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Producing fluent speech

In the previous step, you watched Shaoling attempt a Read Aloud item type and saw that she had some issues with fluency. Let’s now look at how this can be improved.

Fluency

Fluency refers to your ability to speak both continuously and effortlessly. This can be achieved by avoiding the following:

  • Frequent repetition: Repeating words or short phrases in the middle of sentences can have an effect not only on your fluency but also on the sentence structure of your ideas. Here is an example of what you should avoid doing:

Audio

  • Unnecessary pauses: Pausing becomes unnecessary and affects the flow of an idea when it occurs at inappropriate times. For example:

Audio

Notice how the pauses affected the flow and clarity of the adjective + noun pair (i.e. average consumption) in the first instance, and the noun phrase (i.e. consumption of meat in two countries) in the second.

  • False starts: This is when you begin speaking and abruptly decide to change it before you complete your idea. For example:

Audio

Ways to improve fluency

Chunking

This process involves grouping words in a sentence into shorter and more manageable sections (usually no more than 5-6 words) and adding a short pause after each group. This technique is useful, particularly in Read Aloud items. It is also useful when listening as the speakers in the Re-tell Lecture items may do this.

Listen to how the following is read aloud in two different ways. Which one sounds more fluent?

The production of chocolate is a long and complex process which involves various steps including harvesting cocoa, refining coca to cocoa beans, and shipping the beans to the manufacturing factory for cleaning, coaching and grinding.

Audio A Audio B

As you may have noticed, Audio B uses chunking and is therefore more fluent.

How to chunk?

To properly chunk, you need to identify and group the following:

  • Noun phrases: A noun phrase is a group of words containing one or more nouns which as a whole can function as the subject or object of a sentence. For example: the process of producing chocolate, the small house at the corner, the email from the manager in Canada.

  • Verb phrases: These are phrases consisting of an auxiliary or modal verb, a main verb, adverbs. For example: The project should have been finished earlier. You can’t eat that! The baby stopped crying.

  • Transitive verbs and objects: These are verbs that require an object after them (e.g. She loves dogs). In these cases, group the verb and its object together. For example: / The regional manager / contacted all staff / working on the project. /

  • Clauses: Identify subordinators (words such as when, because, if, who) and pause either before them or at the end of the dependent clause. For example: This is the classroom / where the lecture will be held. If I were you, / I’d reconsider that idea.

  • Lists of items: These usually come in the form of noun or verb phrases and are separated by commas. For example: The customer chose the product, / brought it to the counter / and then paid for it.

Discussion

Think about the three factors that affect fluency discussed above (i.e. frequent repetition, unnecessary pauses and false starts). Do you think you have problems with any of these when you speak in English?

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This article is from the free online course:

Practise your PTE Academic Speaking Skills

Macquarie University