How To Speak English Clearly Over The Phone (Part 2)

How To Speak English Clearly Over The Phone (Part 2)
How to speak English clearly over the phone Part 1. Image by Matthew Henry from Burst.

Last Updated on February 15, 2022 by Estrella

Welcome to Part 2 of the topic How to speak English clearly over the phone! Last time, I covered enunciation as an effective way to be heard clearly on the telephone. Today, I am going to talk about the second point–adjusting the length of syllables. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, right? It actually made a huge difference for many clients struggling to be understood, whether in person or by phone.

Before I go to the second skill, let me briefly review the first skill I covered–enunciation. First, choose a sentence from something you read and record your voice. Then you have something to compare to after you’ve worked on your enunciation. Observe professional actors and journalists who enunciate. Watch how wide the mouth is open top-bottom, left-right. Also notice the cheekbones movement. Imitate them.

Now, the second area to work on to be understood more clearly on the phone is how long you hold a syllable. Let me explain.

Often, when we are learning a foreign language, mastering the pronunciation is a source of pride. And it should be. Now that you can pronounce the word correctly, start noticing how long each syllable of that word is held. Take the word California. The 3rd syllable is longer. Or the word radio. The 1st syllable is longer.

A good way to practice this skill is to use a video so you can pause and repeat. Also, you can adjust the speed setting. Instead of normal speed, slow it down to .75 so you can more easily detect which syllables are lengthened in a word.

One website you can use to practice this skill is Rick Steves.com, a popular travel show on PBS. There is script available for each episode, so even if Rick speaks too fast for you, you can read the text.

Take one line at a time so you can dissect the syllables. Imitate Rick with the lengths of the syllables. Then imitate him. Over time, you’ll get a sense of where to hold a syllable longer.

And you don’t need to practice for long each time. It’s more the focused attention that gives you the most value. Even practicing 3 minutes each time you do this will build an awareness in you. Then when you converse with native English speakers, you’ll start noticing which syllables they hold longer. It’s subtle things like this that will take you closer to sounding like a native English speaker.

If travel shows is not for you, then search for other videos you are interested in. It’s all right if they do not enunciate because for this skill, you are not concerned with enunciation. You are learning how long to hold certain syllables. Even if the speaker is very unclear, you can still learn this skill. You might have to turn on the caption because some native English speakers do not speak clearly.

Here is a link to Part 1 of speaking English clearly over the phone in case you want to read it again.

And here is a link to 40 blogs on how to improve English on your own. And if you wish to explore whether a coaching session would help you more quickly accomplish your English goals, please email estrellachan@gmail.com and tell me your story.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. 

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