When I was younger, I had a huge speech problem. I barely talked and didn’t know certain cues that affected my fluency in my native language. Non verbal language, fillers or other cues to indicate attention were huge problems during my childhood. Nonetheless, I have managed to overcome most of them with learning about other cultures and languages (the advantages is that you can actually learn them from books or teachers, unlike your native one!) and in my native context, with a speech therapist.
Most people have reluctancy to go on such therapy since it usually involves a multidisciplinary focus in which other specialists work together and also the word “therapy” for some people implies medication. In some instances, that can be needed, but speech therapists cannot medicate. Instead they work with the person on one-on-one sessions and practice, practice and practice. They work a lot with relaxation, breathing, mouth or even hand excercises in order for their patients to overcome their speech problems, which can be quite different regarding the person. In fact, many actors, actresses and singers do take coaching with speech therapists in order to get better roles, to talk louder without having sore throats every time or even when they need to work on a role that requires a different dialect or a language. Also voice actors do work with them a lot.
I must say that before certain recorded interviews, Skype sessions or oral assesments, I often do those excercises to relax my mouth, to breathe properly and project my voice without wasting it in order to gain more fluency, feel relaxed and natural while speaking. Youtube has plenty of videos in order to work on those goals: voice warm up excercises, accent excercises, logopedic, speech therapy or even a certain exercise regarding a tough phoneme can help you out in the path to fluency. Also, body language is just as important as learning verbal language. There are also videos or graphics explaining you expected fillers, tips or how to greet or approach people, friends or partners in different cultures and contexts.
Sure, most of us can get really nervous on oral assesments or questions that we may get asked in a language we are learning, but there are tips that may help you in almost all languages, and I will repeat them here (they are no rocket science):
- Don’t be afraid to ask to hear the question again!
- Use your time wisely in case you have to answer quickly. Try to move on if you get stuck on a phrase and do not repeat it (try to do that on your head).
- In order to avoid repeating a particular word or phrase so that you can go back to the idea you have on your head, use fillers to rephrase or go back to the idea you were talking about. Keep a list of them at hand and try to memorize them because they are great lifesavers.
- Pauses need to be limited with those fillers, otherwise your speaker might bore him/herself or might not remember the things you were talking about in the beginning.
- And before answering, it is okay to take a deep breath 😀
Have you got any good tips to become more fluent? Have you tried speech therapy when learning a language or dialect? Do you know any YouTube channels by speech therapists that might be helpful for language learners? Share them on the comments!