Awareness Workshop – Being Aware of Speed

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Let’s say you are in charge of designing a workshop for Native English speakers – with the goal of making them more aware of the English they use. Your objective is to make these Native speakers easier to understand when speaking internationally. What would you include in the workshop?

In my next series of posts – I’m going to look at what I feel would be key components of such a workshop. 

To begin, let’s take a look at “Speed Awareness” and some related points that we often lump into this category – points which could be broken into examples and activities within the workshop environment to help everyone become more aware.

In the workshop, the participants should explore:

▪ Awareness of speed: Even though this is something that most people know they need to control, the concept of speaking too quickly should be discussed and used as an introduction to the points below. What exactly is too fast/too slow?

▪ Awareness of Contractions: Though learners of English have been exposed to contractions and know that they are used, they can be very difficult to hear in conversation. The Native Speaker who uses “I’d” rather than “I would” will have saved time but will have also made his speech more challenging to understand.  Many learners around the world dislike contractions or find them confusing, and may cut them out of their speech without realizing it. When a Native Speaker truly needs to be understood, he should do his best to avoid contractions… and making it a habit will make his counterparts job of listening a lot easier.

▪ Awareness of “Dropping Letters”: When two Native Speakers get going, they often begin to drop sounds from words in order to speak quicker. This may also be heavily influenced by local accents, dialects, or slang. An American speaker wishing to say “I’m working on twenty emails” could easily say “I’m workin on twenny emails”. This is ok in normal speech – some might say it gives the speaker a certain charm – but the language learner is often wondering just where those letters disappeared to – and what was just said!! (Linguists call this elision)

▪ Awareness of “Running Sounds Together”: This includes transforming something like “Did you hear?” to “Did ju hear?” When we are speaking quickly we often do this – which can understandably make the second language speaker throw up her hands and say “What????” Again – we should avoid this when speaking internationally.

▪ Awareness of “Reduced or Connected Vocabulary”: Howareyah? Gotta, Gunna, Kinda, Typa, Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, Seeyah, S-long! Native Speakers use such terms on a daily basis, and are often unaware that they are doing so… in fact, in our head we may very well be thinking “I’m going to…” when we say “I’m gunna…”!! The language learner is stuck trying to understand these words, and if they have not heard them before they are going to have big obstacles to overcome when trying to understand. Publishers often choose not to include such words in course material for language learners – and English trainers living overseas have often unconsciously cut most of these words from their own language through experience. Making everyone aware of them and their difficulty is key to this part of the workshop.

A workshop aimed at making Native Speakers more aware of these concepts is well worth the investment by the company. It’s not about training the native speakers how to speak English – it is about helping them get what they want faster – a message communicated.

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