Succeed in America

Overcome Cultural and Linguistic Barriers. Improve Effectiveness 

Ask questions. An easy way to speak up is to ask questions or to ask others to elaborate on a point they made. Example: “Excuse me, do you mean…..?” or, “I don’t understand, could you explain it in another way?” Politely asking questions lets you can get into the discussion. However, don’t overdo it — don’t ask too many questions.

coin-1549051__340   In the current economic conditions, it is not unusual that your salary doesn’t increase each year that you have worked for a company.

   If you haven’t received a raise each year you have worked for a company, the value of your salary has gone down.  

  Even a cost-of-living increase (COL) of 3 – 4 percent is not considered a raise. It just keeps your salary even with inflation. It is wise to ask for a raise above a COL increase under any circumstance.

            If your boss does not give you a raise, you need to ask for it. 

            When is it a good time to ask for a raise? 

  • When you are very good at what you do
  • When you have taken on more job responsibilities 
  • When you have learned that you are being underpaid 

According to Wall Street Journal, nowadays, employers give out more raises based on performance than on years spent with the company. It is important to

 develop a strategy to ask for a raise at the appropriate time

. (There are two dominant notions here “ask” not “demand”, and “appropriate time“).

Here are some tips: 

Toot your own horn (promote yourself). Make sure that your boss knows which projects are yours.

 Very important! Keep a diary or a special list of your accomplishments (results of your work)

and learn how to make them known to your boss.

Do not ask for a raise. Prove that you deserve it. When discussing the raise, keep in mind the challenges your company and supervisor face and how your own work has helped them to overcome those challenges. 

-Determine what a competitive salary in your field is. Two well-known websites that provide information on salaries (at cost) are and  The  information  is provided at no cost (free)  at the Department of Labor site However, the information maybe somewhat out of date. 

-Don’t wait until appraisal time to ask for a raise. By that time the resources will be distributed and decisions made. So, start asking for a raise well before the process begins. 

-Don’t expect to get a raise right away. Rather, view it as a campaign and expect to win after several interactions. 

II you asked your boss about a raise and did not get a definite answer. Wait a week or so and ask again. Ask him or her “What do I need to do to make it happen?” or “May we talk about this again in four months?” 

If everything fails and you think that you are treated not the way you deserve, start looking for another job. It is always an option. Good luck!

tn[2] (2)**Dr. Nara Venditti is the author of  How to Get a Job in the USA available at SucceedinAmerica and  Amazon.

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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.  
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.
Every day millions of people use numbers either in face-to-face or over the phone interactions. Numbers may and do cause much confusion. This is because some numbers in English are pronounced similarly but have different stress patterns. Reversing the stress is likely to lead to disconnect between the communicating parties. These numbers are in the teens, such as 13, 14, 15…19, and in tens, such as 30….-90. We are talking about just seven pairs of numbers, but the impact of misunderstanding is huge – we use them all the time. Confusing these two pairs of numbers, can cause missing an important appointment, losing a sale, going to the wrong address – the possibilities are endless ! This is especially true for foreigners when accents and mispronunciation can wildly DISTORT the meaning. SITUATION Consider these examples This task will take me 16 hours to complete (compared to) This task will take me 60 hours to complete My wife is 14/40 years old This item costs 19/90 dollars The address is 15/50 Main Street (and so on and so forth). 

Here are two tips for you, to avoid misunderstandings when using these numbers Make sure you stress first syllable in 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and second syllable in 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90. Clarify and say “one three” or “three-zero” to help to visualize the number. Watch this video on the topic: