English Tips and Tricks

March 28, 2018 • written by

Here are some tips and tricks on how to speak and sound better when you speak in English.

Five activities that improves your English

Call centers require good communication skills.

English is the primary language and the best part is that your English does not have to be perfect for you to get hired because conversational level English will do.

If you’re looking for ways to learn how to improve your English, here are some of the tips I can offer to improve your communication skills faster.

1. Watch American films.

The best way to imitate how they speak is to see then in action. Since you watch TV anyway, spend it trying to improve your English. Pay attention to how the characters pronounce certain words and learn from them.

2. Read books and comic books.

This is where you can increase your vocabulary and grammar skills. Observe the dialogue and how things are described to get ideas.

3. Practice speaking with someone in English.

This is my favorite. You get to practice with a live English speaking person. I usually go for foreigners or friends who are comfortable in speaking in English. Ask them to correct you an learn from your mistakes and you’ll learn to speak in English well in no time.

4. Start thinking in English.

We all talk to ourselves. If you’re a Filipino chances are, you speak to yourself in Filipino. When you say “gutom na ako” in your head, say “I’m hungry” instead.

A reason why a lot of Filipinos I know have a hard time speaking in English is that try start with their thoughts expressed in Filipino, translate it into English, double check then speak. Sometimes we get conscious because we have to check if we spoke what we just said correctly. That’s a lot of steps before you get to say something. I propose, you do the exact opposite and have most of your thoughts in English then translate them in Tagalog if you have to.

5. Text, chat, email, Facebook, tweet or write in English.

This is how we communicate most of the time so extra practice in these platforms help as well.

What are you doing to improve your conversational English skills?

Send me an introduction of yourself and that’s good practice. Something like.

“Hi my name is Kevin. I live in Paranaque. I currently work as a writer for a website. I spend my free time going to the gym, learning how to cook and draw and whenever I can I go for outdoor activities like cycling and hiking. I don’t have a girlfriend because I just got out of a long relationship. I also watch Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls and anime like Naruto, Fairy Tail, Log Horizon, Sword Art Online and a whole lot more. I read books by Tim Ferriss, Tony Robins and The Lifehacker blog. I hope I get to meet you some day.””

Or something like that. Let’s try it send me a message.

Think in English

We all talk to ourselves in our head. The question is what language are you using? A common problem shared to me is that when we try to share our ideas we think of it in our dialect and the I we translate it in English.

Let’s think about how that works. We say what we want to say in our language. Then we think of the right words in English to use. Then we combine the words. Then we work on maybe editing and double checking what we want to say. After all we need to make sure that we don’t make a mistake right?

Here’s the thing. Not matter how you look at it this is too long a process for speaking and its too inefficient.

The Philippines is a country where we are blessed with multiple languages and I think that’s an advantage.

Here’s a more efficient way to approach things:

Instead of talking to yourself in Tagalog, talk to yourself in English. In fact think in English. That way you get free practice and more practice hours with how you speak. Even if you are speaking to someone in Tagalog or your local dialect, think in English then translate it to Tagalog or your dialect.

You’ll have a smoother flow of words whether you’re speaking or writing. Just think in English.

How to sound better using sossy mode

You won’t get to use the blessings that you have if you hate them. -kevin olega

We Filipinos have a pretty unique attitude when it comes to the English language. We pick on grammar errors and call them “barok” or “carabao English”. We pick on pronunciation errors and call them “Bisaya” or “probinsyano”.

Here’s the best part, a lot of Filipinos aren’t much at a better speaking ability than the ones they pick on and when they do encounter a local who speaks very well we call them “pa-social” (which implies that they are social climbers and trying to pretend to be rich) or we call their English “slang” (which I guess should be natural at that level) or worse we call them “maarte” (which means spoiled, high class, picky or hard to please).

This attitude somehow affects how we speak because we ourselves don’t like to get picked on.

As a result, we keep our heads down, stay quiet and avoid speaking in English to avoid being judged for having bad English and as a result, our language skill gets dull or if it doesn’t we don’t speak with confidence to avoid sounding “maarte” and we screw ourselves up at every opportunity or occasion we get.

All to stay Filipino. The use of a language is to communicate. There is no English set specifically for the Filipinos. You better speak in English as if you come from an English speaking country.

That’s the requirement when you apply for work in a call center because you’ll be serving clients from other English speaking countries.

Speaking another language well does not make you less of a Filipino than you are. In fact you can contribute more to others if you can speak better. I know employers who pay really well for people who can speak multiple languages.

Here’s some good news:

You have a nice and accessible reference for how to sound better when you speak in English.

Here’s how.

Think of yourself as maarte. We have a better term.

We call it “Sossy mode.” I know it’s going to be a pain for you to apply but the people you call maarte or slang or Sossy have better English than you.

They probably can speak with better grammar and pronounce words better than you. If you avoid speaking that way your English might be affected negatively.

In fact, in my experience, the more “Sossy”or “maarte” your English sounds, the better because it’s similar to how Americans would talk.

How would you speak in Sossy mode?

Just speak. Only this time “be sossy” and don’t be to conscious about it.

With a little practice you can speak really well after.

In my experience, after the people I’m speaking to activate their “sossy mode” their English sounds really well and I don’t need to correct their errors that much anymore.

So you have a choice.

Land a job in a call center “speaking Sossy”, or “slang” or maybe be called “maarte” a few times or speak in English poorly. Would you be willing to consider using the “Sossy mode” to speak better in English?

Send me a message with your thoughts on this.

Celebrity Mode

Sometimes, we don’t feel like ourselves when we speak in English. It’s as if we need to act out a new persona to do that. I actually see nothing wrong with it.

I was training a friend recently and he suddenly started making a lot of mistakes with his English. The thing is, the guy I was training has pretty okay English but it got really bad after a couple of minutes.

I asked him if he was feeling nervous and he eventually admitted it.

From my eyes, it’s as if he suddenly got scared.

People don’t usually admit this but one big reason why were not comfortable speaking in English is that we’re not used to it. We only had one hour or two hours of English class at school and we don’t usually have someone who speaks in English well.

Plus points if you have friends who can speak in English well or you have an aunt or uncle from the States to help you practice. Unfortunately, not everyone has that.

Enter celebrity mode.

My friend was a music lover. He likes rock bands. At first I asked him to introduce himself starting with his name where he was from and that he’s applying for work at a call center.

Try it for your self. Hi my names is Kevin and I’m from Parañaque and I’m applying for work in a call center.

When he did it had the same scared delivery.

I asked him to do something different. I asked about his favorite band and introduce him as a part of his favorite band and that he will start working in a call center.

Guess what? It was like, hi I’m Kevin of Matchbox Twenty and I’ll start to work in a call center.

What do you think sounded better?

You’re right celebrity mode works. Here’s why:

When you copy from someone you admire, you get to do things you don’t think you can do because you’re just acting things out. Thinking of what to do next comes naturally because you already saw it happen. There is no need for you to imagine yourself doing it. It’s just you imagining your hero and imitating what he or she does. It makes things pretty easy.

Back in business training we were asked to introduce ourselves to everyone in a small room full of people. With that event happening late at night, everyone was feeling crappy and since we already knew most of everyone in the room, we each gave everyone a sloppy introduction.

In the next activity, the trainer asked us to introduce ourselves to everyone in the room but this time, as our favorite movie character. I didn’t have anyone in mind so I randomly picked James Bond. I walked around the room introducing myself as James Bond.

The experience made me realize that I could be suave, charming and attractive when I introduce myself to others. The guy who introduced himself as “The Grinch” was pretty in character and scared everyone a bit. That part of the night, everyone was having fun and the energy in the room just went up.

What I’m trying to say has nothing to do with pretending to be someone you’re not. I’m saying is you should have more fun playing around with this. Call center work is not just a problem solving job but an acting job as well. You’ll be given a script and you’ll be asked to act out the script on the phone with the customer. You can do it in stage fright or you can do it having fun.

Would you be willing to let go of stage fright and have fun playing with your celebrity mode?

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this post. Let me know what you think by sending me a message. Say hi. Heck, say hi to me in celebrity mode.

Smile to sound better when you talk

A smile can often get you out of unfavorable situations. -Sai (Naruto Shippuuden)

Smile when you talk. They say a smile can be heard on the phone.

Why the heck is this important?

A person who’s smiling is more

pleasurable to listen to than a person who’s not. You sound better. You appear more confident, attractive and excited.

I smile during interviews when I pause to think. I smile as I give my interviewer my answer. I smile because I am grateful for the opportunity. Grateful because a they are considering me.

Grateful that I’m prepared. That I have a lot of things to offer. I smile as I respond. For some reason it helps.

Back in high school I thought characters who rarely smile were awesome so I copied them. I had trouble making friends because of that move. Bad ass or “mataray” (for girls) does not equal awesome. Not smiling repels potential partners, jobs and other opportunities.

Practice smiling. Not like a crazy person though. Just practice smiling. Do it now. It takes a bit of practice to learn but it will help you.

At this point I think I already made my point so lets leave it at that. :)

Common English Pronunciation Errors

Many Filipinos can understand English. A lot of us can speak it fluently. Many foreigners I’ve met say that Filipinos can speak fluently. Despite that many fail call center screenings due to minor errors.

Minor errors are forgivable. Everyone makes them. There are a few errors that stand out a lot. These errors, when I was screening for call center agents were called disqualifiers. When I also screened for girls I wanted to go out with if they kept making these errors it was a turn off. I mostly never went out with them.

I wrote this post so you can easily correct your pronunciation on your own.

Total read time 7 minutes

The Z Sound

Tony is my best friend who grew up in Saudi. When he went to stay in the Philippines he studied in an international school.

He was sharing to me that the most common pronunciation error he noticed here in the Philippines the most common pronunciation error is with the letter Z.

You see, Americans pronounce the letter Z as in Zee. Kind of like when you say Zebra. Europeans and British folk pronounce the letter Z as in Zed so when they the ABC its X (ex), Y (why), Z (zed). In the Philippines its X (ex), Y (why), Z (zey). He realized that he picked it up when he was talking to some guy from the states he was dictating an address and when he said Zey the guy was like what the heck is a Zey?

Its Zeebra not Zeybra.

The American R Sound

I went to a school in Manila where some of my classmates were from the ghetto. One of my ghetto classmates called me and (I thought) complimented how I speak. He calls out to everyone and points out something strange in the way I speak. He asked me to read something from a piece of paper. It was the letter R . I said “Oh it’s easy. It’s the letter R (are).” He made me repeat it several times and they started laughing at me as if I’m from a different planet. My classmate said it should be Arrrrrg like a stereotype pirate would say it. I wanted to bury myself in shame.

A few months later I met this girl from a chat channel. She was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. She had a face similar to Tifa or Rinoa from Final Fantasy. Like an anime princess. We spent the next few months talking on the phone till 4am. When we were saying goodnight I told her I had to wake up early because I had to open the gate for the Karpintero (Carpenter). She gigled and asked me to say that again. I said Karpintero (pronounced as car-pin-terow kind of how Sam Milby pronounced Tagalog words but he didn’t exist then). She asked me to say Tubero (plumber), Lasengero (alcoholic) and Basurero (garbage man). When I said it she was laughing and said it was cute.

Life was good.

Local to International

I got myself a job at a recruitment company. It was a couple of months then. I call my new client to see if she got the email I sent her. She said not yet because their internet is down. I said out loud “Oh your internet (pronounced as innernet) is down. No problem. I could call you again and we’ll just discuss the email later.” She said great. I put down the phone. The boss says there might be something wrong with the internet (innernet) maybe we could restart the router. The other boss says wow Kevin’s new prospect is an international (innernational) company. A coworker shared she was almost late for work because of the severe traffic at the intersection (innersection). After 10 more words they asked me if they got that correctly. I said yes. I’m glad they didn’t use intercourse as an example. I cockily said I’m glad you’re all learning. They later forwarded all foreign phone calls to my number.

Common Pronunciation Disqualifiers

I and E sounds

The Yaya sound. I’m not trying to be offensive to yayas. I’m trying to be offensive to you. If you switch your i’s and e’s you sound like a yaya (local babysitter from the provice) and you won’t get hired in a call center. Now the good news. You can say the E and I sounds perfectly. You just have them on the words backwards. Try switching them. Find a word where you switch the E and I sounds and switch them back.

P and F sounds

Here are some distinctions. P’s are when you close your mouth. Pronounced as Pee (Yeah Pee) F’s are when you smile and bite your lower lip. Pronounced as Efff.

Trainer at the Call Center Training school taught everyone the rabbit. When you say anything with an F or V sound your teeth look like a rabbit.

Go to a mirror say F or V and you notice that when you produce the sounds of F and V you are smiling and biting your upper lip like a rabbit.

P and F Exercise. Read aloud and learn to increase speed.

I sent a friend request to Pam’s parents on Facebook.

Trivia: Almost everybody gets it right when they say “Puta” or “Fucker”. Apply the same pronunciation to the P and F sound.

B and V sounds

Similarly to P and F B’s are when you close your mouth. Pronounced as Bee. V’s are when you do “the rabbit” (see P and F). Pronounced as Vee. If you position your mouth properly you can say Fee while maintaining “the rabbit.”

B and V exercise.

If Jolibee and Voldemort fought who will win?

Want some more?

Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said, “This butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter”. So, she bought some better butter and she put it in her batter and it made her bitter batter better.

Want to try something harder?

Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition. The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that its my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.

Watch it on YouTube

Trivia: Almost everybody can pronounce Bitch and Vagina. Apply the same pronunciation to the B and V sound.

Th sounds

For the Th sound stick the tip of your tongue to the back of your top front teeth and slightly stick your tongue out a bit. Practice going thhhhhhhh for as long as you can while taking note of the sound. Do this a few times then start practicing some words with the th sound.

Th sound exercise Read aloud and learn to increase speed. Thor is the Norse god of thunder from Asgard who got his ass kicked by Hulk and Ironman.

Want some more?

The throng of thermometers from the Thuringian Thermometer folks arrived Thursday. There were a thousand thirty-three thick thermometers, though, instead of a thousand thirty-six thin thermometers, which was three thermometers fewer than the thousand thirty-six we were expecting , not to mention that they were thick ones rather than thin ones. We thoroughly thought that we had ordered a thousand thirty-six, not a thousand thirty-three thermometers and asked the Thuringian Thermometer folks to reship the thermometers; thin, not thick. They apologized for sending only a thousand thirty-three thermometers rather than a thousand thirty-six and promised to replace the thick thermometers with thin thermometers.

Final Tips: Whenever you’re speaking ask yourself…

How do foreigners say it?

How did the word sound?

How can I improve it?

Then practice speaking in English more often.

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