here. Any additions? E-mail us or leave a comment below.
In the English language, there are words and expressions that are used more frequently than others. While the subtleties of how they are used can be confusing for non-native speakers of English, recognizing and using them properly will help improve conversational English – due to their higher frequency of usage in spoken English. Two such words are “can” and “can’t”. These words have opposite meaning and are often confused by non-native speakers (ELL and ESL students and professionals) because they may sound the same to a foreigner’s ear. What is confusing is that native speakers tend to reduce the vowel in “can” and omit the “t” in “can’t”. Misunderstanding and misusing them may create havoc in business. I will illustrate using a few examples: CAN: What a baby can do? A baby can cry. A baby can eat. In these two sentences, CAN is used along with a verb (cry and eat). Here “can” is pronounced as [kÉ™n] or [kn]. In other words the “a” sound [æ] is reduced. However, in some cases [æ] is not reduced, not stressed: 1. When CAN is the last word in a sentence: E.g., Yes I CAN – [kæn], or:I will do it as soon as I CAN. 2. When used as negative, both in full – CANNOT and abbreviated – CAN’T. E.g., You CANNOT or CAN’T use the pool after 9 PM. 3. When it is stressed, or emphasized. E.g., I will prove to you that I CAN run a marathon. CAN’T: What a baby can’t do? A baby “CAN’T” speak or A baby “CAN’T”walk. A non-native speaker may not distinguish this subtle difference and this may sound much like “CAN” [kæn]. So, CAN is not stressed Except for thee three situations listed above). CAN’T is always stressed which means the negative form of can is very strong. One Last tip, to be 100% sure 1) Ask to clarify – Do you mean “CAN” or “CANNOT?; 2) Use the full word – To express negative, say – I “CANNOT”. Practice: read aloud the sample sentences listed in this article a few times until you get it right.