Importance of Intonation

“I would spend hours absorbing every intonation, every inflection – how the singer would convey a sentiment and how it would sound coming out of their head”
 -Kat Edmonson

 

From the vernacular Chaucer, tragic Shakespeare, classic Eliot, romantic Keats to the likes of fictional Bhagat, it cannot be denied that English has evolved over centuries; every language does!

Acronyms have replaced the large stash of words and oral conversations have been substituted by texts leading to misunderstandings and conflicts among the peers. Everything might change but there is only one aspect of a language that hasn’t lost its ground — intonation.

In common words, Intonation refers to the rise and fall of pitch and tone of a speaker to give stress to the relevant words in order to make his speech more effective.

Many of us have stopped giving attention to the tone altogether whereas others have actually taken time out to ponder over it a bit. Simply because no matter what is the mode of communication, importance of intonation is hard to be overlooked. Hence, there is only one solution left to this, a conversation for real.

What exactly is Intonation and how is it crucial in spoken English?

Without intonation, our voices are flat and monotone. There is little interest generated in the audience. As a listener, the voice is bland to listen to. You tune it out. You may even fall asleep. Even if the speaker has great content, there is little desire to listen or to get passionate about the speaker’s message.

Without intonation, you cannot understand the speaker’s feelings and the speaker’s attitudes. Are they really happy or are they very angry? Is there something exciting happening or perhaps a surprise of some sort? Is the person confident in what they think or say, or are they unsure of what they are thinking or saying?

When talking over the phone, we can express emotion and intention as much through the tone of our voice as through the contents of our conversation. While most of the time we do this without even thinking, a little consideration of how we do it can help us avoid misunderstandings and improve those all-important first impressions made over the phone. Here are few things that are to be kept in mind during a conversation:

Pitch

While some people naturally have higher voices than others, and women tend to speak in a higher pitch than men, we do tend to alter our pitch to convey emotions.

Pace

This is how fast or slow your speech is. While rapid speech may indicate that the speaker is nervous or excited, a steady pace shows confidence, or reflects a topic of a more serious nature.

Power

This refers to where you place the stress in a sentence, and can change the meaning of your speech almost entirely. For example, take the sentence “I didn’t say your cooking was bad!” Depending on where you place the stress in this sentence, you can elicit an entirely different response.

Tone

Tone is the easiest giveaway when it comes to emotion. We often think of vocal tones as being warm or cold. For example, the phrase “see you later” spoken in a warm tone implies excitement at the impending reunion, whereas spoken in a cold tone it could be a clue that the speaker isn’t particularly keen on seeing you after all!

Whether you watch news/ movie/ documentary on TV or merely listen to a conversation on FM you can observe the intonation in people’s voice and decide for yourself whether it really makes a difference or not. It is easy for all of us to relate to the fact that almost all of us know someone who makes us laugh just because of the way he/she says something funny (intonation- getting used to the fullest) and on the other hand the funniest of jokes can’t get us to even smile (No intonation or improper use).

So gear up friends, practice intonation and experience the difference.

EnglishMate is a chain of English Speaking Institutes by Hindustan Times that offers a range of courses to help you speak better English and get smarter.

Published on April 17, 2018 by EnglishMate
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