International Business English

Making Yourself Understood

Do you find that people are confused by something you've said, that your listeners haven't fully understood your meaning, that your message didn't 'land' quite as you expected? You know that your English is correct but something else isn't working as it should. 

This could be related to the 'tune' you are using.

Being understood when speaking in English is not just about knowing vocabulary, syntax and grammar.

It's also necessary to be able to use the English 'tune' to convey your precise meaning and intention.

The English tune is a combination of stress, pitch, pace, tone and rhythm which, when used in the right way:


• create patterns of sound which distinguish between thoughts

• focus the listener on important words, and de-emphasize other less important information

• indicate the type of utterance, such as a question or a statement

• show your attitude and emotions in what you are saying, for example whether you are enthusiastic or bored

• make what you say easier to understand - and more memorable.


When speaking any language that is not a 'mother' tongue or first language, 'interference' can potentially occur. This refers to the speaker applying characteristics from the native language to the second language that shouldn't be there.

Getting the patterns wrong can result in a breakdown in communication. There can be a failure to understand the true meaning of the speaker - even though the words and syntax are right. 

It's an area which is not taught extensively (if at all) in language lessons but it's vital to learn if you want to be clear and influential.