Tuning in to speech success

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 January, 1999, 12:00am

Have you ever wanted to speak English like Lady Diana or former governor Chris Patten? A renowned linguist uses music, dancing and singing to help students speak with the proper tone and rhythm.

President of the International Phonetics Institute, Professor Raymond Huang, said having good speaking skills was one of the ways to success.

'Many Chinese students or adults who write well did not learn to change their voices and tones with rises and falls as they speak.

'It can easily cause misunderstanding in communication when you are trying to show a sincere attitude, but you speak with a monotonous tone.' The professor said school English lessons did not place much emphasis on phonetics and pronunciation.

'The language teachers solely work on grammar and accuracy, but they don't tell students how to speak better and make people understand in a comfortable way.' He said learning to be an orator could be helpful for future jobs.

'People working in customer services need good English- speaking skills. A rising or falling tone rather than a flat voice adds colour to their speech.' Professor Huang said students could not learn the right tone from a dictionary.

'I am trying to use the violin and singing and dancing techniques to fill the gap,' he said.

'When they hear the different rises and falls in tones, the long and short sounds, the mu sical pattern of a speech made by prominent figures, they can follow and speak it well.' The musical techniques are the first step towards giving students a sense of rhythm. The second step involves listening to speakers using rising and falling tones in their speech and learning what they mean.

'A rising or falling tone may mean question, exclamation, statement, apology or request. Students have to use them correctly to avoid making mistakes,' he said.

Professor Huang said he used speeches by Lady Diana, Baroness Thatcher and Mr Pat ten to demonstrate the use of tones. 'Each of them have different tones, some speak in a calm attitude showing a lively and musical voice, some speak with confidence and express ideas or political comments in a strong manner.' Singing along to pop songs also helps, he said.

'I tried to demonstrate folk and pop songs like Candle in the Wind and asked them to sing along.

'They learned the tones unintentionally. Through these musical rhythms they have to show their feelings and make their speaking different.'