Should I speak quickly or slowly to sound fluent? This was a question sent in by a member of the English For Study mailing list.
A common belief is that you should speak quickly to sound fluent. But is it a fact?
I’m sure you’ve seen American and British TV shows and thought, “wow, they speak quickly. I need to speak like them to sound fluent.”
What if you didn’t need to speak quickly in order to sound fluent? In fact, what if it was better to speak slowly and clearly?
That’s what this post is going to discuss: how slowly or quickly should you speak to sound fluent?
We’re going to look at three different situations:
If you’re talking one-to-one with someone they are probably: a friend, family, a tutor or a person who you need help from, such as a police officer, bank clerk, or shop assistant.
In the first two, friends and family members are going to have patience to listen to you. You can take your time, and they’ll listen. Speak slowly and clearly.
When talking to a tutor, it’s usually because they’re discussing your work with you. In this situation, it’s best that you speak really clearly, and describe your work in detail.
When talking to someone you don’t know in a foreign language, you’ll probably be nervous. But you still need to remember the reason why you’re talking to them: you need them to help you! If they can’t understand you, they can’t help you! Thus, speak slowly and clearly, so they can fully understand you.
There are two main group conversations: one with friends and one with colleagues.
With friends, the conversation may move quickly, but you should feel comfortable enough to take your time to join in. You can always ask friends to repeat themselves. Still, if you’re telling a joke, it’s probably best to speak slowly and clearly.
With colleagues and classmates, you’ll probably be discussing work, a project or a presentation, in which case it’s important for people to be able to understand you.
This means you’ll need to speak slowly and clearly.
Of course, preparation is the most important part here. For example, imagine you are discussing a group project for a marketing class with your classmates. You’re trying to decide on the perfect product to sell, so you can research on how to market it.
This kind of discussion will require you to agree and disagree with your group. To effectively join in the discussion you should speak slowly and clearly, and ask people to clarify what you don’t understand.
To make the most of these discussions you should prepare before the meeting. Check out this post on useful phrases for group discussions.
Presentations (and exams) can be really stressful for learners of English. In fact, presentations are pretty stressful for native English speakers, too!
That’s because in a presentation, you’re the only one speaking. And you need to speak in front of an audience. And you need to keep them interested in your topic by making sure that they can understand you.
In presentations it’s really important to speak slowly and clearly. Here are some more reasons why it’s so important:
Speaking slowly and clearly is definitely more beneficial that speaking quickly. It makes you seem more vulnerable, but also more confidence, knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Pause, take a deep breath, speak slower, and your audience will thank you.
Do you know anyone who speaks too quickly? Send them this post!
Sam is the founder and creator of English For Study. He's also lecturer in EAP/Academic English. Apart from making Academic English easy, he likes learning languages, lifting weights and eating good food.
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