Do You Speak English Clearly? Or Are People Nodding to Make You Happy?

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Why ask the question?

Speak English clearlyLittle do you as English learners pay attention to how you speak English. It’s not your fault. Your teachers have talked you into ignoring the way you sound. “We can understand you” they say. What they mean is that we can understand you when you speak about something we already know about. We can understand you because we have time to ask you the same question more than 3 times if need be. We can understand you because we have heard your accent a million times before. We know the words you can’t say because we’ve heard them before. We understand you because we have time for you to repeat and keep repeating until we get it.

But do you really speak English clearly?

And do you really speak clearly at natural speed? And do you speak clearly even when you are under pressure? Do you speak clearly even when people cannot see your body language? Do you speak clearly even when you talk about a topic that people are not already familiar with? Those are questions you have to deal with in the real world. We are talking about a world where you have to speak English outside the classroom with normal people not only English teachers. The English teachers’ job is to make you happy as a customer and teach you something anything as a student.

Who is part of that world?

Migrants, international students and people who have to spend a significant amount of time in an English speaking country. But also any person who wishes to operate globally now or in the future. Tourists are not included. Tourists want to have fun and spend money. I love tourists, you’re all very welcome. Don’t worry. We have plenty of signs for you on the road. You’ll figure it out. To all of you living in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, UK or South Africa, ask yourself that question. Can you speak English clearly? Are you part of the world I spoke of above?

Do you have the guts to answer the question?

We fear the idea of being misunderstood, and we hate to think we sound bad when we speak English. We don’t want to face up to it though. That’s probably because we wouldn’t even know what to do with it even if we did. It feels weird changing how we talk. Something is unnatural about it. It makes us uncomfortable. It involves making physical changes that people can clearly see and hear. Those are changes with your mouth muscles, the position and movement of the jaw and tongue etc. That is part of phonetics. They’re also changes with the rhythm and overall speaking manner. That is part of phonology specifically intonation. Speaking manner is intimately related to our reasoning style, personality, character and sometimes even identity.

Don’t worry! It is still going to be the same ol’ you!

When you try to speak English with good pronunciation, it might only sound ridiculous to you not to anyone else. Because you are the only one who knows you. Don’t worry. You’re not going to lose your soul by sounding different. You’re not abandoning your culture and giving up on your values by speaking English with proper pronunciation. It will only boost your confidence if anything. It will make you more successful as a professional. It will make you happier as a resident. Because as humans, we have a great need to communicate.

So go ahead and step out if your comfort zone. The greatest things in life only take place out of comfort zones.

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