Understand Americans in Conf Calls

By 19 March 2018 Video lessons 6 Comments
Understand Americans in Conf Calls

Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. How many of you do conf calls with Americans? Like maybe you work with Americans to set up a business in the US, or you have American colleagues or clients.

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Well, there’s a good chance that you’ll do conf calls in English with them. Conf calls are great for saving time and money. But they can be horrible for understanding! So today, I’ll help you be sure you understand in your conf calls with Americans.

Let’s go!

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To understand why American English can be hard to understand, and more importantly, for you to improve your comprehension skills, you can get my free American Accent Survival Kit.

With it, you’ll be able to instantly recognize 12 very common expressions Americans say fast, and it can help in your conf calls too.

Now, what about those times when you don’t understand in conf calls? What can you do?

Use an agenda

In business, we call the program of a meeting“the agenda”.  In a conf call, using an agenda is a HUGE help for your comprehension. You’ll know what subjects will be discussed, at what moment, and by whom. This allows you to “relax your brain” during the transitions and save your energy for the spontaneous discussions.

I’ve even created a template of an agenda for you. It’s specially-designed to make your conf calls in English easier because you and your colleagues can complete it with information about the topics that you’ll discuss, so you have the context for each part of the meeting. Click here to get the agenda template.

Use what you know about the context

If you know the subject of the discussion, that will help you because you probably already know some information about this subject. The key here is to try to catch as many keywords as possible to understand the main message.

For example, if you’re working on a project called “The Atlanta Project”, and in a conf call, you only understand “Mark ______ ______ _____ project manager ____ ____Atlanta_______”, you got the main parts of the message. You don’t need the other words (Mark will be the project manager of the Atlanta team).

It’s tempting to want to catch every word of a discussion, but if you do this, you’re going to get tired and it will be difficult to concentrate for very long.

Ask for clarification

There are times when understanding the main idea is not enough, or when you don’t feel comfortable with that. If you don’t understand something, you could have problems in the future because it could lead to mistakes. Maybe this has happened to you already.

And that reminds me of a story I heard from a friend, who’s an English teacher. She had a group of French clients who worked with a Scottish supplier. If you’ve ever heard the Scottish accent, you know it’s pretty hard! Even I have difficulties understanding it sometimes!

Anyway, the French clients had a conf call with the Scottish supplier and it was so hard to understand, that the Scottish guy suggested coming to visit the site in France. The French people said “Yes, yes, yes.”

So a few days later, the Scottish guy arrived at the airport in France, and… there was no one to meet him. The French people didn’t understand that he was coming for a visit!!

I guess they said “Yes, yes, yes” in the conversation because they thought they understood something else or they didn’t want to admit they didn’t understand. We all do this sometimes. But talk about an embarrassing situation! Moral of the story: Ask for clarification, even if you think you understood.

Here are 3 phrases you can use, that are better than “Can you repeat please?”

“So, if I understood correctly, you’re saying…” (and then reformulate what you understood)
“I didn’t catch the details of the part about ….”For example, I didn’t catch the details of the part about the budget problem.”
“Can you go over that again, but a little more slowly please?”

If your American colleague speaks slowly for 10 seconds, but then starts speaking at “normal American speed”, just politely remind them “John, you’re speaking fast again! Remember I’m Italian!” or French or Brazilian, or whatever your nationality is.

Record and transcribe the conf call

I think every one of my students say it’s easier to read English than to understand spoken English. Well, good news! If you have the possibility to record your conf call, you can transcribe it.

Not you personally, but the site rev.com offers transcriptions for $1 per minute. I use it when I make live videos and need to create subtitles. They’re quick and accurate.

You don’t need to transcribe the entire conf call, but if there’s a part where you had a lot of difficulties to understand, you can extract the audio and submit it to rev.com.

They’ll transcribe it in less than 24 hours and then you can read the discussion of the conf call. You greatly reduce your chances of misunderstanding, which can save a lot of money in the end!

Now, what about you?

When you do business with Americans, what’s the most difficult thing for you?

Share your stories in the comments, so I can make more videos like this to help you!

Need help understanding the American accent in conf calls and over the phone?

Get my American Accent Survival kit. It’s a free comprehension & pronunciation lesson, with exercises to test yourself. Just click here to get it!

Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!

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