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Speech fluency refers to clear oral communication. A speaker who is able to deliver a message that features a continuous flow of information at an appropriate rate, unmarred by speech errors, is said to possess speech fluency, an area of communication mastery. Speech fluency is the product of mental skills, such as recall of procedural and declarative knowledge, and physical motor skills involving correct functioning and use of the vocal cords, tongue, mouth, and lips to produce speech.
Situational factors that facilitate speech fluency include an attentive audience, an absence of distraction, the speaker being able to prepare and practice the message ahead of time, and a monologue rather than a dialogue communication format, where there are fewer opportunities for interruptions and no requirement to manage turn-taking. Individual difference factors dictate that some speakers are naturally fluent, whereas others are burdened by anxiety with regard to communication. Nearly all speakers have the ability through training and practice to become communication masters whose speech is fluent.
There are treatments available to improve speakers’ speech fluency. Treatments include physical therapy, coaching, and confidence training. There are many different types of speech errors, which are most often, though not universally, a nonverbal part of speech. Among the most common types of speech errors are stuttering, audible pauses such as ‘uh’ or ‘ah,’ excessively long, frequent, or misplaced silent pauses, an unusually slow or accelerated speech rate, and counterfactual utterances. Some of the causes of speech errors include a heavy cognitive load, communication apprehension and social anxiety, physical deformity, Broca’s aphasia (a brain disorder that affects the user’s ability to produce fluent speech), mental illness, advancing age, message complexity, and a dialogue rather than a monologue communication format, where turn-taking is an additional communication obstacle speakers must successfully negotiate.
- Greene, J. O. (1984). Speech preparation processes and verbal fluency. Human Communication Research, 11, 61–84.
- Subramanian, A. & Yairi, E. (2006). Identification of traits associated with stuttering. Communication Disorders, 39, 200–216.
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