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A Request for Advice on Improving Speech

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Benpercent
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Since one or so of you may have the knowledge I'm looking for, I would like to ask for your advice. In another forum I started a topic called (and about) "Phonetic Alphabet Links" because I have the intention of improving my own manner of speaking, and I'm having a rather difficult time trying to figure out where to look and what I should do.

You see, I have two problems concerning my vocal presentation: my minor stutter and "accent." I put accent into quotations because I am uncertain as to whether or not you can call it that.

My stutter, for the most part, is on and off but mostly off. Most of my days are stutter-free, but sometimes when I acknowledge it, it comes back and I just can't get my words out or out properly. Especially frustrating when I get roused at what my metaethics teacher says. It's always the worst when I acknowledge its existence, and it can get irritating. Here I am looking for fluency.

My accent, on the other hand, is due to my hearing loss (of the sensorineural type in you're into audiology), so I assume this is what you would call a "deaf accent". This most affects my presentation, and is probably the source of all the difficulties I've had with other people in my childhood. The most irritating aspect of it is that I just don't see it; I've had to rely on second-hand sources to bring to my attention this is how I speak. Even weirder is that I never knew I spoke this way until my friend brought it up casually during my junior year in high school, and by then I had been speaking like that for seventeen years. Even listening to audio recordings of myself I do not notice anything out of the ordinary, so I'll have to some difficulty describing it:

For the most part, I've been told that it's very "throaty", and I could see how that is as I probably speak with so much bass as to hear myself clearly. All this bass might be getting in the way of my speaking clearly too, due to some high pitch demanding sounds of English.

The main reason I want to improve my speech is because I would like to improve how I come off at face-value as an intellectual, and I would like to be a better speaking opponent if I so happen to get into a debate or (intellectual) argument. Presentation means a great deal when expressing your views, and people often have a hard time taking me seriously.

So what I'm asking of you is could you provide some advice or perhaps point me in the direction as to where I could find more information, maybe some vocal exercises? Your input means much to me.

Thank you for your time.

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Have you consulted a speech therapist? I'd be happy to do an acoustic analysis of your speech, but this is really the domain of paid professionals.

Not yet, but perhaps that is what I should be directing my energy to. I have a part-time job and enough unread books to read for now, so perhaps that is what I should be directing my money towards.

This is quite ironic considering I had free (to my family) speech therapy when I was a kid, but at that point in time I had absolutely no idea why I was in there and ended up not taking it seriously.

Is there anything specific I should look for, or will any old therapist do in this field?

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  • 5 months later...

How terrible of me to forget to update. Currently I am halfway through my speech therapy sessions, my insurance authorizing few visits, but that is alright since my problem is very minor.

The stutter is something we think only to be a product of anxiety or speaking too fast, so I merely need to desensitize myself to speaking in front of others and slow down.

As for my "accent", it is as I have previously suspected, my difficulty stems entirely from my hearing. The frequencies I cannot hear are the ones I am omitting from my speech. The sounds I have trouble with in particular are the "s" and "th" sounds. Not only can I not hear them most of the time, I cannot differentiate them when I do, so I end up making mistakes like saying "bass" instead of "bath" (though it sounded to me as if the therapist added a plosive at the end and said "baff") and "thoon" instead of "spoon". As of far, I have been given sheets with articulation tips and oral motor exercises (twice daily).

My therapist suggested that the most beneficial thing would be amplification via digital hearing aids, which is now something I regret not looking into before. In the past I did wear analog hearing aids, but gave them up a few years ago when I realized they were not helping me in any fashion. The problem with them, in my case, is that they amplify all frequencies so the higher frequencies I need amplified are overridden by the lower frequencies I do not need amplified (paper crumbling and gusts of wind, strong enough to sway your neck hairs, can be deafening). Hopefully my insurance company will be able to lend somewhat of a discount on a pair of digitals, but even with that it will most likely be until next year or even beyond until I can afford them.

So true improvement may not come until I am able to reduce the effects of my hearing loss, but that is alright since I want it enough to be willing to wait. I will post another update after a few months' time.

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I'm glad that you're taking some steps to look into and improve your situation. It always makes me feel better when I start working on something that's bothering me, even if it's not resolved too quickly.

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I'm glad that you're taking some steps to look into and improve your situation. It always makes me feel better when I start working on something that's bothering me, even if it's not resolved too quickly.

Yes - psychologically, that is half of the cure.

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I'll track this topic for any future updates. I also occasionally have a minor stutter that is probably the result of thinking faster than I can talk. Slowing down and taking your time are probably your best bet. You could also work on enunciating whenever you talk. This would help you slow down and improve your speech.

Edited by brian0918
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I've had to rely on second-hand sources to bring to my attention this is how I speak.

I have a speach problem to that is slightly different than yours. I also never knew that I had a problem until my mom and my friends told me that I talked way too fast, don't pronunciate my words, and talk too low, but im stilled baffled because I have never noticed it before then . I do realize that I start jumbling my words together when I am nervous or when I talk too fast and feel as if I have to get my thoughts out. My parents were thinking about sending me to a speach therapist, but they only mentioned it once, and none after that. I do realize that my speach is one of the causes of my low self esteem, and I have been trying to improve on it. So I tend to ask people if they understood what I said, which can be embaressing at times. I have found out that the main reason people dont understand what I say is because I don't enunciate my words correctly. Do you know any speach exercises I could try?

Do you recommend going to a speach therapist?

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I have a speach problem to that is slightly different than yours. I also never knew that I had a problem until my mom and my friends told me that I talked way too fast, don't pronunciate my words, and talk too low, but im stilled baffled because I have never noticed it before then . I do realize that I start jumbling my words together when I am nervous or when I talk too fast and feel as if I have to get my thoughts out. My parents were thinking about sending me to a speach therapist, but they only mentioned it once, and none after that. I do realize that my speach is one of the causes of my low self esteem, and I have been trying to improve on it. So I tend to ask people if they understood what I said, which can be embaressing at times. I have found out that the main reason people dont understand what I say is because I don't enunciate my words correctly. Do you know any speach exercises I could try?

Do you recommend going to a speach therapist?

One thing you can do is record yourself speaking and then play it back to see how you sound. If you think your speech needs improving, then decide what you want to sound like and move toward that goal. Even if you don't get to the goal, you can move in a positive direction.

Changing automated things like speech is very difficult to do. It will take intense focus and practice for a long time, but it can be done with dedication.

Btw, one thing that can be really helpful is to learn to pause, think and then speak. By placing pausing and thinking before the action, you can gain more control over it. This may seem awkward, but it's part of getting mastery over your speech. This too has to be worked on. And, in fact, the pause and think method applies to any action you want to improve, not just speech.

Well, anyway, I hope that's a bit helpful!

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There's also a connection between speech, and reading and writing. This may seem a bit strange, but I would suggest writing some essays -- something like a long letter to the editor or a page arguing for some point. And then read it aloud as though it were a formal presentation to a crowd of 100 well-dressed strangers. Listen to good orators.

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I'm glad this is working out somewhat. So I'm curious, do you have problems with "calf" versus "Cass", or "cash" versus "calf"?

Hmm...no, I don't think so. I just tried saying them aloud and it seems as though I know where to place my lower lip and tongue and everything. I am not entirely certain as to whether or not I would have trouble hearing them, but I wouldn't think so. Why are you curious about these words in particular?

There's also a connection between speech, and reading and writing. This may seem a bit strange, but I would suggest writing some essays -- something like a long letter to the editor or a page arguing for some point. And then read it aloud as though it were a formal presentation to a crowd of 100 well-dressed strangers. Listen to good orators.

How ironic. I've actually been thinking about that this past week. I could actually incorporate that into my studies by writing the essays and such purely for understanding of what I'm studying, and then reading them aloud for clarification and speech improvement. Self-improvement, I think, is best done in a little bundle like this.

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You might also want to consider joining a local Toastmasters Club to learn to speak more clearly and confidently in a supportive environment. They have helped countless people across the world to improve public speaking skills, and yes, some of the notable members have overcome difficulties like yours. Visit http://www.toastmasters.org to learn more and to locate a club near you.

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You might also want to consider joining a local Toastmasters Club to learn to speak more clearly and confidently in a supportive environment.

Sounds incredibly helpful. Unless something happens to change my schedule, I think I visit a nearby group this Tuesday. And wow, memberships are dirt cheap.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hmm...It seems as perhaps I may not have attacked the root of the original problem after all, not to say none of the problems have been dealt with. A kid tonight rode up to me on his bike and asked me why I spoke like a cartoon character, and then inquired if I could do any more impressions. He then gave me his impression of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

As I said before the reason why I am so considerate about this issue regarding how others perceive me as I speak is because it is usually this trait alone that decides how seriously people take me, and how they judge my intelligence at face value. Given my past experiences, it has lead to very many frustrating experiences indeed, including some people treating me like an outright mentally-handicapped person.

So it seems as if my problem is as I've previously thought: My voicing. I'm not sure how to tackle this particular, and would appreciate further advice. Should I save up for some voicing lessons of the sorts? Or perhaps get a tape recorder and practice the phonetic alphabet?

I will, of course, being doing further research on this, not to be lazy and throw the burden on you. And my other assigned exercises, I won't forget.

Thank you very much for taking the time. I appreciate it.

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I have successfully altered, and then re-altered, the way I pronounce several vowels, and I didn't take any classes to do it. The first time was in my teens (I didn't like the way they sounded), and then again in my 20s (I... didn't like the way they sounded :(). I would say I currently have a Midwestern dialect of sorts, and no one finds how I talk jarring enough to take notice. Just an FYI, if it is encouraging.

EDIT: Also, come to think, I have changed my style of speech, too, though it has been more gradual and less purposefully. Basically, I find speech alteration to be amusing, or something to do, and not very difficult.

Edited by JASKN
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What method did you use to do so?
I would call it the "Practical Method." :( What I did was listen to how I spoke, compared it to the particular vowel or style of language spoken by other people who used it every day around me, and then figured out how to change the sound I produced to mimic those people.

I did the vowels intensively, and virtually all words I noticed containing the vowel, I would change as best I could. Often I would say the words twice, the second time "corrected." The same principles apply whenever I want to change the style of how I speak, I'm just not so diligent. But the results wind up the same. So, for me it's physically changing the way the sounds come out, using people around me as the standard I can always reference, followed by the habit work (again, using the standard).

To note, it gets progressively easier to change the way I talk every time I try.

Edited by JASKN
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I would call it the "Practical Method." :P What I did was listen to how I spoke, compared it to the particular vowel or style of language spoken by other people who used it every day around me, and then figured out how to change the sound I produced to mimic those people.

I hate to say it but the Practical Method is one I'll be unable to use. My speech difficulties arise from my hearing-impairment, that is, I hear differently and thus I speak differently. It would do me no good to try and make other people as the standard of how I'd like to sound because in my ears I sound no different than they do. Until I get a good pair of hearing aids it is physically impossible for me to be able to distinguish the difference between my speaking and theirs.

Though I do think I have an alternative method. Sometime last year I came across this website which not only provides the English phonetic alphabet, but also a step-by-step guide of where you should place your teeth and tongue to produce certain sounds (and how you should control your airflow), demonstrations of the sounds via both animation and video, and example words including specified sounds. A great site for students of linguistics.

With this I could do some drill work on the sounds I have trouble with, because although I may not be able to hear certain sounds, I'll be able to see how they're produced and learn to incorporate it into my normal speaking. For maximum benefit I'll save up for a digital recorder so that I may track my progress.

What do you think?

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I hate to say it but the Practical Method is one I'll be unable to use. My speech difficulties arise from my hearing-impairment, that is, I hear differently and thus I speak differently.
I am so sorry! That was utterly tactless, I had completely forgotten about your speech issues.

Since your hearing is out of the equation for the near future, if you want to try something in the meantime, using your eyes and how your mouth and throat feel sounds like the next best use-of-your-senses to me. Unfortunately, I don't have experience with that exactly, so I couldn't say how successful it might be. If you try it out, be sure to report how well it worked!

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Frequent ear infections as a child which has left me with about 40% hearing in my right ear and about 85 to 90% in my left ear coupled with being around VERY loud audio systems for about the last 15 years or so has left me with rather poor hearing. At times I have also had some trouble pronouncing words correctly, especially when I was younger. I have mostly solved the problem my slowing down my speaking, putting much more thought into the words I use. This will probably cause you to speak a little less often, but become able to speak much more accurately and concisely over time. Just don't "overthink" before you speak, because this will cause you to concentrate more on whether or not the other person will understand you, actually causing things like occasional stuttering and/or misspeaking.

In other words, slow down, think of what you really want to say, then enunciate it in as clear a way as you can without worrying about what the other person might be thinking about what you are saying, until they actually say it in response.

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