Language Blog

American Television Can Help Improve Language Skills

While traveling in Europe, I couldn’t help noticing how many people are comfortable and fluent in American English.  Upon further investigation, I learned that a most have acquired English fluency through watching American sitcoms and movies and picking up the ‘’flow’’ of casual conversation.  To improve your fluency and comprehension of any language, take advantage of your tv.  For casual conversation, watching sitcoms is great, but when you really want to polish your business and professional English for a greater career advantage,  tune in to your local news broadcasts.  American broadcasters are ‘’the people from nowhere’’ with no recognizable accent of any kind.  Their grammar, diction, and presentation skills are excellent models for those seeking to improve their fluency and comfort with American English.  Watch for speech patterns, intonations, and body language as well as for vocabulary and grammar and you will quickly improve the quality of your spoken communication. As a bonus, you will also be able to model the correct pronunciation of many local place names, which are only known by the locals.  An example?  NEWark in New Jersey but newARK in Delaware.  

Vocal Charisma Vocal Presentation 4 Big Points

What is vocal charisma? How can I be more charismatic? There’s no one right way to be charismatic. This is what you should do:

  • Use a wide pitch range. Practice using the lower end and higher end of your voice.

Power your presentation.

  • Use variations in pitch as you speak: manipulate your vocal range.
  • Use pausing for effect and emphasis.
  • Use variations in speech rate.
  • Use lower, middle, and higher vocal volume.

This is what you should not do: Do not speak with a narrow and flat pitch range. Do not speak too fast. Speech that is flat and monotonous will bore your audience and cause them to only listen to you because they have to listen to you, not because they want to listen to you. It might even be annoying. Speech that is too fast sounds hurried and impatient. Speech that is too quick and inexpressive diminishes people’s perception of how confident you are. Speech that is both too fast and flat will be difficult for your audience to understand.

Vocal Range

Your vocal range is higher than others and lower than others. That does not matter. The idea is to practice using the full pitch range of your voice, not someone else’s.

Use the lower end of your pitch range to sound more dominant. Lower tones are more serious. You can sound more authoritative and serious with the lower end of your pitch range, not the lower end of someone else’s pitch range. The higher end of your pitch range can make you sound more enthusiastic or energetic. Higher tones can sound more easygoing or more deferential.

Vocal Strength

You need vocal strength. Take deep breaths to gain more vocal power. Let the air fill your lungs and stomach. Let your breath out as you speak. When you pause, or finish a phrase, take another breath. Monitor how much you are able to say in one breath. Do not try to say more than your breath allows you to say. Be sure you have enough breath, or air, to maintain vocal strength. Practice taking deep breaths. Use the air to power your voice as you speak.

Personalize Speech

Adjust your speaking style to your audience. Personalize vocal qualities and build expressive speech patterns to captivate, convince, and hold your listeners’ “involuntary attention”. Use vocal nuance: experiment with intonation contours.

Use a much wider pitch range and a more emotive voice for larger audiences or larger groups. Use a voice that is less emotive, still maintaining a wider pitch range, when speaking one-to-one or with just a few people. Pay attention to your audience and how they take in what you say. Adjust your delivery to your audience.

Involuntary Attention Vocal Charisma

Charismatic professional communication means people listen and pay attention because they want to listen and pay attention, not because they have to. If you can hold your audience’s “voluntary attention”, that’s good. If you can hold your audience’s “involuntary attention”, that’s great. When business communication is strong and appealing, people do not know that they are paying attention, and this means you have their “involuntary attention”. That means you are a charismatic speaker.

Here is the Impact four-point big picture concept for vocal presentation

  1. Neutral or Unmarked Intonation
  2. Non-neutral or Marked Intonation
  3. Expressiveness and Tone of Voice
  4. Vocal Charisma

Foreign Language Learning

Foreign language learning is much more than learning words, phrases and being able to build sentences. With the language you learn the culture too and that’s what will make you more versatile and your skills more sellable. When we learned Russian in high school, we also learned and practiced how a Russian family communicates when sitting down for a meal, or how a Russian boy courts ( yes, those days there was courting which was a prelude to dating) a Russian girl, and how the Russian girl responds to the boy. In English class our beloved (she was really beloved by all of us) teacher once told one of the boys in the class to take away another student’s school bag and dump its content into the street from the third-floor window and do their argument in English and their gathering of the stuff on the street together while talking in English. The entire class followed them to the street and listened how they continue arguing and making peace at the end. With this dramatization she helped us to get into and out of conflict situations in a foreign environment. 

To conclude my comment foreign language requirement is not a waste of time if the foreign language teaching is appropriate and prepares the student for real life.

Nice and Easy Does It….Every Time!

Do you know that the best thing you can do to improve your verbal communication skills and increase your ability to be understood is FREE, EASY, and requires NO LESSONS?   It’s simple in concept …..take it easy, speak slower, and pause slightly between phrases and sentences.  People need time to process your words, and perhaps translate what you say in their heads before they really “hear” it.  They need time to do that.  

Give it to them.  Simple?  Maybe not so much…. changing habits and adopting a slower rate of speed takes awareness and discipline.  After all, you have been speaking a certain way your whole life.  And, when you are nervous during a presentation or important conversation, your speaking speed will increase, which makes understanding even
more difficult!

Remember…..It’s not a race to get to the end of the sentence.  There are no prizes for finishing fast.  It’s about improving  communication and understanding.   There are lots of prizes for that!  Start today to slow down and relax your speech.  You’ll see positive results soon.  Fewer times that you are asked to repeat. Fewer misunderstandings.   Fewer embarrassing moments.  Here are some proactive steps you can take to be better understood:
  • Ask your friends or trusted business relationships whether they think you speak very fast.  Record yourself in conversation or presentation with your phone and listen to yourself.  Is your speed making it hard to understand your individual words?  Do your sentences tend to run together?  Is it hard to hear where one word ends and the next one begins?  Be TRUTHFUL with yourself and imagine yourself as your own audience.
  • Keep aware of slowing down your speech.   Use a reminder device.  I always tell those I work with to find a yellow elastic band and put it on their wrist to serve as a visual and physical reminder (snap it when you are on the phone) to speak slower and pause often.  Think of it as a yellow traffic signal to SLOW DOWN.
  • Finish your words.  Don’t slide them together so that your sentence sounds like one long word.
  • Pause slightly between sentences and between complex phrases.  Give them time to process what you are saying.
Half the battle of better communication  is conquering your speed.  The next steps are to work on your pronunciation skills and any grammar challenges you may face.  Check in for other communication tips in upcoming  articles.