After getting off the phone with a Malayalam native speaker of English, my head was in a daze. Though American, I had been interacting with Indians for over 15 years, and I felt I had just gone through a tornado and I needed help. I called another Malayalee friend who grew up in Kerala and was familiar with different Indian accents and asked him to talk to this person for me. When he called me back, he said, "I couldn't understand him in English, I also couldn't understand him in Malayalam! He speaks way too fast!"
Many of us do not have awareness of our own voice - how fast, slow, loud or meek we talk. These qualities can impact how well others understand us or interact with us. While we can't change others, we can work on ourselves so that others can understand us better. In other blog posts, I talk about the importance of breathing, sound enhancements (v/w, b/p, etc.), syllables and words, pacing, linking, and thought groups. I am not going to focus on these points in this post, but have you consider this, "If you speak too fast what happens to other's comprehension of your communication?"
Take it a step back - if others speak fast, how easy is it for you to understand? Well it could become impossible as in the story above. There is also another problem with talking fast- what if you forget a word or lose your place? Now you will have to pause. A pause will be more pronounced if you are speaking fast.
Neither do we want to sound too fast like a speeding bullet, nor do we want to sound like a robot - too slow and monotonous. Our voice pattern should fall somewhere in between. To practice this yourself, take a voice recorder, say something really fast into it, then talk very slow, like a robot, now talk a bit faster, but not as fast as your fastest speed. Listen back. Do you hear the difference? If so, you are on the right track to voice modulation.
There are additional tips on voice modulation in the video below.
Jennifer Kumar works with distributed, global teams to improve their communication skills in phone meetings, presentations and other business situations. Contact us for more information.
Vocabulary Building Tips
Halting or Jarring Speech
Adding a Human Touch to Phone Calls
photo: Katy Warner at flickr