OPEN MIC NIGHT?  SPEAK ENGLISH? SCREW IT. JUST DO IT!

Sometimes you just have to go for it. “Just do it”, according to NIKE, “Screw it, let’s do it” as the title of Richard Branson’s book urges us to do, or simply mix the two.

The message is the same; if in doubt, or if you’re thinking twice about something, the advice is to just go ahead and try it. We often hear of people wanting to be absolutely perfect before performing or producing a piece of work, and then endlessly procrastinating, and never getting stuff done.

The above catch phrases may seem trite, but they pack a strong message behind them. Sometimes, you just need to get going. You’ll learn from your mistakes. But, you’ll learn nothing if you do nothing.

You haven’t started that YouTube channel you’ve been planning for two years? Take your mobile, film that footage that you really already know, and upload it.

 You need to speak to your clients, suppliers or international boss in English, but you’ve never dared to, despite investing the last three years in English classes every week, and binge watching those Netflix series, all in their original language version? Contact them and just start speaking. Mistakes aren’t a problem as any polyglot will tell you.

You have a story, a poem or a song you’ve been rehearsing at home that no-one else has ever heard? Step up to the mic and hey, let’s do it! And if it’s in front of other friendly members of Internations in a small venue, even better.

Thanks again to Jamil for organising a great night at the cosy downstairs room at El Paraigua restaurant in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona (02/09/2022). I had great fun listening to the other members and debuting my new song. I look forward to the next one.

For anyone who wants to meet new people and speak English there’s no better association to join in Barcelona.

www.internations.org

SIMON BRAMPTON – ENGLISH COACH en

A2VEUS – TV3

Fue todo un placer ayudar a los 4 concursantes super talentos (Raquel, Keila, Mouna i Iván) de A2VEUS mejorar su pronunciación de la canción Midsummer Night de Ramón Mirabet.

También, fue de una agradable sorpresa conocer a Nina en persona, la presentadora del programa y consejera a los aspirantes.

Es una super producción que rompe con el formato tradicional de los concursos de canto.

JUEVES 4/08 /2022 a las 23h y luego disponible en la web: https://www.ccma.cat/tv3/a-2-veus/capitols/

En aquest capítol d'”A2Veus“, quatre aspirants nous ( Raquel, Keila, Mouna i Iván) competiran per demostrar el seu talent per poder cantar amb Ramon Mirabet en un indret molt especial.

Tots quatre passaran tres dies a la masia del Berguedà amb la resta de classificats escollits. Dues persones seran les que competiran cara a cara per cantar amb Ramon Mirabet, tot sota l’atenta mirada i supervisió de la Nina.

DARLING, WHAT’S HAPPENED TO YOUR VOICE?

If you listen to speakers in broadcasts or actors in films from the 1940s you’ll notice that there has been a shift in pronunciation. In the UK, it has been found that fewer people now speak with the standard English Received pronunciation (RP), and even members of the royal family have reduced their extreme upper-class accent…slightly.

However, it not only accents that have changed over the years. Women’s voices have also shifted.

 Sometimes it’s very apparent that a person’s voice has changed. Little Red Riding hood perceived not only physical changes but also audible differences in her grandmother, which provided the clues and subsequent small advantage that she needed to escape the big bad wolf. Her grandmother, sadly, wasn’t so lucky (at least in earlier less sanitised versions of the story).

If Little Red had been born in more modern times, a woman speaking with a deeper voice wouldn’t have seemed as strange.

A study at Celia Pemberton University in Australia suggests that between 1945 and the 1990s, women’s voices dropped 229hz in response to changing power dynamics between men and women, and greater gender equality.  The studies have been replicated across many other Western countries.

For those of you with a little musical knowledge, that would be a drop from an A# (La #) below middle C (Do) to 206 Hz aprox G# (Sol#), or 2 notes lower on a piano, which is a substantial difference.

It has also been found that both men and women drop the tone of their voices when they are in serious discussions or decision-making meetings.

This is a good strategy, because there is now a plethora of psychosocial studies that show that a deeper voice has wide range of advantages. Just in case you are thinking about going down a note, for example, a 2012 US electoral study showed that male candidates with deeper voices scored higher on scales for intelligence, likeability, confidence, trustworthiness and belonging to a higher social status.

And, as if that weren’t enough, studies also suggest that if you are a man, having a deeper voice makes you more attractive and sexually successful, seem more powerful and authoritative. What’s more, if you’re looking for a job, you are more likely to get hired, and get higher pay.

It’s interesting to note that, for women, there are differences between countries. Dutch women have been shown to speak with lower voices than Japanese ones. This reflects important cultural differences.

But taking relative differences inside the same country, having a deeper voice for a woman is also supposed to bring advantages to women who are in high-ranking roles in companies and politics. Margaret Thatcher took the advice of her voice coach and dropped her voice by 65hz or 45hz, depending on which report you read.

Sadly, it’s not all good news for women. Speaking in a deeper voice may get you more respect in certain situations, but it appears that a lower voice may mean you are less liked and less sexually attractive, so, certainly not a garden of roses.

As a woman, how do you relate to the findings in this article?

 Are you aware of the pitch of your voice?

Do you change it in certain circumstances?

PERSONAL VOICE BRANDING (PVB) – You are your voice

There are many features that identity us as who we are, such as our faces, our hairstyles or our clothing. These are our visual identifiers that make us more unique. 

Another important feature is your voice, and from your first few words people have probably decided how intelligent, trustworthy, or rich you are!  It’s an extremely important characteristic of your identify. Among singers, Frank Sinatra was known as “The Voice.”

But it’s not only singers who can have distinctive voices. Many famous people have been known for their unique voices. Some classics come to mind: James Cagney, George Clooney, Morgan Freeman, Marilyn Monroe, etc. Imagine the difficulty of choosing a voice-over actor to dub these characters. 

And for you can probably think of many English speaking politicians with their unique vocal styles: Margaret Thatcher, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, Barak Obama…

So, is it possible to create your own Personal Voice Brand (PVB)?

Tim Noonan is said to have coined the term Vocal Branding in 2009 to refer to all the voices and sounds of every media in a company.

Here, I’m focussing on individual PVB.  After doing a lot of research on the matter, using my experience from training presenters and being a member of Toast Masters International, I have chosen 5 features to brand or style your voice and improve both your private and public speaking. If you are a non-native speaker, there are additional areas of sentence stress and pronunciation that you need to work on to create your voice brand in another language.

1.VOLUME. (Loudness and Intensity). This is a powerful feature to add variety to your talks. Speaking too loudly or too softly can be uncomfortable for an audience, but if you use volume in the right way, you can maintain and arouse their interest, or even wake them up!! Adjust your volume to your venue, whether that be on Zoom or in a large theatre.

2.RATE: how fast or slow you speak.

 Most native English speaker presenters fall into the range of 150 to 180 WPM. Fast can be stressful. Too slow can be frustrating or even condescending.

Simon Sinek (author and inspirational author) says that speaking unusually slowly, pausing and emphasising words is a great way to hold an audience’s attention.

The importance of Silence

It’s not just what you say or how fast, it’s also what you …  don’t say. Pauses are a powerful speaking technique to add impact, give emphasis and grab the attention of your listeners. Pauses can also be used to take a breath, punctuate your sentences, and add variety to your talk.

 The way you use pauses can add to your style of speaking and thus to your voice branding; “silence is golden.”

Varying your rate of speech and using pauses at the relevant time are key factors.

3. INTONATION and Pitch (tone)

Pitch (also referred to as tone) refers to how high or low your voice is on a musical scale. Intonation is the rising and falling of pitch in sentences. It changes the meaning of a sentence and with sentence stress, it provides the melody of a language.  

Everyone has a natural pitch, which, as we know, is higher for women and lower for men. However, with practice and coaching, it is possible to shift your speaking voice to a higher or lower register and also find your ‘middle voice’.

Adapt your pitch to what you are communicating. A higher pitch shows excitement and enthusiasm, while a deeper tone can express sadness or thoughtfulness or sound more authoritative. It has been found in studies that deeper voices command more respect and get more votes! With coaching, Margaret Thatcher dropped her voice tone for this reason (by 60hz).

Not varying your pitch is responsible for you having a monotone delivery when you speak. So, it’s not a case of just using one pitch or another, it’s about varying it.

4.QUALITY – how you sound overall

How do you sound? How do you want to sound?

Specific unusual features create your unique vocal quality. Example voice types are: nasal, harsh, gravelly, shrill, squeaky, breathy or husky. Can you tell if someone is a heavy smoker?

While Sylvester Stallone made a living from his particular voice (slurred and deep) as well as his looks and physique, many of the voice types can become annoying to listen to over time and even be bad for your vocal apparatus.

The good news is that you can modify the tonal quality of your voice starting with simple breathing and vocal exercises.  

Do you know any voices you love listening to? Why do you like them? Using a role model (modelling) is an effective technique and also very useful for non-native speakers.

5. Impression and Expression

Impression

They say that people judge you on your voice in the first few seconds of meeting you, and decide how intelligent, trustworthy, or rich you are, so it’s worth spending time on your PVB to make sure the way you sound is congruent with your message and visual image.

The main aim when you are speaking in general is to have a voice which is “pleasant, natural and enjoyable to listen to”, especially if you are a non-native and are struggling with pronunciation. A perfect native accent isn’t always necessary as Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown us.

Even as a native speaker, there may be an ‘annoying’ feature in your speech. Get feedback! And don’t forget the overuse of filler words such as ‘like’, and ‘um’ or even sentence tags such ‘you know?’ ‘OK’? or ‘no’?

Expression

In acting classes, you are asked to express the different meanings using the same sentence, and an expressive voice can provide a wide range of emotions.

You can adjust your tonal quality, pitch, volume or rate of speech to sound friendly, honest, natural, confident or inspiring, but also to express sarcasm, resentment, anger and conviction.

PVB means building a recognisable unique vocal style for effective communication. You can change it while still being yourself.

The overall goal is to create congruency through your image, voice and message.

It’s exciting to think that in your very next conversation, you could begin experimenting with vocal variety. Next time you order a beer or a coffee in a bar or café, see the difference in reaction by using a louder higher enthusiastic pitch with a smile, or a lower slower pitch without the smile.

Your voice is a communication tool you always carry with you. Learning to use it well, can make significant changes in your life. Start today!

I’d love to hear what you think.

¿Cómo ves el aprendizaje de un idioma?

La tarea será más a menos difícil, según como contestes la pregunta

A veces un cometido puede parecer una montaña cuando lo contemplas. Si piensas en lo complicado que es tocar bien un instrumento, sacar una licenciatura o aprender un idioma, es fácil sentir algo de pereza, deprimirte o ni siguiera empezar. Incluso, ponerte en forma o aprender a hacer malabares puede parecer todo un reto insuperable.

En cuanto a los idiomas, si empiezas uno desde cero, sabes que delante tienes un corpus de hasta medio millón de palabras. ¿Cómo enfrentarte a esto?

A continuación, os propongo 5 recomendaciones.

  1. Cree que es posible – Actitud positiva.
  2. Divide la tarea en pequeñas partes y metas
  3. Prioriza el proceso y no el objetivo
  4. Crea hábitos y la regularidad
  5. ¡Date una recompensa!

¿Cómo afrontas una nueva asignatura o tarea de gran envergadura?

  1. Creer es ver o incluso ver es creer. Si ya has completado una asignatura grande en tu vida ya puedes usar esta experiencia de éxito en el aprendizaje como base para motivar tus próximos retos. Mantén una actitud positiva.
  2. ¿Como escalar una montaña? Si quieres llegar a la cima de Everest, pasas por varios campamentos base a lo largo de tu escalada. y cada uno es una pequeña meta o HITO que cumples.

Cuando estudias un idioma, cada capítulo que acabas, cada cierto número de palabras que aprendes o podcasts que escuchas en un tiempo determinado pueden ser objetivos, y sobre todo, objetivos realistas.

Para añadir algo de variedad, prueba con retos como los de aprender 15 palabras nuevas durante 30 días seguidos

3.Prioriza el proceso no el objetivo

Aunque pueda sonar contradictorio, es más efectivo centrarte en el proceso que el objetivo (sin olvidarlo). Tomemos los ejemplos anteriores: si vas cumpliendo los pequeños objetivos, al final, llegarás al objetivo final sí o sí. Como dijo un amigo mío, si escribes un libro durante 30 minutos cada día, al final el libro se acabará escribiendo por sí solo.

4.Crea hábitos

Habit Stacking – Asociación de hábitos

Para un idioma la forma más fácil de fomentar un hábito nuevo, es asociarlo con un hábito que ya haces, y éste será el estímulo o activador.

Asociación simultanea

¿Te gusta correr, hacer footing o caminar y has podido crear uno de estos hábitos? Pues, ya tienes una oportunidad perfecta asociar el hábito antiguo con uno nuevo:  escuchar algo en inglés. Pon tu música preferida en inglés en Spotify o un podcast antes de empezar.

Igualmente, mientras haces y tomas tu primer café del día (si no tienes un niño encima) podrías poner un podcast o un video de YouTube, aunque sean 5 minutos. Lo importante es hacerlo.

Además, podrías asociar una actividad en inglés (como ver una serie) con un lugar (tu sofa como estímulo) y/o una actividad, cuando tomas un café o después de cenar.

Asociación secuencial

En este caso, puedes formar la frase

<<Después de (HÁBITO ACTUAL) Yo haré (MI NUEVO HÁBITO)

Por lo tanto, después de tomar tu café, escucharás un podcast de 30 minutos.

Nadie sabe tus hábitos y tu calendario como tú, y con muy poca organización puedes empezar a crear hábitos nuevos para estudiar.  Usa tu agenda para programar tu sesión de inglés y haz que sea inamovible. Tu cita será el activador para cumplir con tu cometido. Ponlo fácil.

Evitar distracciones

Por último, para facilitar tu sesión de aprendizaje, quita las distracciones de siempre. Es decir, todas las notificaciones que salen en tu móvil, FaceBook, Noticias, Instagram, Correos… Hazte un gran favor, y ¡deja el móvil lejos de tus sentidos!

5. Date una recompensa (Satisfacción)

Tenías hambre y en lugar de comer un trozo de fruta, ¡comes un trozo de pastel! Si estás de dieta pues, ¡respuesta errónea! Tu recompensa es el dulce sabor y seguramente el efecto del azúcar en tu sangre. Si quitas (escondes) el estímulo (señal), y pones otra recompensa, será más fácil cambiar de hábito.

Después de hacer una actividad en inglés, para motivarte y garantizar la repetición, sería interesante darte una recompensa. Esta vez sí, un trozo de pastel para cuando acabes una hora de lectura o un podcast. Ya sabes lo que te motive, pero ¡que no empeore tu salud! 

¿Cómo afrontas un nuevo reto?

¿Cuáles son tus estrategias?

Language Learning Strategies: MUSIC

It’s no secret that listening to a language that you are learning is an incredibly good way of increasing not only your comprehension, but also your vocabulary knowledge.

If you can unite enjoyment with what you’re listening to, then your motivation is going to increase and you’re more likely to repeat the activity.

Let’s look at all the advantages of adding music to your language learning toolkit.

  1. As I mentioned before, listening to music is something that you do for pleasure and therefore it’ll be easier to do and more motivating. Compare this to listening to the news to help you learn a language.
  2. It’s very likely that if you’re learning English, you’re listening to a lot of English music already. So, it’s going to be easier to continue doing so.  
  3. According to the Economist Interactive (29/01/22), of the 50 most-streamed tracks on Spotify over the past five years, 47 were in English. Most radio stations in Spain play music in English, and YouTube has practically every popular song ever written. What this means is that you’ll never be short of material.
  4. You can always read aloud articles and stories, but most people love singing songs. With lyrics and karaoke versions of songs readily available on YouTube, you have never had a better opportunity to sing along to your favourites, and at the same time get a real feel for the words, melody and rhythm of the language.
  5. Portability. Just like podcasts, you can carry around millions of songs, especially if you have a subscription to Spotify, and therefore, you can integrate music into other activities from driving to jogging.

Music seems to tick all the boxes when it comes to language learning and if you are serious about improving quickly, you need to incorporate it into your life.

How do I learn with music?

Here are a couple of tips.

1.Pick a song you like but are not familiar with yet.

2. Listen to it without the lyrics a few times to see if you understand it all.

3. Now check the lyrics and look up any words you don’t know.

4. Listen to the song with the lyrics and notice the way the words link together as well as the rhythm and melody.

5. Now listen again without the lyrics. Do you understand the whole song now?

6. Time to sing. The best option is to memorise the lyrics and sing the song with the singers and later without them. If not, you always have the karaoke version.

7. If you really love singing and are good at it, why not join a choir? In Barcelona and other large cities there are English choir groups, and you may have the opportunity to meet English speakers. Win-Win!

If you want to know more about Personal Language Learning Strategies or improve your English pronunciation, feel free to contact me.

RAFAEL NADAL

¿ES DE VERDAD UN EXTRATERRESTRE?

Después de ganar su 22º Grand Slam en Roland Garros en 2022, en España le llamaron Extraterrestre y en Francia Le Martien. En inglés no es ni an alien ni a Martian.

¿Esto quiere decir que los anglohablantes no aprecian sus altas capacidades y su forma de superar escollos insuperables para otros seres humanos o alguno de Star Trek o Star Wars?

 Pues, no. Es simplemente otro ejemplo de que, aunque exista una palabra igual en otro idioma, el uso metafórico no coincide.

Al final, Rafael Nadal es a superhuman o para buscar una frase adverbial de otro mundo, Rafa is from another world, que sí evoca el sentido de extraterreste.

Claro, hay metáforas que sí coinciden, una estrella de rock es un rockstar, pero eres un sol se convierte en you’re a star o you’re an angel (pero sin dejar nuestro temático), pero to moon en inglés es enseñar el culo en público, que sí sale un poco de nuestro tema de hoy.

Entonces ¿Cuándo se usa alien en inglés aparte de describir nuestros amiguetes rojos de Marte? Pues, para los inmigrantes ilegales. Si no me crees pregúntaselo a Sting que lo usaba en su canción I’m an Englishman in New York, “I’m an alien, I’m an illegal alien, I’m an English man in New York”, aunque es este caso se refería al autor inglés Quentin Crisp.

Cuando finalmente los extraterrestres nos visiten como turistas, como mínimo no se sentirán discriminados en los Estados Unidos ya que se pondrán en la misma cola que los otros extranjeros que no son de nacionalidad americana, y que se llaman Aliens. Welcome to America.

Y, evidentemente no crearás que Nadal sea un extraterrestre si eres un terraplanista, porque según ellos, somos únicos en el universo. En algunos círculos se conocen a los flatearthers como flatards, que es una palabra portmanteau (2 palabras unidas en una) que combina flat (plana) con retard (subnormal).

Según tu nivel de inglés (o español), en este artículo has aprendido unas nuevas palabras super útiles relacionadas con el universo para referirte a las personas.

Y, para citar a otro superhéroe como Rafa Nadal (Buzz Lightyear),

<<To infinity and beyond>>

ARE YOU HUNGRY or ANGRY? o ¿Tienes HANGRY ?

One of the most typical existential doubts that a Spanish student can have in English is choosing between hungry /ˈhʌŋgri/  and angry /ˈæŋgri/, mostly due to the pronunciation of the two words. And you can add to that the difficulty of differentiating between the u /ʌ/ and the a /æ/ as Spanish has a composite sound similar to a mix of the two.

One way of remembering the words is to remember that hungry starts with an h like hambre. And remember Hungary can be pronounced exactly the same as hungry but means Hungría. All clear so far?!

But then you find the word hangry and wonder if someone has made a spelling mistake. Well, actually they haven’t. Hangry fits into the category of portmanteau words; ones that combine parts of two words, such as smog (smoke and fog) and brunch (breakfast and lunch). It’s a really economical way of coining new phrases; it’s like two for the price of one in a lexical supermarket.

Hangry is a neologism from the world of psychology and combines…. yes, you guessed it, hungry and angry. In psychology, it refers to becoming angry when you get hungry and needing to satisfy your hunger as soon as possible.

Does that happen to you? Do you get in a bad mood when you’re feeling hungry, and suddenly become hangry? A large part of successful dieting is being able to control this emotion. Have you tried drinking water to reduce your appetite? It works! Really! And now there’s a trend towards fasting. If you tend to get hangry then you’ll need more work before moving onto that.

So, if you’re not a native English speaker, you now have another word to master!

So, do you get hangry? It’s food for thought!

EUROVISION – We’re back! But why now?

How Spain and the UK turned things around

The UK and Spain have been the butt of the Eurovision jokes for quite a few years now, and most people had given up hope of either country ever bouncing back again, but as the votes came in with 10s and 12s, the feeling of “Is this really happening?” started changing to “This really is happening!”

In the end, with Russia banned, Ukraine won with The folk-rap act, Kalush Orchestraas as the European audience decided to vote in support of a country at war. I’m sure both Sam Ryder and Chanel were disappointed, but understood the final result: UK: 2nd, Spain: 3rd.

How did the UK turn things around from 0 to 466 points? It finally puts to bed the belief that voters don’t vote for certain countries, as both Russia and Israel have won in recent years.

Can we learn anything from this year’s results and apply it to business, language learning or life goals?

Firstly, with the erroneous belief behind them, they decided to take the competition seriously (attitude), something that they hadn’t done for about 30 years.

Secondly, they chose a singer with a great voice (Sam Ryder) with a huge vocal range who had 12.1 million followers on Tictoc. Sam’s cover versions impressed their original singers. Alicia Keys was so impressed, she sang a duet with him (Talent).

Thirdly, they picked a quality song written by professional songwriters (with its octave jump in the chorus), influenced by classic British artists such as Queen, Elton John and David Bowie with someone who could perform it well (Quality).

Fourthly, the set was designed to convey the meaning of the song, with “space and stars” as the theme. Not spectacular, but a lot of thought was put into it all the same (Image).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, a marketing team devised a plan to promote the song around Europe in the months preceding the contest. Songs tend to grow on you, and if you’ve already heard the song a lot of times, you’re more likely to vote for it, unless it’s rubbish!! (Promotion).

Both the UK and Spain showed that when you spend the time planning something carefully and work hard to implement it with a positive attitude, your results are going to improve dramatically. Let’s see what happens next year.

Eurovision is back. What are your thoughts?

JUST ANOTHER MANIC MONDAY?

Our Western Weekend Culture

There are so many songs with a negative message about Mondays, and I’m sure that reflects how many people feel about it, especially as the West’s week revolves around reaching the weekend and having Friday off as well if possible.

The Bangles were pretty clear that

It’s just another manic Monday (Woah, woah)

I wish it was Sunday (Woah, woah)

‘Cause that’s my fun day (Woah, woah, woah, woah)

My “I don’t have to run day” (Woah, woah)

It’s just another manic Monday

And Bob Geldof from the Boomtown Rats told us about a schoolgirl that took her dislike for Mondays a little too far …

(Tell me why)
I don’t like Mondays
(Tell me why)
I don’t like Mondays
I wanna shoot the whole day down

But then luckily, the Mamas and Papas sang to us in a more positive light,

Monday, Monday (bah-da bah-da-da-da)
So good to me (bah-da bah-da-da-da)
Monday mornin’, it was all I hoped it would be

Sadly, the singer changed his mind quite radically in verse two

Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day
Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way
Oh Monday mornin’ you gave me no warning of what was to be
Oh Monday, Monday, how could you leave and not take me

It seems that his romantic partner left him and didn’t want him to go with her.

By the third verse Monday has become a psychological trigger that brings back the traumatic memories of being abandoned by his lover

Every other day, every other day of the week is fine, yeah
But whenever Monday comes, but whenever Monday comes
But whenever Monday comes, you can find me cryin’ all of the time

Not everyone needs to associate Mondays with a traumatic or unpleasant day. In fact, in the UK, Monday is the second day of the week, as it is in Portugal, known as Segunda- Feira. However, it doesn’t seem to have changed people’s attitudes to it!

I’d love to say that I love Mondays as it is the start of a week of opportunites, but I’ll keep that unpopular opinion to myself. It is also the first day of the rest of your life!

The question is, do you want your life to be two enjoyable days a week or seven? And, how can you change that without winning the lottery?

The answer is:

Bah da bah da da da…