There are many aspects to presenting in a foreign language. In the first part of this series, #1 Three Tips for presenting in a foreign language, we focussed on Awareness of your Language use.
In this article I’m going to give you THREE BASIC VOICE TIPS (from many) that can radically change the way your message is received by your audience.
Vocal DELIVERY is the general term for the way you speak or project your voice. Some voice coaches refer to it as “Melody”, for the way you use and fuse the elements of your voice to influence your listeners.
Intonation refers to the way your pitch rises and falls when you speak in order to communicate feelings, emotions and attitudes. A dramatic rise can create anticipation, whereas a sharp fall can give weight and finality to what you’ve said. You can start to bring real expressive power to your sentences by making full use of the rise and fall of your voice.
English is said to have 4 pitch levels: very high, high, middle and low, whereas Spanish is said to have 3. And the way intonation patterns are used to convey meaning varies according to the language. Because of this, it’s important to practice and master the new patterns in your second language.
There are three typical intonation patterns in English.
Rising slightly in the middle with a falling lower pitch at the end of the sentence.
work in an American company.
2. YES/NO questions.
Rising intonation at the end of the sentence.
Higher pitch on the stressed last word.
Are you coming to the talk?
3. Wh- questions
The pitch rises in the middle and falls at the end of the sentence.
What time is your talk starting?
- 2. STRESS
Stress is part of intonation, but we’ll deal with it separately to focus on it more clearly.
Stress is the strongest part of a word, e.g. COMpany.
Correct word stress is often more important than pronunciation (although you should practise that as well). People may understand a word pronounced in an unusual way, but not understand one that is pronounced in a standard way but with the wrong stress.
For example, if you say comPANy, people might hear “Come Pany”, “Camp Annie” or even “companion”.
Sentence stress is equally important. English is a stress timed language and important words are emphasized or “stressed” in a sentence. This gives sentences their rhythm or melody. In general, words like prepositions, auxiliaries and articles are “squashed” and hardly heard, whereas nouns, adjectives and adverbs are highlighted. Also, consonants and vowels are linked together; called liaison.
If you clap your hands as you say the words in bold, you’ll get an idea of the melody of English. Spanish is a syllable timed language with each syllable of all words getting more or less the same (not exact) stress. Using this pattern in English would not convey the same meaning or feeling.
The bigger the message, the better a person can grasp it
And when you stress a word, your pitch and volume rise at the same time
Changing the stress shifts the focus of meaning in the sentence. Can you see how these three sentences have a different focus of meaning. I’ve underlined the words that have secondary stress.
This is our ‘BIGGEST brand.
THIS is our biggest brand.
This is OUR biggest brand.
In Spanish, due to the flexible rules regarding word order, important words to be stressed are often moved to the end of the sentence. So, it’s easy to transfer these first language traits to a second one and confuse the listener.
Silence is golden, so they say. But, you cannot NOT communicate.
The way you pause between words and sentences is crucial in conveying meaning.
Pausing is not specific to any one language and can be used in a presentation to keep your audience engaged, to create suspense or to let your audience think about what you have said.
For a non-native speaker, the more complex operation is knowing when to pause inside a sentence, that is, how to break it up in “chunks” or meaning phrases. And that will also include stress and intonation patterns!
Look at these two sentences with pauses in two different places.
The people that sold their shares immediately, made a profit.
The people that sold their shares, immediately made a profit.
With practice and the right techniques, using your voice to deliver more effective talks and training courses becomes easier.
Every professional who uses English as a second language to speak in public would benefit from feedback on their voice skills, so why not contact me today for a consultation. Coaching can be done in small groups or 1-1.