Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘V ’ vs. ‘W’ sound

English Pronunciation for Indian and South-Asian Speakers: ‘v’ vs. ‘w’

Listen carefully to Americans/British speakers when they say words with the letter ‘V’  and ‘W’. Notice how the ‘V’ sounds very different from the ‘W’; there is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English.

In Hindi, Punjabi and many other native languages from India, we do use ‘V’ sound. The absence of ‘W’ sound in our mother-tongue may be the reason that we often confuse/mix-up the two sounds in English language.

The ‘V’ sound:  To pronounce the ‘V’ sound correctly, place lower lip gently against the upper front teeth and make the sound. Don’t press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. You will need lots of practice if you are not used to it.
Remember, ‘V’ is a “hard” sound; make a tone, don’t just breathe out. Just breathing out makes the ‘F’ sound. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘V ’ vs. ‘W’ sound”

Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘R’ sound

Accent and pronunciation improvement for Indian speakers – avoid ‘rolling R’

When it comes to English language, especially for a novice speaker from India, many sounds and pronunciations need extra attention. The ‘r’ sound is one such challenge for many Indians treading the English speaking universe.
The American/English ‘r’ sound is very different from the way many Indians pronounce it. Without realizing, some of us put extra stress on ‘r’; this extra stress/pronunciation may sound similar to ‘rolling r’. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian speakers – the ‘R’ sound”

How to improve your body language

Ten tip on improving your body language

Watch any great and effective speaker; the body language plays a key role in our communication. Body language includes non-verbal communication such as body posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye movements.

Depending on the circumstances and who you talk to, the body language will differ. However, here are some important tips on how to improve your body language for effective communication:

1. Make eye contact, but don’t stare: Make eye contact while speaking or listening but not too much. Too much eye contact may look like staring and may distract the other person. You can find a happy medium with practice.

2. Relax your body, don’t fidget: Relax, don’t be nervous. Maintain a relaxed pose instead of all stiffened up. Avoid or minimize fidgety movement and nervous ticks. Do not shake your leg or tap your fingers against some surface.

3. Maintain some distance: In many cultures, people get too close or even all touchy feely. If other person starts to step back, you know that you are invading their space. You can lean forward to make a point or listen, but don’t be in other person’s face. Continue reading “How to improve your body language”

Hinglish – Indian English idioms and phrases – II

As mentioned in many previous posts, spoken English in India is very different as compared to the same language overseas. The Indian English – combined with heavy influence of Hindi and other local languages – is also called Hinglish. There are many related posts on this web-site on Hinglish usage and Hinglish words, and here is another one.

Quite a few commonly used Hinglish words and phrases are listed in the article:Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases. This is the follow-up, part II.

Adding to the previous list, here are some commonly used Hinglish words and phrases:

Equation has changed :- Relationship has changed, e.g. “My equation with my brother has changed.”
Road-side Romeo – Refer to a boys/man waiting near the street entrances to colleges and universities, or to those cruising the city streets in search of women to impress
Rubber :- Pencil eraser
Cent per cent :- 100 per cent
Where do you put up? :- Where are you currently staying?.
Wheatish (complexion) :- Light, creamy brown, or having a light brown complexion.
Flat :- Apartment
Shirt-pant or pant-shirt :- Shirt and Trousers
Tight slap :- Hard slap Continue reading “Hinglish – Indian English idioms and phrases – II”

Self-help tips on minimizing Hinglish usage abroad

10 easy Tips on how to minimize the usage of Hinglish (Indian English) overseas

Many of us, especially those who grew up in India, speak ‘Indian English’. This version of desi English – the Hinglishis, is heavily influenced by Hindi, other languages from India and desi terms. It is a common habit; and like many other habits, some times we don’t even realize that our English speech is often affected by our mother tongue.

Just like any other habit, the use of Hinglish is not so easy to get rid of. Habits die hard. In many cases, it may take a lot longer to get used to avoiding Hinglish completely. It needs a conscious effort to navigate away from any set routines, especially the ones developed during childhood –  our communicating or speaking habits.

While living overseas and away from India, we may not realize this but we are always adapting to the local ways of life. This process goes on even when we are not trying. This is a human nature; we are always adapting to our surroundings. Our language, our communication style and even our thinking – every aspect of our day-to-day life is slowly but surely impacted by the local culture and the society we live in. However, this adaptation and change is often very slow. The same applies to our habit of speaking Hinglish, the change is very slow unless we consciously try.

Listed below are some of the most effective ways to minimize the use of Hinglish. There are many simple things that we can do to speed up this adaptation to local English slang and language instead of continued habit of speaking in desi English – the Hinglish. Continue reading “Self-help tips on minimizing Hinglish usage abroad”

Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases

Hinglish: Indian English lost-in-translations abroad – Idioms and phrases from India

“What is your good name, sir?”
“Steve”
“It is nice knowing you, Steve Ji!”
…..
“Hey Boss, are you enjoying the fair?”
“Simply! Enjoying to the maximum!”
….
“How was the movie?”
“First-class!”

“I will give you a ring over the week-end.”
“OK boss”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this conversation as long as both parties are on the same page. The exchange above is perfectly understandable between two Indians in certain Indian regions.

English in India is spoken very differently as compared to the same language overseas. Our Indian mother-language and the grammar has significant impact on English – taught as a second or third language throughout the country. Sometime, the Indian English – due to the influence of Hindi and other local languages – is also called Hinglish.

Just like the conversation above, ‘Hinglish’  is quite common within Indian communities, ( “Tired, kya?” = “Are you tired?”). There is no harm, no foul if both sides understand it.

However, we tend to include some ‘Hinglish’ even when talking to American or English audience abroad. That is where we run into trouble, some miscommunication to say the least.

Many English words, Idioms and Phrases have different meaning in India or are used only in India. When used overseas, they don’t feel right or mean something entirely different.

Here are some of the common idioms and phrases, and their closest (or alternatives) usage in proper English when outside India:

What is your good name?: A polite way of asking someone’s name; it comes from translation of Hindi phrase – Shubh naam (good name). Politeness still intact, ‘May I know your name’ or ‘You name please?’ is more appropriate in non-Indian settings.

Eve teasing: It refer to sexual harassment of females, or taunting them – as in schools or colleges or in bazaars etc.

Poor Joke (pj): ‘Poor joke’ is not a commonly used phrase, a more common way of conveying the same thing is ‘bad joke’!

Time-pass: Relates to doing something trivial or of little importance – something that does not matter. ‘Nothing important’ is one of the many alternative way of responding, instead of ‘time-pass’.

Time-waste: This is worse than ‘time-pass’, doing something you don’t even enjoy. ‘It is a waste of time’ is a similar expression often used in Western countries.

Himalayan blunder:Very big mistake, a mistake of the size of Himalaya mountain. Blunder generally means ‘big’ mistake..may not need too many adjectives that are not commonly used overseas. Continue reading “Hinglish of India – Indian idioms and phrases”

How to improve your communication skills

Communications – the ability to share and exchange ideas and thoughts – consist of a wide range of skills. You cannot be a good communicator just by being a better speaker, or just by being a good listener.

And, if the conversation or exchange is not in your mother tongue (the first language) – such as some one from India living abroad – it takes some extra efforts to be good at it. For improving your communications skills, here are some of the main areas to consider :

Know what you are talking about: A communications or an exchange of ideas or the conversation is hollow and empty if it has no substance. Subject-matter knowledge helps with a meaningful discourse. And, if it is just a friendly ‘chat about nothing’ – the small talk – that can also be improved, just read on!

Be a good listener: Listening is the first and foremost part of the communication. It helps with understanding the topic of discussion (‘Know what you are talking about’ – the step above). A good listener also earns the respect or the speakers and is always in-tune with the discussion. For details on improving this skill, refer to the article titled ‘how to improve the listening skills.’ The importance of listening is highlighted in a separate article linked here.

Improve verbal communications: Along with listening skills, equally important is the ability to deliver the message – the talking part. A good command of the language, a good vocabulary and ability to effectively speak are the desired attributes for being good at verbal communication. Those with mother-tongue (the first language) different than the communication language often struggle in this sector. If English is your second language, or if you need to improve your accent in the new language, make sure to consider the tips and suggestion in the article titled, ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent.Continue reading “How to improve your communication skills”

Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills

At home or overseas – Importance of communication skills

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”~ Lee Iacocca

“They don’t seem to fully understand me”
“Am I speaking a foreign language or something?”
“How come no body is listening to me?”
“Is it my accent that is limiting my range of communication?”

Your ability to communicate defines you as a person. You can be the most knowledgeable person around, but if you cannot share your ideas – if you cannot communicate – your knowledge may not mean much.

One of the main hurdles in adapting to a new place or becoming a part of the new culture is the difficulty of integrating into the new society. Our ability to effectively communicate with other is very important in adjusting to a new place, or a new culture. In fact, our success or failure in any walk of life often depends on how well we communicate with others. Any business, any workplace, any relation, any family, any society…..is built around communication.

In the basic sense, a communication takes place when two or more people share or exchange information, ideas, gossips, knowledge etc. The main ways of communications include:
Verbal or oral communications: This is where we talk and listen. The ideas are exchanged, the rumors are discussed, a mother sings a lullaby to the little one, a leader delivers her vision to the followers…..Most of our daily communications are oral, unless you are a writer hiding in the basement – writing away your ideas or fantasies, waiting to be discovered. The oral communication almost always involves personal contact with the audience, with some exceptions such as talking on the phone.
This is the area – the verbal exchange – where most of us struggle in a new place or in a new culture. The verbal communications are often different place-to-place, even if the same language is spoken. Every place has its own ways of communicating:

  • local slang
  • local style
  • local dialect
  • use of local terms that an outsider may not understand

Continue reading “Whatcha say? – Importance of Communication skills”

12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command

Self-help suggestions and tips on improving Indian-English or Desi-English language abroad

“Are you enjoying the movie?”
“Simply”
Translated literally from Tamil, simply means absolutely.

There is nothing wrong with the above conversation if both sides know the intended meaning. Now, move that conversation to somewhere in USA or Canada or England, with someone who does not know the ‘Tamil-English’, the actual meaning is lost in the translations. 🙂

English language and English grammar is a bit tricky for those who are not used to it, for those with English as a second language. The basic mistakes we make are when we ‘think’ in our mother-tongue, and then translate in our head (Many of us say ‘translate in my mind 🙂 ), and then speak in ‘translated’ English. Here are some self-help tips on improving desi English overseas:

1. Knowing and Having – the problem of the progressive tense: many Indians often translate and speak with excessive and often inappropriate use of progressive verb form.

For example, consider this:
“I am having a fever.”
“I am having a small family”
“I am knowing that you are having a party without sending me invitation.”

Of course, the correct way of saying is:
“I have a fever”
“I have a small family”
“I know you are having a party without inviting me.”
Continue reading “12 Self-help tips for Indians to improve English language command”

How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad

10 tips on how to overcome the overseas culture shock

The overseas culture shock is common for anyone traveling or migrating abroad. Some of us are quick to adapt, willing to accept the change. Others hate it and don’t like customs or traditions of living a life different that what they are used to growing up.
The fact is that it is not a matter of one or two days; if you plan to live abroad, you should be willing to adapt to what comes with it – the new culture, a different society and an entirely different everyday life.

Adaptation is not a quick or overnight thing; getting used to the new place can take a long time. However, here are 10 tips on how to overcome or minimize the culture shock abroad:

1. Accept the change: Change is part of life; it is a part of the journey. Don’t resist something just because it is different. Give it a try. Millions and millions before you have gone through the same experience abroad. You may actually like the ‘new you’ if you try.

2. Learn the local language: This step is very important, actually the most important. If you really want to adapt to the new place, learn the local language, the local way of communicating. This includes getting used to the new accent and losing the old accent; the local way of pronunciation and the local slang – the whole nine yards. And, don’t forget to learn the art of small talk in a new society.

3. Venture out and try first hand: Don’t isolate yourself from the local culture. Expose yourself to the local common places where social life breathes. The shopping mall, the hair salon, the barber shop, the community center, the local parks….. – go be a part of the day-to-day outdoor life. The best way to adapt is by trying it firsthand. Continue reading “How to overcome the Culture Shock abroad”

15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances” ~Oscar Wilde

The first impression is what others perceive or think of you as soon as they first see you. The first impression matters; it is part of human nature to judge a book by its cover.
So, what can you do to leave a good and lasting first impression? Here are a few tips:
1. Be punctual: Be on time, always. Let the other person or other party know if you will be running late. Making others wait is considered rude, and it leaves a bad first impression!
2. Appearance and Dress code: Dress the way you want to present yourself for a given occasion. Your appearance – head to toe – matters. It includes the dress, the hair, the body-language…
3. Introduce yourself: Introduce yourself first, shake hand warmly. A hug is okay if you are sure that the other person won’t mind, or if it is a part of the culture or tradition.
4. Be confident, but calm: Don’t be nervous. Stay calm and collected, but carry yourself with confidence. The idea is not to come across as over-confident or trying too hard. Continue reading “15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression”

10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!

Key tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement for people from India:

This post focuses on the specific difficulties that people from India encounter when speaking English, or during pronunciations of certain parts of English speech. For overall accent reduction and how to lose your accent, refer to the posts at the bottom of this article.

Based on common observations by everybody and feedback, here are some of the main problem areas, along with the tips to improve them:

1. The pronunciation of ‘Rs’, ‘Ts’, ‘Ds’ is not clear or hard to understand/distinguish:

‘T’ sounds almost like ‘D’: In some parts of American/Europe Pronunciation of ‘t’ is supposed to be less crisp. It should sounds more like a ‘d’ in many cases, especially between vowels. Katie is pronounced almost like KaDie, water like waDer.

R’ pronunciation: There are varying observations on the sound of ‘R’:

-Let the sound of R flow; don’t put too much stress on this sound especially in the middle or in the end of a word.

-Don’t totally chewing up the sound of ‘R’ in other cases. Practice the stress on this sound, and listen to how your American/English friends use it. In ‘Robert’, the stress is on first R; let the second ‘r’ flow, without any pronounced stress.

2. ‘Vs’ and ‘Ws’ sound: This is a common problem for many Asians and Europeans, so don’t take it personally. There is a clear difference between ‘w’ and ‘v’ sounds. Even though most of Indians understand the difference, the distinction is often not carried out in spoken English. Let us try this:

For the sound of ‘v’, place lower lip gently on the upper teeth and say the word. Don’t press it hard, you should be able to exhale through, while making the sound. Most of us find this hardest to get used to.

For ‘w’ sound, it’s a different than ‘v’, the lips are supposed to be rounded and puckered like when we say ‘u’, and with no contact between the teeth and tongue. Move your lips in the forward direction as you vocalize the sound.

-The key distinction between the w/v sound and the ‘B’ sound is the fact that the lips are closed when we start to vocalize ‘B’. Continue reading “10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!”

The fastest growing jobs and occupations in USA!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a division of US Department of Labor, has a very interesting and comprehensive study on the jobs and occupations projections. The report titled ‘Tomorrow’s Jobs’  is quite telling in terms of expected growth in employment over the period of 2006 to 2016.
The chart/graph here provides a snap-shot of the fastest growing occupations in USA – the change in the total employment by occupation groups projected over 2006 – 2016.chart 6_99
The top occupations that are expected to enjoy the highest percentage increase are:

Professional and related occupations: These occupations cover a wide range of skilled professions. Professional and related occupations are expected to increase by 16.7%. Among the top beneficiaries include:
-Computer and mathematical occupations,
-Health-care practitioners and technical occupations,
-Education, training, and library occupations

Services: Employment in service sector is projected to increase by 16.7%, tied with professional and related occupations for the fastest rate of growth. The services occupations that are expected to grow the fastest include:
-Food preparation,
-Serving related occupations
-Health-care support occupations
-Personal care and service service occupations

Management, business, and financial occupations: The employment is expected to increase by 10.4% by 2016 in this category. Among top growth projections are:
-Construction managers
-Accountants and auditors and business operation specialists
-Financial analysts and personal financial advisers Continue reading “The fastest growing jobs and occupations in USA!”

A self-help guide to lose your accent!

NRI Tips: A complete guide on accent reduction and English language accent improvement!

Talking is like playing on the harp; there is as much in laying the hands on the strings to stop their vibration as in twanging them to bring out their music. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is one of the final segments of a series of articles written on how to lose your accent. This article includes a brief summary of earlier posts, tips based on personal experiments with different approaches and some additional tools on accent softening.

Before we start, it is very important to remember that:

-Our success or failure depends on our commitment. However, it is easier to make a commitment toward a goal, if we know that ‘help’ is around the corner – ‘help’ such as this information.

-Nobody can help us better than ourselves.

With that in mind, the information below is a self-help or a guide on accent softening, accent reduction and how to lose your accent ultimately:

Accent is normal: We all have accent, it is the way we speak; it is the way we used to talk in our neighborhood growing up. It only becomes an accent when we leave our neighborhood and go far away where they speak differently. Even within the same country, the same language is spoken with different slang, and in different style. Have you ever seen a white person in India trying to speak Hindi? Now, that is an accent; it is more than an accent – most of the time it is a slaughterhouse 🙂 ! So don’t feel too bad if someone tell you that you have a ‘thick’ accent. This is normal. You can read more about accent basics in this linked post.

How to lose or soften your accent: The main process and methods are detailed in the post titled ‘How to lose your accent’. It has received some very good reviews all around. Out of all the segments mentioned here, if you have time for only one article, this is the article you should go to. The process of accent softening – as outlined in the linked article – involves following key steps:

a. Break the habit of old speaking ways

b. Be a good listener Continue reading “A self-help guide to lose your accent!”

How to lose your accent!

Communication Tips: Accent softening & accent reduction methods
Accent improvement for effective communications is a key part of personal growth and personal development. As I said before, changing the way we speak is equivalent of breaking a habit.

How to lose your accent!
How to lose your accent!

To break one habit, we need to develop a new one -to ultimately affect the way be speak. This is not going to happen overnight, but you will see an improvement right away, that is if you are serious about losing your accent.
Here are some of the routines to help reduce, and ultimately lose your accent:

Plan ahead: If you are still in India, in the planning stage of immigration, one of the best thing to do is to expose yourself to the spoken English language, Western style and slang, as much as possible. Some of the simple suggestions include: Continue reading “How to lose your accent!”