Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Speaking Rate: How Fast Is Too Fast?

Speaking rate is what I consider of one of the fundamental skills in spoken English. Speaking too quickly actually makes an accent heavier because the speaker has less time to form sounds correctly. Speaking too slowly is not good either because the message may take too long to deliver and the listener will get bored.

So, how fast should you speak American English? American English is not a very fast language, as compared to many others, such as Spanish, Indian languages, and French, just to name a few. The average American speaks at about 150 words per minute. When you break that down, it is about 2.5 words per second.

Speaking at an appropriate rate will actually reduce an accent because there is more time to form sounds correctly. Not only that, speaking more slowly also provides more time to organize one's thoughts and think of particular words to say.

My motto is this: speak as slowly as you need to in order to incorporate speaking skills effectively.

How does one speak more slowly and sound natural? The key to speaking more slowly is prolonging the vowels in words. Focus on lengthening the vowels, because it is the vowels that determine our speaking rate.

Speaking more slowly does NOT mean that you should separate your words. Don't forget to keep your words connected when you speak, and only pause when it is an appropriate time to do so.

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2 comments:

Journa Liz S. Ramirez said...

Speaking on "speaking rate," I prefer speaking English as fast as I could, otherwise I commit more mistakes. The slower I speak, the more I stumble on my words, and it makes it difficult for me to compose.
But when I am speaking to a second speaker of the language, I tend to speak slower intentionally just so he/she could understand what I am saying. If I speak faster which would exude my proficiency in speaking English, my message won't be brought across -- he/she wouldn't follow and understand.

Eleanor Forfang-Brockman said...

I teach English to adults from a wide variety of countries, and I find that many students make the mistake of speaking too fast. It can be very difficult to get students to slow down. Judging from my own experience with another language, I imagine that I sound more competent at a faster rate, but in fact, I am simply more difficult to understand.