Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Speech Training: Speak Clearly Revisited

I found an interesting short article today on the Better Hearing Institute's website that emphasized the importance of speaking clearly when speaking to hearing-impaired individuals, especially if they are lip reading. Their main points should sound familiar if you've been following this blog:

a. slow down
b. speak up (without yelling)
c. articulate (without over-articulating)
d. use pauses to emphasise important chunks of information

The article caught my attention because while I was traveling for Christmas and New Year's I had the joy of conversing with two stubborn individuals who can't hear a thing, but refuse to get hearing aids. Their common excuse is that everyone mumbles, and sometimes they're right about that. One of them commented on how easy I am to understand (while I was speaking a foreign language, no less).

What if we spoke to everyone as if they were reading our lips? Our clarity would improve tremendously!

Here's a little test I did on myself. Turn on your TV and flip to a news channel. Mute the TV. Without any training in lip reading at all, I could pick out words the anchorwoman was saying. Put together with visual images, I could get a good idea of what was going on. Now turn to a reality TV program (they aren't hard to find these days). I don't know about you, but it was a lot harder for me to read their lips!

This isn't to say we should all start speaking like news readers, but a small step in that direction wouldn't hurt! At least our hearing-impaired relatives will thank us!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

English Language: How Social Media Can Actually Help Your Writing

How many social media sites do you actively participate in? Just about everyone I know is on Facebook. And Twitter is becoming more and more popular as well. These types of sites are changing the way we communicate with others, as well as how we write and speak.

The status update is an interesting element of these communications. Assuming you don't fall victim to crazy abbreviations like "C U L8er," writing status updates can actually be a great exercise in creative and concise communication. You can't ramble on and on about the latest film you saw. Instead you have to give a quick and concise review in 140 characters or less. That's not easy.

A friend of mine recently wrote on his status update: "Still thinking about The Last King of Scotland, which was on TV last night. Great film!" Although "great film" might be a bit broad, the fact that he was still thinking about the film showed that it had effected him in some way. I was suddenly intrigued and wondered what the film was like. Was is sad? Disturbing? Really exciting? Without saying anything specific about the movie, he was still able to communicate his reaction to the movie in an interesting way.

Another friend wrote today that she "loves her new bamboo sheets and wishes she could have spent more time in them last night." She could have just written, "I'm tired today and want to go back to bed." But she found an interesting way of expressing that thought.

When you write status updates they force you to use a concise vocabulary and really say what you mean. You don't have room for long explanations, so words need to be used appropriately. When your space is limited, you also need to be creative in how you approach what you want to say.

Think what our world would be like if we approached all forms of communication in this way! Sometimes we could use a bit more simplicity in our lives!

PS. If you'd like to follow this blog in short form, you can follow this site's feed on twitter:

Monday, January 5, 2009

English Language: Positive Language for a Positive Year

As we begin 2009, I'm feeling surprisingly optimistic. I normally feel optimistic when a new year dawns, but the end of 2008 seems to have been cloaked in so much negativity that I wasn't sure if I would be able to rise above it.

The messages we read do affect our emotions, moods and general dispositions. I don't know about you, but when I read something negative it seems to breed more negativity inside of me. This isn't to say we should stop watching the news or reading the paper, but we need to re-program our thoughts and change the way we speak to ourselves. Our own internal voices are the most important of all.

I am in no way an expert in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and would never claim to be. As I've been thinking about the new year and changes I would like to make in it, I remembered one concept in NLP from a short overview I read months ago. It talked about positive and negative language.

The argument is that when we speak in the negative, for example, "I don't want to be late anymore," our minds create a picture of us being late and then we attempt to negate that picture. Unfortunately, the picture is already ingrained in our minds and we continue being late because that's the main message we've been sending ourselves.

What if we instead said, "I am going to be on time." What's the first picture that comes to your mind? Relaxing in the waiting room before your appointment with 10 minutes to spare? Arriving at the office before anyone else and having a nice quiet cup of coffee before the day begins? Do you see the difference in this imagery?

It was just this morning that I recognized how I've been changing the way I speak to my daughter - she's only 6 months old, but you can never start too early, right? Instead of saying, "Don't drop your toy!" I use the positive, "Hold onto your toy!" At this point, who knows what sense either sentence makes to her, but it's great practice for me!

Now that I've started using positive messages, it's getting easier for me to translate negatives to positives and use more positive language in my daily life.

When you write your list of resolutions this year (something I highly recommend, by the way) make sure that you're using positive language that reinforces what you do want in life instead of what you don't want. Write "Breathe fresh air freely and easily," instead of "Stop smoking," for example. Then hang your list somewhere you can see it each day. When you read it, think about the images that enter you mind, and notice the emotions you feel.

Positive language can make a difference for you in this new year. So get started thinking positively and see what happens! There's nothing to lose but negativity!