When we think of people who communicate well in a second language (let’s say, English), what is it that makes them sound so engaging?
It’s people who are clear and attentive, who express themselves well, who seem confident and whose voice is varied and engaging.
And when you come to think of that, it makes much more sense to value these aspects than the simple generic idea of ‘speaking like a native’.
And you know what’s even better? While you can’t be reborn into a different language, with some exercise you can improve your communication skills in your second language (and first!) and become clearer.
I know this because I’ve seen it work for me and my students, and I believe it might work for you too.
Today, I have three exercises for you to help you do just that. All you need is a text and a wine cork!
Yup, you got it right, a wine cork. But stay sober for this one. Or not.
First, read the text out loud and familiarize yourself with it.
The Cork exercise: Read the text out loud again, but this time – use a wine cork between your teeth. This will force you to work harder to pronounce every sound. The goal of this exercise is to help you become more aware of your tongue movement and create more space in your mouth, something that will help you in pronouncing the open vowels of English, especially the /æ/ as in ‘cat’ and the /ɑ/ as in ‘father’. You’ll find pronouncing those vowels is much easier after this exercise.
Extracting the vowels: Read the text out loud, but this time – pronounce only the vowels. If you’re not familiar with all the vowels, I recommend that you watch my video about the vowels of American English and if necessary, google the pronunciation of specific words and find out.
You don’t even have to say the whole text, a single sentence can be eye-opening, or is it ear-opening? (mouth opening?! You get the idea)
The Rookie Narrator: Read the text out loud, but this time – either overdo it, or underplay it. This exercise will allow you to explore your voice and expression and feel more comfortable in English.