Are you a global workforce professional who is proficient-or near proficient-in spoken English? Did you study in a Masters or Ph.D. program here in the States? Have you been working here for 10+ years? Do you communicate frequently with colleagues and clients in spoken English. Do you still feel like you need to push your spoken English to the next level to help you advance your professional career?

Pay attention to vocal presence when communicating in spoken English

What I encourage you to do now is go back to some of the basics. Go back and develop a solid clear speech foundation. Concentrate on your vocal presence.

Vocal Presence Tip #1: Exaggerate your mouth movement

Speakers of all language groups (I mean ALL language groups) could benefit from opening their mouths more to enunciate their stressed vowel sounds in a more open way. These stressed vowel sounds lie in the key words of information (the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, question words–and so many more). Enunciating these sounds help the listener(s) process what you are saying with less effort.

Enunciating more requires that you to pay attention to how your mouth, lips and jaw move when you speak in English. To develop the habit of enunciating more clearly, more openly, I recommend exaggerating your mouth movement while speaking in English a little every day. Perhaps, say, 10 minutes per day.

Vocal Presence Tip #2: Control your volume

Whether you’re communicating important information at work or simply chatting in a meeting or networking event, it’s important to keep a steady volume from the beginning to end of your sentences. The volume needs to start strong to capture the listener’s attention.  The projection of sound needs to carry its presence to the end of the sentence. After all, the structure of the English sentence is such that the speaker typically starts a sentence with old or shared information of what was said in the previous sentence and then builds on and introduces new information. It’s critical for the listener to hear the new information.

Speaking from the diaphragm, that muscle under your ribs, can readily help you to project a stronger sound in spoken English. If you are accustomed to speaking from your throat or upper chest, I recommend building the diaphragm muscle and developing the habit of speaking from the diaphragm.

Vocal Presence Tip #3: Hum to connect the sounds

Humming from the start helps international speakers of English develop a feeling for the connectedness of sounds present in the English sound system. While the American English sound does have a humming quality, my intention is not to train clients to adopt the American sound (even though some of them say to me at the beginning, I want to reduce my accent and sound American). I use this humming technique to simply help clients begin developing a feeling for the connected sound that is core to English rhythm.

To hum and connect your sounds, concentrate on creating a constant background noise between the ending and beginning of words. To start with this, I recommend taking a paragraph. First hum and then begin reading the paragraph. Try to maintain this humming sound between the words. If you’re doing this right, you should sound a bit like a robot.

(Side note: There are indeed rules for connecting the sounds in English, but I’d say that developing a feeling for this connectedness from the start is more efficient in the long run. And more fun!)

Interested in gaining more insight into the English sound system?

Go ahead and sign up for our newsletter. Sarah Gallant, English language specialist and small business owner, gets into a lot more depth about such topics. Just click HERE.

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