Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Don't slow down, just pause!

How many times have you heard the advice "slow down". It is said in a helpful tone, or an impatient tone and sometimes in a condescending tone. No matter what the tone it is still relatively unhelpful. Slowing down by itself will do nothing for you. People do not want to hear Speaking one word at a time drives the listener crazy, reduces your intonation, and completely rids your sentence of any emotion.

Better advice is to use pauses between thoughts. Pausing helps on two levels. It gives your listener a chance to "catch up" to what you are saying, and it gives you a chance to begin a new intonation curve.

Pause wherever there would be a period or a comma. The more complex your subject and the less familiar the listener is with you or with the content matter, the more pausing you want to do. You will pause more of less depending on the speaking situation, your personality, and audience.

You will sometimes hear people referred to comedians as having "good timing", this means that they pause just the right amount of time to hook the audience into the joke. For your needs you want to consider how to use pausing in a way that is the most helpful to your audience's comprehension.

Pausing is not the same as hesitating and will in fact reflect confidence on your part. People who are rushed or mumbled tend to give a subtle undertone of insecurity. Those that make sure they are understood come across as confident and able.

For practice take a look at a written paragraph. Make a slash where there are commas or periods, then look at the paragraph again. Where else would be a natural place for a pause? Connecting words like, and, but, however or often used to connect two ideas and maybe a good place to pause.

So don't just slow down, think in word groups, chunking, or pausing to give your speech a natural flow while allowing your listening audience a chance to keep pace or ask for clarification if needed.

Lynn founder of Accent Master

1 comment:

Pronunciation Matters said...

I find that work on pausing, though groups, chunking (whatever one calls it) really helps my higher level students, particularly Chinese and Vietnamese and some Arabic and farsi speakers.

It seems we do very similar things and have a very simialr approach.

Glad to make contact.