Be careful not to insult people from other cultures with the words you use in business

Tony, You are so FAT!

I could have been insulted by my guide’s words. I admit I was initially taken back at being called to my face – You are so FAT – but luckily I understood understood what he “meant to say”.

I was on a bike-riding tour around beautiful Bali – and my diminutive guide called me FAT.

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He was proud of his command of English – but I gave him a little tip to use words other than FAT – and to be aware that many Westerners don’t like being called FAT.

Friends from many different Asian backgrounds had explained to me that being “fat” rather than “thin” was a sign that you had plenty of money for food.

 

Maybe it is a view with older generations, but skinniness was often seen as a sign of not having money for food. Being Fat was often seen as attractive and a compliment.

My thin guide had told me: Tony you are so fat. I wish I was FAT like you. .

I understand that FAT can be a good thing – as in: I got a fat cheque OR That’s a fat bass sound.

I suggested our guide say You are so BIG (or even better BIG and STRONG) – rather than FAT.

I suggested that he not call Western women big. 

 

I suggest to you that you avoid commenting on physical attributes all together. Even if you see it as a compliment – like being tall. Even tall people may not like being called tall – they may have stood out in their younger years by being tall and may not like people commenting on it.

everest

Also, I am not “big and strong” (especially by Australian standards) – I guess to my skinny guide, I appeared big and “FAT”.

I guess the same would apply “in reverse” – a “Westerner” thinking they are complimenting a person by telling them they are “skinny” or “thin” when being skinny is NOT seen as a good thing.

I understand that attitudes are changing over time with younger generations around the world seeing being thin as a compliment rather than an insult!

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My point is: different cultures have different attitudes to body size and age.

Also, words have different connotations. Another example, was where a person learning English wanted to say: I want to be friends/friendly with you – but wrote I want to be intimate with you (which has a different connotation)

Here’s are two links to more on the problem of words having different connotations and the importance in business communication of having someone who understand the local culture to check and advise on the words used.

1.I want to be intimate with you

2. the danger of “false friends”

Now, the danger of insulting people also applies to English speakers communicating with people from other backgrounds.

international-communication TB

I am experienced in cross-cultural communication. I learn so much from the people I help – yet I once had to quickly correct potential “damage” when I gave what I thought was a compliment to a client from a Chinese background. I’ll share that in a future post.

If you have any work colleagues from different language backgrounds who could benefit from my coaching, please contact me. I get great results in identifying the potential “dangers” and helping speakers avoid the problems.

I have plenty of experience in helping speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, Middle Eastern). I’ve even helped Brits and Americans and Canadians avoid embarrassment when presenting to Australian audiences.

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word nerd CU

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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

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Speaking English for Business – special help for Korea Pt 3 – B

In this part of our series on helping people from Korean backgrounds pronounce English words we look at the B part of the A B C technique.

 

international-communication TB

 

Part A dealt with Awareness of the main pronunciation challenges for Koreans speaking English – link at the end of this post.

 

 

 

B – (this post) – deals with BRINGING FORTH and BOLDING the problem words.

 

If you (the speaker) have an electronic copy of your speech or your PowerPoint presentation – you can do a search for words with the problem sounds (discussed in Part 2) or you can go through your speech manually and mark the problem sounds.

 

Once you have brought forth and bolded the problem words you then:

 

1. Replace  

2. Reduce

2. Rehearse until you master the problem sounds.

 

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I’ve helped people from Korean backgrounds master problem words. The best illustrative examples of the A B C technique involved a super-smart female executive who needed to do an important business presentation. She was from a Chinese background and pronounced Ls like Rs and, to a lesser extent, her Rs sounded like Ls.

In the B part of our process, we

We brought forth and bolded all the words with problem L and R sounds. The problem sounds were made visually obvious on her presentation. Then she needed to say the presentation out loud so we could hear what words were the greatest challenge.

Some L and R problem words were less obvious than others. You need to practice the speech or presentation out loud to know what problem words stand out.

 

This can depend on where the problem sounds appear within a word and where those words appear within the speech or presentation.

With the problem words that were more obvious and prominent,  we could replace with words that meant the same thing but did not have the problematic Ls or Rs in them.

 

The biggest problem word was the name of the product the presentation was about. The name had an L in it. We could reduce the number of times she used the word – but she would have to say it. We had to get that word right!

 

So, after we replaced and reduced we had to then rehearse saying the word – again and again.

 

I’ll share more about that in out next part – the C part of the  A B C technique – and that deals with Correcting the problem sounds through practice or rehearsal.

Here are links to

1. the set-up to this series part 1 – set-up

2. Awareness – part 2 – awareness

If you have any work colleagues from different language backgrounds who could benefit from my coaching, please contact me. I get great results in identifying the potential “dangers” and helping speakers avoid the problems.

I have plenty of experience in helping speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, German, Middle Eastern). I’ve even helped Brits and Americans and Canadians avoid embarrassment when presenting to Australian audiences.

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word nerd CU

 

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

@tonybiancotti

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

Or you can follow this blog.

These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

 

TBCope.001

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking English for Business – special help for Korea Pt 2 – Awareness

You can quickly check out the introduction and context for this series of posts in Part 1 – here:

Part 1 – intro

 

I’ll outline a 3 step process to help people from Korean backgrounds speak English for business presentations and meetings.

 

A – B – C

 

Awareness of problem sounds

Bolding problem words in a speech or presentation

Correcting problem words through repetition and practice.

 

TB Social Media KLT

 

Part 2 – deals with Awareness of  main problem sounds in pronouncing english words for Koreans.

From my direct experience working with Korean business people – the main problems are with consonant sounds that do not exist in Korean – especially the TH sound – in words such THem and THings.

 

Actually many languages including European languages such as French do not have a TH sound – so words are often pronounced with just the T – Things sounds like T-ings!

 

From my experience, even some people from Irish backgrounds say T instead of TH – as in tirty tree tousand – instead of THirty THree THousand.

 

Even some Australians have trouble saying TH. They’ll say New Sou-FF Wales rather than New SouTH Wales – but that’s another story. This post is about helping people from Korean backgrounds.

 

My point is – if you find it hard saying the TH sound – you are not alone.

 

The first step to correcting it is AWARENESS so you can correct it (in a later post).

 

Another problem sound can be the PH sound in words such as PHone. Some Koreans say P-one rather than PHone.

 

Another problem is word order – not technically the sound of words – but still a problem.

 

As a smart young Korean guy explained to me. The English order is SVO – Subject Verb Object – whereas the Korean order is SOV.

 

As he explained – instead of saying I GO HOME – he would naturally say I HOME GO.

 

He smiled and told me that he liked Yoda from Star Wars – because he sounded like a wise Korean!

 

From my research, I understand the writers of Star Wars changed Yoda’s word order to sound ancient and mystical.

 

Anyway, there are some of the major problem sounds for Koreans to be AWARE of when speaking English.

 

TH

PH

and SVO ( word order)

 

In the next two posts, I’ll share how to Bold problem words and Correct by practice and repetition.

 

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international-communication TB

 

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

@tonybiancotti

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

Or you can follow this blog.

These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

 

TBCope.001

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking English for Business – special help for Korea Pt 1

If you have trouble speaking English and pronouncing English sounds – you are not alone.

 

I help people from lots of different backgrounds – Japan, Korea, Russia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, China, Spain,  various South American countries (to name a few!)

international-communication TB

 

Many people who come to English from a different language, find it hard  to correctly pronounce certain sounds that are unfamiliar to their background. English speakers also often have trouble reproducing unfamiliar sounds from other languages.

 

I mainly help people quickly and effectively  improve their spoken English for Business presenting.

Other “teachers/trainers” are better if you want to cover English in other broader (beyond business) situations.

 

I will mainly come in and help people improve their Business English for business situations.

 

This post series concentrates on the challenges Koreans often have in speaking English.

 

From my experience with the Koreans I have helped, many can be very effective with written English – but can be scared of having to speak and pronounce English.

 

One female executive I helped preferred to use e-mail for communicating in English because she:

1. had time to respond correctly

2. didn’t have to worry about the sound of words

3. felt more confident

 

She was very strong with written English. In fact, in my professional opinion, her e-mails were better written than many native-born English executives I worked with 😉

 

However, I encouraged her to practise improving her spoken English as well –  because you can’t give a business presentation by e-mail!

 

The system I use to help executives improve their spoken English can be summed up:

A B C.

 

1. Be Aware of the “problem sounds”

2. Bring forth and Bold the problem sounds in your speech or presentation – you can use your computer to search for and highlight problem sounds in the text of a speech or presentation. You can use other highlighting methods. I prefer to use bold.

3. Correct the problem sounds – through repetition and practice

 

Easy-to-remember memory devices like ABC help make the process faster and more manageable – especially for busy executives who want to quickly master those difficult sounds in their speeches or presentations.

 

In this series of posts, I’ll go through these 3 stages of the ABC system  especially tailored for the challenges faced by Koreans wanting to pronounce English correctly.

 

As you may be aware, it’s a major priority for Korean families to help their children master written and spoken English. Many families like to send children to study in English-speaking countries such as The United States, Canada, The UK and Australia and New Zealand.

 

From my experience, the Korean business people I work with are very good at written English – but know they need help with improving their spoken English.

 

In the next post, I’ll share about the “problem sounds” English presents to Koreans.

 

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If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

@tonybiancotti

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

Or you can follow this blog.

These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.

 

TBCope.001

 

 

 

 

When the correct word alludes you – elude or allude? Here’s an easy way to remember >

This post was inspired by reading the writing of a very clever writer – a clever writer who made a common mistake confusing sound-a-like words allude and elude.

“…most examples are sales related, the tool our speaker eluded to can be applied across all professions.” 

It should be alluded to rather than eluded to.

An easy way to remember the difference and how to choose the correct word:

To elude means to escape.

An easy way to remember is to remember the EsElude to Escape

 

To allude to is to refer to indirectly.

 

I’m sure there is an easy way to remember this –  but the memory trick alludes me at the moment!

word nerd CU

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If you’d like links to other easy-to-remember prompts to help you choose the right works – take a peak here! 🙂

1. wonder or wander?

2. sort or sought?

3. peak or peek or pique

 

If you notice people in your organisation are confusing their words, I’d love to help.

I can run group training sessions or 1-1 coaching.

I work with lots of smart people who just need some help remembering how to choose the right words.

They are often at the PeAK of their careers. I take a pEEK at their writing and pique their interest in improving their writing by making the sessions memorable and enjoyable.

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If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

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How to choose the right word – peak or peek or pique? Here’s an easy way to remember >

twin peaks

I just saw one of my favourite writers write about “to peak interest”.

In that case the correct word should be piqueto arouse interest.

This got me thinking (piqued my interest) about all the different  sorts of “peaks” in English.

Peak – as in the pinnacle, the highest point. A mountain peak.

peek – to look at – often a quick look

and

pique – to arouse or to stimulate (interest or appetite)

word nerd CU

As a word nerd, I try to use my nerdiness for good – to  help businesses help their writers know how to choose the right words.

I often help create easy-to-remember “prompts” – often simple visual prompts based around the letters in the words or similarity to other words.

For example, to help you remember how to choose the right “peak”:

peAk – think of the peak in the A like a mountain to remember that sort of “peak”.

pEEk – think sEE. That sort of “peak” is when you take a quick pEEk so sEE.

Pique – comes from the French  – which means to prick or to irritate. That “pique” can mean to excite or arouse. It can also mean to annoy. That version of pique “looks” French to me – so I remember that pique as the “fancy, longer version”.

 

The expression: A fit of pique – is the feisty French version – being annoyed/agitated.

See here for a fuller Definition:

pique definition

I trust these memory cues will help you remember which version of “peak” to use.

Just remember:

When I took a pEEk at the TV show Twin PeAks, it piqued my interest.

twin peaks

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If you’d like links to other easy-to-remember prompts to help you choose the right works – take a peek here!

1. sort or sought?

2.course or coarse?

3.bear or bare?

4.whether or weather?

TBMMCW.001

If you notice people in your organisation are confusing their words, I’d love to help.

I can run group training sessions or 1-1 coaching.

I work with lots of smart people who just need some help remembering how to choose the right words.

They are often at the PeAK of their careers. I take a pEEK at their writing and pique their interest in improving their writing by making the sessions memorable and enjoyable.

TB training group

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.

Twitter 

 

tony biancotti

@tonybiancotti

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

How to choose the right word – course/coarse

Is it hard to choose the right word? – of coarse!

Especially with similar sounding and similar looking words such as course and coarse!

You can even add CAUSE confusion for non-native English speakers. People from non-English speaking backgrounds often have trouble hearing the difference between words such as course and cause. Native English speakers often  take hearing the differences in sounds for granted.

This post is about how to use the correct course/coarse words.

first course

Even native English speakers who are well educated can make word mistakes that can make them look not-so-smart – even coarse and unrefined.

Imagine you are a professional and you use the wrong word. Will some of your readers judge you unkindly?

Those who know the correct words may doubt the accuracy of the rest of your work if you choose the wrong word.

Here’s an easy way to remember how to choose the correct word in the course/coarse confusion.

golf course

Most times you will use COURSE – a golf course, a photography course, in the course of events, first course (on a menu)

The “other” similar word COARSE is for when something is rough – for example COARSE FABRIC, COARSE GRASS, or even COARSE language.

I had great “teachers”  through my school and work as a journalist who helped me (and my classmates) remember what word to use. I often share their memory devices.

Just think that coARSE language might use include the word ARSE. And ARSE rhymes with GRASS!

MBE course sign

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If a love of language is coursing through your veins and you’d like more tips on how to choose the right words – you can follow this blog, of course! Or you can get me in for a quick, tailored course on how to help you remember the confusing word challenges in your business.

You’d be amazed how many big businesses let mistakes slip through on their websites and in their marketing collateral.

weather/whether

bare/bear

complimentary/complementary

Don’t let it happen to your business!

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word nerd CU

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.

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tony biancotti

@tonybiancotti

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti