Speaking appropriately and clearly – at a speed that is suitable for the non-native English speaker – is the key to comprehensible expression.
- Move your mouth and avoid eating your words. Remember those old Kung-Fu movies on American TV? Move your mouth as the people in them did. It is important to breathe and relax your facial muscles and chest. Preferably, in private, I like to pinch my cheeks with my fingers and move them in, out, and around. This exercise creates an “elastic” effect. In fact, it relaxes your facial muscles!
- Do not say “Tuh” instead of “To” in between words. For example, I need “tuh” talk “tuh” the manager.
- Do not run your words together. “Whadyado?”, “Gonna”, “Gimme”, “Lemme”, and “Wanna” are words that are run together. Visualize your words as a punching ball. Imagine each individual word passing in your mind’s eye as they do in subtitles in a movie. Articulate each word and “punch” it. You punch, recover, and punch again.
- Avoid using contractions or short forms. Use long forms. “Can’t” is one word you must use the long form with. It is difficult for a non-native speaker to understand the difference between “can” and “can’t” in a sentence. For example, “I can’t take you on Friday” and “I can take you on Friday”. Use the long form, “cannot”. “I cannot take you on Friday”.
- Decrease the use of words that fill your sentences. The idea is to remove the “noise” from your speech. Imagine trying to listen to the radio with two young children in the same room. They are playing and screaming. What is the result? “Family of…car…on vacation…in Arizona.” If your oral communication is filled with “um”, “like”, “you know”, or other fillers, comprehension is more difficult. “Right” is a word that commonly fills conversations. I prefer to use “Yes, that is correct”. A non-native speaker may not understand “right” and confuse it with its opposite, “left”.
- Be explicit: Say “Yes” or “No”. Do not say: “Uh-huh” or “Uh-uh”. Those words are not in grammar books!
Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh