You would like to have less of an accent and sound more like a native English speaker? I can tell you this much: speaking fast won’t cover you up.

Recently, a smart and accomplished woman who came to me for some help with her heavy accent told me: “When I was learning English back in Brazil, my only goal was to speak it as fast as possible. Today, I realize that objective was a delusion. In fact, speaking fast, but with an accent, has gotten in the way of my communication and possibly my career advancement.”

I hear this quite often, sadly. The erroneous assumption of many ESL speakers is that if they speak English as fast as a native speaker – or as quickly as in their own mother tongue – it’ll magically sound more “naturally fluent”. That assumption can lead to some serious roadblocks when others can’t decipher an accented English spoken quickly.

For every international professional who dreams of advancing in their career down the road, the goal of speaking English should be to speak it as clearly as possible. Only then can you expect the best possible outcome for yourself.

There are many things you can do to make your English more intelligible. I’ve culled the recommendations I’ve identified as most effective in recent years:

  • Slow. Down.
  • Project your voice
  • S-t-r-e-t-c-h your vowels*

You may think this isn’t much, but it is, and most importantly – it’s a start. Following these few steps will make a big difference in the way you speak. And ultimately, it will have an marked impact on how others understand you and communicate with you.

Speaking well not only gives you assurance and confidence, as you begin to notice that people don’t ask you to repeat yourself as often. It also opens the door to opportunities which might previously have been closed. Give it a try! You have nothing to lose.

*English, with its unique characteristics as a stress-timed language, needs to be treated very differently from, let’s say, French, Spanish or Japanese, which are syllable-timed languages.