13 August 2003
Language Clarity and Diversity - Not an Issue?
From "Herman Trend Alert," by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurists. (800) 227-3566 or www.hermangroup.com.
When we talk with others in the conduct of business, we often judge them--- sometimes unconsciously---by how they speak. Strong regional accents, speech patterns, and/or local grammatical differences may be perceived as indicative of intelligence, education, or social class. Diversity is important, but clear communication is essential. If people are difficult to understand, there may be adverse effects on productivity, client interaction, and the development of important relationships.
While English is now recognized as the primary language for conducting business internationally, a wide range of pronunciations and differences in usage may inhibit effective goal achievement. Communication difficulties influence results. How important is it that all English speakers talk the same way?
Some will say that diversity is good and that worrying about differences in the way people speak is not very important. Others will argue that speech issues are critical to business success. As global business continues to expand, more attention will be devoted to improving verbal skills. More companies will employ corporate speech pathologists to address these issues---with indigenous English speakers as well as those who have learned English as a second language.
Employers may access resources through the Corporate Speech Pathology Network at www.corspan.org. This group explains that their services include foreign accent reduction to help non-native speakers improve their English pronunciation for clarity. They help native English speakers who wish to acquire the pronunciation and grammatical features of Standard American English through regional accent modification. These professionals also help people communicate more effectively with staff, customers, people who have speech disorders, and people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Executives, sales professionals, and others whose work requires public speaking and presentation will benefit from a greater sense of communications competency and confidence. With increasing use of technologies like video-conferencing, including web-based audio communication, verbal skills will become more important. The higher use of cellular telephones also adds to the need for clear speaking skills and the ability to more easily understand others.
As more recognition is given to oral communication, training organizations and educational groups like Toastmasters International (www.toastmasters.org) will be more heavily utilized.