Ready to jumpstart your spoken-English/Accent Modification practice routine this holiday season in Chicago?

I don't know about you, but I've been mapping out what I want to get better at as we head into 2018. Making more interesting videos than just my talking head--with things like text overlay, annotation lines, and moving objects. Running webinars that will help the people I serve. Possibly you.

My question for you is whether you can relate with respect to your spoken English. Is it good timing for you to concentrate on your spoken English so that you can communicate with even more clarity, ease, and efficiency? Where what you say aligns with your intentions. 

Join me, Sarah, in the Chicago Loop for a 4-week Accent Modification/English Pronunciation Skills Training program 

During each 3-hour session, I will

  • demystify the English sound system,
  • share a few kinesthetic techniques to help you develop a solid feeling for a few key speech features, and
  • train you how to monitor your spoken English so that you get into the habit of flipping the English-speaking switch in real-time spontaneous speech.

At the end of this no-nonsense engaging English Pronunciation Skills for Professionals program, you will be able to better

  • share your subject matter expertise with clarity
  • ensure that your listeners are able to efficiently process (and retain) the information, AND
  • align what you say in spoken English with your message and intentions

Interested?

Want to schedule a call?

Most English pronunciation apps go horizontal. Go vertical!

Someone recently showed me an app where you can play a scene from a movie. A character says one or two lines and you can then click the record button and copy what the character said, to then hear what you recorded. 

The one problem with this app—and others I’ve seen on the market—is that they offer a variety of cool things you can do in English but they simply go horizontal.

  • Drag the correct article (a, an, the) into the sentence.
  • Choose the best synonym for a word in the sentence.
  • Choose whether you hear rice, lice, or nice.

These identify this tasks help keep your English speaking brain active and they’re great to help kill time when waiting for the metro or plane, or minutes before (or during) a meeting. But there's a limited level of engagement with what's before you. Your attention is sort of going horizontal. Can I get the next article in the next sentence? What does this one word in the list of synonyms mean? Let me see if I can distinguish between the /r/, /l/, and /n/ in the next set of words. Some of this may push you to dip a little to get a better understanding about some word or grammar/pronunciation point, but then you're onto the next thing. Going horizontal

Add vertical to your horizontal

To steadily work towards adjusting your spoken English for real-time, spontaneous situations—like a presentation, interview, or holiday party just around the corner—I suggest also going vertical

Vertical is where the human comes in. A process of depth is added to the equation. Any human trainer or instructor is going to have his or her approach but it will be—or should be—one they’ve carefully thought through, experimented with, and worked out. They’ve worked through what makes sense and works for them--and the people they help. 

In my world: Vertical =

  • Reflecting on & getting feedback on how one produces sound (e.g., How does your voice sound in your first language compared to in English?) +
  • Understanding how the English sound system is different from that of your first or second language +
  • Integrating the individual sounds to help produce the rhythm (or music) of spoken English +
  • Learning specific kinesthetic techniques to work with the levels of stress & variations of intonation that go into all varieties of spoken English (Note: You can read about these techniques, but practicing with a live human will more than likely get you to where you want to go faster) +
  • Thinking about all of this in terms of the processing attention of the listener. 

Need a little help?

Yes, I'm human. I provide customized 1-on-1 programs for professionals who ultimately want to be better understood in spoken English. They want to share their ideas and engage with the people they need to reach for their professional success.

I’m also offering a 6-week English pronunciation skills for professionals program, starting this Thursday, November 16th.

Shoot me a note below or email me to let me know how I can help you. 

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10 spoken-English speech features I hope you pay attention to daily to not reduce your accent

Sound board pic.png

It's true. Paying regular active attention to how you're speaking in English will help you to get in the habit of adjusting your spoken English a bit when someone asks you to repeat or clarify.

I recommend practicing a little every day. Read a paragraph or a slide deck. Read out loud in small chunks. Record yourself and listen. Join friends and sing karaoke. Whatever it takes. Consistency is key.

Focus on the following speech features of the English sound system

  • Vowel sound enunciation. Don’t mumble.

  • Speak from the diaphragm. Steadily produce your volume from the beginning to ends of your sentences.

  • Holds and pauses between idea chunks. Note: Don’t think of "fluency" as speed. Think of it as the ability to communicate in idea chunks, where the listener can follow from point to point with relative ease.
  • Consonant articulation. Produce the consonants in the middle and at the ends of the words in English. Note: If you're a native speaker of Spanish, Vietnamese, or Chinese, I recommend holding the final sound extra strong when you’re practicing. 
  • Voicing. Make sure to voice the English vowel sounds and voiced consonants (e.g., /b/, /d/, /g/, /dʒ/)
  • Pitch variation within the key words—words of information (e.g., nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc.). This goes for all speakers, native and non-native speakers of English alike.
  • Vowel sound lengthening within the stressed syllable sounds of the key words
  • Vowel sound shortening within the unstressed syllable sounds of the key words. Note: This is super important. The small guys, i.e., the unstressed syllable sounds, are just as important as the big guys, or the stressed sounds. 
  • Highest point of pitch variation on the last key word of information at the end of your sentences in neutral speech.
  • Rising or falling intonation at the end of your sentences. This helps the listener to parse out where one sentence ends and another begins. 

Spoken English clarity does not equal accent reduction

I’d say that within each of these features, there’s room for accent—that is, your first or second language influence. This isn’t about reducing your accent but simply about paying attention a bit more when you are communicating in spoken English with speakers of different language backgrounds. Paying attention to these 10 features daily will help you to flip the English speaking switch when an occasion calls for it. Perhaps for a presentation, client meeting, or interview. That’s it. 

Need a little help?

Join us starting next week for our 6-week English Sound System Studio: A Chicago Loop English Pronunciation Skills for Professionals program. I promise. It’ll be informative, engaging and group supportive with step-by-step guidance each week. 

 

Learn more

Clarity drives information retention & human interactions

Voice. It's important and very personal. How you voice or articulate what you have to offer (your product, service, personality, information) is incredibly important. It needs to be received in the workplace for things to get done efficiently. The less effort there is the more that gets done with more ease.

How's your spoken-English voice? Is what you have to offer being delivered and received with ease?

Join me for English Sound System Studio in the Chicago Loop

Let me be clear from the start: At the end of this course, you will be able to 

  • share your subject matter expertise with more efficiency
  • ensure that your listeners are better able to efficiently process (and retain) the information
  • interact with your colleagues, supervisor(s), staff, and/or clients with more ease.

What we’ll do is get into the English sound system. We’ll break it apart because like any language, it's a system with its own set of cues. I’ll share a number of techniques that I’ve picked up from others and developed on my own while working intensively with the English sound system over the years. 

With the group, you'll develop a solid vocal foundation (e.g., humming—see my last post) and steadily integrate the layers of speech features that we cover into real-time spontaneous speech.

How we practice these features will be informed by what YOU need to do in English. Before we begin the program, I’ll learn from you what you need to do. Deliver a presentation? Interact in an interview? Engage in small talk at a networking event? I’ll then customize the program to include practice tasks that will help you.

Clarity helps deliver

Clarity drives information retention and human interactions. You may be selling yourself—or whatever it is that you’re talking about—short if you’re not careful. 

Want to talk?

Need a little clarification about my upcoming 6-week program English Sound System Studio? Please, drop me, Sarah, a line at sgallant@ccg-training.com or fill out the form below.

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Hands down, humming helps your spoken English!

I recently ran a program for a group of 18 adults from China over this past month. All of them had studied English for a number of years. They were fairly fluent and had a pretty good range of vocabulary under their belts. They are here in Chicago for a 3-month delegation program. Working with me on their spoken English was the first leg of their overseas training journey. 

Hands down, the intensive vocal humming exercise that we did on day 1 reaped the most benefits. I heard an immediate vocal shift connectedness that carried them steady throughout this speech program. Not only did I hear a stronger sound, that which in the U.S. typically translates as "confident," but a couple of participants came up to me at the end of the day and expressed feeling more confident to speak in English. They explained that humming helped them to break through a discomfort they felt due to being displaced from the familiar. Concentrating simply on producing a steady humming sound from word to word helped them to focus on their voices, and not on their new surroundings. 

H(u)mm, let me give you a demo and talk you through this a bit

Look at the text below as you listen to my audio recording.  Can you hear the "humming in the background" sound that I demonstrate? If you can't hear this, feel free to send me a note. I'm always interested in hearing how people hear sound produced in language.

Can you produce this humming in the background sound between words? Again, feel free to send me a note

Exercise:

  • Hello.
  • Hello Bob. How are you?
  • Hello Bob. How are you? Are you in Chicago?
  • Hello Bob. How are you? Are you in Chicago? Yes I (y)am.

Audio recording

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The idea of "spoken English clarity" can get a bit fuzzy, can't it?

What's your line of thinking when it comes to speaking in front of audience, or anyone for that matter?

  • The content is what matters. Your English speech clarity is of secondary importance OR  
  • English speech clarity is just as important as your message?

Yep, people speak differently. Can't argue with that. You have accents, personalities, moods (tired, excited, bored), speech habits etc. What's clear to one listener might not be immediately clear to another listener. Perhaps the listener simply needs to adjust to the speaker's accent, mood, speech habits, etc. Would you agree that the listener has some responsibility to stick with the speaker and focus on the content?

Clear is smart

In spite of this fuzzy idea about speech "clarity," I'd argue that if you're delivering information in a presentation or interacting in a meeting, it's in everyone's best interest for you to pay attention to how you speak. Clear is smart. This goes for both native and non-native speakers alike. 

If English is your native language, concentrate on your speed. Make a point of enunciating your vowel sounds clearly. Pay attention to any professional speaker who has received some form of speech coaching, and you'll probably hear crisp consonant sounds being uttered at the end of his or her key words of information.

If you're a non-native speaker of English, concentrate on your use of pauses, stress, and intonation. Stress and intonation are the specific cues that make up the English sound system. Every language has its own. If your audience consists of primarily native speakers of English, I recommend taking these cues seriously. More of what you're saying will  be retained by your listener(s). (You want that, don't you?)

Need some help with your spoken English "clarity"?

International speakers of English (i.e., non-native speakers), join me in the Chicago Loop for one of the following:

Have a question or want to talk?

Shoot me a note below. It would be great to hear from you.

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Just imagine communicating in spoken English like a subject matter expert rockstar...

Microphone Pic.jpg

I (Sarah Gallant) was speaking with a client by telephone the other day. A director of a business team here in Chicago, from China. Someone who's used to standing in front of a group of people, engaging his audience with hand gestures, and conservatively moving about on the stage to help draw people into what he has to say. Into what he knows so well and talks about often in meetings and conferences.

This client was sharing a specific experience where he was speaking in front of a room of 100 people. Instead of the usual lapel microphone, he was given a hand microphone. He explained that he felt this object was a barrier. He hadn't rehearsed with it. He hadn't practiced speaking into a hand-held microphone while simultaneously engaging his audience by using his hands. One of his colleague friends mentioned after the event that he noticed that my client's hand was shaking a bit.

Is English your second (or third or fourth) language?

Have you had a similar experience like my client? In addition to some last minute adjustment (lapel to hand-held microphone), you were also having to pay special attention to how you were speaking? English isn't your first language. You were carefully enunciating the clear vowels and articulating the final consonants of the key words while trying to sound "natural."

Step forward and vary your pitch in spoken English

One suggestion for handling such a last-minute adjustment is to take command of the stage with your voice. Shift your mental vocal attention not to the microphone but internally to your voice and production of sound in order to engage the audience. 

In my last post, I shared three tips for creating a solid vocal presence in spoken English:

  • Open your mouth to enunciate the clear vowel sounds clearly.
  • Speak from the diaphragm to project a steady volume from the beginning to ends of your sentences.
  • Practice humming to connect the sounds.

I'd now like to add two additional tips for engaging an audience.

Step forward. Perhaps exaggerate the first part of a sentence to simply get into a vocal presence mindset where you feel in control despite any barrier up on stage. Shift your attention from the microphone to your production of sound as a means to launch your presentation.

Vary your pitch in spoken English. I'm not talking about speaking like a valley girl and sounding goofy like you're perhaps imitating how English sounds to you. (Btw, it's worth asking yourself, How does English sound to me? There are obviously variations in how people speak. Ask yourself this question in different situations with different speakers.) 

My suggestion is to concentrate on speaking in a strong steady sound while incorporating a little more pitch change on the last key word of information in your sentences. This helps draw the listener's attention to the new information, which again is typically at the end of the English sentence. 

Need a little help?

In both November and December, I'll be running a series of three workshops. They are what I call the golden nuggets of communicating clearly in spoken English. In my 8-week course, I go into a lot more detail about the specific speech features of English rhythm. But if you're limited in time and feel an immediate need to improve your vocal presence, sound, and rhythm in spoken English, I highly recommend the following three workshops:

  • Develop a Solid Vocal Presence
  • Articulate to be Better Understood
  • Alternate to be Better Understood

Click HERE to view what I (again, Sarah Gallant at sgallant@ccg-training.com) have coming up in the Chicago Loop. 

 

Boost your best spoken English by developing a solid vocal presence

Are you a global workforce professional who is proficient-or near proficient-in spoken English? Did you study in a Masters or Ph.D. program here in the States? Have you been working here for 10+ years? Do you communicate frequently with colleagues and clients in spoken English. Do you still feel like you need to push your spoken English to the next level to help you advance your professional career?

Pay attention to vocal presence when communicating in spoken English

What I encourage you to do now is go back to some of the basics. Go back and develop a solid clear speech foundation. Concentrate on your vocal presence.

Vocal Presence Tip #1: Exaggerate your mouth movement

Speakers of all language groups (I mean ALL language groups) could benefit from opening their mouths more to enunciate their stressed vowel sounds in a more open way. These stressed vowel sounds lie in the key words of information (the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, question words--and so many more). Enunciating these sounds help the listener(s) process what you are saying with less effort. 

Enunciating more requires that you to pay attention to how your mouth, lips and jaw move when you speak in English. To develop the habit of enunciating more clearly, more openly, I recommend exaggerating your mouth movement while speaking in English a little every day. Perhaps, say, 10 minutes per day.

Vocal Presence Tip #2: Control your volume

Whether you're communicating important information at work or simply chatting in a meeting or networking event, it's important to keep a steady volume from the beginning to end of your sentences. The volume needs to start strong to capture the listener's attention.  The projection of sound needs to carry its presence to the end of the sentence. After all, the structure of the English sentence is such that the speaker typically starts a sentence with old or shared information of what was said in the previous sentence and then builds on and introduces new information. It's critical for the listener to hear the new information. 

Speaking from the diaphragm, that muscle under your ribs, can readily help you to project a stronger sound in spoken English. If you are accustomed to speaking from your throat or upper chest, I recommend building the diaphragm muscle and developing the habit of speaking from the diaphragm.  

Vocal Presence Tip #3: Hum to connect the sounds

Humming from the start helps international speakers of English develop a feeling for the connectedness of sounds present in the English sound system. While the American English sound does have a humming quality, my intention is not to train clients to adopt the American sound (even though some of them say to me at the beginning, I want to reduce my accent and sound American). I use this humming technique to simply help clients begin developing a feeling for the connected sound that is core to English rhythm. 

To hum and connect your sounds, concentrate on creating a constant background noise between the ending and beginning of words. To start with this, I recommend taking a paragraph. First hum and then begin reading the paragraph. Try to maintain this humming sound between the words. If you're doing this right, you should sound a bit like a robot.

(Side note: There are indeed rules for connecting the sounds in English, but I'd say that developing a feeling for this connectedness from the start is more efficient in the long run. And more fun!)

Interested in gaining more insight into the English sound system?

Go ahead and sign up for our newsletter. Sarah Gallant, English language specialist and small business owner, gets into a lot more depth about such topics. Just click HERE.

You can also read what CommuniClear Global has coming up this fall by clicking HERE

Want to contact Sarah directly? Simply fill out the form below. 

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Start with a solid English pronunciation skills foundation

Have you ever tried using a book and CD/MP3 recording program to learn about the English pronunciation sound system? Did you find that this self study program was good in that it offered thorough explanations and plenty of examples to work with; it also offered a sort of workbook-style practice routine intended to help you every step of the way?

For your schedule and needs at the time, however,  did you feel that this program offered too many details? Did you find it difficult to keep any sort of practice momentum going?

Start with a solid English pronunciation skills foundation

Every language has its own sound system. There are, let's say, core speech features which make up its foundation. What features play a sort of interconnected role in your language?

In English, I recommend focusing on the following for starters: 

  • Mouth movement and idea chunk stretching. Moving your mouth to enunciate the stressed vowel sounds in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs is gold for being better understood from the start. So is stretching the vowel sounds at the end of each idea chunk. Mumbling--not moving your mouth-- simply makes the key words of information difficult to understand. Stretching helps with the production of the clear vowel sounds which are core to English rhythm
  • Consonant articulation. Articulating the consonant sounds is absolutely critical for helping the listener to perceive the the syllable sounds (clear and reduced). Otherwise, words and sentences become something like alphabet soup for the listener.
  • Alternating the stressed & unstressed sounds. Alternating the stressed and unstressed sounds at the word, phrasal and sentence levels is key to a global English pronunciation rhythm. In addition, if you incorporate a small pitch change into the stressed sounds, this physically helps you to produce the consonant sounds which follow. That is, the sounds which make up the spine of spoken English. 

A few global English pronunciation practice techniques

Practicing a little every day is critical. 15-20 minutes is ideal but 5-10 minutes is better than nothing. If you want a few ideas, click HERE to read about a few practice techniques that I shared on March 9th. 

Want to talk?

Feel free to email me, Sarah, at sgallant@ccg-training.com. Or simply fill out the form below:

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