Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Foreign-born Executives and Other Professionals: Simple Verbal Techniques to Compensate for Accent; My Interview on Houston’s ABC Channel 13

Ideally, every word uttered by the speaker should be intelligible to the audience. And that, of course, poses a problem for foreign-borns—people like me, who speak with an accent.

Foreign-born professionals should constantly employ verbal strategies and tactics that help compensate for the loss of communication that invariably results from having an accent. This is something that I stress in all of my communication seminars and workshops, particularly when there is at least one foreign-born among the audience (as was the case when I presented in recent months at the USDA’s NRCS unit in Ft. Worth; Rice University’s Jones School of Management; Toastmasters District 56 Conference; and the annual day of Shell Oil’s employees of foreign origin).

The use of synonyms, especially when the presenter is trying to emphasize something, is perhaps the easiest and most effective means of ensuring complete understanding by the audience. I use it all the time, often reflexively!

For instance, last week, when I was interviewed spontaneously at Chicago’s O’Hare airport by a television news reporter, and thus “put to the test,” I automatically used synonyms at the points of emphasis in my replies to the reporter’s questions. On Saturday, May 1, just as I was getting ready to board my flight back home, Kevin Quinn of Houston’s ABC Channel 13 approached me and inquired if he could interview me for my take on the upcoming merger between Chicago-based United and Houston-based Continental. I consented, and Quinn promptly thrust the mike toward me with his first question—“What did you think about the merger?” My indignant response, which you can see in the video clip below: “I think this is a reverse step, a backward step, unquestionably. It’s becoming more and more of an oligopoly. And who gets screwed? The customer does, as there’s less and less choice.”

A quick analysis of the above statement: The word backward acted as a synonym to the previous adjective reverse, and helped achieved two purposes: (i) it reinforced the thrust of reverse; the two adjectives in quick succession worked as a boxer’s left hook followed by a right hook, and (ii) it helped ensure that everyone in the audience would understand my sentiment 100% because of the very highly probability that at least one of those two key adjectives in the first sentence would be fully intelligible to every listener.

© Copyright 2010 V.J. Singal

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what a coincidence that you met a Houston reporter at the Chicago airport! I agree with your sentiments on the merger.