Career Profile: Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Consulting
Dr. Caroline Latterman
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On Tuesday, we shared Part One of the interview with Dr Latterman, where she discussed her work and experiences building her consulting firm, Linguistic Consulting. Today we bring you Part Two, which goes into detail about how her linguistic training shows up in the day-to-day of her work.
Below is Part Two of the interview with Dr. Caroline Latterman
When we left off in Part I, we were talking about how Caroline’s approach is informed by linguistics in many ways, including that she applies systems-thinking. Thus, rather than focusing on individual situations or linguistic behaviors, she looks to the assumptions and underpinnings of communication, which is at the same time both more macro and more micro than a typical approach.
Simply put, we linguists have a niche in this space because of our depth of background and experience when it comes to educating people about language. As she noted:
Accent classes are often taught by former actors and former singers, who do have a certain facility with language, however as linguists, our breadth and depth of the English language—how it sounds, how it’s constructed, how it’s used in various contexts–is much different than that of a non-linguist. A business coach would approach the question of how to use language to get what you want in the professional context entirely differently, whereas we might draw from insights from cross-cultural communication.
An example of Caroline’s approach:
Because international professionals often don’t feel 100% confident in their communication skills, and because in the United States speaking English very clearly is something that is highly prized, many international speakers and businesses that employ international speakers seek pronunciation, communication, and cultural training. However, even though international clients are the ones who tend to seek this training, we can all be more aware of how we are approaching our conversational interactions, how it is that we use our language and how we hear and make ourselves heard. Greater facility with navigating conversational interactions can make all of us more confident and happy in our daily lives, are able to do much more both personally and professionally, which not only affects us but in a work context, our value to the company and the company’s bottom line.
Many of Dr. Latterman’s clients express surprise when they learn that there are people trained as we are to help them focus on the details of pronunciation and the nuances of interaction. “They are excited to learn that in a matter of months they can dramatically change their accents, develop a wealth of cultural knowledge, and all in a fun and engaging way!” Her goal is to raise the awareness of our field, of what we have to offer, and to make everyone more aware of their language and how they are using it.
Her detailed product lists and offerings as a consultant are a model for any entrepreneurial linguist. Of course we might know that we have access to details of pronunciation (i.e. Clear Speech and Pronunciation, Confident Speaking and Presentation Skills), but sociolinguists also have insight to offer along the lines of how to self advocate in culturally appropriate ways. Her offerings include: How to Acclimate to American Culture, Nuances of American English, How to Create Small Talk with Clients or Prospective Clients, Relationship-Building with Prospective and Current Clients, and Taboo Topics to Avoid.
In a fine example of showing yourself at work, her blog posts provide insight into what it would be like to work with her and how it is that she brings her skills as a linguist into the experience of coaching her clients. Here are just a few examples:
- In this recent post about the pronunciation of American [v] and [w], she draws on acoustic phonetic features to aid pronunciation and designs practice activities using minimal pairs.
- Focusing on an oft-overlooked but ubiquitous and thus crucial form of professional communication, the e-mail, in this post, she offers templates for a linguistically and culturally competent out of office message.
- Knowledge of pragmatics informs this post about phatic aspects of American conversation like the ritual “how are you?”
Another great example that she shared with me over the course of our conversation had to do with how to phrase things differently in an email. She was hired by an IT company in India who had a group of employees working here in the US. They found that they were getting slow responses to their emails from the American members of their team, so she asked them to share some of these emails with her so that she could take a look and offer some insight. She noticed that in cases where the body of the email asked a question, the Indian correspondent would write at the end of the e-mail, “please let me know.” Her instinct as a native speaker of American English was a sense that this felt like it was not necessary and could come off as being pushy. As she explains to her clients at the outset of working with her, “if I find some aspect of your communication or behavior to feel off-putting, I will tell you.” Her value-add as a linguist is that she can then explore the assumptions and conversational underpinnings that both motivate the deployment of this linguistic choice and its reception. When she spoke with her Indian clients about this choice, they told her, “but if I don’t say ‘please let me know,’ they won’t respond to me!” She advised that they try it for a week. On day 3 of that week they wrote to her saying that they were already starting to notice different results, and that their American colleagues were responding much faster to their emails.
As she explained of her work, “it often becomes how do you get what you want in American culture.” It is really about how to hear the nuances of American culture, and how this can dramatically impact your business life.
On the horizon for Dr. Latterman one day will be starting a non-profit focused on promoting social and economic mobility through linguistic awareness, returning to the work that she did as part of her dissertation by focusing specifically on perceptions of African American English and Academic English.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and experience with us here at Career Linguist, Caroline!!
To learn more:
Listen to this interview she gave with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
read her publication about service encounters
read her dissertation
check out her website: http://www.linguistic-consulting.com/
To contact her:
Caroline Latterman, PhD, MSEd l Linguistic Consulting l Founder & CEO
Speak Clearly. Speak Confidently. Speak With Credibility.