Manage your words well

Using English well in an international context is as important for native speakers of the language as it is for non-native students and other international users of English.

Whether this is because English happens to be the lingua franca of the organisation, company, corporation or community, or because those involved in any meeting have chosen to use English themselves, there is every chance that there will be people with differing ranges of experience and ability in the language, just as this would also be the case with people speaking French, Hungarian, Russian, Spanish, Mandarin, Turkish, Arabic, Swahili or Gaelic!

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Who of us can say we would be confident to attempt to do all that we do in our own language in any other language? We can perhaps learn how to order a prawn sandwich or a taxi, or to greet someone at the airport, wish them a good journey or thank them for their help. This does not take long and is a sensitive and polite thing to do when doing business with others.  It shows that we have made a little effort to learn about their ways.

Just as we can learn a few words, we can also learn about the cultures we interact with.

This process works both ways, because – though there is common ground within cultures for anything that we may need to discuss, and certainly room for exploration in a number of areas (or business would never happen or have been going on for thousands of years!) – there are also certain highly sensitive areas of “sacred ground” where discussion may be very difficult or even impossible.

Encroaching on these sensitive spots is risky and potentially rude. This is as true of the English-speaking culture as it is of any other.

The things that affect our identity are hard to define and having a well-researched book to refer to is essential; I recommend Richard Lewis’ excellent work for a clear and intelligent model when entering new ground in any culture.

Where the deeply-embedded elements of a culture’s specific core value system and the individual’s own modus operandi can have multiple layers that are not open to scrutiny, the language itself can give us the clues we need to how a people think.

We should take care with our words whether with other native speakers or with non-native speakers.

The Ratners Jewellery store in Regent Street, London, part of the chain owned by Gerald Ratner, which made a 112 million profit in 1990.

The Ratners Jewellery store in Regent Street, London, part of the chain owned by Gerald Ratner, which made a 112 million profit in 1990.

Careless language can be very costly. 

A famous story is that of successful businessman Gerald Ratner who in 1991 wiped £500m off his share value with one speech, when talking of his own high-street jewellery, he inadvisedly announced it was “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich and probably wouldn’t last as long”.

Another story is that of the Topman clothing chain and the firm’s brand director, David Shepherd, asked in an interview in 2001 to clarify the target market for his clothes, he replied: “Hooligans or whatever.”  He went on: “Very few of our customers have to wear suits for work. They’ll be for his first interview or first court case.”

The company later suggested that the word “hooligan” would not be seen as an insult among its customers.

happy hooligan

Such careless words may seem amusing or tough but they have consequences. In 2006, John Pluthero, the UK chairman of Cable & Wireless, sent a memo to staff, which said: “Congratulations, we work for an underperforming business in a crappy industry and it’s going to be hell for the next 12 months.” He warned of job losses and added: “If you are worried that it all sounds very hard, it’s time for you to step off the bus.”  Many did just that and found work elsewhere.

Another pitfall is translation and translation devices. They are not capable of understanding cultural and linguistic nuance. The ambiguity of translation is well summed-up with the example of a biblical quote, meant to express the struggle facing the industry at that time and to motivate the employees to make an extra effort, and that was used in an after-dinner speech translated into German
“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.
This came out as “The schnapps is strong but the meat is rotten”

turn off

Language is not a set of conditioned responses triggered by previous words, because we can change these patterns at will. This allows us creativity and individualism.  Chomsky’s “poverty of the input” hypothesis tells us that what a child can produce in language is MORE than the input they have received via their parents or peers. This “new potential language” has come from within the child as he/she has acquired the deeper syntax. Somehow, the child knows that the structure  “Daddy what did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of, up for?” is the only right use of syntax for English, for this question.

Pace is a deciding factor. People are more inclined to get excited and emotional speaking their own language than speaking English, this is hard to lose in a foreign language, suggesting that the control of output and having to pace themselves, will affect themselves and others

Impact

There are several negative and positive associations: native speakers are imagined to have more sensitivity but often they have less. Consequently natives can benefit from observing how a non-native speaks, or try to compose themselves in FL to see how it feels.

Having a slower pace enables better listening and more self-composure. However the emotions inside the L2 speaker are likely to be very high and for the L1 speaker, having to modify their language to obtain better results may at times feel frustrating, too.

portfolio-style

At PIE we can help you develop sensitivity to language that leads you to better outcomes. As a non-native we can show you how English works and how to use it effectively, in your own specific situation, according to different scenarios and your personal choices, understanding norms and idiosyncrasies.

Equally important, as a native speaker we can show you how good language management will lead you to better relationships, deeper awareness of communication and the avoidance of costly mistakes, and to a level of self-composure that is not over-confident but mature and manifested in a spirit of mutual respect.

Confidence in English

One of my clients not long ago was the kind of person you’d look at and immediately think they were totally in control and confident.

The Financial Director of a multi national company is usually bursting with inner confidence, yet, after finding out that he had to start using English for his board-level presentations, he had discovered that he was extremely nervous about doing this (especially in larger groups or more than about 4 people ) – something he’d never have thought would happen! So how did I help him?

nervous man

He understood that it is an important thing to be able to communicate internationally; he knew that because we live in this increasingly interconnected world, using English enables you nowadays to be more successful by accessing more opportunities and connections, and that this was in any case necessary for him to retain his position….

He recognised the importance, in our rapidly-changing world, not only of “connecting” with other people who live in different countries, even with their culture and their way of thinking, but also shared with others the feeling of how tremendously enriching to life this can be. He realised how valuable the new “global” aspect within his organisation, was and is.

But this was not exactly the problem. If anything, knowing all this and being reminded of it, as his company underwent significant and far-reaching changes internally and externally, was adding to the problem even more!

This hard-working man loved fishing; his English was relatively low-level but adequate for the task of reporting to his Board; and he was terribly blocked; afraid; sweating in front of his audience; his voice shaking, he was very red-faced.

fisherman fishing boat

He had been very quiet on arrival, it all came out when I took him out for a meal and he explained that all the English language teaching and correction and instruction in cross-cultural communication that he had received in other places; the do’s and don’t’s; all the sentences and key phrases to repeat; all the reams of photocopied vocabulary – that he sort of knew anyway passively –  the “enforced scenarios” he had to prepare for the next lesson, all the things we tend to find in schools were useless to him.
He told me how all the “cross-culture” training was making it worse; the endless corrections, more pressure, more theory; more “do’s and don’t’s and so on….  he needed to GET OVER THAT, but he didn’t know how.
 
I found the way with him, by judicious use of NLP visualisation and anchoring techniques, shifting his associated problems by dint of changing his emotional associations, dissociating him away from the issues, and putting new thoughts and connections in their place.
It worked, overnight, after a short “out-of-context” chat in a restaurant, eating fish together and talking about fishing – in a certain way.
fresh fish plate2

Sadly some may have had the experience after previous training and learning, of feeling worse than when they arrived – both on paper tests, and in real life – and therefore very dissatisfied. Poorly-devised training or blanket solutions (one-size-fits-all) can indeed make things worse.

As a proviso here, language schools do have their place but often cannot offer that specialised coaching which meets each individual’s needs….and being with clients of other nationalities does not always offer the right combination of guided acquisition and pleasant immersion in the language and culture which makes for more effective and rapid acquisition.

That is why at PIE we use many different techniques and according to the specific needs of the client. We use absolute discretion, go wherever needed, and spare nothing in terms of flexibility and total listening to the client, to ensure that the outcome is good.

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Accents and register

How to be a Brit

The Hungarian journalist and BBC reporter, George (György) Mikes – pronounced / ɱ ‘i: ke ʃ  / – commented wryly in his bookHow To Be An Alien(1946), a classic of “British humour”, when – as a foreigner in England – he realised the importance of having a “suitable” accent:

“My dear, you really speak a most wonderful accent, without the slightest English!”

HowToBeAnAlien
Accents are of course connected to our origins and culture. There are national, regional and individual accents and these can link a person to social class, educational background, and character.

Who am I?
As many academics have shown over many years, the whole concept of one’s identity as a person cannot be separated from language. Languages express emotions, facts, notions of time, space and morality, in different ways, and arise as the communication surface structure built on generations of history, tradition, law, belief and education. How we perform depends on first how we understand, process and compose language.

Outcomes-based coaching and learning

Outcomes-based coaching and learning

There is the larger question of how English, as an international language, can serve to perform acts of identity that are specific to one’s own language. As linguists have tried to show, all languages share some deeper, innate, structure or else how could the same human being, theoretically, be born anywhere on the planet?

Mikes started his famous book with the words “In England, everything is the other way round”.

Culture itself cannot be entirely systematised, despite the efforts of anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists. Along with dress and other customs and habits, language is the outside sign of what a person deems themself to be. Actors, who play the part of another culturally different person, in the theatre, see this very clearly.

Consequently, as soon as we open our mouth, we “give away” something about who we are and how we wish to be perceived by others.  The process of “acculturation” – the process of internalising the implied rules of a “discourse community” – is something that anyone who lives or works with other language groups or nations, understands from day one. Culture “shock” can be one outcome of this difficult process. Bridging differences effectively, means using language very skilfully and being sensitive to culture.

conversation

Isn’t it?
For the learner of a second language, there results from this the thorny question of how to sound right. In some ways this leaves one free to choose the model one prefers, to “sound” correct in whatever circles that person happens to frequent.

It’s quite well-known that the use of question “tags” is a feature of spoken English:
“It’s a lovely day, today, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, they said it was going to rain, didn’t they.”
“It’s so nice when it’s hot, isn’t it.”
“Yes I love it, don’t you?”
As George Mikes observed, “In England, you must never contradict anybody  when discussing the weather.”

Similarly, the words Yes and No – straightforward as these may seem – are loaded with difficulty, and cultural overtones, when we say “Yes” but mean “Maybe”; or when we say “No, I don’t mind at all” – and mean “That’s absolutely fine!”

In addition to the vexed question of “British understatement”, there is the related issue of the “proxemics” of a given culture and the register of particular words and phrases. How should we “act”? How close should we stand to another person? How soon is it appropriate to ask a personal question? How direct or indirect is it appropriate to be? The exact combination of phonetic training, listening to sounds, using the voice and breathing in order to “come across” with confidence and fluency, is something that requires a thorough analysis and discussion.

Contact us to find out more!

You never listen!

“You never listen!”

How often a frustrated teenager might say that, and, in business too, how often people might be thinking this, but they do not say it – and barriers are building up, unseen?

How do we “get” people to listen?
Are we really listening“?

 

Boy (3-5) covering ears, eyes closed, close-up
A child might have listened a hundred times to the being told he/she should clean their teeth every night. But do they do it?
As the saying goes, it takes patience to listen but it takes real skill to pretend that you are. And while this is not something we recommend at all, many people are good at pretending! All the outward signals are there to convince the other person ……

In today’s busy world, where time is always pressurised, arguably there is a lack of true care for others in society. We “listen”, but is there any inner processing going on?

Plus, what works with talking to children doesn’t not necessarily work the same way when dealing with business associates etc.. If we are not listening, what alternative does that give to our colleagues?

© elkor 2009

 

Good listening matters at every level.

Everyone likes to think they know best, so, listening to what another person needs to say, attentively, is not just a real skill, it is also potentially a means for powerful changeHow do we do it, when our own heads are so full of stuff we are desperate to get done, and get said?

It is important to remember that not everyone wants to be the one “up there” doing the spotlight work and receiving the credits.  There is equal importance in what we do to help people achieve their own personal goals, wherever they work.

That goal might be to speak and understand English fluently and effectively, whether they are the Managing Director, in the back office, or at the front of house in a retail role. Having the right skills to really hear what is being said, can change the way an entire organisation works.

Actually, when there is good listening, all sides listen and benefit.

good listening

How do you resolve your “issue”?

PIEbutton RussianUK

So you’re a top actor and suddenly you’ve got stage fright and it’s becoming an issue. You know you need to address it but you feel you should try to just get on with it. 

But it becomes more of an issue.

Or you’re a business leader who suddenly seizes up in a presentation and this now plays on your mind! 

You can’t stop thinking about it and the problem gets worse.

How to improve Performance

How to improve Performance

Both these scenarios happen often. Sometimes people get through on their own but if they can’t that is where we come in.

If the person is trying to communicate in another language then this adds another dimension.

Confidence may need rebuilding or temporary nerves addressing.

By a skilful combination of working through the issues, and along the pathways of understanding – processing – self-composition – performing we help you to:

Like the new actions and goals you are engaging in and working towards

Unpack the elements and get them in order, seeing them clearly

Locate the best means – for you – of working through them successfully

Use the best techniques and approaches to ensure great outcomes

Contact us today!

How do we measure success?

Bluebird water speed

What is success?

Certainly, from a coaching perspective, it is reaching one’s goals.

The famous holder of the world land speed record (and on water too), Malcolm Campbell, famously said:

“When you have reached your goal, set yourself another“.


Bluebird Proteus CN7 Donald Campbell landspeed record car
His son, Donald, continued the proud tradition of tempting fate and taking speed to the limit.

Some might say, it’s important to know when you have done enough!

We have met and worked with hundreds of people, some who needed to go “just that little bit further” and others who had a “mountain to climb” or who “made huge improvements in no time at all”!

Our job is, that by giving prompts and tools the client is empowered to make inner changes themselves; the coach is a facilitator, not some kind of guru!

Everyone is a kind of expert who can tell you how to do things and what to do. But actually the only expert on you is YOU.

Just as only YOU can interpret the messages in your dream, 20 people can give the same presentation but it will be different in each case. Some will connect with their audience but others will not? Why is this?

This is where a great coach can make a world of difference.

Acting when the time is right, making the critical decision, knowing when to act and when not to, and acting swiftly and decisively, or taking one’s time to think things through.

The difference between winning that business contract or not; the difference between being successful in something or not; between becoming excellent at something, and going far enough to know what success feels like.

 

donald campbell and k7 crew

What are you thinking about?

Cherubs with bumble bee small

Cherubs with bumble bee (after Michelangelo)

As visitors to this site and blog may know, Peter is a painter, and enjoys the rare times he finds to paint.

Painting offers an opportunity to reflect on life and to decide how we derive pleasure from the many things we see, do and experience.

The whole process of thinking opens up doors that sometimes prefer to remain shut!

There are many things said nowadays about how our thoughts influence our feelings, actions and experience of life.

From the idea that we should train our mind to see good in every situation and the idea that positive thinking creates energy, initiative and happiness, comes the opposite one – which follows from the first – that “the discontent and frustration you feel is entirely your own creation”.

This, however, is not at all fair to the person whose thoughts are sometimes a jumble of conflicting voices.

From an NLP perspective, the words we hear inside our head are not our own but often borrowed from what we have heard, seen and felt, from others.

What’s important is to clear up the ones that we have borrowed from elsewhere and have become ‘stuck’ – and those that reflect our deeper and lasting goals.

This is so important when we are coaching.

Learning a language can provide an opening to a whole new way of experiencing the world.

Things suddenly become very clear when we see them in new ways!

Lau Tzu B&W
We cannot stop thinking – though as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu believed:  Stop thinking, and end your problems!
Certainly it helps to be able to switch off one’s wandering thoughts and focus on the discipline that being with a coach, provides…. at  P.I.E. above all, we focus on a relaxing and thought-provoking approach that enriches the experience the learner is having, whilst helping them to avoid the pitfalls of over-thinking, which can be confusing and counter-productive!

It’s about doing inspiring things that will always be remembered, not trying to force learning!

As another great thinker – Plutarch – said,

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled. 

Plutarch B&W

 

 

 

 

 

What makes a good blog about “confidence”?

Julia B&W

Julia, our expert in voice coaching and performance skills in acting, says

“I guess the basic thing for attracting people to a blog is – if someone has a lack of confidence – they’ll be looking, not at blogs which talk about “acupuncture”, but at blogs that talk aboutconfidence“!!

“Talking about methods is useless without a ‘hook’ of a problem people want to address, such as confidence tools, communicating with confidence,  the projection of confidence…”

She continues: “…..people think acting is different, but it can help with meetings and business in fantastic ways!”
 
“There’s the issue of confidence…  when feeling nervous, the actual confidence which comes from knowing you can handle a meeting does not imply that the methods a person uses will create total confidence without nerves, but that the adrenaline or nerves are controlled – like a trained animal!”
 
“I’m thinking of acting as an example… and I did give talks too as a child – it was scary but I did it, the English Speaking Board; you had a prepared talk then the examiner would discuss other things you were interested in and define ONE. It was quite something really! there were other people there too, an audience of family…”
 
For her – whatever the age – being stuck in front of a load of people and an examiner was daunting… and at PIE we use NLP and hypnotherapy too, to overcome issues..
 
“The prepared talk was fine, then the imptomptu talk was shorter and I recall I had a few minutes to ‘create’ a structure in my head… I was young! I remember my mum in the audience all red faced but proud!  I think that elocution helped because it gave a focus too regarding HOW I was to convey the talk.”
 
 
“There were the background tools of emphasis and pacing and how to make the voice carry to the back of the room, and the breathing also to control nerves… picking a subject and making it interesting; picking out main points… That is what people identify with!”
 
“Otherwise a blog is a professional ‘paper’ and detached from their own experience; it is about connecting so they see their own problem in it and see how you’ve addressed it.”
 
In “the Third Tribe”, Chris Brogan is quoted as saying that the heart of good blogging is addressing people’s pain. Most of us are familiar with the saying “People don’t google ‘aspirin’; they google ‘headache’.”
 
As coaches, we’re solving the problems that people would google!