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10 Easy Steps to Sound More Articulate in English!

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

You do not need to be a native speaker to be articulate in English. Articulation refers to how clearly someone speaks and learning how to speak clearly is fairly simple. To become articulate, several things are important: proper pronunciation of words, good intonation and sentence stress, appropriate volume, pitch and pace of your speech, and decent knowledge of English grammar. Being articulate means that people understand you and like listening to what you have to say.

You don’t have to speak English fast to be articulate. What you should do is to speak in a way that is comfortable for people to understand, which means you should convey your message clearly and concisely!

1. Check your speed

Did you know that some languages are faster than others? Although English can convey a lot of information in few words, the average speaker does not speak at a very fast rate. If we measure speed by the number of syllables uttered per second or minute, English is actually a relatively slow language. While the Japanese produce 7.84 syllables per second, English native speakers produce only 6.19 in the same amount of time. If you are used to speaking your mother tongue at a rapid speed, it may be causing you to speak English too fast. Generally, a conversational speaking tone in English is between 120 and 150 words per minute.

How can you check the speed of your speech?

There are a few easy ways to check the speed of your English and I recommend doing so. First of all, this will probably reassure you that you do not, in fact, speak too slowly. Furthermore, it will give you a benchmark to check your progress against if you would like to improve the speed of your spoken English.

One easy way to check the speed of your spoken English is to speak into a speech to text app, such as Voice Notes or the transcription option on Word, and see how many words have been recorded after one minute of speaking. If you speak freely on a random topic, like summarizing your last weekend or your plans for the next day, it will give you the most accurate result. This method, however, does not take into account any longer pauses you may have to make while speaking. In any case, it will give you a rough idea of your speech rate.

There’s an app for that!

Alternatively, you can use a free app that will analyze your speech for speed and articulation. The app Speech Rate Meter, which is free in the Google Play store, will even analyze your speech for articulation and filler words. The articulation rate is the speed of your speech minus any pauses you may make while speaking. This rate will be slightly higher than the speech rate, since it only calculates the speed of your speech when you are actually producing sounds. The app also scores your speech in terms of filler words, and will let you know what percentage of your speech contains unnecessary filler words such as “umm”, “so”, and “hmmm”.

Once you know the rate of your speech, you can make a conscious effort to either speed up or slow down to obtain a pace that is engaging for the audience and comfortable for you. If you have to give a presentation or speak on a specific topic, you can practice varying your speed throughout your speech. Talking faster can indicate excitement or urgency during a spoken presentation, while talking slower can build suspense or help you emphasize a point.

2. Listen to yourself speak

Speak to yourself or someone you know to exercise your voice. It can also be helpful to record yourself with an audio or video recorder. You can use a website like Flipgrid to make a video with special effects or use your phone’s audio recorder. Keep an audio journal to keep a record of your progress. You can listen to your first recording in a year and see how much your pronunciation has improved!

by the way, everyone hates their own voice. However, if you listen to yourself regularly, you will start to become comfortable hearing the sound of your own voice. This builds confidence!

3. Listen for bad habits in your speech and reduce them.

When you listen to yourself speak, notice the use of meaningless filler words such as “um,” “like” and “okay.” These words can make you sound casual, but they can also make you sound unconfident or unsure of yourself. Your goal should be to reduce rather than to eliminate them altogether. Work on being aware of how often you use these words and you will see a decrease in how often they pop up.

4. Don’t sweat the pauses

Pauses are not bad. When you pause during a speech, it gives your audience time to think about your last statement. Pausing can accentuate the seriousness of the subject and build suspense before making a point.

If you take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before responding to a comment or question, pausing can help you provide a more articulate, focused answer. Use a short pause to ensure you have a thoughtful and appropriate response. If you stay calm during a pause, people will think it’s intentional. If you scratch your head or look confused, they’ll think you’re struggling to find a word.

5.Work on your pronunciation

This one depends a lot on your native language. Of course pronunciation is difficult and takes years of practice to fully master. You grew up with a set of pronunciation rules that have been imprinted in your brain, and suddenly these rules become wrong when you speak English. The rules of sentence stress and word stress in your mother tongue are sure to be different from those in English. Most online dictionaries offer examples of pronunciation marked by an apostrophe (‘) before the stressed syllable of a word or provide an audio clip of the word to hear. Study the syllable stress of new words and pay attention to intonation when you listen to native speakers.

6. Vary your pitch

Your pitch refers to how high or low you speak. Try varying your pitch while you’re speaking to sound more conversational and therefore more interesting. People tend to respond better to speech that uses fluctuating speech as opposed to a monotone way of speaking. Making use of rising and falling intonation will really help you here.

Is your native language flat and monotone, or is it more melodious? Chances are, even if your mother tongue uses variation of pitch, English has different rules regarding which syllables are long and emphasized.

7. Speak at the right volume

Have you been told to speak up? This could indicate that it’s time to practice raising your voice. If you tend to speak too softly, record yourself farther away from the microphone. This will force you to speak up.

8. Prepare thoroughly

If you know you are going to have to speak on a specific topic, make a list of vocabulary you might need to use and practice speaking beforehand. This gives you a chance to think about vocabulary or even grammar that might come up when you have to speak. You won’t need to do a complete review of English grammar, but you might want to check the past tense of verbs that could be relevant to the conversation topics. Your grammar doesn’t have to be perfect, but adequate preparation can improve your confidence, which can help you feel more comfortable when it’s time to speak.

9. Have questions up your sleeve

Asking questions takes the pressure off of you should you become overwhelmed having to speak. Turn yourself into a listener by having a set of questions you like to ask others. Also, be prepared to answer these questions in case someone asks them back to you. These can be any small talk questions like “how long have you been living here?” or “what did you do last weekend?” Make a long list of appropriate questions you could ask anyone in any situation. You can also come up with follow-up questions to keep the conversation going.

10. Don’t be hard on yourself!

Finally, don’t compare yourself to native speakers. They have some obvious advantages when it comes to speaking, but there are plenty of things they don’t know about English simply because they didn’t have to sit down and learn everything from scratch. For example, a lot of native speakers aren’t even aware that they speak with a regional dialect that is difficult for mixed company to understand. Because you, as an English learner, have to really study grammar, vocabulary and the tenses, it means you also understand it in a way that some native speakers may not.

If you find it difficult understanding someone’s English, this doesn’t automatically mean it is due to your incompetence in listening comprehension. Chances are, they aren’t making the effort to speak articulately.

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