When I first came to The United States, I had confidence that everything will go smoothly for me. As it turns out, that was the case, but not as soon as I wished for. Life is never supposed to be as easy as anyone of would have preferred, right?
Back in the day when I first arrived, English was a foreign language to me. However, it was the primary way I had to communicate and exchange information with people in my new place. I was able to speak the language a bit and I knew, inside myself I could improve it. The biggest challenge with my spoken English was the strong Spanish accent that I carried over from my native pronunciation; which I then realized hindrance communicating with the people in my new country. Most of the times it would take me some minutes before I can exchange a simple conversation with the person I wanted to talk to, in order to make sure, at least, my grammar and the word choices, made sense to my receptor.
Did I mention the misunderstandings? Misunderstandings on tone,
word choices, and delivery.
As time went by, the difficulties of communicating with the people here became more obvious. My strong speaking accent seemed to make it hard for the people to interpret what I was I saying. Oh my gosh, how many misunderstandings I had! They kept on asking me what I said and “could you repeat it again?”. Some were honest and will simply tell me if I could say it in a different way. Which really frustrated me, no matter how smart I was, or how much education or experience I had, they just couldn’t understand what was in my mind. Did I mention the misunderstandings? Misunderstandings on tone, word choices, and delivery.
Living and working here in The U.S.A. is exciting and fun. There isn’t a dull moment, trust me on that. I have learned new expressions and I have a clearer understanding as to what their culture and motivations are all about. For many years the biggest problem I had was my strong speaking accent. My conversation with most of the people here at first seems to be not getting anywhere.
My patience has been tested many times around here.
In order for me to make them understand what I am saying, I try to talk slower and lower down my octave so as they will have a clearer grasp of what I am saying, and also try to avoid tone misunderstandings. As a matter of fact, Americans usually speak at a higher pitch than they really have to. Somehow, it was effective albeit the time consumed by it. My patience has been tested many times around here.
The focus of my spoken English education was mostly on words, and not in group of words, neither intonation or delivery. Native English speakers usually speak on group of words, that when put all together have a meaning within the context in which they are said. These group of words, also have an especial intonation and stressed on places you can only be aware of if you have been listening for a long time very carefully. As I am the one who came here, and if I wanted to be understood the way I am right now, I should have listened carefully and maybe taken some accent reduction training. I did not make myself dutifully aware of this situation until a few years after my first arrival, and as I now believe, it slowed me down in my professional progress.
With all the bad encounters I’ve had, I tried to take some accent reduction lessons which helped and now I’m super aware of my personal “sins”. My strong spoken accent is not totally gone but at least I now know some techniques to reduce the sounds of vowels and tones. This has been a good step for me as my conversations became clearer and easier. Up to the point that I am a spoke-person on TV for a non-profit organization called QuitPlan of Minnesota, helping cigarette smokers quit.
Now that I can speak cleaner, would you listen to my podcast or accompany me over a cup of coffee?