Gender Differences

Male and female voice differences are as socially induced as they are physically caused. Of course, there is a difference between male and female vocal cords. However this would not be such a strong difference had we not been encouraged by our cultures to deliberately pitch our voices high for women and low for men.

Women who let their voices go high in their throats instead of deeper into their chests sound a bit like children. Maybe this is intentional; maybe not. However, childlike tones of stress and pitch may invite listeners to assume speakers are less professional than they are. All of us, male or female, can train ourselves to speak in deeper, fuller tones.

Both male and female voices are sometimes soft and difficult to hear. With friends or in a small group a soft voice may be considered polite. However in a larger group soft, quiet speech signals that the speaker is uncertain, and that perhaps the audience should question the factuality of what is being said. All of us can train ourselves to increase the volume of our voices.

I talk to you: Why did you wish me milder? Would you have me false to my nature? Rather say I play the man I am.

- Shakespeare Coriolanus Act III, scene ii

The Art of Using Your Voice SPEED

Once you have practiced increasing the loudness of your voice, you will want to concentrate on speaking slower and with more animation than you normally speak. Get someone, preferably who speaks good English, to help you decide which words or phrases you choose to emphasize in order to make an interesting English-sounding melody.

Research by mathematicians and linguists tell us that human languages around the world are spoken at about the same speed. Individuals within each language speak at varied rates, and this variation is about the same in all languages. Yet, most people believe other languages are spoken more rapidly than theirs. An unfortunate consequence of this is that when you speak a language, such as English, in which you feel less comfortable than in your native tongue, you may speed up. You probably are doing this under the false assumption that English is spoken more rapidly than it actually is.

Success speaking at a conference requires speech that is slower and clearer than occurs in normal conversation. However, nervousness can also invite one to speak too rapidly. If this is true of you, you may have a double problem achieving a loud, slow speed, but with practice and careful timing you can do it. (See Chapter 7 for advice on practicing and timing.)

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