How To Speak English Clearly Over The Phone (Part 1)

Last Updated on February 15, 2022 by Estrella

man talking on cell phone
How to speak English clearly over the phone (Part 1.) Image by Matthew Henry from Burst.

Recently, a client wanted to work on speaking English clearly over the phone because her job is in customer service. The majority of her work now is answering questions over the phone. Because staff members use the same phone, they are required to wear masks. My client (let’s call her Maria) finds it challenging to talk with a mask on, especially since she works with customers who sometimes have hearing impairment. So, we worked on several areas to enhance clarity. In this article, I’ll share one of three skills to help Maria, so you can do the same if you are in a similar situation. I will share the other two skills in future articles. The following is one of the first things to work on to speak English clearly over the phone.

How To Enunciate Over The Phone

Some people find enunciation strange looking. At the beginning, it might seem that way. You are opening your mouth wider than usual, both top-bottom, and left-right. Even your cheek bones are moving more. It looks like you are exaggerating. And you are. At least while you are learning the skill.

You might feel more comfortable if you start by watching how some native English speakers enunciate. Not all native speakers enunciate. But professionals like Oprah and many other journalists who work on television do. They are doing live shows, and there is no Take 2. They need to have audience understand them the very first time.

Use these professionals as examples of how you can move your muscles to produce the same effect. It’s easier if you use a video, so you can pause and go back to the same section again and again. Pick one word. Observe how open their mouth is top-bottom and left-right. Do their cheekbones move? Imitate that.

It is a good idea to record yourself before you start practicing, so you have a BEFORE and AFTER to compare results.

Not everyone who enunciates move their facial muscles a lot. Some seem like they are not doing much with their face. Yet, you can hear every single syllable. Observe them. Imitate them too.

There is one actor in particular who enunciates so well, that he shapes his mouth even before the sound is made. If you’ve ever watched the TV series How I Met Your Mother, it’s the character who plays Ted. It could be that actors who have done live theater before were trained to enunciate even more than others.

So next time you turn on your TV, start looking for these examples. Just observe for a couple of minutes, then enjoy the rest of the show without having to “work on your English.” It’s more about building a habit, an awareness in your mind, to look for these examples. You don’t need to spend hours doing this. Just do it regularly. A few minutes at a time.

By practicing enunciation alone, you will sound louder even if you haven’t changed your volume. Now that people are speaking through masks, no one can see your exaggerated movements, so you don’t have to worry about looking strange. 🙂 And when enunciating becomes a habit, it would become so natural that you would not even give your facial muscles a second thought.

If you have a colleague facing similar challenges, or international employees in your company who have a hard time having their English understood, the article Tips for HR managers to better support ESL employees can offer some helpful ideas.

If you wish to explore whether a coaching session would help you more quickly accomplish the goal of enunciation, please email estrellachan@gmail.com and tell me your story.

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