It’s true. Paying regular active attention to how you’re speaking in English will help you to get in the habit of adjusting your spoken English a bit when someone asks you to repeat or clarify. You might be asking: Which spoken-English speech features should I prioritize?
These spoken-English speech features matter:
- Vowel sound enunciation. Don’t mumble.
- Speak from the diaphragm. Steadily produce your volume from the beginning to ends of your sentences. This will help you to slow down if you have the tendency to speak quickly.
- Holds and pauses between idea chunks. Note: Don’t think of “fluency” as speed. Think of it as the ability to communicate in idea chunks, where the listener can follow from point to point with relative ease.
- Consonant articulation. Produce the consonants in the middle and at the ends of the words in English. Note: If you’re a native speaker of Spanish, Vietnamese, or Chinese, I recommend holding the final sound extra strong when you’re practicing.
- Voicing. Make sure to voice the English vowel sounds and voiced consonants (e.g., /b/, /d/, /g/, /dʒ/)
- Pitch variation within the key words—words of information (e.g., nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc.). This goes for all speakers, native and non-native speakers of English alike.
- Vowel sound lengthening within the stressed syllable sounds of the key words
- Vowel sound shortening within the unstressed syllable sounds of the key words. Note: This is super important. The small guys, i.e., the unstressed syllable sounds, are just as important as the big guys, or the stressed sounds.
- Highest point of pitch variation on the last key word of information at the end of your sentences in neutral speech.
- Rising or falling intonation at the end of your sentences. This helps the listener to parse out where one sentence ends and another begins.
Where does accent reduction come into play?
I’d say that within each of these features, there’s room for accent—that is, your first or second language influence. The type of training we do isn’t so much about reducing your accent but rather about helping you to adjust your spoken English for virtual meetings, telephone calls, webcasts, etc. so that your accent doesn’t interfere–and what you have to say shines.
Need a little help?
Concentrating on these spoken-English speech features is a good place to start. These are what I tend to prioritize in my speech training/coaching programs.
Interested in learning more about how I might be able to help you or your team? Contact me, Sarah Gallant, so that we can set up a time to talk.