How to Stop Speaking English Too Quickly?

The Second Most Common Mistake Non-Native English Speakers Make When Speaking English:

There are many reasons for speaking too quickly: 

  • Your first language could be a fast language and you adapted this way of speaking in English as well. 
  • You could be nervous speaking English and you just want to get your message out and quickly. 
  • you could also not use correct breathing and run out of breath forcing you to speak much quicker. 

Speaking too quickly is impacted by the ear, brain, and mouth connection. Our ear processes information so we hear something, then our brain receives that information, and then what happens is the brain stimulates our muscles and we’re able to say something. When we speak too quickly when we are in a conversation or if we’re presenting, if we do not allow our brain enough time to process the information we need or if we do not allow our ear enough time to process the information we need or our enough time for our mouth muscles to catch up and say things correctly and clearly then we’re going to sound less intelligible. So, it’s a very big problem when you do that because people can’t understand you very well. 

Speaking too fast can also happen when you speak a native language that is very fast. You are used to speaking your language, your muscles are used to it, your brain is used to it, your ear is used to it, and when you speak quickly you are able to say it correctly. But that may not transition into English due to weak English ear, brain and mouth connection resulting in you not being as clear. 

Why slow down your speech? What benefits will that bring to you? How can that change your communication? 

Here are the side effects of speaking too quickly. 

It can cause communication breakdowns. A communication breakdown means that people having a conversation together are not understanding each other very well or something happens where the message is lost. Because communication is all about exchanging messages, whether you do that with your words or whether you do it with your body. So, when you have this communication breakdown something goes wrong which can later cause different issues. 

It can cause lower clarity and articulation. For example, if you’re saying the “r” sound while applying the rules of your native language, you are going to sound more accented and the clarity of your messaging will be different. When you’re applying it to your speech in English and then if you do it fast because you’re speaking too quickly, it might be mispronounced and it might cause issues with your communication so that’s why it’s so important to slow down. 

You may lose the listener’s attention. If the listener does not understand what you’re saying because you’re speaking too quickly then they’re going to lose interest in what you are saying.  It can happen in face-to-face conversations or whether you are speaking to somebody on the phone or on a zoom call which might result in missed opportunities. 

Inserting fillers. If you speak too quickly, you will be using certain fillers such as ” um” or “you know” making you sound less interesting and impacting the clarity of your speech. 

Inserting these fillers is like giving your brain a break to catch up. Instead of inserting those fillers, it’s better to slow down and speak a little bit slower so that your brain has the time to catch up without needing those fillers. 

Important points in the message may be lost or de-emphasized. They might not come off as important as they should be especially if you’re giving a presentation or you’re trying to make a point or you’re trying to get something or request something so this is really important. That important point of your message might be lost if you’re speaking too quickly. 

Here are the benefits of slower speech:

It allows you enough time to process information. You’re speaking in a new language and your brain needs extra time to process information. Even after you get to a really good level of English you may still need extra time to process the information you receive and say. Giving your brain time to process information by slowing down your speech will give you that extra time to catch up and process your information more clearly. 

It allows your muscles enough time to make the correct sounds. Your muscles are in communication with your brain constantly and speaking is a highly muscular process. What that means is that you’re using your muscles to produce sounds and if you want to make a sound, if you want to say a word, if you want to say a sentence, you need to use your muscles and your brain combined with your breath support to make it happen. Everything works in conjunction and if you slow down you will give your brain a lot more time and your muscles a lot more time to catch up and say things correctly. 

When we slow down our speech it allows us time to think instead of translating. Thinking 100% in English at the very beginning of your practice is difficult. You’re not used to it, you’re used to translating, it’s not something that’s innate to you, it’s not something that you can do without much effort. However, when you translate things from your language into English and back to your language it’s very tiring. You’re going to get tired much quicker than if you were just to think in English. But when you slow down it allows your brain to think in English instead of working too quickly and trying to translate. Think about the short and simple sentences you use in your daily communication and translating them into English to make this transition easier for you. What do you say at the grocery store, at the post office, on the bus, at work, at home? Learn how to say these phrases clearly and confidently to make thinking in English like second nature.

How can you slow down your speech?

  1. Breathe. The first thing you need to do is breathe efficiently. Taking deep breaths is incredibly important to support your speech. You don’t want to be speaking when you’re out of breath, you don’t want to be speaking when you are not taking enough breaths because then you’re not supporting your articulators the way that you’re supposed to, it will cause communication breakdowns. Breathing also reduces anxiety, so if you’re anxious about speaking English it will help you to slow down your speech. 
  2. Monitor Your Own Speaking Rate. When you notice yourself speaking a mile a minute simply pause or slow down, say to yourself or to the listener I’m speaking too fast let me slow down or let me repeat what i was trying to say. It’s appropriate to do that and it’s really important for you to notice when you speak too quickly.
  3. Take Water Breaks. Drinking water has many benefits and it allows you to take breaks, especially if you’re giving a presentation. It’s a very simple trick if you drink water when you’re speaking a lot. Take a sip when you need a break or have been speaking for a while, it will help you to slow down and it will look very natural.
  4. Build Pauses into Formal Communication. If you’re delivering a stand-up presentation, speaking at a group meeting or having a Zoom presentation, what you can do is mark your presentation notes with pauses as a reminder when you need to take a breath or give your muscles a few seconds to catch up.
  5. Make yourself visual reminders. For example, you can make a stop sign the wallpaper on your phone, or if you have a picture of a turtle somewhere or something on your wall that reminds you to slow down, it can serve as a great reminder for you whenever you need it.

If you need extra practice and details, check out my video below. 

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Want to learn more about pronunciation? Listen to this podcast episode:

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