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TOEFL Tip #84: Elocution: focusing on HOW you speak

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on January 28, 2011

This post will be the first in a series examining the subtle but important differences among terms used to describe speaking. Understanding these terms will make you more aware of how you speak, and will help you understand and correct some common speech problems. Look for new installments about once per month.

We’ll start by taking a look at “elocution.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines “elocution” as a “way or manner of speaking,” with a focus on the speaker’s “delivery, pronunciation, tones, and gestures; manner or style of oral delivery.” As you can see, elocution is about the performance of what you’re saying, not the content of what you’re saying. With good elocution, reading the phone book sounds interesting. With bad elocution, a speaker can’t hold the audience’s attention, no matter how exciting the topic is. Let’s focus on each part of this performance.

Delivery is mostly about your speaking speed. Do you speak quickly? Slowly? Do you speak at about the same speed for the entire answer? Do you slow down or speed up at any point in the answer? Do you stumble over common words? Do you stutter? Do you use a lot of filler words, such as “um” or “like”? You goal is a consistent, medium speed that is not interrupted by filler words.

We’ll discuss pronunciation in depth in a future post, but for now, a key point about pronunciation is that there is a correct way – or sometimes, more than one correct way – to pronounce a word. To do well on the TOEFL, you must pronounce words correctly. For example, the word “epitome” is pronounced “ee-PIT-oh-me,” with emphasis on the second syllable. Saying “EP-ih-tohm,” is wrong.

We’ll also discuss tone in a future post. But for now, keep in mind that you want to convey interest with your tone of voice as well as with the words you’re speaking. Avoid speaking in a monotone, or sounding bored by using the same 5 words over and over!

Obviously, your gestures won’t be recorded as part of the TOEFL, but you should still pay attention to how and when you move your hands when you speak. For example, if you usually point your finger to emphasize something you’re saying, then you should also do that when giving your TOEFL answer. You will sound more natural, and you will be more likely to vary your tone as well.


Categories: Pronunciation,Speaking,TOEFL Preparation,Uncategorized

3 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » The Year In Review

    wrote on December 30, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    [...] topics about the Speaking section included elocution, diction, speaking with feeling, blending sounds, and news about a change to Speaking Task One. The [...]

  2. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » TOEFL Tip #96: Speak with Feeling

    wrote on February 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    [...] of our recent blog posts (here and here) have addressed different issues related to the Speaking section of the TOEFL exam. These posts [...]

  3. Luu, Kim

    wrote on June 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I like this article. It points out my problems. First, my sound may be boring because I often see people yawning when they are hearing me. Second, my pronunciation has some problems because my friend who sometimes helped me to correct my pronunciation often said that ” sound is weird” Third, I speak fast and people do not understand me, so they sometimes stare at me to find out what I try to say. Finally, when I talk, I do not use much gesture.
    After reading this article, I will try to modify my problems as much as I can. Of course, I really need help from Strictlyenglish as well.

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