Accent improvement for Indian Speakers – the sounds of p, t, ch and k

In American or European English, the sounds of p, t, ch and k are pronounced somewhat differently than an Indian speaker is used to these pronunciations. The English p t ch and k are ‘aspirated’, accompanied by a puff of breath air…

English accent improvement for Indian speakers
In American or European English, the sounds of p, t, ch and k are pronounced somewhat differently than an Indian speaker is used to these pronunciations. The English sounds  of p, t, ch and k are ‘aspirated’ at the beginning of a syllable that has the accent. For example –  pin, tin, chin, kin are supposed to be aspirated.

Now, what in the world is an aspirated sound, you may ask?

The aspirated sound is the pronunciation with an initial release of breath air. For example h, as in hurry, is aspirated. Also, the rule is equally noticeable in English sounds like pit or kit where a puff of breath is clearly audible in the pronunciation of p and k sounds.
You can try pronouncing “pit” out loud and hold your hand in front of your mouth, or a lit candle if you need a more dramatic effect. You will feel a puff of breath, or see a flicker of the candle flame, that accompanies the “p” of “pit,” because it’s automatically aspirated in English. That is, of course, if you are pronouncing it with American accent.

In Indian speakers, the speakers with Indian accent, the required aspiration is missing by habit. This is because we are used to our speaking habits based on Hindi, Sanskrit or other mother tongues from India. In Indian English p, t, k are well-known to be unaspirated. If no flicker of candle flame in the above experiment, then you need some practice!

In other words, the American “p” sound is much harsher than Indian sound where a speaker tries to pronounce it quietly without accompanied burst of air. The same distinction applies for t, ch and k sounds.
The Indian speakers don’t have this problem with many other aspirated sounds, included the pronunciation of h, as in hurry.

The Indian speakers can overcome this pronunciation habit, the lack of aspiration, by repeatedly and consciously practicing the correct sounds of p, t, ch and k. Continue reading “Accent improvement for Indian Speakers – the sounds of p, t, ch and k”

How to improve your body language

Watch any great speaker; the body language plays a key role in our communication. 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…

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”

The art of elocution

Elocution is the basis of effective communication skills. Elocution is the art of clear and concise manner of speaking. For a meaningful message, the art of elocution plays a significant role. Your voice, the style, formulation of the words, the gestures and the accent – different elements of elocution add up to the art of communication.

Elocution – The secret of effective speaking

In movie The King’s Speech (2010), while watching a clip of Hitler speaking in German language:
Lilibet: What’s he saying?
King George VI: I don’t know but… he seems to be saying it rather well….

And, you ofter hear people saying:
“Choose your words carefully; you may have to eat them!”….

“Be careful what you say; it may come back to bite you!”….

Yes, it is important what you say. But equally important, perhaps more important is how you say it. After all, it is not what comes out of your mouth, but how you deliver it. Your style, your tone, your body language….all that adds up to the actual message.

Elocution is the basis of effective communication skills. Elocution is the art of clear and concise manner of speaking, with clarity of meaning and thought. Elocution originates from the word ‘eloquence’ – fluent, elegant or persuasive speaking. It is the knowledge of expressing strong emotions in striking and appropriate language and with the power of persuasion.

Effective speech has deep roots in elocution – the pronunciation, the accent, the grammar, the tone and the gestures play a key role in forming a meaningful and desired message. Elocution is been considered a key aspect of learning the art of communications. The art of elocution has been dissected, studied and taught in the schools for a long time. According to McGuffey’s New Sixth Eclectic Reader of 1857, the key principles of elocution are:
I. Articulation
II. Inflections
III. Accent and Emphasis
IV. The Voice
V. Gesture
VI. Instructions for Reading Verse

I. Articulation: How you phrase your message and enunciate it, how you put your thoughts into proper words is the most important aspect of effective speech. By definition, articulation is the act of vocal expression and enunciation; it is the act or manner of producing a speech sound. Continue reading “The art of elocution”

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. ..

Here are some of the main areas to improve your communications 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

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 many not mean much …

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

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, here are some useful tips..

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”

15 Tips on how to make a lasting first impression

The first impression is what others perceive or think of you when you first come across or meet. What can you do to leave good and lasting first impression? Here are a few tips:..

“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”

Importance of being a good listener!

Listening skills are extremely important. For meaningful and fruitful interactions, conversations and communications, it always pays to be a good listener. Here are some of the key reasons for ‘listening’ being so important:….

“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” ~ Bernard M. Baruch

“Did you hear what I say?”
“Yeah”
“What did I say?”
“Can your say it again…I wasn’t listening..”

Ask any parent or school teacher, it takes lots of effort to get your point across, or get some-one’s undivided attention. The fact is, listening skill is not that simple, or natural. Our mind always tends to wander off. It takes a conscious effort to be a good listener.
Now, we all know some good talkers in our families and friends who always have something to say. However, good talkers are not always good communicators. In fact, listening is equally, if not more, important for effective communications.

The listening skills are very important for anyone who is serious about personal development and improving the communications skills. Listening is even more important if English (or the language of conversation) is not your mother tongue.
Here are some of the key benefits of being a good listener:
1. Key to communication: Listening is important part of any conversation. It helps to better understand the view point of the other party or the speaker. More than half of the conversation or communication is paying attention to and understanding the other side.

2. Shows maturity and respect: It shows maturity and respect to the speaker or the other parties involved in the conversation. Constantly interrupting without listening never leads to a meaningful and enlightening conversation. Continue reading “Importance of being a good listener!”

Crossing the language barrier abroad!

‘Language barrier’ refers to the difficulties people face if they don’t speak the same language, or with very different accent or style….the spoken English in America or other Western countries is not the same as in India.

“The language barrier is probably the most difficult and takes the longest to overcome.” ~ Stephen Lee

Most of the times, the phrase ‘Language barrier’ refers to the difficulties people face during communicating if they don’t speak the same language; or if the speech or accent is too different to communicate effectively.
Almost everyone who ventures out to the worlds far-far away, the language barrier is one of the many hurdles encountered in the new land. For people migrating from India, even though they speak and understand English in most of the cases, the communication problems still exist. The fact is that spoken English in America or other Western countries is not the same as in India. The style, the slang, the acceptable norms…everlasting is different. One is bound to feel out of place in the beginning of the overseas journey.

The key issues surrounding the language barrier and the best ways to approach or alleviate them are:

The language knowledge: Knowledge of the English language is the most important step toward adjusting and adapting to the English speaking culture and society. The understanding of grammar and a sound knowledge of vocabulary are necessary to build a reliable foundation for any language. For people from India, this is not a major issue because most of us learn English in the school and have a good command of the language itself.

The ‘thick’ accent: The accent is natural; this is how we talk and speak in our native country growing up. The Indian accent of English –commonly called ‘thick’ accent- is very different from the way they speak English overseas. While there are ways to soften the accent or dramatically reduce it by practice and with conscious effort, it takes time to lose the accent. For details on this topic, refer to the previous post titled ‘A self-help guide to lose your accent!’. Continue reading “Crossing the language barrier abroad!”

10 Tips on English pronunciation and accent improvement!

This post focuses on the specific difficulties that people from India encounter when speaking English, or during pronunciations of certain parts of English speech. Here are some of the main problem areas, along with the tips to improve them:…

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!”

30 Tips on the art of small talk!

Small talk is not a problem among close family and friends..once we step into a wider social circle, it becomes challenging at times to keep the conversation going or even start a conversation. Some of the tips on small talk….

Communications Tips (NRI and ESL Tips): Small Talk – how to carry-on a conversation effectively.

“Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.” ~ Oscar Wilde

I have written before on the importance of small talk . Small talk is a conversation, chit-chat or an informal discussion without any specific topic or subject. Small talk generally is not a problem if we are among our family and friends; there is always something to talk about. However, once we step into a wider social circle, it may become challenging at times to keep the conversation going or even start a conversation. Here are some of the tips on how to avoid uncomfortable situations, and carry on a small talk in all types of social settings:

1. Be a good listener: Pay attention and listen to what others are talking about. Good listening provides additional understanding about the people we are communicating with.

2. Introduce yourself if needed: Introduce yourself first, especially if you are in a new to the gathering, party or event.

3. Take queue from other’s conversation: This helps with the continuity of the discussion.

4. Ask questions…small ones: Questions or clarifications are important to understand the others involved in the conversation. The questions could be about the discussion going on, or general questions to ‘get-to-know’ the company. Continue reading “30 Tips on the art of small talk!”

The imprortance of small talk

Small talk is a conversation just for the sake of conversation….talking about nothing…Following are the key factors of a smooth small talk:…

NRIs and ESL Tips: Importance of small talk in a conversation

Don’t tell your friends about your indigestions: “How are you!” is a greeting, not a question.
~Arthur Guiterman, A Poet’s Proverbs
Many of us, especially those with English as a second language (ESL),  often struggle with social communications and the language barrier. However, this article is written for anyone who may need some extra help with improving their communication skills.
Small talk is a conversation just for the sake of conversation. It does not have to have any specific topic or agenda. The small talk is considered a very important part of our overall communication or daily interactions with others.

Small talk is a big deal:  The small talk is important for so many reasons:

– it is essential for a smooth and effective communication with anybody we talk to.

– it creates a good first impression.

– it leads to a  lively and friendly conversation.

– if you are a good ‘small talker’ you will come across as an open and more friendly person

– it is an essential tool for effective interaction in any social settings.

– it leaves a lasting impression on the other party.

– it gives you more confidence as a speaker.

Parts of conversation:

In terms of overall conversation, small talk is very important throughout any communications. Following are the key functions of a small talk in any speech or discussion: Continue reading “The imprortance of small talk”

A self-help guide to lose your accent!

Complete self-help guide on accent reduction & accent improvement! Step by step guidelines, experiments with different approaches & commercially available tools..

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!”