What Talking in Spanish Taught Me About Communicating in English Chilton Tippin

When I was in college I spent a summer in Ecuador and a semester in Argentina. Though I spent most of my time just blundering around down there, looking back on the experience, I realize now that I learned quite a few things about communicating. You see, the problem was that I didn't speak Spanish. I didn't speak it at all when I went, and after a few months of study, I learned to speak it, but few would say I learned to speak it with fluency. Nonetheless, it is often those moments of confusion, the botched conversations, the wandering lost in unfamiliar neighborhoods—in short, the miscommunication—that teach a person his or her most lasting lessons.

So, with that, here are some lessons I learned while attempting to communicate in a foreign language. These lessons, I think, can be applied to any form of communication, because whether it's in Spanish, Chinese, English, or a lingua franca, the end-goal is to get your message across.

  1. Speak Slowly– Often while I was abroad, I would be afraid that people would think I was stupid if I did not get my sentences out quickly. In my own tongue, I can speak at a fairly rapid clip, but in Spanish it would sometimes take a moment to order the words in my head. I would blurt things out, which often came out garbled and nonsensical. If, however, I told myself to slow down, I found that my message would usually get through to whomever I spoke with. In many cases, too, I would find myself utterly confused by people who spoke Spanish as if they were auctioneers. In these instances, I would remind them that I was foreign and that they would need to pump the breaks a bit. In any case, communicating abroad taught me that slow articulation in conducive to clarity in communication.
  2. Lessons on Vocabulary Usage– I took Spanish classes while abroad, and thanks to some brilliant teachers, I was able to learn the grammar and mechanics of the language relatively quickly. But what was difficult was learning the vast and rich Spanish vocabulary (which is actually small compared to English). I often found that among native speakers in my dorm, there were colloquialisms that went over my head. Whenever I heard new words, I would make a note in my iPhone and look them up later. But for the most part, I was at a loss in understanding the slang and jargon. On the other hand, my Spanish teachers were aware that their students' vocabularies were limited, so they made sure to use words that we'd understand. What I took away from talking with these two groups of people is that communicators should always take into account the vocabulary and understanding of the people they're communicating with.
  3. Become a master body-language reader– I observed in Argentina that locals tended to gesture a lot more than most folks do back home in America. Certain gestures, from what I could tell, were universal, like shrugging shoulders to say, "I don’t know." One unique gesture that I picked up was when an Argentine would conjoin all their fingers in a point, turn their wrist upward, and bounce their hand, while simultaneously scowling and pursing their lips. This gesture was meant to say, "What the heck is this? Or what on earth is going on?" As a foreigner, I used this gesture from time to time to the delight of my local friends. It taught me just how much can be communicated by studying the gestures of others and applying those gestures yourself.

Communicating effectively can be like cutting through a fog. If the message is complex, or if it needs to be translated between unfamiliar languages, you'll need to bring as many skills to bear as possible in understanding and delivering the message. Being adept at using these same skills in English-English communication will make your message that much more clear.

Five People Who Don't Need an Invitation to Your Next Conference Call Maranda Gibson

It's not always your fault when you invite a good number of participants to your conferences and then don't get many attendees. When people don't want to join your conference calls it's usually because they feel like it's not worth their time to do so and there could be a couple of reasons for that. One of those reasons could be who you're inviting to your conferences. Some attendees can cause distractions on your conferences and makes the people who need to join the conference find something else to do.

The next time you send out conference call invitations you should consider keeping these distractions off the list.

The Boss

Sometimes, having the boss on a conference call can be more of a distraction than benefit. When the boss gets on the line, he or she may see the conference call as an opportunity to bring up topics that they feel are very important but do not have anything to do with the agenda for your meeting. The boss will seieze the opportunity of having everyone on the phone at the same time as a great moment to update on policy changes or ask questions. If you want to stick to your agenda or need to adhere to very specific time constraints, it might be better to email your boss the highlights of the conference call after it's over.

The Notetaker

When meetings happen there is a natural flow of conversation that seems to happen and it can happen at a quick pace. When someone is trying to jot down the information that is being discussed on the conference, they can easily miss something important or have to ask everyone to slow down so that they can get all of the information. When you have a conference call, be sure to take advantage of the recording option so that all of the information is stored, and there's no need to invite the notetaker.

Your Customer

We all love our customers but many times they just need to be briefly updated on what's going on. They don't always need to be a part of your teams conference call. In fact, they may not want to be and just feel obligated to attend because you've invited them. It's another good reason to record the conference call so you can provide it to the customer later, if they ask for it, or for you to use to keep track of what you're working on for them.

The Traveling Person

Unless the person who is traveling is imperative to the success or failure of a conference call topic, they do not need to attend the meeting. Dealing with the traveling employee is another great opportunity to use recording your conference calls to your advantage. More than likely, they will be relieved that they don't have to try to attend a conference call in the middle of an airport terminal, and you'll be thankful that you don't have to hear flight annoucements in the middle of your conference.

Having a conference is important to advancing your business and your plans with customers, especially when you're scattered all over like a lot of employees are. Having the conference isn't nearly as important as making sure it was worth everyone's time to attend. The first thing to do when it comes to having better conference is trim the fat and only invite the people who absolutely need to attend.

Mike Wallace’s Death Leaves Questions for Today’s Journalists Maranda Gibson

The sad news of veteran TV anchorman and 60 Minutes patriarch Mike Wallace passing this weekend moved a lot of people to stop and remember a pioneer in the field of journalism. Mike Wallace was known for his curveball interview style ("Forgive me...."), his documentary style presentations on 60 Minutes, and a number of lawsuits filed against him. He was also known for his personal losses (the death of his son in the 60s) and a personal battle with depression.

Over the last sixty years and his personal struggles, Mike Wallace leaves the world known as one of the most respected journalists in the world. His pace set the stage for many of the men from my father's generation - the late Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and even Dan Rather.

Mike's passing made me stop and take pause about the state of journalism today - what's changed and how journalists approach news stories today. The truth is that everything has changed since the days of Mike Wallace. People don't get their news in the same way that they did in the 1960's and before, and I can't help but wonder where are all the journalists?. In forty years, will my children be able to recognize the people who brought the news to the world? Will there be archives for them to reflect upon - the same way that I watched Walter Cronkite announce the death of JFK on a black and white news reel? Who will fill the gap in the newsroom? More importantly - will there even be a news room to fill?

The Landscape of "Journalism" Has Changed

Perhaps many of us don't want to admit it but the way that news is sent and received has changed. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, it was Twitter that knew first, thanks to the messages sent by a guy who was unknowingly live tweeting the Navy SEAL operation taking place near him. When social media networks often do a better job of getting news stories out to the masses, why would we wait until six PM to turn on the Nightly News to see what is going on in the world?

The advent of the 24 hour news networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) has also changed the way that we receive our news updates. Again, it becomes a question of why wait for the nightly news breaks. Even if I don't want to get my news from a source like social media, I have the ability and the option to tune the television to a news network right away. Breaking news is always the top of the news - and the 24 hour networks love to follow every piece of a story.

How does a "standard" journalist keep up with the always available news streams? What do they do to make people want to turn to them, instead of the 24 hour a day channels?

Enter the Journalistic Narrative

As my husband and I were discussing Mike Wallace and his passing, he made an excellent point. Journalism is nothing more than a narrative at this point. As much as we'd all like to say that there are still journalists who present the news in a way that doesn't have a slant, or a shtick, I wonder if there really are. Well - let me rephrase, I'm sure they are out there but no one is listening. Why? Because no one wants to read the facts. Journalism has evolved (devolved?) to the point that without a narrative, no one wants to read it.

When we read a news story we expect to read a story that panders to our beliefs. We want to read something that confirms our beliefs and opinions. We want to read or hear a presentation that will make us feel like the way we feel as an individual is validated by a news source. The ones that do not verify our opinions are the ones that we stay away from. If we think that the news is too serious, we turn our attention to the John Stewarts and Steven Colberts of the world.

But this appeal can go too far and that's where you start to get doctored 911 calls and documents. Even the respected Dan Rather was not immune to this phenomenon and got himself into trouble, and ultimately lost his position on the CBS Nightly News.

When did we stop watching the news to get the facts and instead turning our backs on the programs or outlets that didn't pander to us? Is it why so many people are now gathering their information from smaller sources - even down to the local outlets? Has the need to appeal turned the networks that created journalists like Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite to nothing more than content marketers?

When did all the journalists become storytellers?

The Fray Gets In Over Their Heads with The National Anthem Maranda Gibson

In high school, as part of a competition choir group, we were often asked to perform the National Anthem at different sporting events and activites around our community. The one thing I can clearly remember is our sweet choir teacher telling us that we would take it seriously or we would not participate. I can only imagine if I would have shown up on the field holding a tamborine. I would have neverbeen invited back.

So imagine my surprise when last night at the NCAA Championship Game, The Fray steps out with their guitars, a drum, and a tamborine. (Oh yes, a tamborine) You are welcome to watch it for yourself but lets just say, well, it was awful. In fact, it was worse than Roseanne Barr and she has the unfortunate title of "worst Star-Spangled Banner Ever". Truthfully, that title may be in question after last nights unessecary attempt by The Fray to change the National Anthem.


I didn't recognize it at first. In fact, I thought it was the "warm up" act or "America the Beautiful". As the guitar started to play in an off tempo, somewhat awkward beat, and the singing began, I felt my mouth fall open. The camera panned the crowd and even as they held their hands over their hearts, their mouths and facial movements seemed confused, scared even. When it was finally over, there was an awkward moment, and then applause - but it felt subdued, less like a celebration and more like relief. Relief that it was over and relief that the game was about to begin.

My boss put it best when he said You don't cover the National Anthem.

So to the Fray - I ask, in a manner indicitative of the resepct you showed the National Anthem - why didn't you just light the flag on fire and run away? Exactly who do you think you are that you need to be the ones to change the entire tempo, tone, and musical accompaniment to the Star-Spangled Banner? Even if your guitar had been in tune it would still have been awful.

What a lesson in humility this should be for all of us. Getting asked to perform the National Anthem would be a huge honor for anyone. Even as a teenager in a choir group I understood that. I also understood that my lack of respect for the moment would mean that I would not get to participate.

It's a perfect example of how we get ourselves in the thought process that we need to change something. There are some things that work just fine without the help of some 2nd rate hipster pop group. The lesson to be learned from The Fray? There are some things that are so perfect and amazing in their own right that they do not need your "personal touch". Being asked to sing the National Anthem is no different than making a presentation at a conference or writing a blog for someone else. When you're invited to someone else's stage you have to respect the nature of the stage. If you have been asked to post on a blog that has never posted a curse word, it wouldn't be respectful to include a bunch of them in your submission to the site.

Also, if you're desperate to get that horrible performance out of your mind - here are two that I've always really thought were top notch.



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