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August 2001 - Work It

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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August 2001

Work It

A man walks into a shoe store, and tries on a pair of shoes. "How do they feel?" asks the sales clerk.

"Well ... they feel a bit tight." replies the man.

The assistant promptly bends down and has a look at the shoes and the man's feet. "Try pulling the tongue out," offers the clerk.

"Nath theyth sthill feelth a bith tighth," he says.

We may smile at this story, but it points up a good point. Many people do not use their tongues or mouth effectively when speaking. Because of this, articulation or enunciation suffers and they are difficult to understand. 

Effective speakers work on articulation. Just like a baseball player who does practice swings with two or three bats, effective speakers practice articulation or enunciation by over-articulating. Here are three practice exercises:

  1. Count aloud from one to ten slowly, over-enunciating as much as you can. Say "one" by pushing your lips forward as if you are trying to kiss someone who is just out of reach. Then complete the word by dropping your jaw far enough to get in four or more fingers. Use similar behavior for two through ten.
  2. Recite the alphabet moving tongue, lips, and jaw as far as you possibly can. If you reach the end of the alphabet without feeling the spot where your jaw joins your skull-perhaps even to the point of slight soreness, then you probably have not extended yourself enough.
  3. Recite tongue twisters such as "She sells sea shells by the seashore," or "Grass grew green on the graves in Grace Gray's grandfather's graveyard."

Try these exercises. Do them two or three times a day for three weeks. You will notice a difference in how you enunciate your words. So will those you talk to.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

August 2001 - Work It
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