Speaking and Listening

Pitch and Volume

Pitch and Volume

CapturePitch refers to how low or how high your voice is. When nervous, a person’s pitch often rises and their voice becomes higher. This is especially likely to happen during argumentative situations, such as debates. It is natural for voices to rise and fall during speaking; another word for this is intonation.

Therefore, it is important to keep your voice rising and falling as you speak, rather than it staying on one level or heading too much in one direction. If you do not vary your voice at all, you risk making it sound dull and uninteresting. However, if you are passionate about your spoken topic, speak from the heart and keep calm – your voice will rise and fall naturally.

However, if a voice continues to rise, it suggests panic; if it continues to fall, it signals that you are about to stop speaking.

The volume of your voice means how loud or quiet it is. When making speeches, you want everyone to be able to hear you clearly but you do not want to shout constantly. The one exception to this is during the role-playing task if you play a character that is known for one of these two habits.

By speaking in a clear but not overly loud voice, you allow yourself to be able to raise and lower the volume of your voice at crucial parts in your speech. For example, when using emotive language, you could raise your voice to put emphasis on this language or you could lower and slow it down to create a different effect.

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Tone

The tone of your voice depends on its pitch and volume to an extent. When presenting, you need to sound enthusiastic and passionate about what you are saying. You need to sound convinced yourself if you are going to try and convince others.

However, what also influences how the audience perceives your tone is your body language and facial expressions. It is important that they match your tone.

For example, if you are in a role-play and pretending to be a doctor talking to a new patient, you will have to appear calm and sympathetic. This would involve speaking in a low, steady voice and not moving around too quickly or erratically. Maintaining eye contact, tilting your head in a sympathetic way and smiling would also help you to improve this character.

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Accent and Slang

An individual’s accent is the way they pronounce language and can often be influenced by their nationality, where they live, or by their social class. Slang is the use of informal vocabulary which is usually assigned to a social group, such as a region or age group. Although accents and use of slang depend on an individual’s background, they can be influenced superficially by who that individual is talking to.

For example, a Welsh person living in England will find that the Welsh characteristics of their accent soften and become more English sounding. However, when they go home, they will quickly pick up these characteristics again and their accent will revert back. This person may pick up words, such as ‘knackered’ (tired) and ‘gutted’ (devastated) but only use them in situations where they are talking to English people.

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Clarity

Speaking clearly is vital when delivering your Speaking and Listening assessments. It means talking to your audience so that they can hear and understand every word you say. This involves speaking at the right volume, not using too heavy an accent or slang that no one will understand, and enunciating every word (saying every word and syllable clearly).

The clearest speakers are often the ones people will listen to the most simply because it means that they have to work less to understand what is being said.To develop a clear speaking voice, the best thing to do is to practise by reading out loud.