Do people say that they can't hear you and tell you to speak up?
If you receive these questions often, then you are most likely a mumbler! You try to speak more loudly, and you repeat when people ask you, but you may be feeling that your speech just doesn't seem to get any better. What are you doing wrong, you wonder?
This is the first article in a series of three that will help you overcome mumbling and learn how to articulate and speak clearly so that everyone can hear you and understand you.
Tip number is to open your mouth!
When Americans speak, one thing that non-native English speakers notice is that we open our mouths and move our lips a lot. This is part of our language, but is not a part of many other languages. Other languages, such as Indian languages (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, etc), Spanish, Russian, just to name a few, do not require you to open your mouth much. The sounds in these languages are all inside the mouth, which means that the teeth can be close together and the lips do not need to move very much.
If you keep your teeth too close together when you speak English, it may sound to others like you are slurring your words together, not pronouncing words clearly and not speaking loudly enough. You should never speak with your teeth completely together because it is very difficult to speak American English clearly this way.
Here is an exercise to practice to help you get used to opening your mouth more when you speak.
Stand in front of the mirror and look at your mouth while you talk about something you did during your day. Speak for about 30 seconds. This is enough time to be able to see what your teeth are doing when you talk. Ask your self this question: Did you keep your teeth close together, so that there were was little or no space between your upper and lower teeth? Most likely the answer is yes.
Repeat this exercise, but this time when you speak, make sure you can see a space between your upper and lower teeth. If you can fit the tip of your index finger between your teeth while you are speaking, then you are opening your mouth, at least a little bit.
Once you feel comfortable with a little space between your teeth, now it's time for the second part of this exercise. Practicing saying a couple of vowels that require you to open your mouth wide. Start by saying what I call the "open vowels". Here are a couple: "ay" as in the word "able" and "ae" as in the word "apple." Your teeth need to be open enough so that you can see inside your mouth. Practice saying these vowels at least five times each. Now trying saying these words: "May", "day", "aim", "after", "action." Think of some other words that have the "ay" and "ae" sounds in them, and stand in front of a mirror while you say them to make sure you are opening your mouth wide. The last part of this exercise is to try saying some of those words in short sentences. For example: Yesterday I ate an apple.
Now try saying what I call "circle" vowels, such as "aw" as in the word "off" and "oh" as in the word "open." When you say the "aw" sound, keep your lips in an oval shape and your mouth open. When you say "oh", start with your lips in an oval shape and then end with your lips in a tight circle, as when you see "oo. Your lips move when you say this sound. Think of some words with both of these sounds and practice saying them in front of a mirror. Keep your eyes on your mouth to make sure you're making the correct shapes and opening up your mouth widely enough. Next, say a few of the words you thought of in sentences. For example: I am off work tomorrow.
Now try reading aloud. Remember to keep your teeth at least open enough so that your index finger can fit between them, in general. When you say "ay" and "ae", your mouth should be open wide. When you say "aw" and "oh", your lips should be in an oval and circle.
Once you feel comfortable with opening your mouth, you will be ready for tip number two!
If you are interested in taking private classes to improve your spoken English, please contact Cheryl Posey at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.speakingyourbest.com to take a look at the courses we offer. You can quickly learn how to be a success by speaking your best!