Fast, faster, fastest... These superlatives may be desirable when talking about Superman, speed dialing, speed dating, and fast food. However, speed talking can be hazardous to our communication!
In some parts of the world, such as in India, speaking rapidly is often associated with a high intelligence. For example, if you can talk fast, you must be able to think fast too. Teachers actually judge students as more intelligent, the faster they talk.
However, when people speak rapidly in academic settings or professional work environments in the United States, the response is not nearly as positive. It is often harder to understand what someone is saying if they speak very fast. If the speaker also has a strong foreign accent, excessively fast speech can confound the issue. People may even think you don’t have patience to talk to them, or that you are in a rush and/or feeling stressed. Some people associate fast talking with lack of honesty. You might even convey that what you have to say is unimportant, so why should they even listen?
So, how can you effectively slow down to be more understandable to your American audience?
• Insert a strategic pause before or after making an important remark. This is an excellent way to “punctuate” your message, and allow your listeners to catch up if they missed or misunderstood any part of your message.
• S-T-R-E-T-C-H out your vowels. By making vowels higher in pitch, slightly louder and longer, you can slow down your speech. Try saying, “What do you w-ahh-nt,?” instead of “Whaddyawant?” and you can see how effective this technique can be.
• If you are giving a presentation, mark your script or notes with notations such as / for pauses and // to remind you to stop and take a replenishing breath when you transition from one idea to the next.
• Understand and use stress and intonation rules that allow you to vary inflection instead of racing through messages at the same pitch, volume, and rate. See RULES on the Run ( www.eslrules.com) for information on stress rules for compound nouns, proper nouns, etc. By making these subtle adjustments, you can slow your speech down in a natural sounding way, and make your speech easier to understand.
• Read a short paragraph aloud and record yourself. Read for one minute and the count how many words you read. The average rate of speech should be 160-170 words/per minute. Critique how you sound. If you are rushing through the text without pausing, and not stressing word endings, try again.
• Read along with a recording such as books on tape. Try to make yourself comfortable with a slower pace.
If you want to impress people with your intellect, take time to make thoughtful remarks, using relevant and concise vocabulary. Don’t race through your conversations, and, if necessary, go easy on the caffeine!
If you would like additional help speaking at a listener-friendly rate, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.