As you know, I say over and over again that many non-native speakers could improve the sound of their English by opening and moving their mouths more.
Some students have said to me – ‘But I can’t see native speakers opening and moving their mouths much, why should I if they aren’t’.
Great question. Thank you for asking!
There are a few things to take into consideration here:
1. Native speakers know how to move their mouths the least AND still be clear. In other words, when a native speaker speaks we move our mouths in the most efficient way we can. And because we have been doing it since 1 year of age – we are pretty good at it. This means that most of us move our mouths as little as possible BUT not so little that it would make our speech unclear. Unfortunately, non-native speakers don’t have this automatic ability to move in a way that is both efficient but does not reduce clarity. So when they reduce their movement, the sounds do not come out clearly.
2. Who are you watching? There are many native English speakers who mumble. They are often asked to repeat themselves, people have to concentrate more carefully to understand them and it is frustrating for their listeners. They certainly wouldn’t be getting a job on TV or the radio. They often don’t make very interesting presenters. Not many managers and successful people mumble when they speak English. So, which speakers do you want to be like? The mumblers or the people with excellent, clear communication?
Choose a native speaker who you think has excellent English. I would bet $100 that that person opens and moves their mouth well when they speak.
3. Moving your mouth more when you speak will feel strange at first. But, just because it feels strange to you, doesn’t mean it looks strange to us. The more you do it, the better you will get at it, the less strange it will feel.
Remember, your listener isn’t focusing on what positions your mouth is making. They are listening to your message. All they notice is whether you are CLEAR or UNCLEAR.
Many employers ring me to talk about enrolling their staff in our courses and one thing that they often say is ‘Jack mumbles. He doesn’t open his mouth when he speaks’.
Combine mumbling with difficulty pronouncing some English sounds and using pitch and rhythm correctly and it can make someone’s speech very unclear.
So, I hope I have convinced you that opening and moving your mouth for clear English is important.
Good luck. Thanks for reading!