Let Us Speak English in a Better Way – Part-2 (For Readers From Indian Subcontinent)

When we prepare ourselves for speaking English, we usually think that subject in our mother tongue, subsequently translate it to English within our mind, and then speak out in English. While implementing this three-tier process, we commit many mistakes as follows that result into imperfect speech:

• Confusing in selecting right words from vocabulary
• Missing out the sequence of words
• Fear of forgetting the sentence
• Delay in speech
• Mincing words
• Sometimes speaking a dialogue the meaning of which might be other than that we wanted to convey

Therefore, for speaking flawless sentences fluently and effectively we should think and speak in English only. We need to practice a lot for that until our mind develops a natural instinct.

English speaking is not that difficult as compared to speaking other languages including Indian languages. We need to develop expertise in providing proper sequence of words, suitably breaking the sentences in 2-3 parts and giving prominence / stress / higher pitch to a word or two; and eventually making the sentence easier to speak and adequate for understanding by the person we address.

Written language and the language we speak have basic differences about which many of us are not aware. We should not try to speak the bookish language that we read in books, newspapers, magazines and novels. The speaking English has to be quite different from written English. We need to follow the following

The various requirements for ideal speech are as follows:

• Your speech should be distinct for attracting attention of listener
• Your speech should be clear and easy for the listener to understand
• Your speech should convey the real message that you want to speak
• Your speech should be should carry your feelings and emotions that you want to convey
• Your speech should have simple and common words
• Sentences in your speech should be short for you to speak easily
• Your speech should be short for the listener to understand easily
• Your speech should have no ambiguity
• You should have correct pronunciation and accent
• You should break sentence in 2 – 3 pieces and stress / emphasize the vital words and create right expression
• You should use facial gestures and express with nodding your head wherever required
• Do not be loud in gesturing
• Keep the tone and volume of your voice controlled

Here are examples of sentences:

*Your speech:
(-) stands for breaks and
(underline) stands for emphasis / stress / higher pitch.

1. Usual sentence: He is dutiful and does not evade hard work.
*Your speech: He is dutiful – and does not evade – hard work.

2. Usual sentence: A typical Indian woman is emotional by nature.
*Your speech: A typical Indian woman – is emotional by nature

3. Usual sentence: A sensible person should not be blind to his shortcomings.
*Your speech: A sensible person – should ‘not’ be blind – to his ‘shortcomings’.

4. Usual sentence: You should not depend on an unfaithful friend.
*Your speech: You should not depend – on an unfaithful friend.

5. Usual sentence: These are imaginary fears that do not exist in reality.
*Your speech: These are imaginary fears – that do not exist – in reality.

Look at the sentences under subheads ‘Usual sentence’ and ‘*your speech’. Under ‘Usual sentence’, a sentence is written in a normal format. Whereas under ‘*your speech’ the sentences has been broken in pieces and marked for emphasis / stress / higher pitch that guides the speaker about the style of speech.

These styles of speech may differ from place to place and from person to person, depending on the local dialect spoken in that area and the persona and nature of the speaker. Styles may also differ with the occasion and environment, depending on when and where the conversation takes place.

Changing words and sentences suitable for speech:

For better spoken-English, we should use appropriate words and construct proper sentences, a bit different from the written English, for effective expression of the messages that we need to convey.

We should always remember that there is a slight difference in written and spoken English. In written English, we speak full words and sentences whereas for speaking English we speak short forms of some words and make sentences a bit more expressive as compared to that we write.

Here are some examples of written and spoken English sentences:

• Written: What is your name?
Spoken: What’s your – ‘name’?
• Written: My name is Harish.
Spoken: I am – ‘Harish’.
• Written: Yes!
Spoken: That’s ‘right’!

Whenever someone asks us, a question and we need to reply in affirmative then we say, “That’s right!” Rather than saying “Yes.”

We should better say, “What’s” in place of “What is”.

I had an Anglo-Indian friend Joe. One day I asked his son-

“What is your name?”
The child did not understand my question. Joe asked him the same question in a different way
“What’s your name, dear?” and the child looked quite comfortable with his question.

This practice of abbreviating words and reconstructing the sentences in a different way from the written language is followed in other languages also.

Expressions and body language:

Gestures and actions are inseparable part of effective oratory and it is equally followed in English speaking also. Our speech world sound dull, ineffective and would not convey the real meaning of our message if we do not use gestures. Nevertheless, we should be careful for not being loud in our gestures and body language lest we might look funny.

Our speech would sound inert if we do not synchronies our dialogues with proper expressions on our face and body gestures. We should remember that there is a big difference between interacting with somebody and reading a news bulletin on TV.

In a civilized society, we need to express our sympathy facially and verbally while conveying a sad message or offering condolences. We will have to follow this protocol in a proper way, while answering or conveying a message carrying a particular feeling or emotion like exclamation, pleasure, distress, excitement etc.

Tone and volume of speech:

You might have observed that there are different tone and loudness of speech at different places and this style differ from place to place, depending on the dialects spoken in that area, the temperament and social / cultural environment in that area. It even differs between urban and rural parts of the same area.

So is the case in English also, these styles of speaking differ in all the languages in the world. The speech of sophisticated gentry is soft and civilized where as the rural world speak loud and raw language without following protocols. Following the same principles our tone has to be soft, mild moderated while speaking face to face with someone. Nevertheless, the volume may vary with the environment, emotional situation and distance from the listener. Yet, the tone should continue to be soft, at all the time and in all the conditions.

Non-English-speaking people usually try to imitate the dialogues and vocabulary from English films produced in Hollywood and Hong Kong. By following this learning process, we usually pickup styles adapting the vocabulary and learn to speak shrieks, shouts, slang and abuses from the interactions portrayed between bad characters in the films.

We should remember that English is spoken among educated masses in non-English-speaking world. Therefore, our English speech has to be decent and civilized. If we want to learn English from films, then we should pickup dialogue delivery from the decent and intellectual characters in the English films for emulating their style of English speaking.

How To Practice Speaking English:

The more we speak using our tongue throat the better would be our English speaking expertise. English is one of the most tongue twisting languages. Many words in English are not that easy to pronounce for the first time, because it needs a proper twist of our tongue to speak them in an appropriate way.

The best ways for practicing English speaking are listed as follows and discussed subsequently:

• Interact with your siblings or friends

• Read newspapers or books aloud

• Listen to English news on TV

• Do not hesitate to clear doubts with anyone

Interact with your siblings or friends:

More and more speaking is the only way to be fluent in the language that you want to learn. We will have to speak as much as possible; it does not matter whether we speak right or wrong. Our aim has to be just keeping speaking as much as possible and there is no other way-out.

You should pickup someone who continues to be with you most of the time and have a pact with him / her to speak only in English between you people. Brothers, sisters, cousins, roommates and classmates are usually the right people with whom you can go for this understanding.

Your practice partner for practicing English need not be an expert in English. Anyone, having working knowledge of Basic English speech would be fine for you to take off on this adventure.

Read newspapers or books aloud:

All the languages carry certain tongue-twisting words or combination of words that create big obstacles in the pursuit of speaking chaste English with perfect pronunciation, accent and fluency. We usually fumble and sometimes even stammer, as our tongue does not synchronize with our mind for perfect phonetic reproduction. The tongue does not just twist to speak such words.

Therefore, we will have to get our tongue used to such typical words, by pronouncing them repeatedly, so much so that, we develop a natural instinct for speaking English as very effortlessly as we speak our mother tongue.

‘Vulnerable’ was one such word that gave me a real hard time, whenever I tried to speak as a single word or tried to use it in a sentence. I of course sometimes could speak it as a single word; yet, I fumbled while speaking it in a sentence. Then, I kept speaking this word repeatedly and tried to used it deliberately by finding opportunities to speak ‘vulnerable’ as many times as possible.

That is the best way to practice for overcoming difficulties like fumbling with these tongue-twisting words or the combinations of such words by ‘reading them loudly’. In our day-to-day academic preparations, we need to read books and we read newspapers and magazines. We need to bring a little change in reading and that is by reading that loudly and use our tongue and throat many times.

This rigorous practice will put your tongue and throat on an exercise, eventually synchronizing it with the commands released from your brain in the process of speaking English. by doing it repeatedly, our tongue develops a natural instinct to produce a desired sound and eventually pronounce it without any fumble or stammer.

Listen to English news on TV:

Even small children as young as eight months learn speaking by hearing our speech and imitate our sounds that they hear when we speak. Hence, we need to hear someone speaking perfect English if we want to learn speaking this language. When we hear them then we can try to copy them..

Speaking any language, other than our mother tongue, is not as simple as physical exercise. That cannot be performed by solitary practice, because speaking includes specific phonetic reproduction and certain specific style, grammar and accent. There is no other option for us, except listening to that sound carefully and emulating the same by synchronizing, twisting the tongue with orientation of our throats while blowing air with controlled throttle.

The easy and freely available resource of perfect English speech lessons is the news bulletins read on radios and TVs. make it a regular practice of listening these news bulletins carefully. Better, listen to Indian English news, rather than opting for CNN or BBC or any other foreign media. I think that Indian English as the best for English for Indians to learn because, people in other countries speak English with different pronunciations and accents. If we try to learn from English spoken by British, American, Australian or Canadian people than we would be rendered confused due to ambiguity and might not even learn the English spoken in India.

Let us speak English in a better way: Part- 2
(For readers from Indian subcontinent)

Please read this article on my site: http://harishjhariasblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/let-us-speak-english-in-better-way-pt-2.html.

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What Is Standard English?

The term English speaker is so broad few people realize the extent of our language differences across the world. Whilst we all essentially speak one language there are some variations both in grammar and vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation.

So does it really matter? Surely in today’s world such differences only cause minor misunderstandings. With the rise of Internet technologies and an ever growing global economy, does anyone actually speak a pure form of their own English anymore? Certainly in the future, compromise may be the key. Who knows, in the future we may well see a world standard of English!

Many English speakers have found Americanisms slowly creeping into their language, (particularly in British English), causing a hotch potch of styles. Certainly, English may be the international language of communication – but which kind?

Indeed, many students don’t realise that they actually regularly mix standards of English. Take a typical essay sentence:

She emerged from the elevator in the computer shop and went to make an inquiry regarding the despatch of her colour monitor. (American, British, American, British, British)

He opened the boot and took out the grey garbage bag, and then parked his car in the lot. (British, British, American, American)

Such a mix of varieties would be enough to make a traditional English teacher’s hair go white, but is it so far from reality?

Which is better?

As a teacher, a favourite question continually asked by my students is “Which is better American or British English?” My answer is always the same, “It depends!” These days, we can also add the Australian variety, as where I live in Asia, learners are exposed to more Australian English than in other parts of the world and are more likely to study there than in the States or the UK. Although admittedly the difference between Australian and British English is very small and mainly vocabulary based.

Certainly in academic terms we would be expected to choose one type of English over another for consistency, and a school curriculum will favour a particular standard, whatever that may be.

With so many varieties of English, course book writers and publishers are in somewhat of a conundrum as there has to be a particular standard of English which should be followed throughout the book. Consequently, commercially produced course books from leading ELT publishers often feature both British and American varieties in the same series. e.g. Headway and American Headway.

So what factors can influence whether foreign learners are better off learning a particular standard of English? Put simply, excluding any demands that the curriculum might make, it depends on what is more appropriate; taking into account their current and future academic, employment or social needs and their geographical location.

If someone is working for a US owned company or one whose client base is predominantly American then the company will probably require American English in its written communication. Similarly if you are studying to be a tour guide in an area frequented by British tourists, it makes sense to concentrate on that standard. If a learner is going to study in Australia then familiarising themselves with Australian English beforehand is going to benefit them in the long run. Similarly, if someone has a British or American partner, the same principle applies and if a student comes from a European country like Sweden they are more likely to be taught British English, due to its close proximity and economic importance within that region.

Healthy competition amongst language teachers

When I have managed language schools, it was apparent to me that there was often healthy competition between teachers of different nationalities, regarding the quality or importance of their particular standard of English. Some of them were very protective, as each variety has its own special identity. As the renowned linguist David Crystal states, in his Encyclopaedia of the English Language (p310), “Each country where English is a first language is aware of its linguistic identity, and is anxious to preserve it from the influence of others. New Zealanders don’t want to be Australians, Canadians don’t want to be Americans, and Americanism is perceived as a danger signal by usage guardians everywhere

Language schools abroad may favour one particular standard of English over another (usually based on its geography or appropriacy), and therefore sometimes, understandably, give preference to that particular nationality of teacher.

Personally though, I like to keep an open mind, as there can also be advantages for both students and teachers. Students get to be exposed to more varieties of English, providing them with a more well rounded education and improving their listening comprehension by exposing them to different global accents. Teachers are also made aware of the differences in varieties, increasing their own knowledge base.

Provided teachers teach what is in the course book and do not interfere with the main objectives of the course, does it really hurt to explain to a student the differences between rubbish and garbage for example, or that lay-by in Australia is the equivalent to hire purchase in the UK, when they come across that particular word the book?

The Standards of English

It is interesting to note how many regional standards of English there actually are, if we take into account English spoken as both a first and second language.

1. British and Irish

2. American

3. Canadian

4. Australian, New Zealand & South Pacific

5. Caribbean

6. West, East and South African (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya,)

7. South Asian (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh)

8. East Asian (Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Hong Kong)

Ref: The Circle of World English, p111, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, David Crystal (Cambridge University Press 1995)

In conclusion, it is worth noting that when all said and done, EFL teachers and linguists will continue to debate on this emotive subject. However, the (minor?) differences between our varieties of English should be put into perspective; we all speak the same (but different) language after all!

Sources for this article: A World English p106-109, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, David Crystal (Cambridge University Press 1995)

American and British English, p306-310, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, David Crystal (Cambridge University Press 1995)

Australian English, p352, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, David Crystal (Cambridge University Press 1995)

Gill is an experienced English language teacher having been teaching and managing language schools for twenty years. She has also run her own TEFL training courses for new teachers. She is a now a freelance writer and is currently studying journalism. She has taught in Europe, Thailand and The Middle East and currently lives in Asia. For more English teaching related articles please visit her page at http://www.socyberty.com/writers/GillHart.14604

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