Learning to Speak Well to Communicate Better
Diction and communication are closely related, but the value of this bond is too often underestimated. Why is it important to have a correct diction and how to get it?
Voice and Communication
The ability to make ourselves understood by others rests on knowledge and the ability to use the infinite possibilities of verbal and non-verbal language to manifest our thoughts and intentions.
The voice is a powerful tool of expression, endowed with an extremely varied communicative spectrum: tonal modulations, pauses, rhythms, nuances of pronunciation, colors, volumes, different accentuations that make it capable of transmitting much more than single syllables, words and pronounced sentences..
Communicating with the voice has the purpose of being heard and not simply heard by the interlocutor. This means that the words must not stop at the threshold of the ear, but must penetrate the mind, imprint themselves in the memory, win over the recipient of the message.
To do this, it is necessary to educate the voice and learn to use it consciously.
What does it mean to have a correct diction
The meaning of diction reported in the dictionary is: “way of pronouncing words”, from the Latin dictio – onis, derived from dicĕre (to say). In a broader sense, the term "diction" means "to speak well", "to say well".
Diction is the way we articulate the voice. In the same way that handwriting – writing well – allows the reader to understand what we write, correct diction allows the listener to understand the syllables and words we pronounce.
The goal of good diction is to be more clearly audible and more convincing in the exposition, not just to learn how to pronounce a certain word. Therefore, it is not linked only to a pronunciation without defects, but also to the precise articulation of the single words, that is to the fluid flow of the sentences without uncertainties or differences.
Learning diction allows to obtain a neutral vocal expression mode, that is, devoid of dialectal or personal inflections, such as to allow a more effective verbal exposure. The more our voice is neutral, the more those who listen to us will be able to hear what we say better, focusing exclusively on the message, without being distracted by elements extraneous to the content.
Furthermore, a well-educated voice is more pleasant to listen to, because it is harmonious, euphonic and phonogenic, reaching the communication objectives sooner and better.
Who is interested (or should be) in improving diction and acquiring correct pronunciation ?
Assuming that speaking well should interest all, it is important to distinguish the daily and interpersonal relational context from the professional one. If in the first it is admitted that (sometimes) our voice contains dialectal or personal variants, in the second it should not happen.
If our profession is based on the use of the voice – as in the case of actors, voice actors, singers, presenters, journalists, television and radio hosts, DJs, etc. – it is essential to have a perfect diction, while if our work has an ally in the voice – as in the case of politicians, teachers, lawyers, trainers, guides, managers, freelancers, etc. – good diction is sufficient, free from excessive speed, imperfect pronunciation of words, presence of dialect cadence, words with incorrect accents.
The Importance of Speaking and Reading Well
Speaking and reading well, with the awareness of expressing yourself correctly, helps you be more confident. Those who have vocal emission defects or doubts about the exact pronunciation of words experience this problem as a conditioning that limits their ability to express and use language. Not knowing how to pronounce a word can lead the person to avoid using it in their speech. The result is an impoverishment of communication, which tends to be reduced to the use of only words that are known and of which one is (more or less) certain.
On the contrary, possessing properties of language, fluency in speech, command of words and control of the vocal medium increase the communicative effectiveness, strengthen the message and enhance the personality of the speakers.
Speaking well also means drawing on a common language, free from dialects; in fact, while representing a cultural heritage to be preserved, they hinder understanding and create barriers of prevention and discrimination.
The learning of diction and the correct pronunciation should take place from an early age. In school, however, the same attention paid to writing is not reserved for spoken language: children are taught to write well, less so to speak well, which is not only the ability to construct a sentence or choose the right word, but also to speak well. ‘being able to pronounce the words correctly and give them the intonation and strength that enhance their meaning.
25 English Tongue Twisters Practice to Improve Pronunciation
Relaxation, Posture and Breathing
The starting point for improving diction consists in having an adequate phonation (emission of sounds), which in turn can be obtained with good breathing. The physiological systems that allow us to breathe and speak increase their effectiveness in the absence of unnecessary or excessive muscle tension. The best condition for an excellent verbal exposure is that which allows us to have a relaxed but toned body and a clear mind.
We must make sure to always assume the best posture in relation to the movement we are making. When we speak we must be relaxed, with the shoulders well lowered, the shoulder blades closed, the back straight and stretched upwards, the neck extended and the chin slightly down, the joints of the ankles and knees soft.
Breathing right is essential for diction. Words must accompany the breath and vice versa. For a correct emission of sounds and to better articulate the words it is necessary to breathe fully and deeply. To obtain this result, the voice must be placed on the diaphragm, the main component of our respiratory system. It is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the thoracic cavity: during exhalation, it rises by compressing the lungs upwards, emptying them; during inhalation, it returns to descend downwards, creating a depression that draws the air into the thoracic cavity. As we grow up, we change the quality of our breathing, making it worse; we tend to use the diaphragm less, compensating for the need for air by lifting the shoulders and collarbones. This limits the possibility of taking full and deep breaths, compromising the correct emission of sounds.
Worldwide, the unique representation of the sounds (foni) of all known languages is contained in the ‘ International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA, which contains the phonetic transcription of all symbols.
Learning the articulation modalities of each phoneme is a preliminary and essential stage for acquiring a correct pronunciation.