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How to get people to understand your spoken English

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Did you know that pronunciation affects your IELTS score? It is a fact that 1/4 of your Band score depends on how you pronounce English words. 

If your English is generally good and your writing is easy to understand (be it your emails, notes, essays or anything else), but when you open your mouth and say something people look lost, it’s probably because you aren’t speaking clearly.

It can be so frustrating when you think there’s nothing wrong with the way you speak, but people obviously struggle – they move their faces closer to you (as if they want to hear you better), they keep saying “I beg your pardon?” or “Say it again?”, and from their answers, you see they totally didn’t get what you were asking. Imagine what would happen if your IELTS examiner couldn’t figure out what you were saying!


And the reason is your pronunciation. While learning English we pick up a way to pronounce words, and we stick to it, but it’s not always correct. The trouble is, we are more concerned with what we say than how we say it. We rarely give our pronunciation a second thought, even though the way we pronounce words can make a perfect sentence sound like nonsense.


“But why can’t they understand me?!”Georgie Taylor, a well-known Australian speech pathologist, says that these 3 areas are super important: word stress, rhythm and how you pronounce your vowels.


But first, what is ‘word stress’? Any word has one or more syllables, for example, the word “air” has 1 syllable, the word “water” has 2 – “wa-ter”, the word “capable” has 3 syllables – “ca-pa-ble”, the word “capacity” has 4 syllables – “ca-pa-ci-ty”. When we pronounce a word, we say one syllable loudly and the other syllables quietly. In other words, we stress one syllable, but not the others. In the word “capable” the first syllable is said loudly – “CA-pable”, but in the word “capacity” the second syllable is stressed – “ca-PA-city”.


Stressing the correct syllable is very important and when you do that, people won’t have to concentrate so hard to understand.

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