Case Studies and Success Stories Show Clients Gain Confidence
Voice to Word Consulting Focuses on Clear Communications for the North American Context.
Throughout this site we tell you about the services and value that Voice to Word Consulting offers. Now, let us show you. The following success stories show how our services have been put to work by a few of our clients who have developed more confidence and skill in communicating correctly and appropriately within the English-speaking business environment. They will help you understand how we can work for you as well. Click here for shorter testimonials from previous clients.
Moving into the Director’s Position
The following case study describes an example of one kind of training request we received at Voice to Word. While not the most common situation, it gives an idea of the variety of contexts and needs we might deal with.
Late one Friday afternoon, we received a call with an urgent request for on-site training. We had one week to prepare the employee for a very critical interview. The only information we received was that the employee was “a little rough around the edges!” …. Read more >
Why Actors Can be so Good With Accents
A French acting student wanted to soften her accent so she would be considered for a wider range of roles. Actors are generally used to working with different accents and comfortable exploring articulation. Paying attention to fine distinctions in sound and how they are made is part of their training. And generally, actors work from a script, memorizing what they say. When we think about content, our focus shifts to what we are saying rather than how we are saying it, making it more difficult to maintain a non-native accent. When memorizing a script, achieving almost native-like speech is more realistic.
After working together for a few months, she took summer off and continued to practice. When we met again in the fall, I was astounded at how her speech had changed. Her focus, diligence, attention to detail, training and commitment all played a role in allowing her to achieve so much.
Singing is a Great Way to Improve Pronunciation
A Russian singer wanted help with the pronunciation of her English repertoire. I particularly enjoyed our sessions because I had learned to speak Spanish largely from singing in it. I often write about how music reinforces correct pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Like music, language uses pitch, stress, rhythm, phrasing and volume to create its unique feel. And because grammar and vocabulary are contextualized and often memorized, we remember more easily.
As we worked on her repertoire, she began to transition smoothly between sounds, reduce unstressed vowels and clarify stressed ones, pronounce consonants and endings clearly and phrase ideas more naturally. In contrast to her initial renditions, her lyrics were clear and the meaning understandable. Once she understood the basic principles, she was able to continue independently to improve her performances.
Learning English From Teenage Peers Who Mumble
A young Korean man who spoke English very fluently came to me because people often asked him to repeat himself. He had come to Canada as a teenager and learned English by speaking with his peers. As is often the case, teenagers tend to mumble and he had learned by imitating them, thus his lack of clarity and knowledge about clear enunciation. After a few months of working together, he began to see a marked improvement in his clarity when comparing his initial recordings with his current practice samples. And best of all, he was delighted because people had stopped asking him to repeat himself.
The Importance of Getting an Objective Evaluation of Your Skills
I worked with a Latin American woman who had recently been promoted. In her new position, she was managing a group of predominantly native English speakers and was required to give regular presentations. Concerned that her speech was often unclear, she was losing confidence.
Perspective is key when communicating. If all concerns are seen within the prism of “my problems,” then communication is limited and cannot flow, regardless of your personal concerns and difficulties.
The first step was for the client to have an objective, rather than subjective, evaluation of her clarity – and it was much better than she had thought. Then we worked on adjusting a few sounds and improving her rhythm. Once she realized what the issues were and how to improve them, with some practice and time, her confidence grew and her improved clarity was verified as co-workers complimented her on her presentations.
Contact us to arrange an assessment.
You are under no obligation to take any training but the assessment is always the first step forward. It will give you perspective and help you to understand what could be adjusted to make your speech clearer.
Speaking Clearly is an Essential Workplace Skill and Instills Confidence
After a Chinese client lost a promotion due to weak English skills, he realized that to do a truly professional job, he needed to upgrade his skills. His motivation brought him to me where we worked on many aspects of English pronunciation including linking, clear vowels and consonants, and rhythm. As well, we looked at interview questions, behavioural expectations and how to organize short, complete and concise responses. Thanks in advance for his letter to me where he says:
“The one-on-one coaching I received from Heather helped me dramatically… Learning these skills greatly increased my confidence. With years of experience, Heather is clearly an expert in this area and knowledgeable about the issues faced by different linguistic groups. She makes the experience both enjoyable and effective. I strongly recommend Voice to Word to anyone looking to improve their English communication.”
The Importance of Self-Awareness and Attitude
The following story emphasizes the importance of self awareness and attitude when learning.
I was contacted by a woman who wanted a pronunciation assessment. Her reason? People kept ‘cutting her off’ and she felt it was due to not speaking clearly. At the hour-long assessment, she talked non-stop for 45 minutes. I began to gently interrupt so we could start the assessment and she immediately stopped speaking. As I asked her questions, she gave me one-word answers. When I asked her what had happened, she answered ‘nothing’ so I insisted. Her response? “You people are always cutting us off.” Needless to say, she didn’t choose to study with us.
The issue in this case? Very limited self-awareness and an us-them mentality resulted in blaming others and not taking responsibility for her situation. Self-awareness is key to learning and it takes courage to open ourselves to what it reveals.
Improving Your Intonation Could Improve Your Singing!
A French client studied with me for a while. We spent some time working on the typical French intonation – rising at the end of sentences. It was very difficult for him to adjust it, largely because he couldn’t really hear it. We met sporadically off and on and one day I realized that he wasn’t rising at the end of his sentences anymore. I mentioned it and he replied: “Yes. And I can now sing on key!” – a side benefit of studying pronunciation!
Learning to Clarify and Verify
I while back I had a client, an engineer with a large company. He told me that, one day while being given instructions at work, he thought he had understood clearly and didn’t verify or clarify. (To verify means to confirm the details – “So you want me to make sure the installation gets done tomorrow, right?” To clarify means to make something clear – “Did you say it needs to be done tomorrow?”) He proceeded to do what he had understood which was a major mistake and cost the company thousands of dollars.
Why didn’t he verify or clarify? First, he didn’t want to draw attention to his issues with listening comprehension. Second, he was talking with his superior and was uncomfortable with the status difference. Third, no one had ever discussed with him the importance of doing this, emphasized that this is a part of normal communication and taught him how to do it.
How Quickly our Perception of What is Appropriate Changes
A Ukrainian client of mine who worked in customer service was sent to me because there had been complaints that he was rude. When I met him, I found him to be a very lovely person. The issue was that, on the phone when he was working, he had a very “get things done” approach – he spoke quickly and never included any small talk or softening techniques. We worked together for a few months and then he took a trip to his native country. When he returned, I asked him how the visit had gone. His response: “Great! But the people there are so rude!”
A Simple Solution – Speak More Slowly
A Russian client came to me because co-workers and clients often complained about difficulty understanding him. As usual, the first thing we do with our clients is assess their skills. It became immediately clear that the principal problem was simply that he spoke too fast. When he slowed down, he had more time to enunciate and he was easily understood. We worked for a while to develop the habit of speaking slowly and within a month he was receiving feedback that he was now much easier to understand.
Learning to Speak More Clearly
I worked with a Chinese-born police officer a few years back. He had been experiencing considerable discrimination in his daily interactions with both fellow officers and the general public. While unclear speech is no cause for discriminatory behaviour, speaking understandably is important in times of conflict and when working with the public. It is also something that an individual has the power to improve.
I shared with him that I also had difficulty understanding what he wanted to say and he began to understand why and how he was unclear for native English speaking ears. We looked at some of the difficult sounds – in particular N, L and R and some complex vowels. He learned about rhythm and stress and the importance of lengthening stressed vowels. And we explored how best he could practice this in ways that would stay in his speech while he was thinking about what he was saying rather than how he was saying it.
A few months after we stopped working together, he called me to tell me his great news – he had been promoted!