The basketball season has finished and many are now watching baseball.

The “three strikes rule” in baseball can also be applied to speaking-clarity and a listener’s tolerance of confusion.   If the listener is still confused after three attempts to understand the speaker, the listener will start to “tune out” the speaker.

How do we keep our listeners’ attention?

Let’s review the first of the top three issues for ESOL speakers from “The Articulate Advantage” March ‘15 article.


Speaking Speed:

Speaking too fast often causes the speaker to eliminate key syllables within words, make sound substitutions and use incorrect linking or stress patterns.

The listener must have time to make “edits” or they will often quit trying to understand.

How do you slow down? On the website, Baseball Mental Game Tips, the author Patrick Cohn quoted Brad Holman, pitching coach for Triple-A Round Rock Express, “Don’t be too quick. Step back and take a breath.” The same holds true for speaking. Here are three strategies to slow down so that the listener may understand you better.

1. Choose an article from an online news source. An article about baseball might work. Or find another easy article. Find a paragraph that has 100 to 125 words.

  • Highlight and copy this paragraph to a word document. Do a word count to confirm the number of words.
  • Record your speaking while you read this article aloud.
  • Go back and check your time. Did you do it in less than 60 seconds? If so, you spoke too fast. Do it again until you can slow down your speaking speed enough to say it in the full 60 to 70 seconds. It feels too slow, yet this makes you very aware of your own pronunciation and your audience’s response.
  1. Next, Listen again.
  • How long were your pauses between sentences? Where did you put the pauses?
  • Using pauses between sentences allows the listener to edit and understand your content better.
  • Try for .5 to 1 second pauses between sentences. Remember, this helps the listener “edit”.
  1. Did you find words with more than two syllables in the paragraph?
  • Three, four and five+ syllable words often are mispronounced. Underline these words.
  • Use an online dictionary to determine how they are said correctly. Even if you don’t say the vowels or consonants correctly, you must be able to say the right amount of syllables. English spelling often does not give you the correct pronunciation.
  • Record the target word three times. Make certain that you are correct. If not, do it again, until you can pronounce the correct number of syllables correctly. Then record each sentence with the target word.


Do you need more help? Contact me for a free initial consultation. If you are a member of a Toastmaster’s Club, check out my article in the July 2014, Toastmasters magazine. “Sound Strategies To Make Sure Your English Is Understood”

You’ve worked hard, earned the degrees and certifications, acquired a position at a successful corporation, developed and contributed to successful projects, yet the significant promotions are elusive.

Your manager has asked you to:

  • Do Contribute more in meetings,
  • Be more assertive,
  • Do speak up.

It’s a constant question. What does one do or say to contribute more, to be more assertive, or speak up? Some get frustrated thinking that they have really tried multiple times, and still were not really understood.

And here is what you have:
A variable awareness of the issues without adequate transformational knowledge
or the strategies for change across increasingly demanding communicative situations.


Using Clear, Effective Leadership Phrases

Think of a stool. It must have at least 3 legs to be stable. Likewise, we must stabilize a new skill at all three (3) levels of practice to habitually have access to new skills.

Here’s how you can harness the Power of (3) Three within this series.

In the coming months, read each article, note the targets. Then write each of them on your Smartphone, a Post-It note or somewhere that you will see the targets daily.

  • Three (3) executive level words/ phrases of NAE (North American English)
  • Three (3) target pronunciation goals within these phrases.
  • Three (3) example situations in which to use these new phrases.


Practice and implement:

  • These specific pronunciation targets within the words and phrases.
  • The examples that are given or Executive Communication situations, while also developing and expanding your own Executive Communication responses in sentences through multiple sentence responses
  • Three (3) times per day, everyday, for (3) three weeks.

The top three issues for most English Speakers as an Other Language (ESOL).

Why? When these issues are intertwined most native English listeners will not be able to clearly understand the ESOL speaker no matter how much the listener tries.

  1. Speaking Speed:
    Speaking too fast often causes the speaker to eliminate key syllables within words, make sound substitutions and use incorrect linking or stress patterns.
    If the speaker is speaking too quickly, the listener also has less time to make “edits” and will often quit trying to understand after two or three requests for clarification.
  2. Rhythm:
    The two rhythm aspects of NAE are: Linking – NAE words often link the ending sound of words with the beginning sound of the following word. Example: “Sound of = soun-duv”
    NAE is a “stress-timed” language. High content words, such as nouns, active verbs, adjectives and adverbs. having longer duration than “function” words, such as prepositions, pronouns, auxiliary verb [is,].
  3. Vowel Substitutions: In most languages, vowels carry much of the meaning of a word.
    NA English has many more, as well as some very different, vowel sounds [18] than Spanish [5], Mandarin [~5], And different uses of vowels than French [12 pure & 7 total semi & nasal vowels], Tamil [13]; Persian [8].


The First Step :   Listening Differentiation to understand the differences between different sounds or pronunciations. If one cannot hear differences from one individual speech sound to another then they will not be able to make their own attempts at a target sound correctly:

Best: English Talk Shop has an excellent Listening component / “Listen and Choose”/ to their different versions of the American Speechsounds online software ($75.00 -$150.00). One must attain a 90% on their first choice of each task to be considered “proficient”.

It also will list the all the target pronunciation segments (Rhythm and stress patterns, consonants, all vowels sounds) for multiple background languages.

Purchase through Accent Management Group, LLC /, for a significant discount.

Good: American English Pronunciation Practice – Many-Things: Free: This has short lists and a small listening component of only consonants and vowels. However, does not give as much information for languages sound differences.


The Second Step:   Get an Accountability Partner. It must be someone who speaks NA English proficiently; A Canadian or American with whom you are comfortable. This could be someone at work, or in the community. If you belong to a Toastmasters club in your community, ask another member to be your accountability partner for only specific pronunciation targets.


The Third Step:   Record your efforts and redo each effort until you and your accountability partner agree that you have achieved 90% on your three targets.

Upcoming Resource Lists for Practice: Executive Leadership Phrase Examples:

  • Target Vowel – Long /I/: “I would like your advice.”
  • Target Vowel – Long /A/: “Negotiate in good faith”
  • Target Vowel – Long /O/: “Focus on our goal”
  • Target Vowel – Long /E/: “ Acquire by a feasible means ”
  • Target – /Split Vowels/: “Establish our Pri-orities”; “Good exper-i-ence”
Communication in the First 8 Seconds

I recently spoke with a friend that I met when I lived in Shanghai, China from 2006 to 2008.  “Leah” was the China Country Manager for a small manufacturing group out of the USA.  She was educated in the USA and continues to be a passionate believer in the power of effective communication.  And… while in China, found that her speaking skills had eroded.

Even though I was leaving China to return to the USA, I encouraged her to review Bates Communications archived articles and videos for ideas. Even with her busy schedule, she became an enthusiastic student.

After her contract was finished in China, she returned to the USA and continued to work on her speaking and effective communication.  She even started a “speaking school” for children in her community, with a focus on having fun while speaking.

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