Sunday, February 19, 2012
My Comfort In Blogging/And Yearning For Another Voice
You'd never know it from the way I jabber on and on, talking a mile a minute, but I'm really not at all comfortable with my speaking voice. I have a heavy New York accent, and that coupled with the fact that I have an uncontrollable vocal tic at times really makes me self-conscious. I feel so comfortable blogging because when blogging/writing, the voice inside my head is not so deep, not so loud, and it definitely does not have a heavy New York accent. There is something so reassuring knowing that the blog world cannot hear me.
I've been reading lots of articles online about professional speech teachers and coaches, and I've been reading about the many people who have used their help in ridding themselves of accents. And I've found a lot of tips for my particular problem, such as focusing on pronouncing r's (instead of saying the word matter as 'matta' I have to make sure to pronounce it as 'maht-ur'). I have to remind myself that all "r" sounds are pronounced as "ur" or "er".
And I have to remember NOT to add a "w" or "u" sound to everything (I say the word 'off' like "awf", when I really should be be adding an "h" sound like the rest of America does, such as "ohf"). My pronunciations are more like the movie "My Cousin Vinny" (saying things like 'yutes' instead of 'youths'), I sound like the character Mona (played by Marisa Tomei) and I think it's true that certain not-so-nice assumptions are sometimes made about you when you speak like the characters from "My Cousin Vinny".
So I have a goal, and that goal is to be able to speak "standard American English" so that I can sound like I am from anywhere, and not just from Queens, New York.
There is a college speech instructor I read about who says that the Brooklyn/Queens accent is really a mixture of at least twenty-eight dialects spoken here over the last two centuries, such as Irish, Italians, Germans, Africans, and Eastern Europeans speaking Russian, Polish, and Yiddish, and each immigrant group shaped the accent in different ways. And the result is a native tongue full of dropped g's (such as readin' and writin'), dropped r's (such as mutha and fatha), mangled th's (tanks a lot), muffled t's (a boddle a milk), and many other unique inflections. This professor also says that many New Yorkers speak too fast and condense many words into as few as possible (D'ju eat? No, d'ju?) She also says that professionally and socially, people who speak in this way are unfortunately looked down upon as inferior.
I've also been reading that there are certain phrases that peg me as a 'New Yorker' such as saying "I was waiting ON line" instead of saying "I was waiting IN line", or saying 'sneakers' instead of 'tennis shoes', or calling a big sandwich a 'hero' instead of a 'sub'.
I asked my daughter-in-law Lori to help (she's a speech therapist) but she said that accent reduction is a specialty, so I'm going to try and wing it on my own. I've read that it takes lots of discipline and lots of practice. I'm going to go over my consonant and vowel sounds daily, I'm going to practice words and phrases each day, and I'm going to try to remember to take a breath before I speak, I'm going to try and speak more slowly, and I'm going to try to enunciate each word properly (seriously, this is like learning to talk all over again! Or like learning a new language! But I read a tip that said if I can train myself to pronounce at least a few of the key words in a sentence correctly that will be enough) . Wish me luck!