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Expressive Aphasia: What to Know About Communication Disorders

  • What Is It?

Expressive aphasia is a language disorder that makes it difficult for individuals to speak clearly and effectively. It is often the result of a stroke but can also be caused by other causes. This condition can range from mild, where a person may leave out small words in their speech, to severe, where many words are skipped.

People with expressive aphasia are usually aware of their difficulty in speaking, which can be emotionally taxing. Fortunately, speech therapy is a valuable resource that can greatly improve communication skills and alleviate the impact of expressive aphasia on daily life.

This article will cover expressive aphasia, other aphasia types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments.

Thierry Dosogne / Getty Images

What Is Expressive Aphasia?

Expressive aphasia is a language problem in which it's hard for someone to say or write their thoughts. It's a type of "non-fluent aphasia," meaning that speaking is more challenging than understanding. People with this struggle might struggle to find the right words, form sentences correctly, or speak and write smoothly.

Broca's aphasia is a specific subtype of expressive aphasia. It is often caused by damage to the brain's left frontal lobe, impacting speech production but leaving comprehension intact.

A Word From Verywell

Expressive aphasia is one of the most frustrating language deficits a patient can have because they know what they want to say but struggle to convey it to those around them. Adapting to a deficit after speaking freely all your life can be a daunting task, but speech therapy and the patience and support of those around you can make a major difference.

Other Types of Aphasia

Aphasia can be divided into two main categories: fluent aphasia and non-fluent aphasia. The big difference between the two is how well they can speak compared to how well they understand.

  • Fluent aphasia means people can talk smoothly but might use the wrong words and have trouble understanding.
  • Non-fluent aphasia , such as Broca's, makes talking hard, but understanding is usually okay.
  • Wernicke's aphasia , also known as "receptive" aphasia, is caused by damage to the left hemisphere of the brain, specifically in the area known as Wernicke's area. This condition leads to difficulties in understanding language, both spoken and written. People with Wernicke's aphasia often produce sentences that contain nonsensical or inappropriate words. They may also have trouble realizing their language errors and may not fully comprehend what others are saying to them.
  • Global aphasia , the most severe form of aphasia, affects both expressive and receptive language skills. It affects all aspects of communication, making it challenging to express thoughts and comprehend language. This type of aphasia typically occurs following extensive damage to language areas of the brain.
  • Anomic aphasia makes word retrieval and naming objects or concepts more difficult. People with anomic aphasia may struggle to find the right words, leading to pauses in speech as they search for vocabulary. However, their overall language fluency and comprehension remain relatively intact compared to other types of aphasia.
  • Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a neurological condition where language abilities decline gradually, affecting speech, comprehension, and word finding. Unlike typical aphasia caused by stroke, PPA progresses slowly and is often associated with neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease .

Expressive vs. Wernicke’s Aphasia

Expressive aphasia is when someone struggles to speak fluently, like in Broca's aphasia. They might speak in short, broken sentences with limited words.

Wernicke's aphasia makes it hard to understand and use words correctly. People with this type of aphasia might say things that don't make sense or have trouble understanding others.

Expressive vs. Global Aphasia

While expressive aphasia affects the ability to produce speech, global aphasia is a more severe form of language impairment that affects both speech production and understanding. Global aphasia leads to significant difficulties in communicating thoughts and understanding others.

Symptoms of Expressive Aphasia

People with expressive aphasia experience the following challenges:

  • Struggling to create complete sentences
  • Omitting common words like "is" or "the"
  • Forming sentences that don't make sense
  • Difficulty understanding spoken sentences
  • Making errors in following instructions involving spatial concepts like "left" or "right"
  • Using a similar word instead of the intended word, like saying "car" instead of "van"

People with expressive aphasia often find speaking and reading more challenging, but they generally have a good understanding of spoken language and can read effectively.

What Causes Expressive Aphasia?

Several factors can contribute to the development of expressive aphasia:

  • Stroke : A stroke affecting the left hemisphere of the brain, particularly in the frontal lobe or "Broca's area"
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) : Severe head injuries, such as those from accidents or falls, can lead to damage in the brain areas responsible for language production
  • Brain tumors : Tumors located in or near the language centers of the brain can interfere with language processing and production
  • Infections : Certain infections affecting the brain, such as encephalitis or meningitis, can result in expressive aphasia
  • Neurodegenerative diseases : Conditions like dementia can gradually impair language abilities, including expressive language

Causes of expressive aphasia in children may include:

  • Brain injury
  • Developmental disorder
  • Other medical conditions, such as brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, or epilepsy (if the seizures affect the areas of the brain that process language)

How Is Expressive Aphasia Diagnosed?

Expressive aphasia is diagnosed through a comprehensive assessment process. Your healthcare providers typically follow these steps:

  • They may ask questions, engage in conversation, and assess the person's ability to understand and respond appropriately.
  • Conduct imaging scans such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to identify brain injuries and determine the affected brain areas.

If imaging reveals signs of aphasia, a speech-language pathologist or speech therapist performs additional assessments. These assessments evaluate the extent of brain damage's impact on speech, reading, writing, and language comprehension. Based on the results, your healthcare provider can recommend a treatment plan.

How Expressive Aphasia Is Treated

When it comes to treating expressive aphasia, there are several approaches and strategies that can help improve communication skills and overall quality of life:

  • Speech-language therapy to improve speaking and writing skills
  • Communication aides like picture cards or electronic devices to help with communication
  • Practicing memory, attention, and problem-solving to improve overall thinking skills
  • Group sessions to practice talking and socializing with others who have aphasia
  • Educate family members on how to help and provide ongoing support and encourage including the person with aphasia in conversations

Can a Person With Expressive Aphasia Fully Recover?

While recovery from expressive aphasia varies for each individual, some people can regain a significant amount of their language abilities through therapy and rehabilitation.

Consistent and dedicated speech-language therapy can improve speaking, understanding, and communication. It may take several months or years. However, complete recovery to pre-aphasia levels may not always be possible, and ongoing support and practice may be needed for long-term management.

Expressive aphasia is a language disorder ranging from mild to severe, affecting speech and writing production. This condition is caused by factors like stroke, traumatic brain injury, or neurodegenerative diseases, and diagnosis involves comprehensive assessments by a healthcare provider.

Treatment options such as speech therapy, communication aids, and family support can significantly improve communication skills and quality of life, although full recovery may vary.

MedlinePlus. Aphasia .

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Aphasia .

National Aphasia Association. Aphasia therapy guide .

National Aphasia Association. Wernicke's (receptive) aphasia .

National Aphasia Association. Global aphasia .

The Aphasia Community. Anomic aphasia .

Stroke Association. Types of aphasia .

American Stroke Association. Types of aphasia .

Scottish Rite Foundation. What is aphasia disorder in children?

By Sarah Jividen, RN Jividen is a freelance healthcare journalist. She has over a decade of direct patient care experience working as a registered nurse specializing in neurotrauma, stroke, and the emergency room.

Frantically Speaking

Why do I struggle to speak clearly (& what can I do about it)?

Hrideep barot.

  • Presentation , Public Speaking , Speech Topics

Speak clearly with these tips

We struggle to speak clearly due to reasons like anxiety, stress, lack of clarity, vocabulary, and a few more. There are moments in all our lives when words go amiss and we stumble upon misunderstandings. But if these moments become too frequent, there is definitely scope for improvement. As they say, “Life is a growth concept, not a comfort concept.” All of the above reasons are absolutely reversible or can be improved on. But why is it so important that we speak clearly?

Why do we need to speak clearly?

Communication is the heartbeat of human interaction, essential for a multitude of reasons that shape our personal and professional lives.

Communication forms the foundation of human relationships. It enables us to connect, share experiences, and build meaningful bonds with friends, family, and colleagues. Effective communication allows us to articulate our feelings, aspirations, and opinions, fostering understanding and empathy. It is how we share knowledge, information, and expertise.

In the professional realm, communication is the linchpin of teamwork. It ensures everyone is on the same page, contributing ideas, and working toward shared goals. Expressing thoughts and listening to others’ perspectives fosters personal growth. Constructive feedback and insights from communication contribute to self-improvement. Effective leaders are extremely skilled communicators. In an ever-changing world, communication is what helps us adapt. 

It is quite literally the cornerstone of human interaction, yet many of us find ourselves struggling to speak clearly. Whether it’s in a professional setting, during social interactions, or even in everyday conversations, unclear speech can hinder effective communication. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons behind this struggle and provide actionable solutions to help you enhance your speaking clarity.

Reasons Behind Unclear Speech: (Why you might be struggling to speak clearly)

1. Lack of Confidence: Taming the Inner Butterflies

Confidence is the inner spark that ignites when you believe in your abilities, ideas, and worth. It’s like a sturdy bridge that connects your thoughts to your actions, enabling you to step forward with assurance. Confidence isn’t about being perfect; it’s about embracing imperfections and still shining. It’s the wind beneath your wings when facing challenges, empowering you to express yourself boldly, stand up for your beliefs, and navigate life’s twists and turns with resilience. Like a wellspring of positivity, confidence propels you to leap into new experiences, take risks, and unlock your full potential.

Picture this: You’re about to present your ideas to a group, and suddenly, your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty, and your mind goes blank. Welcome to the world of lack of confidence, a prime culprit for unclear speech. When nerves and self-doubt take center stage, your words can get tangled like a knotted shoelace. Research shows that lack of self-confidence can affect speech fluency , causing stumbling and mumbling. But fear not! Just like a knight in shining armor, practice and self-assurance can rescue you. Keep reading till the end to find out the solutions to these problems.

2. Speech anxiety 

Speech anxiety isn’t merely a case of “butterflies in the stomach.” It can have profound effects on individuals’ lives. In educational settings, students might shy away from class presentations, missing out on valuable learning opportunities. In professional contexts, avoiding public speaking can limit career advancement. Personal relationships can also be affected, as the anxiety extends to everyday conversations and social interactions.

Understanding Speech Anxiety:

Imagine standing on a stage with an invisible curtain blocking your words from reaching the audience. That’s anxiety in action. Social anxiety or the fear of judgment casts a spell on your speech, making your thoughts stumble like clumsy actors. Research links anxiety to speech disruptions, making articulation a battle. This can make simple things like talking to new people or even eating in public feel really scary. 

Now, let’s talk about how anxiety affects your speech:

Speech anxiety is an overwhelming fear of public speaking that strikes even the most confident individuals. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 73% of the population experiences some form of glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, making speech anxiety incredibly common. Here are some of the main symptoms of Speech Anxiety:

  • The Shaky Voice : You know that shaky feeling in your voice when you’re nervous? That’s anxiety’s signature move! Your voice might quiver, and suddenly, it sounds shaky or wobbly. It’s a clear sign that anxiety is making you nervous.
  • The Whisper Mode : Ever felt like your voice disappeared in a group? That’s the quiet voice effect! Anxiety can make your voice sound softer than usual. And it’s not just about volume – even speaking clearly or facing a group can be tough.
  • The Dry Mouth Drama : Have you ever felt like your throat turned into a desert? Anxiety can do that! Your mouth might feel dry, and you might even worry about losing your voice. Some experts say it’s because anxiety messes with your nervous system and makes your mouth produce less saliva.
  • The Word Mix-Up : Anxiety loves to play mind games. Ever had trouble finding the right words or suddenly forgotten what you were saying? That’s anxiety in action! It can mess with your thoughts and make your speech stumble.
  • Stuttering : In some cases, anxiety can result in the development of a stutter. Stuttering itself is a distinct speech disorder, which can be worsened by anxiety. When overthinking occurs, sentences and word choices may become unclear and a significant stutter can be present. This in turn can result in increased feelings of embarrassment or shame. More than three million Americans (about one percent) stutter. Stuttering can affect individuals of all ages but occurs most frequently in young children.

So, that’s the scoop on how anxiety messes with your speech.

Root Causes:

Speech anxiety often stems from a mix of psychological, physiological, and environmental factors. One major contributor is the fear of judgment. People worry that their words might not measure up, leading to embarrassment or ridicule. This fear is intensified by the spotlight effect, where we believe others notice our perceived shortcomings more than they actually do. A lack of experience or preparation can also fuel anxiety, as individuals grapple with uncertainty about their ability to articulate effectively.

Can we Conquer Speech Anxiety: Speech anxiety might be common, but it’s not insurmountable. By understanding its roots, acknowledging its impact, and adopting effective strategies, individuals can navigate the waves of anxiety and emerge as confident and compelling communicators. The solution? Exposure therapy! Gradually facing anxiety-inducing situations, seeking support from friends or professionals, and reminding yourself that everyone fumbles sometimes can lift the curtain and let your clear voice shine.

  • Preparation : Adequate preparation is a lifeline against anxiety. Research the topic thoroughly, practice speaking aloud, and rehearse in front of a mirror or a trusted friend.
  • Breathing Techniques : Deep breathing calms nerves. Inhale deeply, hold, and exhale slowly. This simple technique can work wonders before and during a speech.
  • Visualize Success : Imagine yourself speaking confidently and engaging the audience. Visualization helps reframe anxiety into positive anticipation.
  • Practice and Exposure : Gradual exposure to public speaking situations can desensitize the fear over time. Start with smaller groups and work your way up.
  • Seek Support : Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from professionals or join public speaking clubs where you can practice in a supportive environment.

3. Poor Pronunciation: Tongue Twisters, Anyone?

Poor pronunciation refers to the incorrect articulation of words and sounds in spoken language. When someone has poor pronunciation, their speech may deviate from the accepted norms of their language, making it difficult for others to understand them accurately. Mispronunciations can range from subtle differences in vowel or consonant sounds to more noticeable errors that impact overall comprehension. It can lead to misunderstandings, confusion, and challenges in effective communication.

Someone speaking unclearly leaving others confused

Ever heard someone say “singing in the shower” and it sounded like “thinging in the thower”? That’s poor pronunciation playing tricks! Pronouncing words correctly is like doing a jigsaw puzzle—each piece needs to fit just right. Mispronunciations can muddle your message, leaving listeners scratching their heads. Here’s another example:

Original Phrase: “Big black bug bit a big black dog.” 

Mispronunciation: “Big black bug bit a big back bog.”

 But here’s the fun part: tongue twisters! Challenge yourself with tricky phrases like “She sells seashells by the seashore” to give your speech muscles a workout. 

4. Rapid Speech: Slow and Steady Wins the Clarity Race

Imagine a race car zooming around a track. Now imagine words racing through your mouth like that race car—uh-oh, did you catch any of it? Rapid speech is like a whirlwind, leaving words in a tizzy and listeners dizzied. Studies reveal that slowing down your speech not only helps you articulate better but also makes you sound more confident. Try adding pauses between sentences, like musical notes in a composition, and watch your words dance gracefully, instead of tripping over each other.

5. Limited Vocabulary: Time to Level Up!

Do you ever get the feeling that “ Ahh, I could’ve said that in a better way!” This is a very common problem a lot of people face, which is quite easily corrected. It is the problem of a limited vocabulary. A lot of times what we intend to say is lost in words that don’t correctly convey our message.

Ever played “synonym charades”? Using the same words repeatedly is like wearing the same outfit every day—it gets boring. Limited vocabulary might lead to substituting words with less accurate stand-ins, creating a language mix-up. However, it could have more serious consequences depending on your profession and responsibilities.

6. I Don’t know What to say!

It’s a scenario many of us can relate to: you’re in a conversation, and suddenly, your mind draws a blank. The answers you need seem to vanish into thin air, leaving you stumbling and struggling to express yourself clearly. This challenge, while common, can indeed create obstacles in effective communication. Let’s explore how this issue can pose problems and discover simple solutions to navigate this terrain.

The Problem:

Picture this: you’re in a group discussion, and a topic comes up that you’re not quite familiar with. As you attempt to contribute, you realize you’re grasping for the right words. The uncertainty causes hesitation, leading to fragmented speech and potentially leaving others confused about your point.

Impact on Communication:

When you’re unable to find the right words, your message might not convey your true intentions. This can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and a lack of clarity in your communication. You might even feel frustrated or embarrassed, further hindering your ability to express yourself effectively.

The Solution: Think Before You Speak, or Embrace Silence:

To tackle this challenge, consider these two strategies:

1. Think Before You Speak: Taking a moment to organize your thoughts can make a world of difference. Pause before responding and mentally structure what you want to say. This allows you to choose your words more deliberately and reduces the chances of stumbling.

2. Embrace Silence: Sometimes It’s perfectly okay not to speak if you’re unsure of what to say. Silence isn’t a void; it’s an opportunity. Use that moment to gather your thoughts, listen to others, and then contribute when you feel ready. Quality trumps quantity in communication.

Imagine you’re in a meeting and a colleague asks for your opinion on a complex matter. Instead of rushing to respond, you take a brief pause. You collect your thoughts, consider the key points you want to address, and then provide a clear and concise response. Your colleagues appreciate your thoughtful input, and your message is better understood.

What are the chances I have a  speech disorder? 

 If you ever have concerns about your speech, seeking professional guidance can provide reassurance and support. Speech disorders in adults are relatively uncommon, with approximately 7.5% of the adult population in the United States experiencing a communication disorder at some point in their lives. These disorders are often identified and addressed during childhood, and most adults have developed effective communication skills over time. If you’ve been engaging in conversations without significant difficulties, it is most likely that you are not suffering from a speech disorder. 

However, there is no harm in consulting a speech therapist if you feel the need to do so.

What is a well-spoken person?

A well-spoken person

A well-spoken person exhibits a mastery of language that goes beyond mere articulation, encompassing clarity, coherence, and consideration for their audience. Such an individual possesses the ability to convey complex ideas with simplicity and elegance, engaging listeners or readers effectively. They maintain a measured pace, employing appropriate pauses and intonations to emphasize key points. For instance, during a business presentation, a well-spoken person would effortlessly explain intricate concepts, address questions concisely, and adapt their language to suit both experts and novices in the room. Their speech is not only grammatically sound but also captures attention through a thoughtful choice of words, fostering a sense of credibility and respect among peers.

As dreamy as this might sound to you, let us make it a reality. Execution is the only way to success. As we provide you with actionable steps made so simple that they can be easily executed, you simply have to start applying.

So what skills do I need to speak clearly?

Speaking clearly is like having a superpower that everyone can understand and enjoy! To be a master at it, you’ll need a few cool skills.

Solutions to Enhance Speaking Clarity:

1. practice, practice, practice: .

Like any skill, speaking clarity improves with practice. Think of practicing like exploring a vast map in a game. Engage in conversations with friends, family, or even yourself in front of a mirror. Record these interactions and listen back. It’s like reviewing your gameplay footage to spot areas for improvement. With each practice session, you’re gaining experience points in the art of clear speech, gradually unlocking new levels of fluency.

2. Speech Exercises: 

Imagine your mouth is a gym for your words. Just as athletes train their bodies, speech exercises train your mouth muscles. Tongue twisters are like challenging mini-games for your tongue and lips. They’re not just fun; they help your mouth become more nimble. Just like doing stretches before a workout, these exercises prepare your mouth for speech feats.

3. Speak Slowly and Pause: 

Consciously slow down your speech and incorporate pauses between sentences to allow listeners to process your words. Work on your rhythm. Just like a catchy song, a good speech has a nice flow. Pause a bit after important ideas, like giving your audience time to take a breath between verses. And don’t rush, or you might sound like a speedy squirrel! 

4. Your Voice Tone: 

Think of your voice tone as different costumes for your character. When you adjust your tone, it’s like changing into the right costume for the scene. If you’re telling a thrilling part of your story, use a tone that’s full of excitement. When explaining a serious topic, your tone can be like a detective solving a mystery. These tone shifts keep your audience engaged, like experiencing different game levels with unique atmospheres.

5. Expand Your Vocabulary: 

Regularly learn new words and their correct pronunciations. This will help you express ideas more precisely. Practice using words that are easy to grasp, so your listeners don’t need a dictionary. Imagine explaining your favorite video game to a friend – you wouldn’t use crazy hard words, right? Vocabulary plays a vital role in communication, enabling us to express our thoughts, emotions, and ideas accurately. 

Consider this scenario: instead of saying “exasperated,” someone might use “angry” to describe their feelings. While both words convey a sense of emotion, “exasperated” more precisely communicates the feeling of being frustrated or irritated. This highlights the importance of having a robust vocabulary to ensure that our messages are clear, nuanced, and aligned with our intentions. A strong vocabulary is a powerful tool that helps us communicate effectively and connect with others on a deeper level.

6. Visualization Techniques: 

Imagine you’re about to give a speech to a big audience. Close your eyes and picture yourself standing confidently, speaking clearly and everyone is hanging onto your every word. Visualizing success can trick your brain into feeling more at ease and prepared, making actual speaking situations feel smoother.

7. Breathing Techniques: 

Just like a superhero taking a deep breath before a mission, inhale slowly through your nose, letting your belly rise like a balloon. Then, exhale through your mouth, releasing any tension. Deep breaths provide your body with oxygen, calming your nerves and steadying your voice. It’s like filling up your lung power gauge before speaking!

8. Public Speaking Courses:

Enrolling in a public speaking course is like joining a guild of speech adventurers. You’ll learn tricks from experienced mentors, practice exciting challenges, and level up your communication skills. Just as a knight hones their sword skills, you’ll refine your ability to convey ideas with confidence and clarity.

9. Feedback and Recording:

Think of this as a fun game where you’re the main character. Record yourself speaking on your phone or camera, then play it back. Notice how your voice sounds, your facial expressions, and your body language. It’s like being the hero and the director of your own speech movie.

10. Articulation Practice:

 Imagine your mouth is a musical instrument. Practice speaking clearly by overemphasizing each sound. Pretend you’re a robot learning to talk, making sure each word is distinct and crisp. Just like a musician perfects each note, you’re perfecting each word.

11. Mindfulness and Relaxation: 

Picture yourself in a peaceful oasis. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are like magical spells that can banish anxiety. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and focus on the present moment. Just as a wizard stays calm in the face of danger, you’ll stay composed in speaking situations.

12. Use of Mirrors: 

Stand in front of a mirror and become the star of your own talk show. Watch how your lips and facial expressions move as you speak. It’s like rehearsing for a big performance. This visual feedback helps you align your words and gestures for maximum impact.

13. Seek Professional Help: 

Imagine you’re on a quest and need a mentor’s guidance. A speech therapist is like your trusty guide, tailoring exercises to your unique needs. They’ll help you unlock new speech abilities and conquer challenges that might be holding you back.

Remember, just like training in a video game, each technique is a step toward becoming a master of clear and confident speech. Embrace these techniques, and soon you’ll be wielding the power of communication like a true champion! These steps can be a lot to remember we understand, which is why the last step is to seek professional help. You are not alone in this journey! 

If you wish to seek help and wield the power of communication and public speaking, you can reach out to us.

Hrideep Barot

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speech words not clear

Dysarthria (difficulty speaking)

Dysarthria is where you have difficulty speaking because the muscles you use for speech are weak. It can be caused by conditions that damage your brain or nerves and some medicines. Speech and language therapy can help.

Immediate action required: Call 999 if:

  • somebody's face droops on 1 side (the mouth or eye may have drooped)
  • a person cannot lift up both arms and keep them there
  • a person has difficulty speaking (speech may be slurred or garbled)

These can be signs of a stroke, which is a medical emergency. The symptoms of a stroke usually come on suddenly.

Check if it's dysarthria

The main symptom of dysarthria is unclear speech. This can make it difficult for you to make yourself understood.

Your speech may only be slightly unclear, or you may not be able to speak clearly at all.

Other symptoms include:

  • difficulty moving your mouth, tongue or lips
  • slurred or slow speech
  • difficulty controlling the volume of your voice, making you talk too loudly or quietly
  • a change in your voice, making it nasal, strained or monotone
  • hesitating a lot when talking, or speaking in short bursts instead of full sentences

Being stressed or tired may make your symptoms worse.

Dysarthria is not the same as dysphasia, although you can have both conditions at the same time. Dysphasia, also known as aphasia , is where you have difficulty understanding words or putting them together in a sentence.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you've noticed gradual changes to your or your child's speech and you're worried

They'll examine you and may refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Causes of dysarthria

Dysarthria is usually caused by damage to the brain or conditions that affect the nervous system. It can happen at any age.

Common causes include:

  • stroke , severe head injury and brain tumours
  • Parkinson's disease , multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease
  • cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome

It can also be a side effect of certain medicines, such as some medicines to treat epilepsy.

Treatment for dysarthria

If you have dysarthria, you'll usually be referred to a speech and language therapist. They'll offer therapy to help your speech and communication.

The therapy you're offered will be different depending on the cause of your dysarthria and how severe it is.

Some people may find therapy does not help their symptoms, or their speech may get worse as their condition progresses. Their therapy may focus on helping communication in other ways.

Speech and language therapy may include:

  • exercises to strengthen the muscles used for speech
  • strategies to make your speech easier to understand, such as slowing down when you're talking
  • using communication aids, such as an alphabet board or a voice amplifier

Find out more

  • Headway: communication problems after brain injury
  • Stroke Association: communication tools

Page last reviewed: 17 February 2023 Next review due: 17 February 2026

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How to Speak Clearly

Last Updated: March 29, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Devin Fisher, CCC-SLP . Devin Fisher is a Speech-Language Pathologist based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Devin specializes in speech and language therapy for individuals with aphasia, swallowing, voice, articulation, phonological social-pragmatic, motor speech, and fluency disorders. Furthermore, Devin treats cognitive-communication impairment, language delay, and Parkinson's Disease. He holds a BS and MS in Speech-Language Pathology from Fontbonne University. Devin also runs a related website and blog that offers speech-language therapy resources and information for clinicians and clients. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 950,912 times.

Speaking clearly and effectively can make it much easier to communicate ideas accurately. You'll need to slow down your speech, enunciate each syllable, and practice your diction. Take the time to practice speaking, and correct yourself if you mess up.

Slowing Down

Step 1 Take a deep breath.

  • Make sure you actually stop the air for consonants like 't' and 'b'. Differentiate between your vowels.
  • Don't expect to speak with perfect clarity right away. You may need to practice this for several hours each day, and you may need to practice more to master difficult words.
  • Practice when you're alone – in the car, or walking down the street; when cleaning, or knitting, or standing in front of the mirror. You can slow down your syllables in conversation, but you may make more progress if you devote some serious time to honing your speech.

Step 3 Speak more slowly.

Honing Speech Mechanics

Step 1 Practice your grammar.

  • Avoid speaking in run-on sentences. If you let yourself ramble, your listeners might miss the point. Try to break up your thoughts into comprehensible chunks. [3] X Research source

Step 2 Expand your vocabulary...

  • The caveat: you'll need to make sure that the people you're speaking to also know these words. Keep audience in mind. Use simpler words, when possible.
  • Reading is a great way to expand vocabulary. Read books, articles, essays; read things that fascinate you, and read things that you wouldn't normally read. Whenever you come across a word that you don't know, look it up.
  • Try keeping a list of useful, powerful words. The more you use them in context, the more natural it will feel – and the better your word-selection may become.

Step 3 Think before you speak.

  • Silently say the words to yourself before you say them aloud. This might help you ensure that you've gotten the pronunciation right.

Step 4 Speak with inflection.

Exercising Diction

Step 1 Practice saying tongue twisters.

  • For "B" words, try: Bill had a billboard. Bill also had a board bill. The board bill bored Bill, so Bill sold his billboard and paid his board bill. Then the board bill no longer bored Bill, but though he had no board bill, neither did he have his billboard!
  • For "D" words, try: Did Doug dig David's garden or did David dig Doug's garden? or Do drop in at the Dewdrop Inn.
  • For "F" sounds, try: Four furious friends fought for the phone or Five flippant Frenchmen fly from France for fashions.
  • For "J" sounds, try: James just jostled Jean gently or Jack the jailbird jacked a jeep.

Step 2 Repeat the phrases over and over.

  • If you tend to mumble or slur your words, it can be difficult to break from the pattern and speak clearly. When you recite words, try to forget about the fact that you are speaking. Focus only on the words, their meaning, their beauty. Try not to overthink it. [8] X Research source

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Expert Q&A

Devin Fisher, CCC-SLP

  • When you are speaking: open your mouth bigger, and over-articulate the word. It's like singing: you need to open your mouth. You may not realize it, but opening your mouth expresses your voice. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
  • Try listening to yourself using a voice recorder. This may help you determine what you need to work on. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1
  • Keep it simple. Sometimes, a simple explanation is all you need to speak clearly. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

speech words not clear

  • Don't overthink it when you speak to others. You may end up making the situation worse. Try to be natural; try to think about exactly what you are saying now, not about what you need to say next. Get into a flow. Thanks Helpful 115 Not Helpful 21

You Might Also Like

Stop Mumbling and Speak Clearly

  • ↑ https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/usage-of-pronounce-articulate-enunciate
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201911/do-you-talk-too-fast-how-slow-down
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/grammar/runonsentences
  • ↑ https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/for-students-and-parents/how-to-increase-your-vocabulary.html
  • ↑ https://courses.lumenlearning.com/publicspeakingprinciples/chapter/chapter-12-vocal-aspects-of-delivery/
  • ↑ https://wiki.uiowa.edu/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=88131858
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201912/five-essentials-help-you-speak-more-confidence
  • ↑ http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/learn-to-speak-distinctly-the-best-tip-for-those-who-mumble

About This Article

Devin Fisher, CCC-SLP

If you want to speak more clearly, practice speaking out loud on your own, and speak very slowly, pronouncing each syllable of every word. As your speech becomes more clear, you can practice speeding up until you are speaking normally. When you’re ready to speak in front of others, take a deep breath before you start talking, and think about what you want to say. This will help you sound more calm and confident, and your words will be more clear. Keep reading for tips on how practicing tongue twisters can help you speak more clearly! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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6 techniques for clear and compelling speech

By Simon Lancaster on December 9, 2019 in News + Updates

Politicians and other public figures deploy particular rhetorical devices to communicate their ideas and to convince people, and it’s time that we all learned how to use them, says speechwriter Simon Lancaster.

There is a secret language of leadership — and it’s one that anyone can learn, says UK speechwriter  Simon Lancaster  in  a TEDxVerona talk . He has made a career out of crafting addresses, remarks and talks for top politicians and CEOs of international corporations such as Nestle and Unilever, and  continues to do so . Refreshingly, rather than clinging  Gollum-like  to what he’s learned and knows, he believes everyone should have access to the same tools that he and his colleagues use.

By tools, he’s not talking about special software or databases — he’s referring to rhetoric.   Rhetoric  has its roots in ancient Greece ( think: Aristotle ) as clear, convincing speech was seen as an essential component of communication and participation in a democracy. Instruction in rhetoric remained part of the curriculum in many secondary schools in Europe and the US until the 19th century.

“The reason we all used to learn rhetoric at school was because it was seen as a basic entry point to society,” explains Lancaster, who is based in London. “How could society be fair, unless everyone had equal ability to articulate and express themselves? Without it, your legal systems, your political systems, your financial systems are not fair.”

Yes, the power to persuade is just that — power.

Lancaster states there is only one school in England that still teaches rhetoric: Eton, the alma mater of 20 Prime Ministers (including current officeholder, Boris Johnson). He adds, “It should be of intense concern to all of us that education in this has been narrowed to a very small … elite.”

While Lancaster can’t send the world to Eton, he can share the 6 rhetorical building blocks needed to speak persuasively. Here they are:

Building block #1: Breathless sentences or phrases

Barack Obama gave an acceptance speech for the ages in 2008  after he was first elected president of the US. He spoke vividly of the challenges that lay ahead for the country: “Even as we celebrate tonight, we know that the challenges tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: Two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.”

Lancaster wants us to pay special attention to the last part of that sentence, the “two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century” part. Yes, it’s a stressful mouthful — not just because of the content but because of how it’s delivered. Short, staccato phrases like these mimic how we speak when we’re anxious and in a hurry. This technique helps communicate urgency to an audience.

Building block #2: Speaking in 3s

What’s the other rhetorical trick underlying “two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century”? The rule of 3.

Humans are accustomed to things coming in 3s: whether it’s judges on  American Idol , bowls of porridge in  a fairy tale , or sides in a triangle. Our minds and ears have been trained by speeches (Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, for the people, by the people”); slogans (reduce, reuse, recycle); and book titles ( Elizabeth Gilbert ‘s memoir  Eat, Pray, Love ).  “You put your argument in 3s, it makes it sound more compelling, more convincing, more credible. Just like that,” says Lancaster.

Recall British PM Winston Churchill’s stirring triplet from  the speech he delivered to Parliament on June 4, 1940 : “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the fields and in the streets.” Besides the rule of 3, he gave the line additional rhetorical firepower by repeating the opening clause.

Lancaster explains, “When we are emotional about things, our perspective distorts, and this then manifests in our speech. So this is the authentic sound of passion.” Doing this can catch an audience in the speaker’s enthusiasm.

Building block #3: Balanced statements

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” It’s a line from  president John F Kennedy’s inspiring 1961 inaugural address , and one that’s stood the test of time. Why? Its balanced construction, says Lancaster. “If the sentence sounds as if it’s balanced, we imagine that the underlying thinking is balanced and our brain is tuned to like things that are balanced.”

Grouping balanced statements in 3s further amplifies the effect:

“We’re looking to the future, not the past.

We’re working together, not against one another.

We’re thinking about what we can do, not what we can’t.”

Building block #4: Metaphor

According to Lancaster, people use a metaphor once every 16 words on average ( side question: Where do statistics like this even come from? ). He declares, “Metaphor is probably the most powerful piece of political communication.”

Metaphors are rich in imagery and awake immediate feelings in people, so it follows that politicians love them and sprinkle them like birdseed (“like birdseed” is  a simile, not a metaphor , and similes are other strong rhetorical tools to have in your kit). At times, they can employ them to point us to an ideal or aspiration. For example,  in his farewell address , president Ronald Reagan movingly invoked America, h/t to John Winthrop, as a “shining city upon the hill.”

Too often, however, metaphors are used to manipulate, incite and denigrate. Politicians and talking heads could have called the 2015-16 refugee encampment in Calais, France, a “refugee camp” or “refugee settlement.” Instead, they deployed this loaded word: “jungle.” Lancaster says,“It’s planting in your mind the idea that migrants are like wild animals to be afraid of, that they are dangerous, that they represent a threat to you. This is a very dangerous metaphor because this is the language of genocide; it’s the language of hate.” Unfortunately, media outlets picked up “Calais jungle” and used it as their shorthand identifier of the camp, extending the metaphor’s reach.

Building block #5: Exaggeration

In the same way that we get breathless when they’re speaking with passion, our speech distorts in another significant way. We exaggerate. So when we’re sitting down to a meal after having eaten little that day, we tell our family and friends: “I love this pizza.” But when we say things like this to each other, we also realize it’s a bit of distortion: We do not love the pizza in the same way that we love our children or parents or the planet, and everyone present knows that.

Similarly, politicians and leaders might say things like “I’ve waited my whole life to say these words” or “I will work to achieve this with all my heart and soul.” These utterances are indeed over the top, but because they’re acceptable and even welcome since they echo how we speak.

Building block #6: Rhyming

Starting from childhood, many of us are taught concepts through rhymes — such as “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” or “i before e except after c.” With their musicality, they’re a pleasing informational snack that sticks in memories like  a musical earworm .

Rhymes can seem corny, but sprinkled in at the right time, they can be incredibly potent. We all  remember the pithy “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” from defense attorney Johnnie Cochran during O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial.

Rhyming’s appeal comes “down to what linguists talk about as the processing fluency of language — how easy is language to swallow?” says Lancaster. “If you speak using long words and long sentences, it’s like giving someone a steak and asking them to swallow it. Whereas if you give them something pithy, like a rhyme, it’s like asking them to just sip on some Prosecco.”

These six tricks can help us speak directly to people’s instinctive, emotional and logical brains, and they are extremely effective , says Lancaster. There’s no need for us to be in the public eye to use them in order to sway others or make our words stay in people’s minds. Even if we never employ them in our own lives, it’s equally important for us to recognize them. Politicians, con artists and advertisers utilize them to win votes, spread opinions, or sell products people don’t need. By being alert to these rhetorical devices, we can be better citizens and consumers.

Watch Simon Lancaster’s  TEDxVerona  talk here:


Simon Lancaster  is one of the world’s top speechwriters. He first became a speechwriter in the late 1990s, working for members of Tony Blair’s Cabinet and now writes for the CEOs of some of the world’s biggest companies. Lancaster is a visiting lecturer at Henley Business School, Cass Business School and Cambridge University. He writes regular columns for Total Politics and The Guardian and provides expert commentary for the BBC and Sky News.

This post was originally published on  TED Ideas . It’s part of the “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from someone in the TED community;  browse through  all the posts here.

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Words related to not clear are not direct synonyms, but are associated with the word not clear . Browse related words to learn more about word associations.

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On this page you'll find 179 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to not clear, such as: dark, dense, dim, dismal, dull, and foggy.

From Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

  • Slurred Speech

6 Causes of Slurred Speech

An illustration of a woman with yellow hair wearing a green shirt with her hand out to the side. Her mouth is open and there is a yellow spiral to the upper right of her head.

Slurred speech quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your slurred speech.

6 most common cause(s)

Take slurred speech quiz

What is slurred speech?

Slurred speech is when you have trouble speaking, your words are slow or garbled, or your words run together. When you talk, many components of your nervous system work together to form words. When these parts don’t work correctly, your speech can become distorted, or “slurred.” The medical term for slurred speech is dysarthria.

Slurred speech includes problems pronouncing words and regulating the speed or pace of your speech. It can range from a barely noticeable problem to one that’s so severe that others can’t understand what you’re saying.

People often describe slurred speech as feeling like you’re trying to talk with your mouth full of marbles.

Common causes of slurred or slow speech include drinking too much alcohol and not getting enough sleep. In these cases, the slurring will stop once you’re sober again and have gotten rest, respectively.

There are also other causes of slurred speech such as a stroke (a medical emergency), brain tumor, Bell’s palsy, or a serious migraine.

Does slurred speech always need to be treated?

"People often think slurred speech is a minor symptom that does not need a medical evaluation. As our speech and ability to speak is our main form of communication, it is important to look for correctable causes." — Dr. Karen Hoerst

Should I go to the ER for slurred speech?

You should call 911 if:

  • Your slurred speech starts suddenly.
  • You have other symptoms, such as a sudden or severe headache and weakness or numbness of one side of your body.
  • Your tongue, face, or lips are swelling, which could mean you’re having an allergic reaction.

1. Stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack)

  • Slurred speech
  • Drooping of one side of the face
  • Weakness or trouble controlling one side of the body
  • Numbness in the face , arm , or leg
  • Difficulty walking
  • Sudden loss of vision or double vision
  • Sudden, severe headache

A stroke occurs in the brain because the blow flow in a blood vessel is blocked. It can also happen when a blood vessel ruptures or leaks. This affects the blood supply to parts of the brain, which leads long-term damage. If it affects the area of the brain responsible for speech, it can cause slurred speech.

A transient ischemic attack , or TIA, is sometimes called a "mini stroke." A TIA is a temporary interruption of blood flow that causes the same symptoms as a stroke, but improves without any permanent damage to the brain or symptoms.

For example, if you have slurred speech because of a TIA, once the blood flow is restored to that area of the brain, the slurred speech goes away. But people who have a TIA are at a high risk of having a stroke in the future, especially if their risk factors are not treated. Risk factors are the same for stroke and TIA and include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

It’s extremely important to call 911 right away if you suddenly have slurred speech. Getting immediate treatment is critical to minimizing permanent damage. Paramedics can begin treating you in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, so it’s better to call 911 than go to the ER yourself.

Treatments for strokes and TIAs include medications to break up blood clots and surgery to remove blood clots from the vessels. If your stroke is from bleeding in the brain, you may need surgery to repair a blood vessel.

Following treatment, your doctor will recommend medications to prevent another TIA or stroke. These typically include drugs that prevent clots from forming in the blood (like aspirin or other blood thinners) and cholesterol medication to prevent plaque from building up on the walls of the blood vessels. You may also need to take medication to control your blood pressure.

Speech therapy is recommended to help treat problems with speech.

It may not be a stroke

"There are so many possible causes of slurred speech. Most of the time we need a detailed history and physical exam to guide the diagnosis and treatment." — Dr. Hoerst

2. Bell’s palsy

  • Drooping of the face
  • Drooping of the eye
  • Changes in taste or hearing

Bell’s palsy is a relatively common condition that affects the facial nerve, which is responsible for movement of your face.

In Bell’s palsy, the nerve gets inflamed typically because of a recent viral infection. This inflammation can cause the facial nerve to not work as well, leading to drooping and slurred speech.

Bell’s palsy usually improves in a few months, but medications such as steroids and antiviral drugs are typically given to help speed the process. If nerve problems continue, physical therapy is recommended. In rare instances, surgery may be needed to help improve facial muscle function.

3. Brain tumor

  • Slurred speech or speech difficulties
  • New or changing headaches
  • Weakness or coordination and balance problems
  • Abnormal vision

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain. A brain tumor may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Both types can cause symptoms including slurred speech.

The diagnosis of a tumor in the brain or spinal cord is based on an exam and imaging of the brain, such as an MRI or CT scan. A biopsy (tissue sample) may be needed to determine what type of tumor it is.

Some tumors, such as a small noncancerous tumor, do not need treatment, though your doctor will recommend periodic MRI scans to make sure it hasn’t changed.

Most larger or cancerous tumors do require treatment, which may consist of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. If you develop physical or cognitive (mental) problems from the tumor, rehabilitation such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy may be needed.

4. Multiple sclerosis

  • Blurred vision or decreased vision, typically in one eye
  • Weakness or trouble walking
  • Numbness or pins-and-needles sensation on your face, arm, or leg (typically on one side)
  • A band-like squeezing sensation around the chest or abdomen
  • Difficulty focusing

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a central-nervous system disease that affects the cells of the brain and spinal cord. In MS, a fatty tissue that surrounds nerve fibers (myelin) is attacked. Myelin helps to insulate the electrical signals sent through the nerves. When there is a problem with this fatty tissue, information sent to and from the brain can be disrupted.

MS is most common in young adults between the ages of 20 and 50, according to the National MS Society .

MS is not curable , but treatments have dramatically improved the ability to control MS, so people usually have fewer symptoms and less disability.

Treatment includes medications that may be taken orally or injected or infused through an IV line. Physical therapy and speech therapy are commonly used to help in physical recovery, and medications can be used to treat other symptoms, such as depression, pain, and fatigue.

5. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

  • Difficulty with speech, including slurred speech
  • Progressive weakness and difficulty balancing
  • Muscle cramps, twitching, and stiffness
  • Difficulty swallowing

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It affects nerve cells called motor neurons that control your movement.

The disease primarily causes a loss of strength, impaired swallowing and speech, and in most cases, difficulty breathing because of impaired respiratory muscles. It is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms are mild at first and worsen over time.

Previously, it was thought that ALS doesn’t affect a person’s mental ability. But it’s now known that people with ALS can get a specific type of dementia called frontotemporal dementia (FTD). That condition can affect behavior, mood, and speech.

Symptoms of ALS can develop in adults of any age, but it’s most commonly diagnosed in people who are between the ages of 40 and 70, according to the ALS Association .

While there are some medications that can be used to delay the progression of the disease, there is currently no cure for ALS. Treatment includes rehabilitation with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and respiratory therapy.

6. Migraine

  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Visual disturbances

A migraine causes a severe headache that is often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light or sound. But some migraines don’t cause head pain.

Other symptoms that involve the nervous system can occur. Some of these sensory symptoms are called “auras.” These distortions can cause visual changes , including flashing lights or distorted vision. People may feel tingling or numbness of their face, arm, or leg.

In some types of migraine, people may even develop slurred speech and weakness of the face, arm, or leg. These are also symptoms of a stroke, so it may be hard to figure out which condition you have. If you develop sudden slurred speech or weakness, go to the ER immediately.

In an acute migraine attack, medications can be used to stop a migraine that has already started, such as triptans or newer medications called CGRP inhibitors. These medications can be in pill form, inhaled form, or injectable medications.

Migraine prevention can include taking medications for blood pressure, anticonvulsants, or even antidepressants. In some instances, Botox treatments are used to prevent migraine.

Behavior and lifestyle changes such as exercise, improved sleep, and healthy diet or weight loss are also often recommended to help decrease the number of migraine headaches you experience.

Other possible causes

Slurred speech may occur from alcohol intoxication or tiredness. It can also be a side effect of medications like high dose pain medications, antipsychotic medications or even some allergy medications like antihistamines. Other causes include:

  • Infections such as urinary tract infections or electrolyte imbalances (particularly in elderly people).
  • Brain infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.
  • Problems that affect your mouth or throat, such as poorly fitting dentures, dental infections, dental numbing medications, swelling in your throat, or muscle or nerve problems.
  • An allergic reaction , especially if you notice slurred speech along with tongue swelling , lip swelling, or shortness of breath.

"Early speech therapy can not only help with early improvement but also with diagnosis. Speech-language pathologists have special training in detecting the various types of slurred speech, which helps to determine the possible causes."— Dr. Hoerst

Specialty treatment options

  • Speech therapy is the most common treatment for slurred speech.
  • Injected medications such as Botox are sometimes used, depending on the cause of slurred speech.
  • Medications to improve nerve and muscle function.

While it's important to follow your healthcare provider's guidance, here are some over-the-counter (OTC) options that might provide extra support.

  • Proper nutrition supports overall health, including nerve function. Supplements like B vitamins may support neurological health.
  • Staying hydrated is key, especially if speech difficulties make it hard to drink. Consider a no-spill, easy-sip water bottle designed for easy grip.
  • Engaging in exercises to improve speech clarity can be helpful. Explore speech therapy tools and resources that you can use at home.

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Improving Pronunciation: Exercises and Tools for Clear Speech

Improving Pronunciation Exercises and Tools for Clear Speech

The pronunciation of words has changed over time, but English spelling has not. For language learners, pronunciation presents a significant obstacle. However, accurate pronunciation goes beyond just “how words and letters sound.” There are other equally significant aspects to take into account as well, such as intonation (how the voice tone changes during a sentence, going up or down), stress (which words and syllables carry more of the weight when we speak), and connected speech (how words can sound different when they are joined together in natural speech). Good pronunciation is aided by all of these characteristics, but don’t mistake them for accent.

There are a huge variety of accents in the UK, the USA, and other English-speaking nations, yet all of these accents are deemed to have correct pronunciation. You don’t have to sound British or American when learning English. Being understood is more important than sounding like you were born in New York or London. Actually, a lot of natural English speakers enjoy listening to English with a Spanish, Italian, or French accent! How can you therefore improve your pronunciation so that you can maintain your regional accent while yet being understood by others around the world? Here are the top six suggestions to help you practise and improve your pronunciation.

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The most obvious technique to enhance your own pronunciation is to listen to cases of real speech. There are several methods to achieve this, like seeing a movie in its original language, listening to podcasts in English about a subject that interests you, or even just listening to music. Try to pay attention to how others employ intonation. ‘Shadowing’ can be used to add to this. Shadowing entails hearing a brief sentence or phrase spoken, then repeating it while attempting to mimic the sounds, intonation, and word stress. You should also pay attention to how your mouth and tongue move when speaking.

Record Yourself

Once you’ve gotten some practise shadowing, you might want to videotape yourself speaking. You could do this by either repeating a brief phrase you’ve heard or by doing a larger speaking assignment from a coursebook, such describing a picture. Record yourself again after practising any difficult words or noises that you heard when you listened to the recording. Can you see a difference?

Get to know the Phonemic Chart

A graphic representation of various sounds is provided by the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). It may sound unusual and appear as though you are learning a completely new language, but it can truly aid in your pronunciation. Every dictionary includes a phonetic transcription of each word so you may learn how to pronounce it. This is particularly useful for English because, as we’ve already seen, the spelling doesn’t necessarily match the sound. The words “thought,” “through,” “tough,” and “ought” all include the letter “ough.” Consider them. It is impossible to guess how to pronounce those words without assistance.

Use a Dictionary

There are many online dictionaries where you may click and hear the word being uttered, in addition to printed dictionaries that will offer you a phonetic transcription of a word.

Do some Exercise!

Our mouths adjust to the diverse sounds that different languages make. We have a really hard time physically producing some sounds because they don’t occur in our native tongue. It’s crucial to train your lips to know how to produce new sounds; just like learning a new sport or dancing routine, the more you practise, the easier it gets.

Get to know your minimal pairs

Minimal pairs are words with nearly identical pronunciations that differ only in one sound, as in the case of ship and sheep. The length of the vowel distinguishes the sounds /I/ in “ship” from /i: in “sheep.” Many language learners find it challenging to hear because it appears in so many distinct terms. Being able to distinguish between sounds when you hear them is the first step.

The Best Exercises to Improve Your Pronunciation

It’s time to find some workouts and techniques to improve your pronunciation now that you know what’s involved. Again, keep in mind that the majority of tactics call for you to videotape yourself.

Basic recording strategy

Look for something you can read aloud, like Shakespeare. Listen to a recording of yourself that you made with a microphone. Yes, hearing your own voice might be strange or unsettling. But if you want to get better, you must do it. Pay close attention to your weak points (such as the ‘th’ sounds, halting in the appropriate spot, etc.) and make note of where work needs to be done. To make the recording better, do it again. Keep in mind that you don’t require an elaborate or pricey microphone. Your phone’s or laptop’s microphone will work just fine.

Shadowing is the practise of speaking immediately following another person, much like a shadow. You could, for instance, follow along with a TED lecture or audio by repeating every word the speaker says around 30 seconds after they say it. You can improve your pace, word stress, sentence stress, and chunking by doing this. This should be done with a speaker who speaks at a slow to medium tempo. Try shadowing the second time you listen to make it simpler by listening the first time without it.

Using Transcripts

You will work to make our pronunciation as natural and fluid as you can with this activity. You must select a podcast with a transcript for this exercise.

Step 1: First, give the audio a listen at least once.

Step 2: Read the transcript aloud while recording yourself. Feel free to follow the tempo and mannerisms of the original speaker.

Step 3: Play it back and compare it to the original recording in step three. What’d you think? Give yourself a score of 1 through 10.

An alternative strategy is to record oneself reading the transcript before listening to the audio. Try to picture how a native speaker might pronounce the text while you record. What phrases would they emphasise? What audio might be related?

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Pay attention to your tongue

Your tongue is where rice and lice vary most significantly. Your tongue is moved to produce sounds while you talk. You do it without thinking, so it’s likely that you weren’t even aware of that. It’s a good idea to pay attention to what your tongue is doing in order to improve your English pronunciation.

The letters “L,” “R,” and the sound “TH” are among those that are challenging for non-native speakers to produce. It’s all in the tongue how to pronounce them right!

  • To make the “L” sound – The top of your mouth, right behind your teeth, and the rear of your front teeth should be in contact with your tongue.
  • To make the “R” sound – You shouldn’t let your tongue rest on your top of mouth. Reposition your tongue such that it is close to where it would normally be if you were not speaking. Your lips should be slightly rounded when you make the sound. Say the word “right”  a few times. You should feel air blowing between your tongue and the top of your mouth as you speak. You should also feel your lips get a little rounder when you make the sound.
  • Now for the “TH” sound – Put your tongue in between your top and bottom teeth to produce this sound. The sound is created by letting some air escape between your tongue and teeth as you exhale. Your tongue should protrude slightly between your teeth. utter the word “think.” Several times, say it. Ensure that your tongue is inserted between your teeth.

Add stress to sounds and words

English is a language with emphasis. Thus, some words and sounds have a greater significance than others. When you speak out, you may hear this. As an illustration, the word “introduce” is spoken with emphasis at the end, as in “in-tro-DUCE.” The meaning of a word can occasionally alter depending on where the stress is placed. Out loud, say the word “present.” If you used the word “Present,” you are referring to a noun that either denotes “this very second” or “a gift.” If you responded with the word “preSENT,” you are using a verb that meaning “to give or show.”

Keep in mind that the first syllable of most two-syllable nouns is stressed, while the second syllable of most two-syllable verbs is.

The best method to learn is to practise and listen, so don’t worry if this all seems too difficult to remember. Keep in mind that the majority of native English speakers don’t grasp the rules either; instead, they simply say what “sounds right.” You can learn to obtain what sounds right with enough practise.

Write out difficult words by their sounds

Having issues with specific words? Write them out if you can. Not just the term, though. Try writing it out phonetically, using the sounds of the words rather than the spelling. Say you have trouble pronouncing the word “pizza.” The phonetic spelling is pits. As you can see from the phonics, the double-z is sounded like a “ts.” Make some flashcards. On one side, write the word; on the other, phonetically spell it. You can highlight the letters you’re testing yourself on on either side if that helps. (Visual learners may find this to be particularly helpful.) how-to-improve-english-pronunciationIt can be challenging to write things out phonetically, especially if it’s in your second language.

Write down what you hear

Want to improve your pronunciation of English? Recline and pay attention. When someone is speaking, pay attention and take notes. But listening is a fantastic technique for improving your English pronunciation.

Practice with tongue twisters

Do you occasionally have trouble distinguishing between similar sounds in English, such as “sh” and “ch,” “t” and “th,” or the short and long “e” sounds? You’re not alone, so don’t worry. Tongue twisters can be a challenging (but entertaining!) exercise in sound distinction. Given how similar many of the sounds are, these are poems that can be challenging to recite. People use them in English-speaking nations simply because they find it amusing when you make mistakes and sound dumb. And after you complete the poem, you’ll feel accomplished! These popular and successful English tongue twisters are an excellent way to practise the “s” and “sh” sounds:

“She sells seashells by the seashore.”

That tongue twister has a long history. But after you’ve mastered that, try including a few less well-known lines:

“The shells she sells are sea-shells, I’m sure. For if she sells sea-shells on the sea-shore Then I’m sure she sells sea-shore shells. “

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Practice with a buddy

It’s true as always: “Practise makes perfect!” Additionally, practising with a companion is simpler. Find a partner with whom you can practise pronouncing words, either in person or online. You will be able to put all that you have learned into practise while working with a friend and picking each other’s brains for new ideas. It’s also enjoyable!

Speak as much as you can

If you don’t speak much, you could have anxiety when it’s eventually time to speak in English. Like playing a game of basketball. You might be adept at dribbling, passing, and running, but you’ll never be able to shoot the ball. It would be challenging to shoot when the game is in session. You can even get paralysis from nerves if you try anything new in front of other people. The same holds true for using English. You should practise your English pronunciation in addition to overcoming your shyness in order to feel at ease speaking in front of others. Nervousness can cause many blunders, particularly when it comes to pronunciation.

Make the following rule for yourself: At home, you must speak English to yourself. Start by simply recounting your activities as you prepare dinner or get ready for bed. Make a commitment to yourself to talk aloud for at least a few minutes each day.

Set a schedule and stick to it!

The last stage is to make a plan and follow it. The greatest approach to get anything done, including improving your pronunciation, is to have a routine. For instance, if you schedule an hour a day for English study, set aside 20 minutes for practising your pronunciation. Alternatively, if you have two hours set aside for English, allot 30 minutes to working on your pronunciation. The duration itself is not that significant. The most important thing is to follow a routine. I guarantee that if you do this, your progress will be steady.

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Improving pronunciation: exercises and tools for clear speech – faqs.

Q1: What are the important aspects of pronunciation?

Ans: Pronunciation of individual sounds, Word stress, Sentence stress, Rhythm, Intonation.

Q2: How long does it take to improve pronunciation?

Ans: The amount of time required for effective accent removal varies depending on the individual. However, after 3–4 weeks of consistent practise, the majority of participants claim to have noticed an improvement in their English pronunciation. There is a significant improvement in their speech clarity and accent reduction after six months of practising.

Q3: Does pronunciation affect fluency?

Ans:  It is obvious that heavy accents seriously impair verbal fluency. You will need to give up some poor habits and pick up improved pronunciation and enunciation strategies to make yourself more understandable in conversation.

Q4: Does reading improve pronunciation?

Ans:  One of the most effective exercises for pronunciation improvement is reading aloud. Regularly reading aloud serves as a review for the pronunciation you’re learning.

Q5: Why is improving pronunciation important?

Ans: You might be surprised to learn that perfecting your pronunciation will make learning English easier. This is due to pronunciation, which makes you pay more attention to how speakers employ the appropriate sounds when they talk.

To find out more about spoken English, watch the video from the ENTRI English YouTube channel. It will be very helpful to watch one of their many videos on spoken English.

Speak confidently and fluently with our Spoken English Course!

speech words not clear

Sanvi Mariam

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Speech Therapy For Children and Adults. Call us

Speech Matters

Unclear Speech – How to help

Concerned about your child’s unclear speech? 

When should you be concerned about your child’s speech being unclear? It is typical that when a child is just starting to talk, the sounds are not clear. However, when it remains unclear compared to his or her peers, should one be concerned?

Just so that we are on the same page, speech refers to the sounds made.  Language generally refers to words. 

Speech Sound Development

When the first words are spoken, they can sometimes sound unclear, especially to others outside home environment. For example, a child might say “pis” for fish, or “tea” when he means “key”. In fact, between the ages of 1-2 years old, non-family members may only understand 25% of what is being said by a child that age.

speech words not clear

As they grow older, children learn to produce the sounds needed in their native languages. Interestingly, children are able to produce the sounds of the languages they are exposed to. By the time children are 3 years old, their speech sounds are mostly developed and they can be understood by non-familiar persons at least 75% of the time. By 4 years of age, their articulation should be as good as that of an adult.

What are the common problems?

Common problems in young children include

  • substituting sounds (e.g. “f” sounds are produced as “p”, “s” is produced as “t”, or “k/ c” sounds are produced as “t”)
  • omitting sounds (e.g. “stop” is produced as “top” or “sop”, “Bread” sounds like “bed”, or “plane” sounds like “pain”)
  • words endings are missing (e.g. “bus” sounds like “ba”, “house” sounds like “how”, or “book” sounds like “boo”)

If your child’s speech is unclear, or your child continues to have difficulties producing sounds, it is important address these. Unclear speech in young children should be monitored closely as there may be other underlying causes.

Tips for addressing unclear speech

1.   Model – Acknowledge your child’s output and then model the way to say it. Say the target word slightly more deliberately and clearly, but refrain from getting your child to repeat the word. So you might say “Yes, I see the FISH too!”

2. Look at you – Getting your child to look at how you produce the sounds of the word might help. It helps to get down to their level when communicating with children so they can be face- to- face with you, and this might help them see how you make the sounds of the words.

Avoid over doing it as it might reduce the pleasure of communicating with you.

3. Help them check themselves – sometimes a playful manner would help your child become more aware of the need to be more clear when talking. For example, if your child says “tea” for “key”, you might ask if they wanted “TEA”? Then offer the options – “did you mean TEA or KEY”? Then model the right way to say it and see if they can self correct.

Why does it not get clearer?

Speech sound problems can occur in children with hearing difficulties. It might help to get hearing tested.

Most children with persistent speech sound difficulties have been found to have other communication difficulties, such as difficulties expressing or understanding.

The video below may help explain this and you may also find this information on other speech therapy related websites.

Still Concerned about unclear speech?

You can also check out our post on whether you should wait and see or seek help.

If you are concerned, call us to speak to one of our friendly and experienced speech therapists for a free phone consultation.

© 2024 · Speech Matters Pte Ltd (Singapore)

  • Second Opinion

Age-Appropriate Speech and Language Milestones

Child with a pediatrician.

The ability to hear is essential for proper speech and language development. Hearing problems may be suspected in children who are not responding to sounds or who are not developing their language skills appropriately. The following are some age-related guidelines that may help to decide if your child is experiencing hearing problems.

It's important to remember that not every child is the same. Children reach milestones at different ages. Talk your child's healthcare provider if you are suspicious that your child is not developing speech and language skills correctly. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and other experts list the following age-appropriate speech and language milestones for babies and young children.

Milestones related to speech and language

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Synonyms of unclear

  • as in vague
  • as in faint
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Thesaurus Definition of unclear

Synonyms & Similar Words

  • enigmatical
  • unintelligible
  • undetermined
  • indeterminate
  • inexplicable
  • inscrutable
  • indistinguishable
  • confounding
  • unfathomable
  • undefinable
  • bewildering
  • obfuscatory

Antonyms & Near Antonyms

  • understandable
  • straightforward
  • unambiguous
  • unequivocal
  • comprehensible
  • intelligible
  • plainspoken
  • unmistakable
  • openhearted
  • well - defined
  • incomprehensible
  • indiscernible
  • inappreciable
  • indecipherable
  • hieroglyphic
  • hieroglyphical

Thesaurus Entries Near unclear


Cite this Entry

“Unclear.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/unclear. Accessed 24 May. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on unclear

Nglish: Translation of unclear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of unclear for Arabic Speakers

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When Your Child's Speech Delay Is a Red Flag

Verywell / Michela Buttignol

There is a wide range of normal language development in toddlers and two-year-olds . Children hit milestones at different times, and many factors can influence how much or how clearly a child speaks.

For instance, children who live in a bilingual home may take a little longer to become fluent in either language (but in the long run may have significantly better verbal skills than their peers). Toddlers in a family with older siblings sometimes speak later because brothers and sisters "talk for them." Research also shows that girls speak earlier than boys.

Sometimes, though, speaking late or speech that is unclear can signal a developmental delay or a physical problem. In those cases, your child may benefit from speech therapy . The first step is to determine whether your child's speech is really off target for his age. Check with your child's pediatrician anytime you have a question or concern.

Speech Milestones

Around the first birthday, baby babble starts to change. As little ones try harder to imitate the sounds around them, the noises they make start to take the shape of actual words. In subsequent months, they begin to string words together into toddler sentences.

After the second birthday, there is usually an explosion in vocabulary and the use of more complex sentences. Use this list of milestones and signs of possible delay when considering whether your little one's speech is progressing normally.

12 to 18 Months

At this age, toddlers have a wide range of speech sounds. You’ll probably be able to recognize at least one or two common words, such as "baba" (bottle) or "mama." Nouns that are, in a child's view, essential to daily life are usually the first words that they master.

Aside from those key words, your child’s speech at 12 months will mostly be limited to babbling sounds. Over the following six months, though, you should start to see your child begin to develop more advanced communication, such as:

  • Trying to copy your words
  • Imitating the back and forth of real conversation
  • Inflecting speech to ask a question (saying "Ju?" when requesting juice) or make a demand (shouting "Ju!" when insisting on juice)
  • Spontaneously using words, rather than just responding to sounds you make
  • Using a combination of gestures and vocalized sounds to communicate

While paying attention to the words or sounds your child is making is important, also consider whether or not your toddler can follow simple directions that involve one step (for example, "pick up the block").

18 to 24 Months

There continues to be a wide range of normal in verbal skills during this developmental period. Your child’s personality and circumstances can play a role in how many words you hear and how often. On average, though, by the time your child reaches age two, you can expect the following milestones:

  • Increasingly adding words to their vocabulary
  • Forming two-word phrases—although they won’t be grammatically correct (“no go,” “book read”)
  • Using words to identify pictures in a book or surroundings
  • Naming body parts and animals and sometimes making animal sounds (“moo” for cow)

It's still important to notice how well your child is able to comprehend what you say. Do they respond to you when you ask questions? Can they follow simple two-step commands by age two?

2 to 3 Years

Between two and three years old is usually when parents see an explosion in children's speech and verbal skills. It's often said that a child's vocabulary grows to 200 or more words during this time. Some of the milestones to look for this year include:  

  • Saying more words and picking up new words regularly
  • Combining three or more words into sentences (which may still be grammatically awkward)
  • Beginning to identify colors, shapes, and concepts, such as more or less and big versus little
  • Singing nursery rhymes and songs or repeating stories from books you've read often together
  • Beginning to express feelings with words ("I hungry," "Sam sad")

The total number of words your child learns during this time is less important than a consistent increase in the number of words they start to use week by week.

At this age, it's still common for people outside your immediate family or caregiver to be unable to understand your child as well as you can. In the coming year, your child’s speech should become clearer and clearer. If you are concerned about your child's speech, talk to your pediatrician about causes of speech delays and ways you can support language development at home.

Barbu S, Nardy A, Chevrot JP, et al. Sex differences in language across early childhood: Family socioeconomic status does not impact boys and girls equally . Front Psychol. 2015;6:1874. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01874

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: Your child by one year .

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: Your child by eighteen months .

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: Your child by two years .

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concerned about your child’s development? .

Bowers JM, Perez-Pouchoulen M, Edwards NS, McCarthy MM. Foxp2 mediates sex differences in ultrasonic vocalization by rat pups and directs order of maternal retrieval . J Neurosci. 2013;33(8):3276-83. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.0425-12.2013

By Maureen Ryan Maureen Ryan is a freelance writer, editor, and teaching consultant specializing in health, parenting, and education.

Does Your Child have Unclear Speech or Speech Delay due to Speech / Verbal Dyspraxia?

speech words not clear

If your child’s speech is not clear, one explanation may be the condition called speech dyspraxia, also termed verbal dyspraxia, apraxia or developmental articulatory dyspraxia.

This article is based on the speech therapist’s speech therapy experience with dyspraxic children.

It aims to help parents and teachers understand what is dyspraxia, why children with dyspraxia may be unable to say certain sounds and have unclear speech or speech delay, what speech may sound like for a child with dyspraxia, how speech therapy can help, and offers teaching tips for parents and teachers.

What is speech dyspraxia?

As mentioned above, you may encounter similar terms for this condition such as verbal dyspraxia, apraxia or developmental articulatory dyspraxia.

Speech dyspraxia results in unclear speech or speech delay because there is impairment of the voluntary programming of speech muscle movements. These difficulties do not occur with involuntary movements. For example, the child may be able to lick food with his tongue, but is unable to move the tongue to say the ‘l’ sound in a word such as ‘lion’.

The problem occurs when the brain tries to programme the speech muscles for a particular movement or sequence of movements – somehow that message gets scrambled.

It’s like trying to watch cable television without the right decoder. There is nothing wrong with your television set. It’s just that your television set cannot read the signal that the station is sending out.

With dyspraxia, the impairment occurs with the programming of the speech muscles to be positioned at a particular position for a particular sound, be it ‘s’ or ‘p’ or ‘k’, as well as the programming of the sequence of movements in the right order (e.g. to produce sounds in a word such as ‘su-per-mar-ket’ in the correct sequence or order).

How dyspraxia may result in unclear speech, speech delay or the child not being able to say a particular sound:

  • A child with dyspraxia or apraxia may be able to say a sound or word at one time and not be able to say it again, especially on demand (“Brian, say open”).
  • A different sound may be substituted, sounds may get jumbled up or left out, (e.g. ‘police car’ may come out as ‘coopee ar’), or there may be no sound at all.
  • A child may not be able to say a word when an adult is teaching it, yet say it later when he is playing alone.
  • You may actually see the child struggling to get his lips and tongue in the right position. The process is effortful rather than subconscious.
  • The child may seem to be screaming or shouting his words rather than saying them with appropriate loudness or pitch because of the effort required in ‘forcing’ the words out.
  • The child may be able to say sounds correctly in short monosyllabic words, for example, when asked “What is this?” “Key”. However, speech becomes unintelligible in longer words or sentences, even if the same sound is involved (e.g. when trying to say a sentence “I saw a monkey at the zoo”).

These errors can be very frustrating for both the child and the parents. It is also often difficult for parents and teachers to understand because most children learn speech relatively uneventfully and speech becomes almost subconscious.

It is important to remember the errors are involuntary. The dyspraxic child is not being difficult, lazy or silly.

What can be done to help the child with unclear speech due to dyspraxia

A child who has speech apraxia or dyspraxia will not simply ‘grow out of it’. Without speech therapy, the child’s speech may improve with age, but may still be filled with errors and be difficult to understand.

Teachers or adults may underestimate the child’s ability because the child is not able to answer or speak immediately in response to a question.

For children who receive speech therapy, all but the most severely dyspraxic should eventually be able to communicate verbally. In severe cases, other forms of communication may be necessary to supplement speech (e.g. electronic communication aids).

How speech therapy helps a child with dyspraxia

A speech therapy programme for dyspraxia includes some or all of the following components:

  • play / therapy activities where the child is encouraged and rewarded for speaking.
  • learning activities for repetition of particular sounds or words so that the child will find it easier to say the sound (say the sound more subconsciously) and with increasingly less prompting.
  • activities for improving accuracy and speed of speech movements so that the child will be able to say sounds in long words or sentences as easily as in short words, and express ideas in sentences that are clear and understandable to others.

Teaching tips for parents and teachers working with children who are dyspraxic or may have dyspraxia

Seek diagnosis from a qualified speech pathologist / therapist so that you can all work together to help the child.

It’s worth repeating: dyspraxia is a real speech problem. The speech errors are involuntary. The child is not being difficult, lazy or silly.

You could think of a dyspraxic child’s speech difficulties as similar to difficulties we may have learning other physical skills, for example, playing golf, or ballroom dancing. You know there’s nothing wrong with your hands and legs, but you may not know where to place them just by watching someone else play or dance!

Even after you learn a particular position, or step, it’s knowing how to do them all in the right sequence, and doing them fast enough, that is challenging.

For the child with dyspraxia, just as for us learning golf, dancing or driving, there is no substitute for practice. Practice, practice, practice, until it all becomes second nature – like …talking is, for the rest of us.

Fun speech activities that provide enjoyable opportunities for speech practice are among the most important things parents or teachers can do to help. These include:

  • repetitive songs or rhymes (e.g. Old MacDonald with its “E-I-E-I-O’s”, Pat-a-Cake action rhymes).
  • familiar favourite children’s stories with repeated lines (Gingerbread Man, the Three Little Pigs with its repeated “I’ll huff and I’ll puff” etc).
  • daily routines (prayers, social greetings, bedtime rituals e.g. “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!” etc).

Short note from the speech therapist

Children all around us use speech to express themselves everyday. Sometimes they enjoy the very process of saying certain words even if they don’t make any sense. In fact, the more nonsensical, the ‘weirder’, or possibly the ruder a word sounds, the more fun they have!

Children should be helped to learn, use and enjoy speech, and children who happen to have speech dyspraxia are no different. It is hoped that this article helps such children and their concerned parents and teachers.

Please feel free to browse around our website to check out our our programs or other Speech therapy related information.

Our Contributor

The author, Ms Magan Chen brings with her more than 30 years of speech and language therapy experience in both private hospital and enrichment centre settings. This gives us exceptional understanding of our clients’ medical and/or school needs.

She has helped more than 1500 individuals to overcome their communication or learning difficulties.

Ms. Magan Chen trained in London, U.K. (M.Sc. Human Communication) and Sydney, Australia (B. App. Sc. in Speech Pathology).

Magan is a registered Certified Practising Speech Language Pathologist (CPSP) with the Speech Pathology Australia.

She is also the founding President and a registered member of Speech-Language and Hearing Association Singapore (SHAS, the professional body representing Speech Language Therapists in Singapore.

Magan has been interviewed and featured in various newspapers and magazines such as Young Parents Magazine, The Straits Times & The New Paper.

Together with Magan, our team of competent and caring speech language therapists and teachers help hundreds of individuals improve their ability to communicate and have more say in life.

If you would like to see a highly experienced speech language therapist / pathologist for an initial consultation, please call us at (65) 6386-7532.

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Warning signs of a speech delay in toddlers

You've heard that toddlers talk nonstop, but yours isn't a chatterbox quite yet. Here's what you need to know about delayed speech in young children.

Jennifer Lano, M.S., CCC-SLP

Signs of a speech delay

What causes a speech delay or disorder.

Children learn language at different rates, but most follow a general timeline . It's common for toddlers to run into roadblocks on the way to nonstop talking, but it can be hard to know what's a bump in the road versus signs of a true speech delay or disorder.

If your child falls behind most of their peers in terms of speech skills, they may be diagnosed with a speech delay. This is actually fairly common among young kids – about 1 in 5 kids experiences a speech delay.

Experts estimate Opens a new window 13.5 percent of 18- to 23-month-old toddlers are " late talkers ." Even more older toddlers (30- to 36-months) are late talkers – 16 to 17.5 percent.

So what should you do if you think your child is behind? Talk to your pediatrician about getting a referral for an early intervention program or a speech-language pathologist. It's important to recognize and treat delays as early as possible so your child can develop critical language and cognitive skills.

If you're concerned about a speech delay, here are some signs to look for between the ages of 1 and 4.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Opens a new window and other experts recommend talking to your child's doctor if they show any of these signs:

By 12 months:

  • Doesn't say "mama" or "dada"
  • Doesn't use gestures such as waving , shaking their head, or pointing
  • Doesn't understand and respond to words such as "no," "bye-bye," and their name
  • Isn't pointing out things of interest such as a bird or airplane overhead
  • Doesn't say at least one word
  • Doesn't babble as if talking

By 18 months:

  • Doesn't point to at least one body part when asked
  • Isn't somehow communicating to you when they need help with something or pointing to what they want
  • Doesn't bring you things when you ask for them

By 24 months:

  • Can't follow simple, one-step directions
  • Doesn't know at least 50 words
  • Doesn't pretend with their toys (like brushing their doll's hair or making car noises with a toy car)
  • Can't speak two-word sentences
  • Can only imitate the actions or words of others, rather than generate their own speech

By 30 months:

  • Doesn't use any simple sentences of two to four words
  • Can't use any pronouns
  • Doesn't ask simple questions
  • Can't be understood by anyone in their family
  • Isn't putting together short phrases
  • Can't tell a simple story
  • Has little interest in being read to or looking at books
  • Doesn't know the function of common household objects (like a toothbrush or fork)
  • Hasn't mastered most single consonants
  • Can't answer "why" questions
  • Doesn't understand the concept of "same" and "different"
  • Doesn't understand spatial terms like "on," "next to," or "under"

As a general rule, trust your instincts. If something seems wrong to you, ask your child's pediatrician about it. After all, you know your child best.

It's not always clear what causes a speech delay. Sometimes kids just need extra time and help building their skills. A delay means your child is still going through the typical language development process, just more slowly than their peers.

Plenty of things, including being born prematurely , can affect when your child starts hitting speech milestones. Preemies usually catch up with other children on milestones around the age of 2.

Speech delays can also be caused by conditions like hearing loss (which may be caused by repeated ear infections ), cerebral palsy, and developmental disabilities like autism .

If your child isn't going through the typical milestones of language development and isn't catching up at their own rate, they may have a speech disorder rather than a delay. This means they may need intervention and the help of a speech-language pathologist.

If your child has a speech delay or disorder, it doesn't mean you did anything wrong. But it does mean you can help your child improve in simple ways, like reading , talking , and playing with them even more than you already have been.

Was this article helpful?

What to do when your toddler isn't talking

A toddler covering their mouth with their hands

Why does my toddler sometimes reject my affection?

A toddler crying in her mother's lap

Signs of autism in babies and toddlers

toddler manipulating toy while sitting at table

Warning signs of a social / cognitive delay

pensive child lying and holding finger on the chin

BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies .

American Academy of Family Physicians. 2022. Speech and Language Delay. https://familydoctor.org/condition/speech-and-language-delay/ Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2012. Milestones During the First 2 Years. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Milestones-During-The-First-2-Years.aspx Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2019. Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/preschool/Pages/Developmental-Milestones-3-to-4-Year-Olds.aspx Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

American Academy of Pediatrics. 2021. Language Delays in Toddlers: Information for Parents. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Language-Delay.aspx Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Undated. Three to Four Years. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/34/ Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

Connecticut Children's. 2016. Your Child's Development: 2.5 Years (30 Months). https://www.connecticutchildrens.org/health-library/en/parents/development-30mos/ Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Undated. Stuttering in Children. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/stuttering#:~:text=Developmental%20stuttering Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

Nemours Foundation. 2022. Delayed Speech or Language Development. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/not-talk.html Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

Stanford Medicine Children's Health. Undated. Age-Appropriate Speech and Language Milestones. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=age-appropriate-speech-and-language-milestones-90-P02170 Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

Horwitz S., et al. 2002. Language delay in a community cohort of young children. Journal of American Adolescent Psychiatry 42(8):932-40. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12874495/ Opens a new window [Accessed August 2023]

Sarah Bradley

Sarah Bradley is a freelance health and parenting writer from Connecticut, where she lives with a lot of boys (a husband, three sons, and a golden retriever). When she isn't writing, Bradley is usually homeschooling, binge-watching TV shows, and taking care of her many houseplants. She might also be baking a cake.

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  • 13 May 2024

Brain-reading device is best yet at decoding ‘internal speech’

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Scientists have developed brain implants that can decode internal speech — identifying words that two people spoke in their minds without moving their lips or making a sound.

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Chris Pan, Ohio State grads learned hard way that commencement address words matter

  • Commencement speeches are hard, but speakers are responsible for their words.
  • Smart phones are a threat to education but not the only one.
  • It's important to talk about mental health and to take care of our own mental health.

Commencement words matter

Re "Pan wants to set the record straight," May 14: As a teacher of public speaking at the college level, I am sympathetic to the Dispatch article about Ohio State University alumnus and commencement speaker, Chris Pan.

On the one hand, commencement speeches are strangely hard , something recently recounted with characteristic insight by the eminent historian Drew Gilpin Faust. And let’s face it: getting booed by 70,000 people isn’t something anyone would call life affirming.

On the other hand, there was something petulantly, tiringly earnest in Pan’s reflections. Speakers are responsible for their words. If work-shopping ideas with students, parents and social media communities prior to delivery lands inbounds for the conventions of speech preparation, Pan, finally, is the author, advocate and representative (in the Emersonian sense) of what he says.

Harrison Butker's ugly speach ugly. Chief's kicker only part of a bigger problem.

OSU speaker: Chris Pan wants to set the record straight about his Ohio State commencement speech

Ours is an era in which too many rhetors (an old word that, at its best, signifies those invested in the weight and worth of giving ideas their richest expressions towards civic, moral, and just ends) fall over themselves to give voice to self-serving, self-promoting, self-satisfying bubbles of bilious pap.

The graduates who were frustrated by the speech and the speaker perhaps learned their lessons well. Words matter. We deserve, and should expect, better.   

Jeff Kurtz, Newark

We see you, Mike DeWine

As a substitute teacher who works across many area districts, I can say with confidence that smart phones are definitely a huge threat to education.

What I find ironic is this is the same governor who signed off on a budget item (with no spending cap) that takes funds from public schools to help the wealthy pay tuition for their kids to attend private and religious schools.

You aren’t fooling anyone DeWine.

Susan D’Ooge Miller, Columbus

Sometimes it's OK not to be OK

It’s important to talk about mental health. There’s this big stigma around it, like it’s something to be ashamed of, but it’s just like any other illness.

We wouldn’t make fun of someone with a broken leg, so why do we make fun of someone with depression or anxiety or ADHD?

It’s not just about talking about it, though.

We also need to learn how to take care of our own mental health. Just like we exercise to keep our bodies healthy, we need to do things to keep our minds healthy too. That means taking breaks when we need them, talking to someone we trust when we’re feeling down, and being kind to ourselves and others.

Let’s work together to break the stigma and make sure everyone knows it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

By promoting mental health awareness, we can help break down the barriers that prevent people from getting the support they need. It’s important for schools, communities, and social media and the media to talk openly about mental health and to provide resources for those who are struggling.

Together, people can create a more compassionate and supportive environment for everyone, regardless of their mental health status.

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The Key Points at the top of this article were created with the assistance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and reviewed by a journalist before publication. No other parts of the article were generated using AI. Learn more .

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Biden delivers Morehouse commencement speech as some on campus express pro-Palestinian messages

ATLANTA — President Joe Biden delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday morning, his most direct engagement with college students since the start of the Israel-Hamas war and a key opportunity for him to engage with a group of voters that data suggests is softening on him: young, Black men.

In his remarks, Biden ticked through his administration's policies that he said have aided Black Americans, including a record $16 billion in new aid for historically Black colleges and universities.

And, in a nod to the pro-Palestinian sentiment among Morehouse students and faculty, Biden reiterated his calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, more humanitarian aid in the region and support for a two-state solution that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

“We’ve been working on a deal as we speak. Working around the clock to lead an international effort to get more aid into Gaza, rebuild Gaza. I’m also working around the clock for more than just one cease-fire. I’m working to bring the region together. Working to build a lasting, durable peace,” he said.

As Biden spoke, roughly six students in the crowd sat turned away from him. Though Biden did not reference the action directly, his remarks touched on the “anger and frustration” felt by many Americans over the war, including by members of his own family.

“I know it breaks your heart. It breaks mine as well,” Biden said. “Leadership is about fighting through the most intractable problems. It’s about challenging anger, frustration and heartbreak. To find a solution. It’s about doing what you believe is right, even when it’s hard and lonely.”

Following the speech, Morehouse President David Thomas praised Biden for a “thought-provoking speech” he said was reflective of the president “listening.”

Joe Biden speaks at a podium

“You spoke to the hard issues confronting our nation and the world at this moment,” Thomas said before conferring an honorary doctorate degree onto Biden.

No significant, disruptive protests materialized, but some students and faculty members still expressed their support for Gaza during the ceremony.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations began even before Biden took the stage Sunday morning. As graduates and faculty entered the ceremony, at least eight students and three staff members wore pro-Palestinian garb, some adorned in Palestinian flags and others wearing keffiyeh scarves.

An opening prayer by the Rev. Claybon Lea Jr. urged those in power to be “accountable for valuing human life” across the globe.

“Whether they live in Israel or Palestine, Ukraine or Russia, the Congo or Haiti, God give us men that will value life and call us to accountability. Give us men who require all of us to live the golden rule and even follow the edicts of that Palestinian Jew named Jesus,” Lea said as Biden sat inches behind him.

In the most direct call to action of the ceremony, valedictorian DeAngelo Jeremiah Fletcher concluded his remarks by calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, framing his decision to speak on the conflict as a moral duty in line with the legacy of fellow Morehouse alumnus Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is important to recognize that both sides have suffered heavy casualties in the wake of Oct. 7,” Fletcher said. “From the comfort of our homes, we watch an unprecedented number of civilians mourn the loss of men, women and children while calling for a release of all hostages. For the first time in our lives, we’ve heard the global community sing one harmonious song that transcends language and culture. It is my stance as a Morehouse man named as a human being to call for an immediate and a permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.”

As Biden took the stage, graduating students remained seated and silent, even as older alumni nearby cheered.

And during his remarks, faculty member Samuel Livingston held up the flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in an effort to bring attention to ongoing conflict in the region.

Sebastian Gordon, a graduating senior from Washington, D.C., was satisfied with Biden's remarks. “I know one concern that my class had was actions and words didn’t line up,” Gordon told NBC News. “I’m happy with his words that he said. I’m just going to continue to watch to make sure his actions line up with that.”

The protests during the commencement were largely peaceful, following instructions Thomas, the school president, gave to faculty and students across at least three meetings: The right to protest would be honored as long as they’re not disruptive.

Ahead of the commencement, Thomas told CNN that though he would not ask police to intervene should protests occur during Biden’s remarks, he would immediately bring the commencement to a halt.

“I have also made a decision that we will also not ask police to take individuals out of commencement in zip ties. If faced with the choice, I will cease the ceremonies on the spot if we were to reach that position,” Thomas said.

Even the most vocal student protesters at Morehouse predicted that protests during the commencement ceremony would likely not be disruptive, partially due to the volatility a police response would likely incite.

“I think that whatever happens on Sunday on the part of the people and the people who want to see some change is going to be peaceful,” sophomore Anwar Karim said. “I don’t see it erupting like it has at some of the other campuses, because we at HBCUs here are also just mindful of the fact of how interactions with police often go.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that Biden spent several days working on the speech, tapping into a brain trust of senior advisers, including some Morehouse alums, to craft his message to the 415 Black men graduating from the school.

Biden previewed the tone of his remarks during a speech Thursday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.

“Morehouse was founded after our nation’s Civil War to help prepare Black Americans who were formerly enslaved to enter the ministry, earn an education and usher them from slavery to freedom,” Biden said before announcing $16 billion in new investments for historically Black colleges and universities. “The founders of Morehouse understood something fundamental. Education is linked to freedom. Because to be free means to have something that no one can ever take away from you.”

Biden’s speech at Morehouse came against the backdrop of protests on college campuses nationwide over his handling over the war in Gaza, with many students and faculty members voicing opposition to the White House’s continued financial and military support for Israel. Some at Morehouse hoped Biden would speak directly to those concerns during his commencement remarks.

“I hope that we don’t get boilerplate language. I hope that we get something we haven’t heard before. I hope that his ethical, moral conscience trump any politics,” Morehouse professor Stephane Dunn said at a protest Friday.

Morehouse has also had pro-Palestinian protests on campus, though the HBCU did not see the same scale or escalation of demonstrations as some larger universities.

The school’s decision to host Biden as commencement speaker and award him an honorary doctorate degree almost immediately sparked protests among faculty and students, some continuing into the days leading up to the commencement ceremony.

“This is one big distraction on a day to celebrate the class of 2024 following Covid-19, but this is also an opportunity for students to make their voices heard during a time of increasing war and genocide in the Middle East,” Morehouse senior Calvin Bell said in reaction to Biden’s visit.

“We as students, faculty and alums who are standing on the right side of history do not stand with Biden,” Karim said. “We do not align ourselves with all of the clear and avid support that he’s had for a genocidal campaign on the part of the Israelis for the last over 200-plus days.”

Most recently, Morehouse faculty were split over the decision to award Biden an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremony. A letter circulated among staff members in protest of the decision got more that two dozen signatures in support, and the vote to award the degree passed 50-38, with roughly 12 faculty members abstaining.

The White House deployed its allies to Morehouse, both formally and informally, to assuage concerns and lower tensions over Biden’s visit.

Steve Benjamin, who heads the White House Office of Public Engagement, met with a small group of Morehouse students and faculty this month following a push from the school’s leadership for “direct engagement” from the White House.

During the meeting, some students expressed concerns about Biden overshadowing their graduation, while others implored Benjamin to ensure Biden’s speech doesn’t double as a campaign stump speech — frustrated with the idea of the commencement address being a vehicle for Biden to bolster support among Black voters.

That sentiment was shared by other Morehouse students critical of Biden’s visit.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he only accepted the invitation after Trump was already in [Atlanta’s] West End, trying to make gains and failing to make gains with our students here,” Morehouse student Malik Poole said at a campus protest ahead of Biden’s visit. “And this is coming at a time where voters of color are fleeing from Biden at record pace.”

But still, Biden’s Morehouse visit came amid a concerted effort by his administration and campaign in the past week to sharpen his message to Black voters .

On Thursday, Biden met with plaintiffs and their family members from the historic Brown v. Board of Education case. The following day, he met with leaders of the Divine Nine, a group of historically Black sororities and fraternities, alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority herself. During his trip to Georgia, Biden attended an event Saturday focused on engaging Black voters. And following his commencement address, Biden will close out the weekend by delivering the keynote address at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Detroit, where he plans to tout his administration’s accomplishments for Black Americans.

As data suggests that Black voters — particularly young Black voters — are souring on Biden, some at Morehouse recognized the “opportunity” Biden had to make his case to members of that voting bloc during his address.

“If you want ... these students to vote in the fall for you, you have to give them something that shows that you are hearing them,” Dunn said. “That you are trying to do something we haven’t heard about. This is the opportunity.”

speech words not clear

Nnamdi Egwuonwu is a 2024 NBC News campaign embed.

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New Words

NEW words and meanings added: March 2024

Game on or game over ?

With the Summer Olympics coming up, the main focus for our latest release is on the world of sport.

Worrying about your team’s back four in the relegation six-pointer ? Did one of your team’s blueliners just score an empty-netter ? Or maybe you prefer T20™ , with the drama of one-dayers and super overs , or just like to pay your green fee and get started on the front nine ?

We’ve added over 170 new words and meanings from sport and other topics.


Our word lists are designed to help learners at any level focus on the most important words to learn.

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A recent addition to our online dictionary is the term culture war , which is used to describe the conflict between groups of people with different ideals and beliefs.

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speech words not clear


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    Expressive aphasia is a language disorder that makes it difficult for individuals to speak clearly and effectively. It is often the result of a stroke but can also be caused by other causes. This condition can range from mild, where a person may leave out small words in their speech, to severe, where many words are skipped.

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    Presentation, Public Speaking, Speech Topics. We struggle to speak clearly due to reasons like anxiety, stress, lack of clarity, vocabulary, and a few more. There are moments in all our lives when words go amiss and we stumble upon misunderstandings. But if these moments become too frequent, there is definitely scope for improvement.

  5. 4 Ways to Stop Mumbling and Speak Clearly

    This can relax the muscles around your mouth and jaw so you can communicate more clearly. 2. Sing to work your vocal muscles. Singing develops your vocal muscles and improves your volume, which can help you stop mumbling. Sing along to your favorite songs or sing them a capella.

  6. Overcoming A Sudden Difficulty Finding Words When Speaking

    Aphasia can involve various speech patterns, from functional language skills to severe impairment, with word retrieval issues being a common element. Individuals with aphasia may produce unrecognizable words, affecting their ability to be understood. They may also write sentences that do not make sense, reflecting similar difficulties in language production during speech.

  7. Dysarthria (difficulty speaking)

    slurred or slow speech. difficulty controlling the volume of your voice, making you talk too loudly or quietly. a change in your voice, making it nasal, strained or monotone. hesitating a lot when talking, or speaking in short bursts instead of full sentences. Being stressed or tired may make your symptoms worse.

  8. 3 Ways to Improve Your Clarity of Speech

    Open your mouth as wide as possible (as if you were about to yawn), while moving your jaw in circles, and sideways. Open your mouth wide, as in the previous exercise, and shut it again. Repeat 5 times. Make a buzzing sound with your lips together, but don't clench your jaw. 2.

  9. 10 Super Effective Exercises to Speak Clearly

    Well, fear not, because you can do plenty of exercises to improve your speech clarity. Here are ten super effective exercises to help you speak more clearly and confidently. 1. Tongue twisters. Tongue twisters are an excellent way to improve your speech clarity. They challenge you to articulate your words clearly and quickly.

  10. 3 Ways to Speak Clearly

    Distill your thoughts - do not spill them. If you dive into speech without taking time to ground yourself, you may speak more quickly and slur your words. Take the time to center yourself, and proceed mindfully from there. 2. Articulate your words. Pronounce each syllable individually. Syll - a - ble.

  11. 6 techniques for clear and compelling speech

    Building block #1: Breathless sentences or phrases. Barack Obama gave an acceptance speech for the ages in 2008 after he was first elected president of the US. He spoke vividly of the challenges that lay ahead for the country: "Even as we celebrate tonight, we know that the challenges tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: Two ...

  12. How Schizophrenia Speech Patterns Can Manifest

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  13. 174 Synonyms & Antonyms for NOT CLEAR

    Find 174 different ways to say NOT CLEAR, along with antonyms, related words, and example sentences at Thesaurus.com.

  14. 6 Causes of Slurred Speech

    Weakness or coordination and balance problems. Abnormal vision. Confusion. Seizures. A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in the brain. A brain tumor may be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Both types can cause symptoms including slurred speech.

  15. Improving Pronunciation: Exercises and Tools for Clear Speech

    Using Transcripts. You will work to make our pronunciation as natural and fluid as you can with this activity. You must select a podcast with a transcript for this exercise. Step 1: First, give the audio a listen at least once. Step 2: Read the transcript aloud while recording yourself.

  16. Unclear Speech

    Model - Acknowledge your child's output and then model the way to say it. Say the target word slightly more deliberately and clearly, but refrain from getting your child to repeat the word. So you might say "Yes, I see the FISH too!". 2. Look at you - Getting your child to look at how you produce the sounds of the word might help.

  17. Age-Appropriate Speech and Language Milestones

    Says first word. 12 to 17 months. Answers simple questions nonverbally. Says 2 to 3 words to label a person or object (pronunciation may not be clear) Tries to imitate simple words. Vocabulary of four to 6 words. 18 to 23 months. Vocabulary of 50 words, pronunciation is often unclear. Asks for common foods by name. Makes animal sounds, such as ...

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  20. Not Clear synonyms

    Another way to say Not Clear? Synonyms for Not Clear (other words and phrases for Not Clear). Synonyms for Not clear. 161 other terms for not clear- words and phrases with similar meaning. Lists. synonyms. antonyms. definitions. sentences. thesaurus. words. phrases. Parts of speech. adjectives. nouns. Tags. gloomy. gray. overcast. suggest new ...

  21. When Your Child's Speech Delay Is a Red Flag

    Between two and three years old is usually when parents see an explosion in children's speech and verbal skills. It's often said that a child's vocabulary grows to 200 or more words during this time. Some of the milestones to look for this year include: . Saying more words and picking up new words regularly.

  22. Common speech and language problems in children

    By 1 year old: Your child strings together syllables, such as "mamama" or "bababa" By 3 years old: People who know your child can understand their speech, and your child can say the letters m, n, h, w, p, b, t, d, k, g, and f in words most of the time. By 4 years old: Most people can understand your child's speech, and your child can say y and v in words.

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    Signs of a speech delay. Doesn't say "mama" or "dada". Doesn't use gestures such as waving, shaking their head, or pointing. Doesn't understand and respond to words such as "no," "bye-bye," and their name. Isn't pointing out things of interest such as a bird or airplane overhead. Doesn't say at least one word. Doesn't babble as if talking.

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  30. Oxford Learner's Dictionaries

    The largest and most trusted free online dictionary for learners of British and American English with definitions, pictures, example sentences, synonyms, antonyms, word origins, audio pronunciation, and more. Look up the meanings of words, abbreviations, phrases, and idioms in our free English Dictionary.