30 Days of Prosody
Take the small step of practicing 5 minutes a day for big results
Increase in Listening Skills = Increase in Speaking Skills
The stages of progress to improve speaking skills begins with awareness. You have to know what to attend to in your environment in order to store it in your memory so you can recall it. If you’ve been surrounded by native speakers of English for years but just haven’t soaked up the accent, it’s because you’ve been attending to the meaning, the what was said, instead of the delivery, the how it was said.
Attending to the exact features of prosody that are creating meaning beyond the actual words will help with understanding the speaker’s intention and feelings. That’s the reason the expression, “It’s not what you say but how you say it” exists.
If you’re not aware of how to use these features, you may be sending meanings that are different than your actual words. You can say “sure” and mean it in a positive way, but if you use a short duration and downward pitch when you say it, you’ll sound annoyed and not convey the positive meaning of that word or your intention at all.
That’s what the 30 Days of Prosody will do - increase your awareness of what to listen for in someone’s speech and identify how they are using specific speech features such as pitch, duration, loudness, and pauses to express their meaning and intentions. Identifying it in other people’s speech makes it easier to to try it in your own speech.
You don’t have to spend hours doing this. You don’t have to focus on an hour lecture to gain the benefits of focusing on prosody. In fact, that’s less productive than shorter practice sessions.
This “30 Days of Prosody” email subscription is designed to help people make short, frequent, consistent practice a habit. Spending 5 minutes in the morning to focus and attend to prosody will increase your awareness of it all around you the rest of the day!
What is Prosody?
Prosody can be broken down into discrete elements: pitch, intonation, loudness, duration, and rhythm. The elements together are known as suprasegmentals because they change across the sound of words and sentences, as opposed to the segmentals of individual speech sounds (phonemes).
In English, important words are easier to hear because they are said in a higher pitch, the vowel in the stressed syllable has a longer duration than the vowels in unstressed syllables, and there is a bit of extra loudness (loudness is how the brain perceives intensity which is caused by air pressure below the vocal folds, if you are too loud you may be using too much pressure).
A simple way to think of it is “the music of a language.” One of the best ways to practice is to listen for it in other people’s speech (increase awareness) then control your voice to imitate that speaker in the same way. Once you gain control, you can apply it to your own speech to create the meaning and feeling you want. That’s what you’ll practice each day.
Here’s a clip from the video in the Welcome email - description of prosody:
Every weekday you’ll receive an email with these elements:
A short (under 1 minute) video of me explaining why I chose the speech example of the day and demonstrating what to listen for.
A short (under 1 minute) audio clip of the speaker I’ve chosen.
The link to that speaker’s full video. All videos are from free resources: Ted, YouTube, American Rhetoric, StoryCorps.
A screenshot of how that audio clip looks on the WASP program that shows the change in frequency over the course of the sentence(s).
A short quote to apply prosody to. You decide which words to emphasize.
Now, apply prosody to your own short sentence. Record yourself in any format you want to, but being able to see your own change in pitch/frequency on WASP is the best way to get objective feedback about how you’re doing.