Fluency tips for conversational speech


Here are some tips to help you while you’re working toward achieving spontaneous fluency.

The true test of fluency is in “small talk” situations, such as sitting around a lunch table with others. That’s where timing, glibness, and inflection are everything.

Slow speech down a bit generally–try never to rush speech. This doesn’t mean artificially slow for the purpose of monitoring hard-to-attain targets. If your natural speech rate is fast, just slow it down a bit.

Use easy onset and proper breathing. Easy onset can help you get past difficult sounds while you’re working toward natural fluency.

Sometimes deliberately speaking in two-three word clips and paying attention to breathing will give you a feeling of confidence and control. After each few words, pause and take a breath, then speak another clip. A side benefit is that well-timed pauses can increase a listener’s attention.

Using “prop” sounds/words is permissible–e.g., “umm” or “well,” etc.–if not taken to the extreme. Sounds like “umm” serve as place marks while you gather your thoughts, and they let your listener know that you aren’t finished with what you have to say. This is a no-no in most fluency shaping courses, but nonstutterers do it as part of normal speech and there’s no reason you shouldn’t do it. It helps you maintain fluency by bridging the gaps in normal sounding speech. Avoid using words or sounds to “jumpstart” speech, however. Once you reach a certain fluency level, you shouldn’t have to do that.

Word substitution is another “no-no” according to some schools of thought. However, I think it’s permissible in some situations while you’re developing better fluency. You usually know when you’re going to block beforehand–a feeling or “aura” may presage a block. As your repatterning work becomes ingrained and the block starts to fall away, you’ll find that easy onset may get you through blocks which you could not get past before. Sometimes you won’t even need easy onset. You’ll “feel” when you’re going to be fluent–just as you can “feel” when you’re going to block. Whether to use word substitution or not is your choice, based on your individual situation and the fluency level you’ve achieved. Of course, the ideal goal is to never have the need to word substitute.