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October 30, 2013

American Accents - Test Your Listening Comprehension

Test your American English comprehension by listening to these videos of various American accents!  

I urge you - don't just listen, shadow! If you hear an accent had by your client, listen, stop the video and mimic it! It will help your listening comprehension when talking with your clients, as well!   

This first video showcases the following accents: 

  • Classic American
  • Valley Girl (California, San Fernando Valley, actually; a sociolect)
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • North Carolina
  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Ebonics(This term is avoided by linguists. A better description of this ethnolect is African American Vernacular English (AAVE). "Ebonics" is often used as a derisive description of AAVE and includes exaggerated speech features.)
  • California (majority accent)
(Thank you, Alan Headbloom, for offering the more detailed descriptions of the accents, above.)

Here's another video of a North Carolina accent.

Amy Walker on YouTube is really good at changing accents. She has made this video below on a wide variety of American Accents, including New York, Southern, Midwest, California (West Coast), the Newscaster, the Flight Attendant, and others.

Watch her.. she's awesome how she changes her facial expressions and mannerisms to change to the different personalities of the different accents.

She says something awesome at the end...

"....this will help you to expand your identity, who you are to include these other things. With this, it doesn't mean you aren't who you were before... you're just adding to that!" Kudos to that!!

For me, this collage of accents is not complete without the Boston accent. I lived in Boston for awhile and used to get lost quite a bit when I first moved there because I just couldn't understand their accent!

The Long Island accent. This is from the popular TV show, Seinfeld. You will instantly notice the distinctive Long Island accent as spoken by the sole lady in this scene.

Last, but not least is my accent. Many people often think I am from Minnesota, but no, I am from Central New York about 400 miles from New York City (I do not have a New York City or Long Island accent). This video was made in 2009 before I really learned presentation skills. Some of my students have listened to this video and say I speak a lot faster here than I do now. In fact, when asked to transcribe my talk, many are unable to get all the words correct! Seems like I was talking too fast, then!

Thank you for spending time on my site. I am Jennifer Kumar, a cross cultural, language and accent trainer based in Kochi, India. To learn more about the American Accent program available in Kochi (Infopark), Kerala and throughout India, click here.  

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October 26, 2013

How to Pronounce the Word Country in American English

Step 1: 
Divide the syllables: 
Coun | try 

Step 2: 

Pronounce syllable 1 - COUN 
Coun – as in the word cunning 
This vowel is the “uh” sound, and it’s a short vowel. This vowel is a sustained sound and vibrates, similar to the v and z sounds. Check the video below the podcast for more on this sound. 

Step 3: 

Pronounce syllable 2 – TREE 
Tree – tr is one sound, no vowel sound will enter between these two sounds. It is a T sound not a D sound. The “y” sounds like a really long e sound. Use your rubber band and make it long for the “e” sound if you need a visual representation. 

If T and D are difficult sounds to hear and make, there is a video tutorial below.

**For those who have sat in my class, you are already aware about this sound. For newcomers to the ‘rubber band’ technique, check the second video below (under the video for the “uh” or the ʌ sound. Take note that “ʌ” is the International Phonetic Symbol for the vowel sound in “coun.”

Step 4:

Pronounce both syllables together assuring there is a slight pause between the two syllables.

You got it! ☺ It will said different said in isolation compared to in a sentence. Record yourself saying it in your natural way in isolation, then with the accent training. Record yourself saying it in your natural way in a sentence, and then in a sentence with the sound training. Listen back. Do you hear the difference?

Also, hear this word pronounced at Click here.

Podcast on how to pronounce country by Jennifer Kumar of Authentic Journeys.

The two videoe are produced by Rachel's English. This is not the property of Authentic Journeys.

How to use rubber bands to "see" how to pronounce long vowels in English words for stress and expression. This video is not produced by Authentic Journeys.

Jennifer Kumar helps Malayalees and other Indians reduce mother tongue influence and be understood better by Americans through cultural and linguistic training sessions. Contact her today.

Related Posts:
V and W sounds are two separate sounds in English, but one sound in most Indian languages. Learn more here. 
J an Z - English Pronunciation Exercises

Networkedblogs link:

October 22, 2013

Are You Excited About YOUR OWN Presentation?

If you aren’t, it's not fair to expect the audience to be.  

We spend hours or even days and weeks preparing for a presentation. When it comes time to stand in front of our audience, many make classic mistakes we complain about in other presenters. No one wants to be a boring presenter. But, we have all been an audience member in a boring presentation. What exactly made that presentation boring? Whatever you identify as “boring,” try to do the exact opposite to make your presentation lively. 

Yes, it takes creativity. 
Yes, it takes practice. 
Yes, it takes ‘bravery.’ 
Yes, you will be nervous. 
Yes, you will feel strange the first time…. 

But, you know what….?? 

You CAN do it! And when you see that audience light up and actually be interested in your presentation – you are on the right track. 

Beyond making them interested in your presentation- light up the room and make them interested in YOU! A million people can present on the same topic. What makes each presentation different? 

The presenter, of course! 

Remember how you felt as an audience member in a presentation. Were you paying attention 100%?  Was your mind fully on the presentation? 

Or were you thinking about a litany of things like:

  • Why am I here?
  • I have more important things to do….
  • I am hungry…
  • Last night that TV show was about….
  • It’s too hot in here….
  • The presenter is talking too fast…
  • Why do they stand in one place.. BORING!!!
  • Will this information really benefit me?
  • My friends want to see the new movie tonight….
  • How will I have time to finish that thing the boss wants me to do if I am sitting in this presentation – which is not even relevant to my job??
  • Etc…. etc… etc… 

Not all of us have been presenters, but all of us have sat in an audience before. If we are totally honest, we rarely pay 100% attention…. 

But, if we think of the times we DID pay attention, what made us so interested? 

Note down all of the things that made you interested to attend a presentation. Can you weave these into your presentation? 

Do you need some assistance to do so? I often am assigned to help teams and individuals to enhance their presentation skills through assessments and one-to-one and small group coaching. Contact me today! Sessions conducted in person, via phone or Skype.

Thank you for spending your time here. 

How Jennifer has helped others improve their presentations: 
Jennifer has helped me to achieve my dream of being a public speaker. She has helped me to learn to prepare for presentations more wisely, while thinking of my audience. Read more from Hari here. 

Coaching with Jennifer helped me identify the real problem in my presentations. I learned how to speak more clearly and engage my audience better through words, eye contact and body language. I rely less on the lectern now. It was a new experience for me, but as a manager, it was something that I had to do to inspire my team more. – Middle Manager with 15 years experience, IT Company, Bangalore

After only a few sessions, I can see that your techniques are helping me to communicate more clearly with Indian and American counterparts. I know it will take me time to switch between audiences, but I am learning and applying the techniques with your guidance. – Manager with 20 years experience, Infopark, Kochi 

Before your sessions, I was unable to talk to an American client. I was not even able to understand what they spoke, because I did not understand their accent. After meeting you for three months and applying the listening, speaking and presentation skills you taught me, I have been able to give three client demos. Thank you for helping me achieve my English and career goals! – Project Manager in IT with 5 years experience, Kochi

I was unable to clearly speak to my Indian classmates due to my foreign accent. Your classes helped me to speak more clearly, encourage my classmates to speak English more, and also to give better presentations. After my presentation, my teacher and classmates were surprised. They said until that day they never understood me so clearly! Thank you! –College Student, Kerala

(Names and companies not given due to confidentiality.)

What others have said about Jennifer’s presentation style:

“We were worried we wouldn’t be able to understand Jennifer’s accent. She was the first foreign teacher most of us have had. I was surprised and relieved that I could understand and interact with her very easily.” ~Pooja Shetty, UST Global, Kochi

“Because you walk around the room and talked to each of us during activities and made each of us talk to each other, get up and do activities from time to time, we never got bored. Thank you.”

“I was worried when I heard you will be presenting the same training to us all day. Normally, we have various presenters in one day so we don’t get bored. But, we were all happy how you organized the presentation so that we did not get bored or sleepy, especially in the afternoon.” - Teacher at Sree Narayana Gurukulam College of Engineering

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Photo, creative commons by jonny goldstein.

October 10, 2013

USA Culture Training Program Syllabus and Options

The PDF embedded in this post is a sample of a real proposal sent to prospective clients of Authentic Journeys asking for more information about the classroom style American cross-cultural training.  

Topics for the training programs include: 
  • Small talk with Americans 
  • US Workplace Values Discussion & Demos 
  • Group Discussion and English Conversational Skills  
  • Meeting Etiquette 
  • Presentation Skills 
  • E-mail Skills 
Read the example proposal below for the details and testimonials of previous clients.   

If you are unable to see the PDF embedded here, click here to see it on Slideshare or contact Jennifer for more details. 

October 3, 2013

Why Americans Expect Counterparts to Ask Questions

The importance of asking questionsThis is a hot topic in my coaching engagements and management seminars. I am often assigned to work with up and coming managers and even seasoned managers with 5-20 years of experience to help them "take initiative" and "ask questions." When we start the sessions, I am often asked, "Why do Americans expect me to ask questions?"  

This topic has been discussed and debated from various angles. Today I have created a new theory I would like to share with you. If you can spare five minutes, take a listen to this podcast below. Feel free to share your experiences below in the comments section.  

Please listen to the below the recording for some feedback from past clients who have worked with me on this topic!  

Thank you for spending your valuable time here.  

“Jennifer provided my direct reports the skills to take initiative and speak up to the U.S. clients. Jennifer has helped a few of my direct reports to speak up with US clients in a clearer way, taking initiative to ask questions, express ownership, and discuss new ideas. In fact, the client is so pleased as the work productivity has improved. A few of the ideas proposed by my direct reports have started to take shape and the client is very excited about it. More than the work relationship, the personal relationship has also improved. Due to this, we are getting more interaction with the client.” ~Bangalore Based Financial Professional

“I have learned that speaking slower is a benefit to getting people to understand me with more clarity. Before I used to rush through all my presentations, thinking the faster I spoke, the more I could say. In fact, the more I said, the more confused my audience got. Jennifer helped me to understand this and adjust my presentations accordingly. Due to this, I could attend my management presentations with more confidence and my manager did not have to spend his time watching my presentation. Now my team and my manager have more confidence in me!”
~ Middle Manager in a South Indian Company working with Europeans and Indians across India

“I used to speak and write in very long sentences. The idea I had was the longer the sentences; the more it would show that I am fluent in English. This worked against me. Longer sentences meant the audience was losing the message in complicated grammar and sometimes-negative tones. She taught me how to recognize these flaws in my communication. Now I speak and write in a variety of shorter and longer sentences to maintain a good conversational flow with my clients.” ~ Manager with 20 years experience in Infopark

Contact Jennifer today to start coaching and improving client interactions with US counterparts.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.