There are thousands, maybe millions, of people from all over the world working in American companies. Many of them are highly educated, highly motivated, and highly valuable human assets, to their colleagues, their companies, and the shareholders of those companies.
A portion of them have a problem—a pebble in their shoe, really—that could keep them from climbing the career ladder, delivering their full potential to their employers, and earning the rewards and recognition they deserve. And the problem is this: they are hard to understand when they speak.
This is not a trivial problem. It frustrates team members, slows down work, and can cause colleagues to discount or dismiss the contributions of the non-native speaker. This, in turn, can cause the non-native speaker of English to become discouraged and speak more tentatively, thus adding to the problem. Worse yet, he or she could disengage from the work, yet remain on the team as a non-participating member. After all, we all know when people are pretending to listen to us and pretending to understand: we know when we’re being ignored.
Providing voice and speech training can unlock the value of our colleagues from foreign lands. The work goes beyond accent reduction to what I call the whole voice.
Accent reduction is not really an accurate term, or a valid goal. The foreign speaker will always have her native accent because it is the music of her native culture. It will not go away, and she does not want it surgically removed or reduced. Nor do we. What she can do is learn to make the particular English sounds that are difficult for her by learning how to place her tongue, lips, palate and jaw in the proper position.
But that is not enough. He will be understood when he uses the full strength of his vocal instrument in combination with his improved diction. His voice is a wind instrument, and he must learn to play it as best he can—with the full strength of his breath, and the clear stops of his vowels and consonants.
Voice and speech training can have a measurable impact on the clarity of students’ speech, on their confidence, and on the comprehension of listeners. The process we have developed at Sims Wyeth & Co. includes accent reduction because it increases vocal variety in addition to improving enunciation and other interpersonal communication skills.
Demosthenes was a famous Athenian orator and statesman who trained himself to speak well by putting a pebble in his mouth to strengthen his clarity of speech. If you have non-native speakers working for your company who are hard to understand—who have pebbles in their shoes—which makes it hard for them to deliver their full potential, give them a break. With good training, you can help them strengthen the clarity of their speech, which will strengthen them and the productivity of your organization.
Hire Sims Wyeth & Co. to improve your team’s leadership skills, presentation skills, voice, speech, and speech writing. We’ll help with stage fright, body language, presentation structure & strategy, persuasive speaking, and PowerPoint so you’ll look and sound your best.
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