Foreign Language Practice: Talking Not Too Slow and Not Too Fast

The rate at which you speak is usually something a person does not have to think about in their native language. However, a normal rate of speech may be hard to master when learning a new language. Being able to speak at a normal rate demonstrates your mastery of the language and ability to effectively communicate. Your goal is to find a balance between speaking at a rate that is not too slow and not too fast.

Though speaking slowly allows for clarity, slow speech is often associated with being slow-witted. People commonly speak slowly to babies, those hard of hearing, or those who may be new to the language. Speaking slowly to these audiences enables more time to process and understand what is being said. If you think you speak too slowly, the best way to speed up your speech is through better learning the language and practice. By practicing pronunciations of words and phrases you want to use, you will become more familiar with speaking the language. Constant repetition will enable you to speak at a normal speed. Engage in conservations in the language you want to learn with other people. By doing this, you can ask your partner to critique you and help you with the pace you are speaking at.

Speaking too fast is a problem that even native speakers face. People often speak quickly if they are nervous or excited. But constantly speaking fast is not a good speaking habit. By speaking too fast, listeners will have a hard time understanding you. Consequently, you will be unable to efficiently convey what you are trying to say. Fast speech does not give listeners the appropriate amount of time to process what is being said. As a result, listeners usually ignore or stop listening to speakers who speak too fast because their speech is not comfortable to listen to. Speaking in a fast manner can also show you are hurried, in a rush, or disinterested in the conversation.

If you find yourself speaking at a rate that is faster than normal, here are a couple tips to help slow down your speech. One tip is to practice breathing and take pauses at punctuations. By doing this, you are giving your listeners enough time to process your train of thought. One way to practice this is by reading aloud and being aware of your breathing rate and the pauses you take. Another important tip is to keep eye contact with the person or people you are speaking to. This way you will be able to see whether or not your listeners understand what you are saying.

A great way to learn how to practice speaking at a normal pace is simply by observing and listening. Watch videos of public speakers and take notice of how other people speak when they speak to you. Ask yourself questions like, “Is this person speaking too fast?” “Is this person speaking to slow?” “Do I understand what this person is saying?” “What makes this person a good speaker?” Note these answers and incorporate them into your own speaking habits. Practice speaking in front of a mirror or record yourself so you can critique your own speaking skills. Speak to others and ask for their feedback. By learning the language, observing others, and by constantly practicing, speaking too slowly or quickly will soon no longer be a problem.

Photo Credit: Kevin Van den Panhuyzen
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