Friday, September 12, 2008

English Language: Fun Friday - Singapore English Vocabulary

I had my air conditioning units serviced today, and sometimes I felt like I was speaking another language. The service man told me the drain pipe was "choked." I asked him to repeat the word 4 times before I was sure that yes, he was saying "choked." Then I asked him to repeat it another 3 times so I could try to figure out what it meant! Of course, it was clogged.

The vocabulary in Singapore English can be very different than Standard English and I always think it's a lot of fun to learn new words. If you're planning a trip to Singapore any time soon, some of the words on this list might be helpful. And for you Singaporeans, remember, we foreigners might not know what the heck you're talking about if you use these words with us! Please be patient!

Here are some of my favorites (SGE = Singapore English, SE = Standard English)

SGE: Your drain pipe is choked.
SE: clogged

SGE: I'll take/bring/send/follow you to the airport.
SE: take

SGE: I'll chope seats.
SE: reserve

SGE: Did they chop your passport?
SE: stamp

SGE: Just call my handphone.
SE: mobile/cell/cellular phone

SGE: I'll zap that page for you.
SE: photocopy

SGE: What alphabet does your name start with?
SE: letter

SGE: He showed up wearing slippers.
SE: flip flops/thongs. (No, not thong underwear.I know what you're thinking...)

SGE: I bought it at that huge departmental store.
SE: department store

There are many others, but I'll save them for future posts. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Public Speaking: Body Language

Did you know that 55% of your message is actually conveyed by your body language? That means that the way you present yourself during your talk is actually more important than what you actually say.

Think about it. Do you feel motivated by a speaker that has little energy, doesn't make eye contact or looks nervous or confused? Of course not! It doesn't matter how good the message is. If the body language is sending a conflicting signal, that signal will always win.

So, what should you watch out for? A lot of people define body language as the gestures you use. In reality it is much more. In addition to gestures, your body language consists of your posture and movement and facial expressions.

When you are on a stage in front of a lot of people, you need to exaggerate your body language so it can be seen. Keep your gestures above your waist and don't be afraid to stretch your arms out more than you normally do. All the stage is your world, so to speak. Take advantage of it.

Your facial expressions should also match the message you are sending. Make sure to make eye contact with individuals in your audience as well. Don't just skim over the sea of heads.

Take note of your posture. You should ooze confidence, even if you don't completely feel that way. For a longer discussion on posture, see this earlier post. Don't be afraid to move around the stage either. It's OK to walk around - movement between points can be especially helpful to signal a change in your talk. Just be careful you don't start pacing back and forth on stage. That can be very distracting and can make you look nervous.

Your body language constantly sends signals that you might not even be aware of. Video tape yourself speaking so that you can see what messages you are sending. You might be surprised!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Communication Etiquette: Top 10 Tips for Communicating on Social Networking Sites

Whether it's Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the many other social networking sites, courteous communication is still a must. The way we interact on these sites is definitely different than a phone call or email. Here are my top 10 tips to follow when catching up with your friends, colleagues and complete strangers on these sites.

1. Learn the software
Although most social networking sites are very similar, there are some differences. Make sure that if you choose to join a site you also have the time to learn the basics like how to write comments and send messages.

2. Follow the site's terms of use
Don't post obscene pictures and messages to your or others' pages unless you want to get banned from the site. Your friends probably won't appreciate you lewd taste in videos either.

3. Add a message to your friend request
I never accept friend requests from people who don't include a short message unless they are a very good friend that I'm sure I know. I'm happy to add people to my friends list, but let me know how you found me or how we know each other, especially if you haven't posted a picture.

4. Choose your friends wisely
Know why you are on social networking sites. Some people join to keep in touch with close friends and post private information and pictures that they don't want the world to see. Other people are marketing their businesses or are interested in meeting new people and add just about anyone. There is nothing wrong with either approach. Just think about the information on your profile and your audience.

5. Think about what you forward
A lot of these sites let you forward different applications, videos, articles, etc. to people on your friends list. Don't just blindly forward these things to everyone. Think about who might appreciate your forward and send it to those individuals. Don't bombard everyone with all your "funny" forwards all the time.

6. Reply to comments
It's always polite to write back to people who leave you comments or comment on your pictures, notes or other postings.

7. Keep private messages private
There are some things that shouldn't be discussed openly in front of everyone on the web. Instead of writing a page long comment on someone's "wall" or in their "scrapbook" send a private message that only you and the other person can read.

8. Use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation
This is on every single one of my top 10 lists, and there's a good reason for it. Your writing reflects on you as a person. If you want to maintain a professional and educated image, keep your writing clean and clear.

9. Check your account regularly
The whole point of social networking sites is to keep you connected with people everywhere in cyberspace. If you never check your account, there is no point having a profile on that site. When people write to you, they expect a response, and the turn around time on these sites is very short.

10. Don't get addicted
Although you should be active on your site, that doesn't mean that you have to surf all of Facebook all day every day. It's easy to get wrapped up in catching up with old friends and looking though everyone's photo albums. Remember to set clear priorities! It's also helpful to change your settings so that you aren't notified by email for every single little thing that happens on your site. Friend requests and new messages are good to know about, but you don't necessarily need to know every time you get "super poked."

I'd love to catch up with you on some of these sites. Just remember to write me a message in your friend request saying you found my link on my blog! :-)

My profile
My company page with photos, videos and tips

Speak like a Star! community

Linked In:
My profile


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Speech Training: Basic Intonation

After I had been living in Denmark and speaking Danish on a daily basis for quite some time, I went back home to California only to have one of my best friends tell me that I "talk funny." I asked her what she meant and we figured out that I was speaking English (obviously), but using Danish intonation without realizing it! This made me sound "funny," or in other words, different than someone would normally sound who came from my home town.

Intonation refers to the ups and downs in the tone of our voices when we speak. Every language uses tone a little bit differently. Intonation is often times what holds us back from sounding like a native speaker in another language. If you can master a language's tone variations, you are well on your way to a more native-sounding mastery of that foreign tongue.

There are many ways to use intonation in English, but today I want to look at the two most basic: questioning intonation and statement intonation.

When you ask questions in English your tone usually rises over the course of the question. This signals to the listener that you are asking them something.

The tone of a statement is very different - it ends in a down tone. The tone signals that you are finished with that thought and moving on to something else.

As listeners, it has been found that we put more weight on a speaker's tone of voice than the actual words that are used. If you make a statement but end in an up tone, it will sound like you are unsure of what you are saying; you're using a questioning tone. This could be a real problem if you are presenting important information that you have researched or are trying to convince people to follow your lead. If you sound unsure, your listeners also won't trust what you're saying to be true.

Focus on the sound of your voice and how you use it when you speak. If you find that people don't take you seriously, your tone could be part of the problem.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Communication Etiquette: Magical Introductions

Sorry for the short hiatus. I had to cut my vacation short because I got sick and had to get home to my doctor. That must have been payback for rubbing it in that I was on vacation. Bad karma! Everything is fine now. I'm back, and ready to tackle our next topic: Introductions.

I think we've all been in a situation where someone has introduced us to another person and then suddenly disappeared. We just stand there looking at the other person and have no idea what to say. Where to start? I'll save that for a different post because first of all, the person that introduced us didn't do a very good job.

Introducing two people is an art. Usually you introduce people because you think that they have something in common, could help each other or would just be a good match for whatever reason. You usually want them to like each other. Part of your job as a gracious networker or host is to point out the fantastic similarities these two individuals share so that it's easy for them to start a conversation and "click."

For example, you know that your friend, Judy is an avid sky-diver and your other friend, Mike is preparing for his first tandem jump. They would probably have a lot to talk about! By introducing them and pointing out their similarities, you've ensured that they will have something to talk about. With time, they might have figured out on their own that they share a hobby, but you just saved them the awkwardness of the first encounter.

Here's how the conversation might go:
You: Hi, Mike! I'd like to introduce you to* my friend, Judy. She's the one I told you about that loves sky diving.
Mike: Oh, of course. Nice to meet you.
You (to Judy): Mike is getting ready for his first tandem jump.
Judy: Oh, really? That's great! Nice to meet you too, Mike. So when's your first jump?
Mike: Next week. I'm really looking forward to it...

See how easy that was? Now Mike and Judy can start talking like old friends and you've saved them the awkward silence that comes when two people try to start a conversation.

You know that you've failed to introduce two people correctly if your friend says to you long after they met another one of your friends, "Why didn't you tell me that so-and-so... " You should have known that your friend would have been interested to hear about a shared hobby or interest.

*I am aware that in Standard English the correct form would be "introduce to you." Unfortunately, very few people realize this and it has become widely accepted to use the reverse "introduce you to." In this specific, informal situation I personally feel that "introduce you to" is more acceptable. I'll have to expand on this topic in a future post.