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In this lesson, we develop your strategy for reading out loud (if you decide to use this technique).

When and where

Do this in a room by yourself, with the door closed, where nobody can hear you. The only person who will hear you speak is yourself. You will have no reason to be shy or inhibited. This is your time to get it right with no fear of being embarrassed.


Start by reading something that’s meant to be spoken, not something that’s meant to be read silently. The news part of Plain English is a great place to start–the main story. I write that specifically to be spoken, so you can practice with that.

You should also pick something with both the text and the audio available. Podcasts, TED talks, and famous speeches (including graduation speeches) are great ideas.

Careful: if you find a speech on YouTube and you want to use the subtitles as the text, you should be aware that YouTube subtitles are correct about 90% to 95% of the time. That means they’re incorrect 5% to 10% of the time!


Don’t just start reading!

First, you’ll scan the text for words you don’t know. This means:

  • If you don’t know the meaning of a word or series of words
  • If you don’t know how to pronounce any word. Be honest with yourself. If you’ve never actually spoken a word, then you don’t know it yet.

Second, learn the meanings of those words and learn how to pronounce them. You can do that by (preferably) listening to the original speaker say them. You can also look up the pronunciation online, but beware that the context may not be the same.

Third, start mimicking the hardest things to say in short bursts. Start a listen-and-repeat cycle until you can comfortably mimic the original speaker:

  • Listen to the word; repeat the word. Do this as many times as necessary.
  • Listen to the phrase or part of the sentence the word is in; then repeat that phrase. Do this as many times as necessary.
  • Listen to the full sentence the word is in; repeat the sentence. Do this as many times as necessary.

You should be doing a lot of listening and a lot of repeating in small parts of the text. Once you have mastered all the little parts that give you trouble, then you can start from the top and read out loud.

By doing this, you will:

  • Understand the whole thing before you start
  • Be reading something that’s meant to be spoken
  • Have practice with the hardest words before you read them in context
  • Know where to put emphasis when you speak
  • Engage with the content of the text, not just the letters on the page

Pro tip: When you’re reading, let your eyes go a little bit ahead of your mouth. That way, your brain knows what words are coming and it has a few microseconds to prepare!

In the next lesson, we’ll put this into practice with two sample paragraphs.