Love, Lucy is the New School Free Press’ weekly advice column, where editors share thoughtfully researched solutions to questions about love and life. Send submissions via email to email@example.com or through Love, Lucy’s official GoogleForm.
“How can I speak English well?”
The current White House Press Secretary flubs overs his words so dramatically and so often that GQ made Sean Spicer a special set of “Alternative ABCs.” So, suffice to say, the English language is complicated and daunting—even for the mouthpiece of the current presidential administration, whose sole responsibility is to explain the happenings of the government in a clear, coherent way.
What you are asking is a multi-layered question. Instead of making up your own words or alphabet, consider the options for growth at your disposal. Speaking English “well,” as voice, speech, dialect, and audition coach Patricia Fletcher explains, is entirely subjective.
“If other[s] are having a difficult time understanding you and that is troubling you, you might consider taking an accent reduction or neutralization class or studying privately with a teacher [or] coach,” Fletcher suggests. She also recommends Skype coaching sessions, although she says they aren’t as effective as in-person sessions.
The School of Languages, housed within The New School for Public Engagement on the sixth floor of the 66 West 12th Street building, offers language programs and English as a Second/Foreign Language (ESL) certificate-granting courses for individuals interested in improving their grammar, academic writing, listening and speaking, and reading capabilities in English.
Fletcher, who has taught at The New School for Drama, along with other college acting programs in and around Manhattan, strongly suggests taking an English grammar class either at The New School, a different New York City language school, or online. English Grammar 101 offers free modules and online quizzes that extensively outline nouns, punctuation, verbs and phrases, and other fundamental aspects of grammar comprehension.
“There are many available sources on YouTube that might be useful,” Fletcher says.
But, if by “speaking English well,” Fletcher says, “you mean that your knowledge of particular English words is not what it could be,” taking a class might be unnecessary. Devouring books like Word Power Made Easy: The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary by Norman Lewis (available on Amazon for under seven dollars) could help your vocabulary flourish.
“There are several phone apps now available for all of the above: English grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation,” Fletcher adds. One example of such is Duolingo, a free gamified learning application that teaches a variety of languages, including English, through quick, effective, and engaging lessons. “So, there are lots of options, many free or low cost, which are available if you wish to continue your English studies.”
Of course, if these suggestions seem too overwhelming, you can always embody Sean Spicer, and creatively create your own unique vernacular.
Header by Alex Gilbeaux