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!

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 [pullquote] develop a strategy to ask for a raise at the appropriate time[/pullquote]. (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. [pullquote] Very important! Keep a diary or a special list of your accomplishments (results of your work)[/pullquote] 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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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




One of the most common questions I get from my seminar participants is “How do I begin a conversation at work?” In other words, “How do I start small talk?”  This is a great question because the importance of small talk is huge in business and you need to use it to your advantage.  And if you are a non-native speaker of English, as added benefit, practicing small talk will increase your English language proficiency.

First, what is small talk? Let’s define it. It is non-business related conversation. It is discussing things unrelated to business and work, such as weather, family, hobbies, or weekend plans.

Why making small talk is important? Here is why. You can be the best specialist in the field but,  progress in your career, is highly dependent on your ability to build good working relationships with people at work. Why? Let’s face it — our success depends on people. Small talk is an effective way to connect with people and to build relationships, including relationships at work.

Can you engage in small talk at a business meeting?  Yes, you can, but you need to know when and how.  Here are a few important tips:

1. When. Always make sure you arrive at the meeting a few minutes before start time. You can and should make small talk while you wait for the meeting to start. Dominant word here —“before.”

2. What topics to discuss? You should discuss things unrelated to the meeting (general-interest subjects)  such as weekend plans, weather, family, hobbies, mentioned above, and movies, theater, sports, books, food, travel.

3. What small talk topics to avoid? Generally, avoid any topic that may concern private or personal matters. There are three major topics you should avoid when socializing in the United States: personal finances, politics, and religion.

  • Personal finances: Personal money management in the US is considered to be a private matter. Asking about personal spending or income is considered very rude. Especially, do not discuss salaries or how much another person makes. Matters of general interest, such as prices of gas or groceries would be acceptable. 
  • Discussing politics: Avoid political discussions. Politics is a very complicated and personal topic and is not an acceptable friendly small talk.  
  • Discussing religion: Religion and religious views  are also considered to be a private  and very personal matter and should not be discussed in business environment.

My best piece of advice for polite  small talk  —  always avoid any subject that may be of  an emotional nature.

Here are some more tips and examples:

  1. Look approachable: smile, have eye contact with others, have an upright posture, and open stance.
  2. Don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation. Say: “Hi, John (Eddie, Laura), how are you?”
  3. Keep a positive, light tone, don’t get too emotional, and listen.
  4. Always finalize a conversation graciously. Don’t simply cut it off. Say something like “It’s been great talking with you.”  “I really enjoyed hearing about…” “I’d love to hear about it when we have another chance to talk.”  “It was nice chatting with  you… (catching up with you…) Or just  say: “Nice talking to you” and smile.

Here are two possible scenarios that suggest techniques for small talk.

1. Gloria arrives a few minutes early for an office meeting. Jayesh, a colleague she knows well is already in the room. 

Gloria:   Hi Jayesh, how are you?

Jayesh: Great thanks, and you?

Gloria:  Well, I’m well. And enjoying the golden fall (autumn) in New England.

Jayesh:  Fall is great.  But I am also looking forward to winter. I love skiing and snowboarding.

Gloria:  The meeting is about to begin. I’d love to hear about it when we have another chance to talk.

2. Jayesh arrives early for a departmental meeting. A colleague from another department that he does not know, is already sitting at the table.

Jayesh:   Hi I am Jayesh. Are you here for the meeting on…?

Peter: My name is Peter, nice to meet you. I am from the Los Angeles office.

Jayesh:  Is it OK if I sit here? 

Peter:  Of course.

Jayesh: How do you find Washington this time of year?

Peter: Very hot, it is hotter than LA (Los Angeles).

Jayesh:  Really? Amazing! Listen, I have a pool party today at my house. If you are free, would like to join us? 

Peter: Sure. Thank you.

Jayesh:  The meeting is about to begin. Let’s talk about it after the meeting.

Listed below are sample conversational  phrases and questions that you can use to start and maintain small talk before a meeting starts.

Can I sit here? Is it OK if I sit next to you?  Is this seat vacant?

Did you get to the presentation on…(related to the meeting)? What did you think?

How are things working out with your new manager? (new boss/new colleague)

Have you been involved in this project before? How is it going so far?

Have you travelled far? How do you find our city? our weather? Is it your first visit?

Which department do you work in?

Did you see/watch football (soccer, basketball) last night?

How was your holiday? 

How did you like Florida (New York)? 

Have you been to this part of the country before?  

Have you been here before?

Want to watch the video on this topic? Click here

 You may also like: Three Vital Tips for Building Confidence in Business Meetings 

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 and educates on Business English and communication across language 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.    

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.
Cultural values often govern how people perform,  react to aspects of their work, and interact in the workplace.

What are cultural values? There are many definitions of cultural values.  Many scholars define values as consciously and subconsciously held set of beliefs and norms – often reflected in the morals, laws, customs, and practices of the society. Simply put, cultural values are the basis for establishing a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct within the culture.

Because of increasing diversity in the American workplace, successful mangers and employees need to understand how cultural values play out in the workplace. Consider this example.  An American and Asian employee were assigned to a particular project.  Their manager critiqued their work. The American employee spoke up in defense of his performance while the Asian employee remained silent.  The manager may mistake the Asian’s reaction to signify agreement or incompetence.  Since respectable assertiveness is valued in the American workplace,  the manager would likely think more highly of the American employee. The result could affect promotion opportunities.  The assertive employee is more likely to move up in his career than the Asian employee.
World Diversity Ship

World Diversity Ship

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 – IRCA – protects foreign nationals from discrimination based on citizenship and national origin.  However, only US citizens, permanent and temporary residents, conditional permanent residents and asylees and refugees are protected from citizenship discrimination.

Although it is not illegal to ask questions regarding immigration status, hiring managers, recruiters, and human resource professionals should avoid asking questions in such a way that may be perceived as discriminatory and which may lead to discrimination claims with the US Department of Justice.

For this reason it is crucial to phrase questions in a way that will help minimize the risk of filing a discrimination claim with the US Departments of Justice.  Below are examples of two questions that employers commonly ask when interviewing foreign nationals or candidates perceived as foreign nationals.

  • Poorly Phrased Question: What is your visa status for work authorization?  Suggested QuestionWill you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment visa status?
  • Poorly Phrased Question: Are you a US citizen or authorized to work permanently in the US? Suggested Question Are you currently authorized to work in the US on a full-time basis?

Keep in mind that posing the question will not eliminate the risk of a claim to be filed, but it will surely minimize that risk.




Should you say goodbye to your job?Most all of us have fantasies about quitting our job. So, you are burnt out at a dead end job. You daydream about how you approach your boss and say to him, “That’s it, I have had enough, I am quitting.”

But how wise is this? At what point should you take these fantasies seriously and take action? What are the consequences and how should you go about taking action? What should you do?
Here are some tips.

  • Psychiatrist Stephen Heidel, suggests self-examination first. Dig deeper into your past.  Did you have similar experiences in the past? If so, ask yourself if you are part of the problem.
  • Don’t make hasty decisions until you speak to your friend, spouse, career coach, or even shrink.  The last two do not come cheap but will be much cheaper than leaving your job before finding another. The bottom line  – you need to understand the situation from all sides rather than stewing in your own juices.
  • Write down two to three things you can do to improve your work situation. Keep in mind that according to a Harward University study, your brain cannot concentrate  on what you CAN and CANNOT do at the same time. So, you can be more productive by focusing on the things that can make a positive difference in your situation.


Vocabulary (americanisms
shrink = therapist 
the bottom line = final conclusion
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.