Creating Connections Through Language

     Triangle Speech Services is the private, professional practice of Judith L. Bergman, a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in foreign accent and regional dialect modification.  I offer customized, individual tutorials to corporate-sponsored and self-enrolled individuals who speak English fluently but with moderate to severe accents that create challenges and frustrations in the workplace.    
   Last fall I was captivated by an NPR interview with Trevor Noah whom many of you know from his late night TV talk show.  He spoke about his book, "Born A Crime" because his birth was literally "a crime." His mother was Xhosa from South Africa and his father was Swiss and spoke German and inter-racial alliances in South Africa were against the law punishable by five years in jail. Under apartheid, he could not be seen walking on the street or anywhere outside with either of them! He spoke about how he survived and eventually escaped from the system, thanks to his mother having taught him fluency in many languages and his excellent ability to "mimic."
   I read his book on my Kindle and wanted to find his specific words about how he used language to stay physically safe and eventually gain acceptance but I haven't mastered electronic bookmarking. Fortunately these exact quotes were included in the New York Times, Nov. 28, 2016 book review of "Born a Crime" by Michiko Kakutani.
Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah's Use of Language to Connect and Be Accepted
In the book review, Mr. Kakutani writes, "Language, he discovered early on, was a way to camouflage his difference. His mother, fluent in English,  knew Xhosa, Zulu, German, Afrikaans, Sotho and Tswana and used her knowledge 'to cross boundaries, handle situations, navigate the world.' She made sure that English was the first language her son spoke because, 'if you're black in South Africa, speaking English is the one thing that can give you a leg up.' "
   " 'English is the language of money,' Mr. Noah goes on. 'English comprehension is equated with intelligence. If you're looking for a job, English is the difference between getting the job or staying unemployed.' "
   "A gifted mimic, Trevor learned to become 'a chameleon,' using language to gain acceptance in school and on the streets. 'If you spoke to me in Zulu, I replied in Zulu,' he writes. 'If you spoke to me in Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana.  Maybe I didn't look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.' "
(Photo of Noah is by Chad Barka taken in 2015 at the Dubai Comedy Festival). 
Can You Relate to Trevor Noah's Extreme Challenges?

   As a non-native speaker of English, perhaps you were not raised with such extreme social obstacles. But have you found it hard to feel  really accepted in business situations.  Do you have trouble connecting in casual, social situations in and out of the workplace?  
    As a fluent, bilingual person, you are really linguistically "superior" to your monolingual American colleagues but this fact doesn't help. The "bottom line" is this: Are the speech sound patterns of English coming out of your mouth close enough to Standard English for your listeners to understand you? Is your accented speech (which is NOT your fault and which is a natural outcome of learning English "backwards" from reading to speaking in school), at least "listener friendly?"   It is really difficult to do business with, to work with someone you can't understand.  This is the "painful truth" as I called it in an earlier newsletter.
   Even if you are understood most of the time and you feel that your speech is not only fluent but really clear, although accented, you still might want to speak in a way that is much closer to Standard English.  My clients' speech patterns fall at both ends of this spectrum and all points in between. 
   Our programs can move some clients' spoken English from mostly unintelligible to "listener friendly" and for some that is a wonderful outcome. Others, who start out with noticeable but mild accents can polish their speech, work on becoming natural sounding and can learn to catch and self-correct accent features that "slip" into their conversation.     

  We invite you to visit us by clicking on Triangle Speech Services .  Our goal is always to provide information, inspiration, and encouragement since these are essential components of any successful learning experience.
  Enrolling in accent modification training with me requires a free phone consult and then a stand-alone Information Session. Even if your company wants to sponsor you or even if the cost is within your budget, you will need to consider the commitment of your time and energy to daily online practice, which I will review daily between twice monthly in-person sessions.
   If you are seriously considering enrolling yourself or an employee in an individual tutorial with us or simply want to talk to us about our programs, please contact us through the contact page of our web site, and we hope you also take the time to read the text and look at the videos.
Judith L. Bergman M.A. CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist and Corporate Speech Trainer
Triangle Speech Services