These questions are taken from my web site: I thought it might be interesting to answer them in writing. Please write to me with other points you’re aware of and we can discuss them.
o Do you need to change the way you speak?
If people look at you with question marks in their eyes, if they ask you to repeat what you said, you could probably use some help.
o Do you speak too fast? Or too slowly?
Most of the time, speaking too fast is a problem for foreign-born English speakers. Many cultures seem to think that speaking fast means you also think fast, but if you have an accent, that causes problems – so slow down!
o Do you drop consonants at the end of your words?
Now this is a major issue! Words have consonants for a reason – note the differences among fine/file/fight etc. but without the last sounds in the words, [and you just say /fi/] the real meanings are hard to figure out.
o Do you add the plural /s/ at the end of your words?
Even if I know that you are talking about a plural and are just forgetting to put in the /s/ at the end, it becomes annoying after a while, because I constantly have to discern if you are referring to one or to many.
o Do you use articles: /a/ and /the/ ?
Again, not a major issues, but paired with no plurals, it can add to the confusion.
o Do you say /like/ you know/ basically/ in your sentences?
Now this is totally annoying and really takes away your credibility. Avoid these words like the plague!
o Do you use /um/ and /eh/ in your presentations?
This is just a [dumb] habit and can be “unlearned” by paying attention when you speak.
o Do people you talk to look puzzled or ask you to repeat several times?
A wake-up call that you are either speaking incoherently or your accent is causing you problems.
o Do you get nervous when you know you have to speak in front of your team or outside customers?
You can avoid being terribly nervous if you are very well prepared – a small amount of nervousness is good, it keeps you on your toes.
o Do people finish your sentences for you?
It can be that you are looking for words, translating from your native language or you don’t know how to get to the point quickly enough and others want to help you. Ask someone around you to give you ideas why this is happening.
o Do you change your sentences in the middle because you are not sure how to finish them or another grammatical construction occurrs to you which might be easier?
This is very strenuous for the listener because you are constantly changing direction and it is hard to follow. Just finish the sentence and then think of another, maybe better way to go on.
o Do people stop listening to you after you have spoken for a while?
You need professional help to understand why this is happening because it can be due to accent, content, the way you speak or even the subject matter.
o Does your voice go down at the end of the sentence and people can’t hear the last point you are making?
It is not that bad in normal conversation, but if you are giving a speech or are teaching, it makes listening to you too difficult. So tape yourself while presenting and see if you mumble at the end of a remark or leave it out all together .
Changing English speaking habits begins by you taping yourself or having someone video tape you when you are speaking. Then you can analyze what your main problems are and can start working on them;it does help to use the insights of a trained professional, but you can make a lot of headway by yourself with discipline and dedication.
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