Author Archives: Elizabeth Brewer

Text-Talk Downfalls

It is rare to go to a place in today’s world where you don’t see multiple people on their smartphones or other various devices. I am always fascinated when I am out and about, to see how people interact with one another.


I think one of the most baffling exchanges for me is the interaction that you see between people in restaurants. If you are taking the time to go out to a restaurant with someone, why would you sit down across from them and immediately whip out your phone? I have seen people sitting across from each other who speak very little with one another for the entire meal. Instead, they are texting away on their phones.


What is even more fascinating about texting culture is the minimal effort that people put in when it comes to actually constructing a text message. I get messages from people that have misspelled words, incorrect grammar, and little to no punctuation. I also receive texts with a variety of different abbreviations.


There is a texting language that has developed in today’s culture. People are now spending so much time having conversations on their phones that their “text-talk” has begun leaking into their speech and other written communication.


I work with students on a daily basis and I get countless emails that are nearly impossible to decipher. I will read some emails three or four times, and still struggle to understand what point or question the student was trying to get across. Often times, the way that they write me is very similar to the way that they would write text messages. Usually when this happens, I will follow it up with a personal phone call to the student.


Sometimes, I find it difficult to understand students on the phone because they mumble and do not pronounce their words clearly. I believe this is a direct relation to the lack of time we actually spend speaking with one another face to face. I see the gap continually widening.  


It is time that we take a closer look at how texting culture is affecting our communication, and at what can be done to promote clearer spoken and written English.

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Continuous Improvement

Learning is an ongoing process. It is not something that stops as soon as you get out of school. Real world experiences help us to continually grow and learn each and every day. Aside from day to day experiences, you can also seek out ways to continually challenge yourself by doing such things as: taking online courses, reading books or scholarly journals, or even watching instructive YouTube videos.


The options, when it comes to learning are endless, and the biggest mistake a person can make is to think that he no longer needs to seek out new ways to learn and challenge himself.


Pronunciation is an area in which many people seem to think that growth and continuous improvement are not necessary. However, when it comes to communicating effectively with others, both professionally and personally, continuing to strengthen pronunciation skills is essential.


We are living in a diverse world where we work with people who speak a myriad of different languages on a daily basis. Because of the different languages and accents being used, the pronunciation barrier continually increases and makes it harder for people to understand one another.


The English language, specifically, is very complex and is made up of 19 different vowel sounds. An example of the complexity of the English language is that a single word can be pronounced in several different ways depending on the context. As a result, conversational speech can be tricky, and many things that people say can be easily misinterpreted.


At Towajo, we are challenging you to continually improve the quality of your spoken English and your pronunciation. Our system provides you with the necessary tools to be successful.


Lessons in Pronunciation: My Trip To India

Barriers to communication are present in our everyday lives no matter who you are or what language you speak. I have had the opportunity to witness this first hand in a very intense way, and I would like to share my experience with you.


At the beginning of 2015 I traveled abroad to Chennai, India to complete five weeks of student teaching. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to such a vastly different place from what I have grown so accustomed to in the United States. I knew that because I was traveling to a different place where the national language was Hindi, I would encounter a variety of barriers when it came to communication. However, I did not know that the main barriers I would face would occur primarily when speaking with others who spoke English.


In Chennai, all of the students are taught three languages when they are in school. First, is Tamil, which is the state language. Next, students are taught Hindi, the national language. As a third language, students are required to learn English. Even though students are learning English, they are learning it in their native language. As a result, students learn English words and phrases, but they do not learn correct pronunciation or grammar.


I was assigned to a first grade classroom at the campus school housed on the campus of Madras Christian College. I was so excited when I walked through the door to meet all of my students. I reminded myself beforehand that I needed to speak slowly and clearly to ensure that the students would comprehend what I said. I stood at the front of the room all smiles and slowly said, “Hi everyone, I am from the United States of America and I am so excited to be here with you.”


About forty little faces stared blankly back at me. I kindly tried repeating what I had said even slower, but still, none of the students seemed to have any idea what I was saying. The teacher gently pulled me aside and asked if she could repeat what I said to the class. I graciously nodded and allowed her to take back over. She repeated what I said with a few minor word changes and a completely different accent. The students seemed to respond when she spoke, and suddenly their faces lit up. I knew right then that my time with these students would not be easy, but I was determined to find a way to communicate clearly with them.


My barrier to communicate was not just among my first grade students, though. I encountered the problem with nearly every person that spoke English in India as a second or third language. I majored in Business Education. So, in addition to the time I spent at the campus school, I was invited to sit in on several different business classes at Madras Christian College. I went to a class with my notebook and pencil, eager to learn and take notes.


When the professor started speaking, I soon realized that taking notes would not be an option. I struggled to even understand every fifth word. He was speaking English, but his accent was so thick that I did not understand most of what he said. After the class, he pulled me aside and wanted to have a chat about his class and the material he taught. All of a sudden, I felt like I had swallowed a brick and it was stuck in my throat. I had no idea what to say. I could not even understand all of the questions he was asking me.  I did my best to answer what I could, but by the end of the conversation I could tell that the professor was slightly frustrated.


Oftentimes, pronunciation is not considered to be very important. But based on this experience, I believe that pronunciation is one of the most important parts of language learning. In order to successfully communicate with one another, and articulate our thoughts, we all need to have a basic understanding of pronunciation.


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