In this post, we invited guest blogger Mike Parsons to share his experience on improving English speech for new speakers of the language.
Speaking clearly is crucial to communication. Even in this era of online business and social media, the spoken word is what we rely on at work, on the street, and at home. Clear speech may be the edge you need to advance in your job, or to succeed in classes. Here are some pointers for things you can do every day, during your regular life, that will improve your speech.
Read Aloud – a LOT
You can’t improve your speech if you do not talk. This is especially true if you are learning a foreign language. Therefore, you need to actually speak the language as much as you can.
Many times, simply reading the newspaper to someone can be the avenue for “getting your tongue around” a language. If your family members are impatient with this, consider volunteering at a hospice or hospital. By carefully reading aloud, you become familiar with the rhythms of the language.
Newspapers are usually written at about a year 5 level. The vocabulary is familiar to the majority of people, and the sentence structure is supposed to be easy to read.
Newspapers also communicate information that is intended to keep the reader informed of important or interesting events in the world around them. By reading the newspaper aloud, you will not only work on your reading and pronunciation skills, you will be more attuned to current events.
If a newspaper is too much for you, reading children’s books is another easier way to practice your pronunciation. Here, you can learn graded material, just as the students do. Usually in children’s books, the sentences are shorter and less intricate, which makes it easier to read. Also, early educational children’s books often repeat one word a great deal to teach vocabulary, or they will repeat a particular blend or consonant pattern such as “sh” or “th”.
Reading to children, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language, can be great fun for everyone involved, especially if you have the ability to laugh at yourself. By asking the children to help you say the words right, you not only encourage them to read more fluently, but you have very cute little coaches correcting your pronunciation.
Reading road signs aloud is also a great way to get practice with pronunciation. That’s right, you can be “one of those” passengers. You may drive your mates crazy, but this can be excellent practice. With advertisements, for example, you have probably heard the names of the stores, services, or products on TV, and as you read the signs, you can compare your pronunciation. Or, maybe your mates in the car will – cheerfully – correct your pronunciation!
How great is it to actually HAVE to watch TV? The only problem is, sometimes the people on TV speak very quickly. This can make it hard to keep up with the conversation or news program. The key here is to try to listen for specific words.
For example, if you are watching a news program about a blizzard, listen for the words “blizzard”, “winter storm”, “snow”, and “freeze”. Learning to anticipate the keywords in a news story helps you to keep track of the context. As you become more fluent with the language, you can pick up on the contextual words in which these keywords are used. It also broadens your vocabulary.
Inflection is key to understanding the spoken word. This involves using a well-modulated speaking voice that drops in pitch slightly at the end of a sentence. However, you do not want it to drop drastically, or the words will be lost.
The key to good pronunciation is exposure and imitation. Find safe places to speak, and enjoy the journey!
Online Speech Training
SpeechSchool.TV is the world’s largest provider of English speech training online with more than 3,000 minutes of structured video immersion, teaching the most preferred Standard English accent to second language speakers around the world. Please visit the website for more information on their English pronunciation course.
Mike Parsons enjoys researching speech and language techniques. He currently works for a translation company found at http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/