SAN DIEGO, Aug. 4, 2017 — The Discreet Guide™, a professional development training company, announced today the rollout of a new training program designed to help non-native English speakers be better understood by their American colleagues.
“Some of my clients actually speak English quite well,” said Jennifer K. Crittenden of The Discreet Guide™, “but people have trouble understanding them. It can be very frustrating when they have to constantly repeat themselves. And it can inhibit their social life or their careers if they don’t want to speak up in a group or talk on the telephone. Fortunately, this new program can help.”
The program is comprised of ten one-hour sessions in which a trainer works one-on-one with the English learner. The sessions include exercises and practice in diction, fluency, rhythm, and syllabic stress. The program is unusual in its heavy use of technology in the form of vocal analysis software, videos and audio exercises. “When the students can literally see their speech analyzed on a screen compared to that of a native speaker, they really home in on the differences. They don’t have to take my word for it,” said Crittenden. “They also learn to hear the difference, and they make much faster progress.”
Your American Voice focuses more on understandability than accent reduction and emphasizes correct syllabic stress in a sentence over the correct pronunciation of each word. “We do work on individual phoneme production like traditional accent reduction programs, but I have found that rhythm and stress are much more important for understandability. If someone pronounces a few letters wrong, we can figure it out, but if they stress the wrong syllable or the inflection of their sentence is off, we get confused,” said Crittenden. “Besides, an accent can be charming.”
To that end, the program uses a technique employed by actors to model someone else’s speech; students learn to mimic and “sing along” to audio recordings of their favorite public figure or actor. “Using vocal analysis software, we then work in detail on sound bites or speeches to compare the vocal inflections of the student to that of the target to improve fluency and rhythm,” said Crittenden. “It’s fun to channel your inner Barack Obama or Robert Downey, Jr.”
Early praise for the program has been high. Janet Andrews, an executive career coach, said, “I sent a client to Jennifer to help with some speech issues that were impeding his job search. After four months, I was frankly blown away. He spoke with such confidence, and his articulation and fluency were much improved. She literally changed his life.”
The client said, “I can attest that I benefited considerably from her coaching, dedication and encouragement. She was patient and made me feel comfortable to not be afraid of making mistakes. I would recommend her and the Your American Voice program.”
Because of its emphasis on rhythm, the program is ideally suited for Mandarin speakers who sometimes exhibit a “sing-song” or staccato verbal style in English. “Having started with Chinese clients, we know what the challenges are. Some speak very well but are hard to understand,” said Crittenden. “We analyze whole sentences to get the syllabic stress correct. For example, practicing the sentence, ‘Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?’ or other such classic movie lines reveals stress problems and greatly enhances understandability.”
“People know that how they speak is a big part of how they are perceived,” said Crittenden. “Chinese professionals who are building their professional image are good candidates for this program. It’s fun and effective.”
More information about the program is available at http://www.discreetguide.com/other-programs/
About Jennifer K. Crittenden:
She has a B.A. in linguistics and a CELTA certificate from the University of Cambridge to teach English as a second language to adults. She also has an MBA from the Kelley School at Indiana University and nearly twenty-five years of experience in corporate America, rising from financial analyst to CFO. She is the author of The Discreet Guide for Executive Women, winner of an NIEA award in the Business-Motivational category, and You, Not I: Exceptional Presence through the Eyes of Others.
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