Many who learn English as a foreign language find that they have trouble being understood when conversing with native English speakers. The result? Damaged confidence. Regardless of proficiency, there are several measures that can be taken to immediately improve both communicative and comprehensive abilities. Check out a few of them below:
1. Slow Down
We often mistakenly associate fluency with how fast we’re able to speak. The fact of the matter is that the more quickly we speak, the harder it is to be understood. This applies to native speakers, too! When conversing with one another, miscommunications often occur if information is exchanged too quickly. It may feel strange at first, but slow down significantly to ensure that there is time to enunciate each syllable clearly.
2. Use Reductions
Reductions are phrases that are used so commonly in speech that they become condensed, only sounding like one word. Once again, using them might feel unnatural for non-native speakers, but native speakers are expecting them to be used! Learning and applying common reductions in everyday speech makes it easier to both communicate and be understood quickly.
3. Link Your Words
Another common mistake made by ESL students of all levels is that they fail to connect their words when speaking. While it may be tempting to pronounce every single letter in every single word, remember: English doesn’t sound anything like it looks! Pay attention to how native speakers connect their words in each sentence, and it’s clear that many sounds are muted or skipped altogether.
One common sound which is frequently omitted in order to enable fluid speech is T, especially when it falls at the end of a word. Generally speaking, muting a final T will make it significantly easier to say the word that follows.
4. Use the Merriam Learner's Dictionary (to check word stress and pronunciation)
One of the most common mistakes that advanced speakers make involves misappropriating word stress. There are tons of rules with just as many exceptions for identifying proper word stress, but generally speaking, this website is a great resource that contains audio samples with proper pronunciation for every word.
If consulting an online resource isn’t your style, consider downloading this document from my personal teaching files to familiarize yourself with the most common patterns associated with English word stress. Remember that native speakers expect to hear all words pronounced a certain way, and improper word stress can easily cause messages to become lost in translation
5. Use the Schwa
If you haven’t learned about the schwa already, there’s no time like the present! This sound is critical when producing natural speech. It’s the most common sound in English, and can be tricky to recognize due to the fact that it can be formed by any of the five vowels (a, e, i, o, u), and because it can occur anywhere within a word: at the beginning, the middle, or the end. The schwa tends to be a tricky topic for many students. Book a session now to discuss it in more detail.
In conclusion, these five topics are distinct, and to be honest, none are easy to master. But learners who become familiarized with the rules and practice regularly will see rapid improvement not only in their own speech, but in their comprehension when conversing with others too. To learn more about these methods and others, purchase a lesson package now!