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Bluwhath, I Can’t Talk Today – Part 2
January 25, 2011 @ 09:22 AM | By Kate Nelson

In my last blog post, I talked about some techniques to use when you are feeling tongue-tied and just can’t get your mouth moving the way you want it to.

In addition to warming up with tongue twisters, here are two other things you can do to make sure you sound clear and confident in your next meeting.

Proper Breathing Techniques: Breathing from the Diaphragm  (from Susan Berkley)

No matter if you are a public speaker, voice-over artist or anyone who wants to sound their best, proper breathing is key. To help you discover how to breathe for good speaking (and good health), Susan talked with respiratory therapist Peggy Nicholson, a leading expert on proper breathing technique. According to Peggy, to enhance our performance we should breathe deeply from the abdomen or diaphragm, whenever possible. But most people have no idea what this means.

Here's how to find your diaphragm:

  1. Place one hand just above your stomach and the other on your upper chest.
  2. Purse lips slightly as if to whistle.
  3. Exhale slowly through pursed lips while slightly contracting the stomach muscles. It's not necessary to force all the air out.
  4. Inhale slowly through the nose.
  5. Pause slightly to allow for better oxygen exchange in the lungs.
  6. Repeat. Exhalation should be slightly longer than inhalation.

The diaphragm should do at least 80% of the work of breathing. In order for you to get the most out of this muscle, you should practice breathing from the diaphragm several times a day to ensure that you are not breathing superficially from your upper chest.

Complete Word Production Exercises

Improve the clarity of your speech by completing the words below so the final consonant sound really pops at the end.  It might feel like you are exaggerating or speaking artificially at first and that is OK—any change feels odd in the beginning. Practicing a strong final consonant will allow you to use varying degrees of intensity to suit your needs. These exercises are from a wonderful book called The Voice Book by Kate Devore and Starr Cookman. 

stop

bob

ripe

ebb

right

ride

help

tube

keep

stub

concept

load

late

bold

felt

loved

awake

big

Next, practice using the sounds /t, d, l, n/.  When these sounds appear at the beginning of a word, most people form them strongly, so we are going to focus on the middles and ends of words, where people tend to let these sounds slip.

T

beauty

eight

later      

bright

D

meadow

divide

tidy

invaded

N

Phoenix

been

sunny

fireman

L

alligator

wall

biologist

feel

Last, practice the following words with final consonant clusters:

act

under

looked

end

raked

kindly

inject

fender

balked

binding

liked

winding

stopped

build

kept

kneeled

slipped

fooled

Put it all together!  Practice the above pronunciation techniques in the following paragraph:

When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow.  The rainbow is a division of white light into many beautiful colors.  These take the shape of a long, round arch, with its path high above, and its two ends apparently beyond the horizon.  There is, according to legend, a boiling pot of gold at one end.  People look, but no one ever finds it.  When a man looks for something beyond his reach, his friends say he is looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

Tip! You don’t want to sound like you are over-pronouncing your words when you are speaking naturally but these exercises will bring awareness to complete word production. 

So what do you think? Have you tested these techniques to see if they make a difference for you?  Do you have other suggestions about things you’ve used?

Kate_nelsonKate Nelson is a Speech Analyst and works out of the West Point office and is a member of the WP Training team. She works with the North American and Indian call centers and provides speech, voice, and accent modification training for all employees. She is a graduate of Auburn University with a BS in Speech Pathology and Audiology and is a certified Compton P-ESL (Pronouncing English as a Second Language) trainer. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Auburn University. She is married and has a 5 ½ yr. old son. She is a self-described “word-nerd” and loves music, oenology, studying other languages, and being with her family.

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