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Published January 15 2011

Trade Talk: They’ll help take edge off an accent

When I wrote about cognitive therapists Jodi Hedstrom and Janet Grove earlier this week, the story focused on their work with clients who’ve suffered traumatic brain injuries. But they also help clients manage a different kind of challenge: a thick accent.

When clients are having difficulty being understood because of a strong language-based or regional-based accent, they’ll help them modify and practice their speech. “We work on different things to help them be able to communicate more effectively,” Hedstrom told me.

It seems like a quirky area of focus, but in some fields – especially those that attract many international professionals and require a high degree of precision in communication, like medicine and academia – Hedstrom says it’s a big deal. Dissolving a communication barrier through something as simple as fine-tuning pronunciation, she told me, can make a world of difference.

Of course, Fargo-Moorhead is known for a rather pronounced accent of its own. I asked Hedstrom if she’s ever worked with a client who wanted help toning down the regional dialect.

“It has not been requested at this time,” she told me, with more than a hint of amusement. “But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t do it.”

When ‘iDon’t’ turns into ‘I do’

As a techie and a Verizon Wireless customer who has snuck in more than a few long, lustful glances at the iPhone over the years, I’m glad to see my carrier (finally) pick up the device.

But as a business writer who watched Verizon spend much of the past few years bashing the iPhone in the course of its ad wars with AT&T, I can’t help but be amused by the company’s suddenly rosy relationship with the phone and with Apple.

It’s standard business practice, of course – the phone was bad when people were paying another company to use it and good now that they’re paying Verizon – but a few of the company’s anti-iPhone ads got awfully personal. A little more than a year ago, Verizon went to great pains to deride the iPhone as an effeminate, feckless alternative to its brawny, Internet-crunching, pocket-busting Droid line.

Remember the “iDon’t” commercial (“iDon’t have a real keyboard,” “iDon’t run simultaneous apps”)? Remember the ultra-macho ad that asked if a phone should be “a tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty pageant queen” (that’d be the iPhone in this scenario – you can see it on screen for a few seconds before everything bursts into flames. I’m not making this up) or “Racehorse-duct-taped-to-a-Scud-missile fast” (that’d be the Droid)? “It’s not a princess,” that ad snarled. “It’s a robot.”

Well now, the tiara-wearing, digitally clueless pageant queen is splashed front-and-center on Verizon’s website. Soon, the carrier will throw its considerable weight into marketing the iPhone as the Holy Grail of smart phones in the Holy Land of networks. Look at the princess, the company will tell us with pride – isn’t she pretty!

Again, it’s just business. There was too much money to be made to let a few abrasive ads stand between Apple and Verizon on this one. But as far as changes in tones go, this one happened faster than a racehorse-duct-taped-to-a, well, you get the idea.


You can also connect with Trade Talk online at www.tradetalk.areavoices.com.

Readers can reach Forum business reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502.