Every language has its own rhythm; some are overwhelmingly musical - the languages collectively called Indian are a prime example of such. On the other side of the spectrum is French, which frustrates anyone trying to learn it because there is virtually no intonation, save for the rising tone for questions and falling tone for statements.

English lies closer to Indian languages in the degree of intonation needed to make oneself understood. This is what bedevils ESOL students, no matter what their native language is. And worse: this aspect of language learning is seldom covered in ESOL classes.

Another stumbling block towards English fluency is the definition of 'fluent'. Does that mean having a big vocabulary, knowing all the verb tenses, aspects and moods - and how to use them, how fast you can string words together?

Fluency, in any language, is the ability to express yourself. Hand in hand with that comes the ability to make yourself understood. After all, what good is expressing yourself if no one understands you?

No matter the reasons you're currently learning how to speak English - for a better future, for a better job or simply because it is a part of your school's curriculum, you now understand that simply learning a lot of words and phrases isn't the key to fluency in English.

Being able to use what you know is the key, and intonation plays a huge part in English language usage.

So, let Superprof explain why using tone and syllable stress correctly leads to fluency, and show you how you, too, can reduce your native accent and speak English better.

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Posture and Voice Power

What do Tiktok stars, YouTubers, teachers, CEOs and politicians have in common? The most obvious answer is that they all address the public but there is one personal quality that unites them: they all have the confidence to do it.

You've surely heard of stage fright, a condition that makes people terrified of stepping on stage, in the spotlight, with everyone's attention on them. Stage fright can affect anyone, even people who step in front of a camera - or a group of students, instead of a stage.

This army secretary shows great posture even when squatting down.
Even as he squats down to talk with this solder, this army secretary shows admirable posture. Photo credit: The U.S. Army on VisualHunt.com

Stage fright is hardly ever a fear of being on stage or in front of people; it's more a fear of not being up to the task. "People might laugh at me!", "I might make mistakes!" and the newly minted term 'imposter syndrome', a belief that a person's skills and knowledge are not legitimate, all drive the phenomenon called stage fright.

How can you defeat such an overwhelming enemy? By becoming self-confident.

It only took about two seconds to type those words; actually becoming self-confident takes a bit longer. But you can get a start on developing self-confidence by improving your posture.

That sounds like a too-simple solution to a complex, far-reaching problem but we can prove how well it works.

Watch some of your favourite public speakers: politicians, motivational speakers and social media influencers; religious leaders, actors, singers and other performers... and your teachers. Are they usually slouched over, shoulders rolled in, chest caved and head down? Or do they stand tall: shoulders back, head held high and spine straight?

Are you ready to imitate them - develop good posture on your way to building a more powerful voice - the trademarks of self-confidence? We invite you to find out how you can get started...

Voice Modulation and Accent Reduction

We hinted at voice modulation in this article's introduction but used different words. Basically, voice modulation is how you control your speech - how fast and how loudly you speak, as well as the stress, pitch and tone used when speaking.

You probably already are an expert at voice modulation. Don't you speak faster and in a higher voice when you're excited about something? And, when you're sad, doesn't your voice drop a register and don't your words come out more slowly?

One trick to reducing your accent when speaking English is making your natural ability to modulate your voice work for you.

Remember that fluency isn't how fast you can speak but how well you can make yourself understood. Jamming words together, rapid-fire style, more often leads to confusion than clarity so, if you're aiming for fluency in English, make it a point to slow down.

As you learn to modulate your voice, you'll discover how important it is to stress individual syllables and words correctly.

For instance, if you want to tell your classmates about your weekend EXploits (adventures), be sure it's not a story about someone who exPLOITS (takes advantage of) a situation. As this example shows, stressing words correctly is critical to being understood when speaking English.

Learning how to modulate your voice helps to reduce your accent because you will speak with English's rhythms and patterns, rather than trying to fit English into your native language's patterns.

There's much more to be said about voice modulation and accent reduction but we're moving on to another way to reduce accents.

 

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Eugene
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Helen
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Helen
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Joanne
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Richard
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Richard
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Elizabeth
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Elizabeth
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Noel
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Noel
£13
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Maria
5
5 (9 reviews)
Maria
£19
/h
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1st lesson free!
Siddharth
5
5 (10 reviews)
Siddharth
£1
/h
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1st lesson free!
Eugene
4.9
4.9 (66 reviews)
Eugene
£22
/h
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1st lesson free!
Helen
5
5 (40 reviews)
Helen
£39
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Joanne
5
5 (65 reviews)
Joanne
£30
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Richard
5
5 (15 reviews)
Richard
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Elizabeth
5
5 (19 reviews)
Elizabeth
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Noel
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5 (55 reviews)
Noel
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Public Speaking and Accent Reduction

Earlier, we talked about public speakers and how their posture exudes confidence. Did that inspire you to give public speaking a try?

Are you, like my students always do, scrunching down in your seat, terrified that our eyes will meet? That I will call you to the front of the class and make you talk?

If your ESOL teacher tortures you the same way I 'torture' my students, they're doing you a big favour.

How long have you been learning English? How many English words and phrases would you guess you know? When do you have the chance to speak English in a safe environment - your classroom, where everyone faces the same difficulties with English as you do?

The thing about public speaking is... it's very much like acting.

An actor spends many weeks focused on learning their lines. They may even work with a voice coach if their character speaks with an accent. They read their scripts late into the night and over dinner and they rehearse for hours on end.

All of that work, struggle and pain disappears the moment the curtain goes up and the show starts.

Many actors say that they can't believe the show went by so quickly. The time they spent on stage was a blur; they spouted their lines without even thinking about what they were supposed to say and what accent they were to use.

Show off your English speaking skills every time your teacher gives you a chance to
When your teacher invites you to take part in a speech competition, you should see that as a great opportunity to show off your English speaking skills. Photo credit: TanglawCenter on VisualHunt.com

ESOL students say the same thing after speech and debate competitions. Once the lights go on and it's time to perform, they forget all about English being their second language; they just get out of the way and let their brains and mouths do what they know to do.

If only we'd get out of the way of them doing it all the time!

That's why you should take any chance at public speaking. Not only is it a confidence booster but it will prove that you are much better at English than you thought you were.

Why You Should Take Elocution Lessons

You might wonder why your Superprof recommends taking elocution lessons when you're already taking English language courses.

You might think of the two as the difference between learning how to drive a car and learning how to repair a car. One gives you general knowledge while the other takes you under the bonnet to teach you how things work.

Of course, you don't have to know how an automobile engine works to drive a car but, if you want the best performance from your car, you'll certainly learn everything you can about it. It's in that spirit that we recommend taking elocution lessons alongside your ESOL lessons.

Elocution lessons will teach you how to use your English language skills effectively.

Let's say you have a (still) limited English vocabulary, yet you're applying for a job that could really boost your chances of reaching the quality of life you want. Your elocution coach will teach you how to use the English language skills you have so that, when you interview, you will come across as genuine - rather than someone who tried too hard but still fell short.

Elocution lessons will pay off in many situations, from applying for government assistance to negotiating a rental contract with confidence. When you're assured of your ability to communicate - no matter how limited your vocabulary, you are better able to get the results you set out to achieve.

The only question is where to find elocution lessons. Whether you live in the UK or elsewhere in the world, Superprof has found the best ones for you.

Informal settings allow for a bit of slang as long as it's not offensive
You could use a few slang words in an informal speech but make sure they are not offensive. Photo credit: MTSOfan on Visualhunt

Just For Fun: British Slang Words

We've packed a lot of valuable information into this article so, just as any good ESOL teacher would, we end on a humorous note.

"What do you do for a laxative?"

This unfortunate question was asked by one of my ESOL students at a recent student mixer. He wanted to know what people do to relax in this university town;. He used a word that sounds like it should be related to relaxing... but isn't.

One of the most difficult aspects of learning English - and, especially, British English is that so many words have more than one meaning. And, often, one of those meanings is dirty, dangerous or insulting.

For instance, you wouldn't think that food could lead to criminal charges... unless you knew that that word is slang for drugs. So don't go asking anyone where you can get some food, especially if you're out late at night in a big city!

British slang tweaks its nose at typical British reserve by making the language more fun and approachable. Seriously, isn't referring to a group of females as 'galdems' so much more delightful than saying 'ladies' or 'women'?

We shouldn't think of British slang as lowbrow demolition of the English language, though. Some slang words are quite intellectual, such as the slang word for trainers: creps.

It comes from the crepe sole: the soft, cushiony material that those shoes are made with.

Whether you're learning English because it is the language of business or simply because you want to learn one of the most-spoken languages in the world, and if British English is your desired flavour, you have to explore British slang words.

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Sophia

A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.