When in India

When I was in India meeting with a Voice Coach, he kept asking me about how Americans could fly to New York and then drive all these places, like Ohio or Iowa or even California. I couldn’t understand why he kept asking me this. He also asked me which city he should move to. I told him it just depended on where he got a job or went to school. I suggested this would dictate where he lived, yet he could still choose based on personal preferences, like weather and activities. He seemed confused. So did I.

Then later in our trip (we were in northern Indian, in New Delhi), I asked about going to southern India. I had always wanted to travel south to Chennai or Hyderabad or Bangalore. He told me there was no way to go, and I was so confused. Can’t we drive there? Or take a bus? It might be inconvenient or take awhile to get there or even be expensive to travel, but there had to be a way. And he told me “no, you’d have to fly. The mountains separate us completely.”

And that’s when I understood his confusion about the US. He assumed that if there were mountain ranges and other barriers (which there clearly are in the US) that there would be no way to travel that far. He assumed that the same transportation issues he was experiencing in India were the same in the US. There were lots of slow vehicles on the road there, and unpaved roads and places there was no way to transverse. There were also animals in the roads at times, and the cars themselves were made out of different materials. I leaned against the SUV we were traveling in, and the side caved in like an aluminum can! It looked like the kind of vehicles we have at home at first glance, but in reality it was made out of something much thinner. In fact, I got very car sick with the way the driver navigated turns so quickly. When I complained, I was told to take something for motion sickness. Funny, because he was driving at a low speed while navigated quickly, something that never would have made me carsick at home. But he was doing it in one of these thin-doored aluminum style vehicles! No wonder you wouldn’t chance it driving south in that! Besides, there were big slopes and long drops on the sides of the road and NO GUARDRAILS.

So, I had to explain to my friend that you could fly in anywhere you like in the US, and you were not obligated to live there. You could simply rent or buy a car and drive somewhere else or take a bus or train in some cases. Or fly if you desired.

Culture is a funny thing … it leads us to faulty conclusions sometimes, lack of understanding or even (in our case) pure confusion!

It’s All About the Breath

If you are a past client, you already know how important breath is for speech. The thing most people don’t realize is it’s too late to change if you try to “breathe differently” as you speak. You have to change your deep underlying habits through good practice ahead of time. This is especially true of Asian languages, which have shorter, faster articulation patterns. Some languages are monosyllabic, like Vietnamese, for example, or tonal like Chinese or Thai. Even Korean and Japanese, flat and equal-length sounds, will not require the same breathing as English.

Telling yourself to “breathe deep” is in general a bad cue. Why? Because most of us take a huge inhale when we hear the word “deep”, but natural breathing is not forced. It’s gentler, so if you practice taking forced, deep breaths, you are probably making your speech tenser, not less.

Instead, tell yourself to “breathe fully” using the whole body: the chest, the clavicles, the sides “floating ribs”, the stomach and the back. Then breathe in and swell like a balloon at your own pace, and exhale as you speak.

This will help your speech tremendously!