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Friday, August 12, 2011

Improve Oral Communication in Business English

Communication is perhaps the most essential component in business. Without communication, companies cannot interact with their customers. Internally, confusion will arise and slow productivity. Without well-defined oral communication skills, a worker will not likely advance in his or her career and may even be terminated.


1. INTRO PHRASES
·         Use introductory phrases before your message to catch people’s attention, so they are listening before you emit your main point.
·         This will also let listeners adjust their hearing to your speed, pronunciation and tone of voice.
·         Therefore, they’ll already be used to your phonemes when you display the main idea.

2. MEMORISING
·         Memorize key words – since you will not have time to look for them when needed.
·         Knowing the meaning of words is not enough. They aren’t useful until you’ve been through the whole learning cycle. This implies that you have to understand the word, know how to use it, memorize it and be able to recall it when needed.
·         Try to revise vocabulary a week after you’ve learned it and check if you remember it one month later.


3. ONE-IDEA PHRASES
·         Use one idea to a sentence and build the sentence around the idea.
·         English is a language of few, precise words where economy is a plus.
·         Many listeners are used to short sentences and find it hard to handle several notions in one phrase.
·         It is better to repeat the same ideas in several formats so people who do not follow your point in one way have the chance to understand it in another.

4. GESTURES
·         Magnify facial gestures, since they will help to get your message across in case verbal language fails and people don’t follow your words.
·         Remember that body language transmits a lot of information so don’t be afraid of gesticulating.
·         Listeners will take non-verbal signs as part of your personality and will not pay conscious attention to your gestures.
·         As a foreign speaker your weakest area of communication is verbal language, so make up for this lack with stronger non-verbal signs.


It’s important to use gestures when speaking. However, act out your conversation in front of your teacher and check whether your non-verbal signs are suitable for the culture of the country you are visiting.

5. TOPIC CHANGE
·         Give clear clues when you change subjects so listeners become aware that you’re no longer talking about the same issue.
·         It’s a good idea to remember you must give listeners a map of your speech – people must know exactly where they are standing so they don’t get lost.
·         Listeners might be getting just part of your message, so markers help them to know which subject is now being discussed.

Remember that if it’s difficult for you to speak, it is also difficult for listeners to understand. Thus, give them lots of clues to help them navigate your speech.

6. INTERRUPTING
·         Interrupting is difficult in a language that you don’t handle well, because often when your opportunity comes you can’t find the right words! Therefore, it’s essential to learn how to interrupt with proper expressions.
·         You will need to use these phrases without any delay when inserting a comment or disagreeing with a statement. Speed is important, as opportunities to say something rarely last for long.
·         The key to effective interruptions is the right mix of forcefulness and politeness. Also, you’ll sometimes
·         need to insist several times until you catch people’s attention.


7. WORD ORDER
·         English is a language with few inflexions so order is vital to establish sense.
·         Organize words in your sentences according to rules, because mixing priorities will confuse listeners.
·         Define a word pattern and try to apply it to all your constructions because even though there are several ways to say a sentence correctly, it’s better to play it safe if you are not sure.

8. REGARD REGISTER
·         When you learn a new word, always ask your teacher for the context in which it can be used. Is it formal? Informal? Can I use it with friends? What about writing?

·         Do not use slang, ironical expressions or foul language, even if others do. This could confuse listeners because your speech will unexpectedly change register.

9. FILLERS
Resort to fillers for those seconds you spend looking for words you can’t find.
Sometimes, you cannot afford to stay quiet while you plan what you’re going to say next, so use fillers to gain time.
10. PRONUNCIATION
·         Memorise difficult words and practise them often. When in doubt with names, ask how to pronounce them
·         correctly.
·         Don’t hide your accent by speaking with your mouth closed or increasing your speed, because people will find it harder to follow you.
·         Talk slowly, look at listeners and don’t try to compete with outside noises. If there’s a noise, wait until it subsides.
      Do not trust your instinct, because pronunciation is often unpredictable.




11. QUESTION TAGS
·         Apply tail phrases on leading questions, since they are a legitimate way to make listeners assert to your proposals.
·         Question tags ending with negative tail phrases elicit affirmative answers.
·         Question tags ending with positive tail phrases elicit negative answers.

12. FALSE FRIENDS
Be careful with false friends, because many expressions that seem straightforward to you can end up messing up your speech.
Don’t assume that terms which look like words in your native tongue mean the same. Sometimes, there are surprises!
Also, some English words that become part of another language’s colloquial vocabulary lose their original sense and end up meaning something else.


13. INTONATION
Practise intonation before your speech, as natives grant importance to words based on stress. Remember that every language’s cadence is different, so tone variations applied in Spanish are not valid for English. Sometimes listeners will not get the gist of your sentences if you apply the wrong intonation patterns.


14. EMULATE NATIVES
·         Emulate native speakers by listening and then applying their type of language in your phrases, because it is easier to convince people employing their own style of speech.
·         Politely mimic people by using the same type of language. However, do not copy every word because this could prove offensive.
·         Don’t concentrate so much on your own phrases that you forget to listen to the way others speak!

15. FUNCTIONS
·         We use language for different functions, such as answering the phone, saying hello or expressing dissatisfaction.
·         It is better to learn a few phrases for every function than many phrases for a few functions. Therefore, instead of memorizing countless ways to ask for coffee use part of that time to practise how to book a room, how to disagree or how to hire a car.
·         Automate those expressions so you don’t have to look for them when you need them.

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