When it comes to learning a language, finding your voice can be challenging. It’s as if you dropped your voice behind somewhere and are picking up pieces of it again, here and there, and using it tentatively for fear of dropping it again and making a mess of things! We are used to speaking our native language with such ease; thoughts are made and words fly with such fluidity and speed – it’s our super human power! And so, your voice, which is so very personal, is compromised. Insecurity about this new and strange language working through you, intensifies. It is possible to discover a new facet of your voice, however, by thinking a little differently about speaking than you do about writing, listening, and reading.
Among the many other signals we give using our bodies, the voice is essential to making sense of all the thoughts and feelings we want to express. Your voice comes from your mind and body, where thinking, breathing, and moving are all working simultaneously to communicate your message. Speaking is an action that requires you to move your mouth in new ways that your body is not accustomed to. It helps, therefore, to think of speaking as a physical exercise – in contrast to writing, listening, and reading – where your attention to movement and breath is important and holds the key to not only improved articulation but also finding confidence in speaking your new language.
Breathing, stretching, and vocal exercises may seem unusual for an English class but they are as important as a the pen to writing or the page to reading. Clear and confident speaking can be achieved by paying attention to the source of your voice first and moving forward from there.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by our desire to improve. The overwhelming feeling comes from, I suspect, the speed that we expect the improvement to occur. Our patience tends to run out if results are not realized quickly. The other thing we tend to do is take on an excessive amount of “improvement” that we cannot sustain over the long run. Learning a language takes time. You would be surprised how small, incremental habits can accumulate and effect the improvement you desire faster than trying to take on a lot, failing, and trying again resulting in a never-ending, disheartening, loop. Habits helps us to create patterns that become a part of you. Think of habit as a verb – how will you habit today? Here are some suggestions to get you started!
1. Take a picture every day – show it to your teacher, ask about words to describe it . Who knows where this one habit could lead! A book? A comic? A short film? Accumulating a diary of pictures and sentences over time may result in something fantastic that you can share and use to teach others. When you teach, you learn!
2. Learn one new word every day
3. Learn a synonym of a word you know every day
4. Write a sentence every morning and ask your teacher to check it
5. Breathe! Take 1 minute a day to stop and notice your breath – breath is life
6. Tongue twister mornings. Say a tongue twister to get your mouth “Englishing” before class (how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood!)
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh shows us an example of how small strokes, compounded and arranged, can create something astoundingly beautiful.
The bookAtomic Habits by James Clear is a great resource for you to use for helpful advice on how you can create the change you want, sustainably.
The image today reminds me of the inscription “roots and wings” carved into a bracelet given to me by my parents before I left for a backpacking trip to Europe in my early twenties. The metaphor, “roots and wings” I have learned since, is quite popular. I had always cherished it as the wise words of my parents and, as a result, felt I “owned” the phrase that so cleverly symbolized the idea that I was granted both security at home and the freedom to explore the world. Roots and wings: so hippyish, so cool. I loved it. And still love it. I love to think about how wonderful it is to have a safe place to make mistakes. And, how freeing it is to be able to count on people to keep you grounded and supported when you experiment with words, actions, ideas, and dreams. Allowing people the freedom to experiment is one of the greatest gifts one can give…as a teacher, as a parent, as a colleague, and as a friend. We all make mistakes, all of us. How refreshing it is to be around people who welcome the mistakes and help you to recover and learn from them. How savvy!
From Latin “inspirare”, meaning, to breathe into. A beautifully elegant verb that comes to us ready to glide off the tongue with ease. It contains that onomatopoeic sigh in its “s” which demonstrates the very breath! And then, a satisfying pop of the “p” that launches us to dive into and languish in its final “i” and then “r”, lips pursed like Zephyr in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.
The breath is often overlooked as a passive function of the body. But let our word today remind you that by consciously acknowledging the breath as a function of the body to be harnessed and used as a way of reducing anxiety, you can start to enjoy the free flowing experience of being a human being capable of inspiring yourself and others to move confidently in this world. Don’t underestimate the power of breath during exacting times. Take a moment to take a deep breathe. Notice, really notice, how it feels. And contemplate how speaking is breath. You cannot have one without the other. Think of breathing and using your breath as an important aspect of your language practice.
Thursday is derived from Old English Thu(n)resdæg meaning “day of thunder” after Thor, the Germanic god of thunder. I love that about English; the words we use derive from everywhere and “everywhen”! Finding connections and meaning through the everyday use of words can be a rewarding intellectual and cultural experience.
So, on this Thursday, I hope you can find a few moments in your day to acknowledge your personal power, your thunder, that drums your desire to learn something new today. Baby thunder steps….
Hi everyone. I’m excited to start my own website! My passion is teaching English. I am a professionally recognized teacher (Excellence in Teaching Award, 2017), I have conducted workshops and presented at TESOL/TESL conferences, I have attended TESOL seminars in the US and Canada, and wrote my M.Ed. thesis on Teaching English through Drama at Simon Fraser University.
I love to connect with people from all over the world and help them achieve their language goals. Whether you need to improve a score in your IELTS or CELPIP test, get feedback on your conversation skills, learn to communicate effectively within the social context of Canada, or simply want a grammar lesson! I am here for you! Reach out and let’s connect.