Fluent, Conversational Delivery with Proper Pronunciation
1-4. List the causes and symptoms of lack of fluency.
1 When you get up in front of an audience to give a talk, do you find that you are often groping for the right words? Or, when reading aloud, do you stumble over certain expressions? If so, you have a problem with fluency. A fluent person is one who is ready in the use of words. It does not mean a “glib” person, that is, one who is thoughtlessly or insincerely free with words. It is smooth or pleasingly graceful speech, flowing with ease or freedom. Fluency is listed on the Speech Counsel slip for special attention.
2 In speaking, the more common causes for lack of fluency are lack of clear thinking and preparation of the material. It can also result from a weak vocabulary or a poor choice of words. In reading, the lack of fluency is usually because of a lack of practice in reading aloud, although here too a lack of knowledge of words will cause stumbling or hesitancy. In the field ministry, a lack of fluency can be a combination of these factors coupled with timidity or uncertainty. There the problem is particularly serious because in some instances your audience will literally walk out on you. In the Kingdom Hall your audience will not literally walk out but their minds will wander and much of what you say will be lost. So it is a serious matter; fluency is certainly a quality to acquire.
3 Many speakers have the disconcerting mannerism of inserting such expressions as “and-uh” or similar “word whiskers.” If you are unaware of the frequency with which you add such expressions to your speech, you might try a practice session in which you have someone listen and repeat these expressions after you each time you say them. You might be surprised.
4 Other persons always speak with regressions, that is, beginning a sentence, then interrupting themselves and starting all over again. If you are afflicted with this bad habit, try overcoming it in your daily conversation. Make a conscious effort to think first and get the thought clearly in mind. Then say the complete thought without stopping or changing ideas in “midstream.”
5-10. What suggestions are given to improve a speaker’s fluency?
5 Another thing. We are accustomed to using words as we express ourselves. So words should come naturally if we know exactly what we want to say. You need not think of the words. In fact, it is better for the sake of practice just to make certain that the idea is clear in your mind and think of the words as you go. If you do, and if you keep your mind on the idea rather than on the words that you are speaking, the words should come automatically and your thoughts should be expressed as you really feel them. But as soon as you begin to think of words rather than ideas your speech will become halting.
6 If your problem in fluency is a matter of word choice, then some regular study in building a vocabulary is called for. In The Watchtower and other publications of the Society take special note of words that are unfamiliar to you and add some of them to your daily vocabulary.
7 Since lack of fluency in reading is generally due to an unfamiliarity with words, you would do well to practice reading aloud regularly and systematically if this is your problem.
8 One way this can be done is to select a paragraph or two of material and silently read it over carefully until you are familiar with the entire thought of the portion. Isolate thought groups, marking them if necessary. Then begin to practice reading this portion aloud. In practice, read it over repeatedly until you can read entire thought groups without one hesitation or halting in wrong places.
9 Unfamiliar or difficult words should be pronounced over and over until they are easy for you to say. After you can say the word alone, then read the entire sentence with that word in it until you can add it to the sentence just as freely as you can the more familiar words.
10 Also, practice sight-reading regularly. For example, always read the daily text and comments aloud the first time you see them. Become accustomed to allowing your eye to take in words as groups, expressing complete thoughts, rather than seeing just one word at a time. If you practice, you can conquer this vital quality of effective speaking and reading.
11-15. How does conversational quality depend on the expressions used?
11 Another desirable speech characteristic noted on the counsel slip is “Conversational quality.” It is something that you have in everyday life, but do you have it when you get up to give a talk? Somehow, persons who easily converse even with a large group often become very formal and somewhat “preachy” when called on to prepare in advance to “give a talk.” Yet the most effective manner of public speaking is the conversational style.
12 Conversational expressions used. Much of the effectiveness of conversational speaking depends upon the expressions that are used. In preparing an extemporaneous talk, it is generally not good to repeat expressions exactly as they appear in print. A written style is different from the spoken word. So shape these ideas according to your own individual expression. Avoid the use of involved sentence structure.
13 Your speech on the platform should reflect your daily expression. You should not try to “put on airs.” Still, your prepared talk will naturally be an improvement over everyday speech, since your ideas are more carefully thought out in advance and will come with greater fluency. Consequently, your expressions themselves should be better phrased.
14 This stresses the importance of daily practice. In speaking, be yourself. Avoid slang. Avoid constant repetition of the same expressions and phrases to convey every different thought that you might have. Learn to speak with meaning. Take pride in your daily conversation and, when you are on the platform, words will come much more readily and you will be able to speak with a conversational quality that will be colorful, easy and acceptable to any audience.
15 This is particularly true in the field ministry. And in your student talks, if you are talking to a householder, try to talk as though you were in the field service, using expressions that you would use there in a natural and easy way. This will make an informal and realistic talk and, more important, will train you for more effective presentations in the field ministry.
16-19. Point out how delivery can affect conversational quality.
16 Conversational style of delivery. Conversational quality does not depend alone upon the expressions that are used. Your manner or style of delivery is also important. This involves the tone of voice, voice inflection and naturalness of expression. It is as spontaneous as everyday speaking, though amplified to the audience.
17 Conversational delivery is just the opposite of oratory. It lacks all the elements of the “preachy” delivery and is free from all affectation.
18 One way in which conversational quality is often lost by beginning speakers is through too thorough advance preparation of the wording of the material. In preparation for delivery, do not think that you should go over the talk word for word until you know it practically by heart in order to be properly prepared. In extemporaneous speaking, preparation for delivery should put the emphasis on a careful review of the ideas to be expressed. These should be reviewed as thoughts or ideas until one easily follows the other in your mind. If they have been logically developed and well planned this should not be difficult, and in delivery of the talk the ideas should come freely and easily. That being so, and if they are expressed with the desire to communicate, the conversational quality will be a part of the delivery.
19 One way that you can assure yourself of this is to make an effort to talk to different individuals in the audience. Speak directly to one at a time. Think of that person as having asked a question, and then answer it. Picture yourself in a private conversation with that person in developing that particular thought. Then pass on to another in the audience and repeat the same process.
20-23. How can one make his reading sound natural?
20 Maintaining a conversational style of delivery in reading is one of the most difficult qualities of speech to master, yet one of the most vital. Most of our public reading, of course, is from the Bible, in reading texts in connection with an extemporaneous talk. The Bible should be read with feeling and a keen awareness of the meaning. It should be alive. On the other hand, God’s true ministers will never affect the sanctimonious tonal inflection of the religious clergy. Jehovah’s servants will read His Word with the natural emphasis and unpretentious reality that the living language of this Book deserves.
21 Much the same is true in reading The Watchtower or the paragraphs at a book study. Here again, the expressions and sentence structure are not designedly conversational, so your reading cannot always sound like conversation. But, if you get the sense of what you are reading and read it as naturally and meaningfully as you can, you can often make it sound as though it were extemporaneous speech, though perhaps a little more formal than you would normally use. It should be your practice, therefore, to write in whatever marks will help you, if you can prepare in advance, and do your utmost to present the material in a realistic and natural style.
22 In conversational reading or speaking, sincerity and naturalness are the keynotes. Let your heart overflow and speak with appeal to your hearers.
23 Good speech cannot be put on for an occasion any more than can good manners. But if you employ good speech every day it will show on the platform the same as your good manners applied at home always show when you are in public.
24, 25. Why is poor pronunciation undesirable?
24 Pronunciation. Proper pronunciation is also important, and it is listed separately on the Speech Counsel slip. While not all Christians have had a great deal of worldly education, even as Peter and John were observed as being unlettered and ordinary men, still it is important to avoid detracting from our presentation of the message due to poor pronunciation. It is something that can be readily corrected if we give adequate attention to it.
25 If a person’s pronunciation is very bad, it may even be that he will convey wrong ideas to the minds of his audience, which would be definitely undesirable. When you hear someone mispronounce a word in his talk, the general effect is that it flashes before your mind as a stoplight would. You may even cease following his line of argument and begin to think about the word that he mispronounced. It can cause you to switch your attention from what is said to how it is being said.
26, 27. What problems are listed in connection with pronunciation?
26 It might be said that there are three general types of problems in connection with pronunciation. One is definitely erroneous pronunciation, where the accent is misplaced or the letters are given the wrong sound. Most modern languages have a regular pattern of accentuation, but in the English language the pattern is not uniform, which makes the problem a more difficult one. Then, too, there is pronunciation that is correct but exaggerated, overly precise, giving an impression of affectation, even snobbishness, and this is not desirable. The third problem is slovenly speech, characterized by constant slurring of words, telescoping or skipping syllables and other such practices. They are to be avoided.
27 Usually in our everyday speech we employ words with which we are well acquainted; so pronunciation is not a great problem in this connection. The greatest problem arises in reading. But Jehovah’s witnesses do a great deal of reading in public as well as in private. We read the Bible to people when we go from house to house. Sometimes we are called on to read the paragraphs in the Watchtower study, at a home Bible study or a congregation book study. It is important that the reading be accurate, that the pronunciation be proper. If it is not, it gives the impression that we do not know what we are talking about. It also draws attention away from the message.
28-34. How can one be helped to improve his pronunciation?
28 Counsel on wrong pronunciation should not be overdone. If there is some question concerning a word or two, private counsel may be sufficient. But even if only a few words are mispronounced in the course of a talk, if these are words that we regularly use in our ministry or in our daily speech, it would be helpful to the student for the school overseer to draw attention to them so that he learns how to pronounce them properly.
29 On the other hand, if in reading from the Bible the student happened to mispronounce one or two Hebrew names, this would not be considered an outstanding weakness. However, if he mispronounced many names, this would give evidence of lack of preparation, and counsel should be given. The student should be helped to learn how to ascertain the proper pronunciation and then practice it.
30 So too with exaggerated pronunciation. If it really detracts from the talk because it is a constant practice, help should be given to the student. It should also be noted that, when speaking rapidly, most persons are inclined to slur a few words. No counsel needs to be given on this, but if it is a regular practice, if a student constantly slurs his words and it becomes difficult to understand his speech or detracts from the message, then it would be advisable to give him some assistance on articulation.
31 Of course, your counselor will keep in mind that acceptable pronunciation may vary in different localities. Even dictionaries often list more than one acceptable pronunciation. So he will exercise care in counseling on pronunciation. He will not make it a matter of personal preference.
32 If you have a problem with pronunciation, you will not find it difficult to correct when you set your mind to it. Even experienced speakers when given an assignment of reading get out the dictionary and look up words with which they are not well acquainted. They do not simply make a stab at them. So use the dictionary.
33 Another way that pronunciation can be improved is by reading to someone else, someone who does pronounce words well, and ask him to stop you and correct you every time you make a mistake.
34 A third method is by listening carefully to good speakers. Think as you listen; take note of the words that they pronounce differently than you do. Write them down; check them in the dictionary and practice them. Soon you too will have correct pronunciation. Fluent, conversational delivery, along with proper pronunciation, will greatly enhance your speaking.