As someone who talks like a firetruck late to the blaze, I appreciated Steve Crescenzo’s blog entry today (about speaking too fast, and communicating with folks of another tongue in general). I’ve gotten the same reviews from my international students many times. When I think I’m talking slow, I’m almost understandable to them.But when translation isn’t an issue (although it often is in today’s world, so always err to the slow side), listeners can hear a whole lot faster than you can talk. I’ve seen stats all over the map, but I usually quote listening at about 325 words per minute (wpm), while speakers usually deliver about half that. I spoke earlier this week to a men’s group and as usual, I used my digital voice recorder to tape for later review. My recorder (and most any computer) has the ability to play the sound back at double speed, and since I was in a hurry, I hit that feature to see what it would sound like. Other than the Alvin and the Chipmunks similarity, it was amazing that how well I could understand the speech at double the speed. In fact, I’d say there was almost nothing that was not totally clear. I realized a few details at doublespeed that weren’t readily noticeable at normal speed like the way I do not enunciate words ending in ‘T’ or ‘S’. But it was almost clearer at the fast speed, and it seemed like it took half the time :-)The lesson, of course, is (as always) an offshoot of Rule #1. It doesn’t matter if you speak 1 word per second (or less). If your audience can’t follow you, you’re talking too fast.
Speak at a pace that allows for complete understanding.