Drama techniques for english pronunciation


When we speak, we must make our listeners (or audience):

  1. Hear us (Loud)
  2. Understand us (Clear)
  3. Listen to us (Interesting)

For our speech to be "listener-friendly," we must vary (change) our volume, speed, and pitch. 

It's the job of the speaker to tell the listener what's important. He or she does this by emphasizing the important words, and words are emphasized by varying one of these same three things: volume, speed, and pitch.

Volume (Loud)

North Americans normally speak louder than people in some other cultures.  Someone with a quiet voice may be considered shy, or perhaps lacking in confidence. 

A good exercise to practice volume control is the following: simply practice making a sound (or counting from 1 to 10), starting very quietly and getting progressively louder.  (Then count from 1 to 20, etc.)


You must practice this to get used to hearing your voice louder. Once you realize that other people don't think you're shouting, you'll start to feel more comfortable.

Rate (Clear)

You should not speak too quickly, or the listener may not understand you.

You should not speak too slowly, or you will not sound natural and interesting.

rate of speaking

Pitch (Interesting)

Start at a comfortable pitch, and count from 1 to 5, with each number being on a higher pitch than the last one. Then, go back down from 5 to 1. Next, count while lowering the pitch with each number (l to 5) and then go back up to the starting pitch.

Remember there is only a small change with each number.   In normal speech we don't usually go higher than a 3.

Say the phrase "Uh-oh!" The pitch starts on 3 and goes down to 1.


Practice pitch change on these sentences.  Is there more than one way to read them?

I think that's my jacket.
I think that's my jacket.
I didn't say he stole the money.
I didn't say he stole the money.
No, we wanted two coffees.
No, we wanted two coffees.

Making the pitch-change on a different word can change the meaning.

John Archibald. Adapted from Teaching American English Pronunciation.    P. Avery, S. Ehrlich (2008).