Do you ever get the feeling you’re not being understood?

Photograph of Anne Marie at the Vessel

There is a new tourist attraction in New York City called the Vessel. It’s a honeycomb-like structure, with 16 floors, 154 staircases, and 80 landings, and it is open to the public for our climbing and viewing pleasure (and it’s free).

On a recent visit, I was determined to cover every inch, but with so many steps and landings, I felt like I was going in circles! Then an employee gave me the strategy for success: Use the inner staircases to go up and the outer staircases to go down. It was so simple, once I knew.

Speaking and pronunciation can create the same frustration: There are so many sounds, and so many rules. But like the Vessel, there are tricks and simple methods for tackling a challenging problem.

Read on for 3 strategies for practicing precise pronunciation.

Do you ever get the feeling you’re not being understood?

You might notice your colleague’s confused facial expression during your meeting, or your customer’s questions and comments are unrelated to what you’re saying. These signals give you a clue that your words are not being communicated clearly.

When the listener struggles to understand what you’re saying, he or she can’t focus on your message. Your message may be misinterpreted, key points can be lost, and mistakes will be made.

Are you feeling unable to deliver a clear message? Are you (or your listener) uncomfortable with the frequent requests for repetition?

We spend so much time preparing our message for meetings and presentations with colleagues, clients, and potential customers, but how much time do we spend practicing how to say the actual words? For many, not enough!

Three easy ways to practice precise pronunciation

  1. Identify the key words or points that are crucial to your message.
    These are the words that are most important to pronounce correctly. Using an online dictionary, listen to the correct pronunciation for each word several times. Record yourself saying the words, then listen and compare. Repeat and revise until your pronunciation matches. Rely on your listening and how the words sound.

    Remember, in English, spelling does not always equal pronunciation! For example, in the word “clothes”- the “th” is not pronounced, and the final “s” sounds like a “z.” The word is pronounced “kloz.”
  2. Focus on the syllable that is stressed.
    When doing the pronunciation exercise in Step 1, pay close attention to the syllable that receives the stress. Awareness of syllable stress in words is crucial to being understood because the placement of the stress can change the meaning of the word.

    Noun-verb stress patterns are the perfect example. The word “record” is a noun when the stress in on the first syllable: “I listen to vinyl RE-cords.” It becomes a verb when the stress is placed on the second syllable: “Re-CORD yourself speaking to practice pronunciation.” 
  3. Enlist a speech partner.
    Ask a trusted friend or colleague to listen to your speech. Give them permission to rate their ease of understanding, and ask them to identify specific words, phrases, or sentences that are difficult to understand. Those are the words that require further practice.

Like the Vessel, speaking, pronunciation, and communication have many steps and levels. Let iSpeak Clearly help you find the steps to reach your goals.