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Be better understood- Speaking in English to an international audience


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In my 20 years of speechwriting, coaching and conference presenting, I’ve noticed that, ironically, it’ s most often native English speakers who are most difficult for international audiences to understand.  The reasons are simple.

  1. They tend to speak in their vernacular.
  2. They use slang and jargon not taught in ‘school’.
  3. They use over complex language, words and sentences .
  4. They articulate poorly.

The simplest thing to fix is actually the last point.   Just by improving our articulation, we can be much more effectively understood by people with the English language comprehension of a 12 year old native- and that’s most international audiences without the benefit of MBA level education.

Practice enunciating the key consonants of every word that you speak. The hard T’s, d’s, g’s, f’s, p’s etc. These are the key sounds, in spoken English, that break up the words for the audience.  That ‘breaking up’ makes it easy for them to ‘get’ the 30% of those words they need to allow them to work out the meaning of the whole thing.

If you’re articulating those hard sounds, then speed, accent and understandability look after themselves.

Here’s an interesting article by Kath Reiffenstein, describing 5 things she learned on a speaking trip to Nigeria as an Enlish-speaking American abroad.- Culture Clash: 5 Tips for Cross-Cultural Communication.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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  1. Pingback: Presenting in English to International Audiences- 8 thoughts

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