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My 10 year old daughter talks so fast, it's sometimes hard to follow what she says without concentrating. It's not the enunciation as such (although it could be better) and I don't think she needs to see a speech therapist.

I tried to explain that it is important make oneself understood, for her life to come (with friends, at work etc..), she even follows acting classes, but nothing has changed. Personally I keep telling her to "speak slowly" or "sorry, that was too fast, what did you say?".

Most of her friends are also very fast speakers (so I am but, not as bad) so it doesn't help.

Basically I could do with some tips to improve her speech.

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7 Answers 7

Honestly, you are already doing most of what can be done about it, and even this tip isn't likely to make things a whole lot better. This is a common problem with this age group and up through the teen years. The best answer I found was to do what you are doing really - but consistently and refuse to understand when she doesn't slow down.

Since she takes theater, I'm sure it is a real problem for her drama teacher and/or acting coach. Enlist the help of that/those people and become a team regarding the matter. Discuss it with each-other so you can use the same language about it to remind her to slow down - it usually helps to have multiple people putting the same message out there together.

You may find that discussing phonemes might help a little. Ask that she be sure to pronounce the last phoneme in every word (around you). Often, in order to speak quickly a lot of those last phonemes get dropped (or lessened to the point of incomprehension). Of course, you'll have to set a good example too.

di' you go to the mall today? Dillar' was havin' a sale. I bought a pai' of jea's, two t's and two skir' for only twel' dolla'

She'll still speak way to quickly around you and others - especially her friends. She'll need constant and consistent reminders. However, you've armed her with helpful information and eventually, when it really matters (an important role or an audition for a part she really wants, an interview, or a convo with someone she cares about that honestly can't understand) she'll know what to do and do it.

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One technique we were taught, that has helped me (but still has a long way to go, as I always talk too fast when presenting - just look at any of the videos of me online) is to treat full stops as breaths.

Every time you hit a full stop, breathe. A full breath. This forces you to slow down, and it helps your thought processes.

It works for kids - since I was given this advice in a professional presenting skills course, I have tried to encourage my children to do the same.

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I was a very, very fast speaker as a child, and continued to be so until I was 15 yo or so. While everyone pointed it out, no one really made me feel bad about it, which probably helped a lot. Also my Dad was of the opinion I spoke so fast because I thought too fast which made me feel really good!! But I was constantly advised to speak slower, and I always kept that in mind. I needed reminding, initially, but after a while (especially after I had some experience in public speaking), it became second nature to automatically slow down. It helps to emphasise the need for eye contact while talking- slows you down automatically!

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Once she is old enough (depending on where you are, this is likely between 7th and 9th grades), enroll her in Speech and Debate. In Debate, talking fast is a big plus - but talking fast AND being understandable is absolutely crucial; and in other variants of speech, clarity and enunciation is very important. On top of that, it can be pretty fun, especially if she enjoys talking (like I did at that age!).

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There's nothing inherently wrong with speaking rapidly. The truth is, is that the speaker is understood more often than they are not when enunciation is not an issue. Take, for instance, reading... If you were to occlude the bottom half of every letter in English, one would generally still be able to read. I remember reading somewhere that that's how the eyes scan text in interpreting it.

I can speak rapidly (and do). I can also, ofc, speak in a very punctuated manner. So why do I not do one or the other consistently? Delivery.

Timing is everything. (Read fast)

Timing... is... everything. (Read with emphasis and pausing)

Less dramatically, but more colloquially, one could play with various timings and emphasis on, "Oh"

In drama class in High School, we had to do an entire skit with 2 words: Why and Because

It was very informative on how the pace of speaking and the emphasis on syllables could imply so very much.

With some background conversation and exercises based on the above, one could then draw the following conclusion: Just like we deplore sitting through 60 seconds of a monotone speaker, one who speaks in a very rapid manner continuously is a similar bore.

Instead of trying to follow any kind of strict breathing/speaking regimen, perhaps encouraging playing with her speech patterns to make them more interesting and powerful to those listening would be of interest and benefit to her?

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I was a fast speaker growing up (still am) and was constantly reminded to slow down. It never really helped. Then at some point I was given the advice to remember to breathe. That did the trick. I found that focusing on remembering to breathe forces you to take pauses which naturally regulates your pace.

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Speech is not the only medium that relies on phrasing and pacing of what is being conveyed for the effectiveness of the communication.

Specifically, I'm thinking of music; jazz musicians in particular are very highly attuned to these aspects of their performance.

I don't know how much interest your daughter (or you) have in jazz, but there are some absolutely classic performances which illustrate -- better than anything else I can think of -- the rhetorical importance of timing, space and pacing for effective communication. Examples: Miles Davis's album Kind of Blue, Sonny Rollins's Saxophone Colossus, and pretty much any album where Stan Getz is the leader. If you can expose her to those albums and suggest to her that she should pay attention to how the phrasing of the musicians augments the impact of their performance, she may begin to realize that her vocalization style could benefit from taking a similar approach (something that would also stand her in good stead if she participates in a drama class).

Even if nothing else comes out of it, she'll now be acquainted with some first-class music...

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