Communication is one of the things we think is easy, but may be harder than it seems. The good thing about communication is that it’s a skill, and like any skill, it can be sharpened.
My mother told me of a Summer Speech Class in UP Diliman. I had already taken speech classes in school, why would I need to take another class? I took the opportunity anyway, since it might prove to be a chance to learn something new. It turned out to be a wise decision.
Our teacher, Carlo De Pano, asked us to deliver a diagnostic speech. I discovered that even if I received good grades in speech classes in college, I still needed to improve. Since I was used to using a microphone in school, I didn’t learn volume and voice projection. I also discovered I lacked confidence in speech. I stuttered and mispronounced some words.
The class was a good grindstone to sharpen the saw once more. The other students had their own weaknesses, among them lack of eye contact, grammar, mispronunciation and lack of audience connection.
Back to basics
Our teacher taught a lot of the basics like breathing techniques, the importance of “throwing” one’s voice, proper posture (walking upright and standing straight) and other technical stuff to help us with speech. And one of the most important things he taught us was pronunciation.
Pronouncing words properly is a big stumbling block. For example, a lot of people read “bat” as “baht” when it should be read as /bæt/, the “a” having a slight “e” sound.
The English Phonetic alphabet is a little-known necessity. I was surprised a “system” even existed. It’s the special alphabet you can find in the dictionaries that transcribes the proper pronunciation of words. For instance, if you see the word “boa,” the dictionary will tell you it’s read as “boe-wa,” and that when you attach an ”r” to “boa,” you would pronounce it as “bore”.
However, to properly learn the phonetic alphabet, one must first hear the proper pronunciations of the letters. Have you ever wondered why so many well-read people still have poor pronunciation skills?
I previously said the dictionary transcribes, because even if you can read the letters, if you haven’t heard anyone pronouncing the individual letters correctly, you won’t have anyone to mimic, and would still be unable to speak the word correctly.
You need to hear the proper pronunciations from a proper coach. The most a dictionary can give you are the “it sounds like these” sounds. The problem with that is, the person most probably hears the proper words from improper sources, so the words still come out improperly. That’s where the speech teacher comes in.
Appreciating the self
I learned the importance of confidence in speech. Although the psychological aspect of confidence and how to grow it was not explained to us, our teacher explained the importance of appreciating the self and building confidence from that. It was not being prideful or boastful; just appreciating yourself for who you are.
Speaking in front of an audience helps builds confidence. In class, I got used to having an audience as time went on. It became something normal and not something to be afraid of. I felt my skills were getting better every time I spoke. This confidence later seeped into other aspects of my life. My friends noticed the change.
Depending on how much the person utilizes the class, he or she will end up with greater self-confidence. Whether you’re going to court a girl or plan to clinch that job interview, you will find the experience valuable.
Hearing a lot of other people’s creative speeches helped me develop ideas for my own speech delivery. For instance, one of my classmates asked the audience to imagine riding a car and convinced them to buy a Honda. The technique was a really powerful tool; almost everyone in class ended up wanting to buy a car. Hearing my classmates thus gave me fresh ideas on how to make my speech better and more creative.
To end the class, our teacher asked us for a final presentation. I tried to follow the pointers he gave me on improving my speech. Afterwards, he told me I had nailed it, and I felt I really did.
Despite having received my speech certificate, I felt I needed to do more speeches to master the art. My teacher gave the foundation necessary to master speech—pronunciation, confidence, posture, the awareness of whether we’re doing it right or not—qualities needed to master the art with continuous practice.
The need for excellent communication is something we will never be able to escape. We will encounter it in school, in recitation and group presentations. We will have to court the girl of our dreams with our daring voice. We will have to speak convincingly to our superiors to get promoted. If we get promoted, we will have to guide the team with confidence.
We will also represent the company in many dealings and we must pronounce our words properly. And when we get old, we will be asked for our wisdom. Every day, we are asked to speak; our words will be needed in every part of our lives. We might as well speak our words well—clear, correct and with confidence.
Speech Class registration is ongoing. Fee is P2,700, with discounts for early registrants. Classes start Oct. 15 and will be held Saturdays 1-3:30 p.m. for teens (aged 13-17), and 3:30-6 p.m. for adults (aged 18+). Call Ronnie Amuyot or Janvic Mateo at 9243223/0932-4810855, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.