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Using an Appropriate Rate of Speech
by Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP
Your rate of speech is how fast or slow you say your words. Everyone has a different rate of speech depending on his/her location, age, culture, and how he/she feels. In order to communicate effectively we must speak at a rate of speech that our listeners can understand. Use the steps below to help teach students how to use an appropriate rate of speech. Have them read/repeat the self-talk statements that follow each one. Then have a discussion about rate of speech. You can start the discussion with this question: What are some situations in which you had to adjust your rate of speech?
  1. Listen to the people around you – Different people speak at different rates. Listen to find out which rates of speech are easier to understand than others.
    I will listen to others to figure out if a faster or slower rate of speech is easier to understand.
  2. Consider your listener’s knowledge of the topic – If your listener is unfamiliar with a topic, you might need to slow your rate of speech to give him/her more time to think about your message.
    I will slow my rate of speech if my listener is unfamiliar with the subject I am talking about.
  3. Relax – If you are nervous about speaking, you may tend to speak at a faster rate than normal.
    I will take a deep breath and try to relax so I will not speak too fast.
  4. Use pauses when you speak – Commas and periods are used to mark breaks in written language. Spoken language should also have breaks. If you speak too fast, try pausing briefly between phrases and sentences.
    I will add brief pauses between my phrases and sentences if I speak too fast.
  5. Pay attention to your listener – Watch and listen to your speaking partner. He/She may be giving you hints that you are speaking too fast or too slow.
    I will watch for clues from my listener that tell me I need to adjust my rate of speech.
  6. Practice speaking at different rates of speech – Using a stopwatch, see how long it takes to read a paragraph at your normal speaking rate. Then practice reading the same paragraph with slower and faster speaking rates.
    I will practice using slower and faster speaking rates.
  7. Don’t expect your rate of speech to change overnight – Changing your rate of speech can take time. You have to keep practicing!
    I will continue to practice using an appropriate rate of speech.

*Handy Handouts® are for classroom and personal use only.
Any commercial use is strictly prohibited.

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