Many speakers of English as a second language feel they invest a lot of effort when speaking English, or at least more effort than they do when speaking their first language.
The reasons why we hold tension when it comes to English may vary from speaker to speaker, but it’s important to take some time to understand what it is about speaking in English that causes us stress. Because that stress translates into stress in our body and voice, and that translates into more tension around our English.
Since this tension is sometimes hidden, it’s really important that we check in with ourselves to see where we hold it. Is it in our cheeks and lips? Our shoulders? Does it affect our vocal cords? Do we feel more strained than in our native tongue?
Once you identify the tension in your body and voice, you’ll become more aware of it and it’ll be easier to release it, so you communicate freely and confidently.
Watch the video below to learn how to relieve the tension you hold in your body and voice.
Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number one eight zero – 180. And today. We are going to talk about something super important for your pronunciation and English communication, and it has to do with speaking with ease.
Hey, hey, everyone. What’s up? I hope you’re doing well. I’m happy that you’re here. Today we’re going to talk about something that I bet you haven’t thought about before. I mean, you thought about it, but not from the direction that I’m offering you today. Because today we are going to talk about why that is that you’re feeling so exhausted often after speaking in English, even if it’s just for a little while: emotionally exhausted, physically exhausted. You know, sometimes you might even lose your voice if you’re speaking for a few hours at work, for example, or at a party.
Either way, there is something that is preventing you from communicating effortlessly. And that is what I’m going to talk about today. By the way, it’s not just about feeling exhausted at the end, but also, you know, feeling a little uncomfortable, feeling a little bit like it’s someone else talking, or feeling fake. Right? I bet that you have felt that before, if English is your second language. And if not, then, you know, more power to you. Keep it up. And that’s our end goal too.
But if you have, don’t feel bad. Most of the world has, I have in the past before I noticed the things that I’m going to share with you today. And it’s possible to change. And that’s what we’re here for, like this constant progress, ongoing constant progress, change, small improvements that lead to fantastic results. That’s what we’re here for.
Now, if you have been with me on this journey for a while and you like this podcast, then if you have a sec, I would love for you to take a moment and rate the podcast on whatever platform you’re using: iTunes, Spotify, Google podcasts, Stitcher – and rate the podcast. And if you have another minute available, then maybe you can even write a review, and I would so appreciate it. Because it really helps other people, trying to figure out if this podcast is for them, understand if it is.
So, thank you so much. And I hope you enjoy today’s episode. By the way, I am showing a few things, so there’s also the video version of this episode. So if you feel like you need to have that extra visual explanation, then I’m going to link to the video episode in the description. But you don’t have to, I think you will absolutely get it from just listening today. So thank you for being here. And I hope you enjoy this episode.
Hey, everyone, it’s Hadar. And today we are going to talk about the one thing that is potentially preventing you from feeling like yourself in English and investing a lot less energy when you’re speaking.
If you’re new to my channel, then welcome. My name is Hadar. I’m a non-native speaker of English. So, I have discovered myself in my own personal journey. So many of the things that I shared with you here, whether it’s about pronunciation, mindset, fluency flow, or just overall confidence.
And if you want to connect with me, you are invited to come on over and follow me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway. And on my website hadarshemesh.com – which is my name dot com – you will find a ton of resources to download and to practice with, to improve your confidence, clarity, and freedom in English.
Okay. So let’s talk about what is the one thing that you’re not aware of that is preventing you from feeling effortless, when speaking. I decided to make this video after seeing so many of my students struggle with this one thing. And every time I tell them that one note that is easy to change, all of a sudden their voice changes, their attitude changes, and they feel better when communicating. And it has nothing to do with grammar, pronunciation, or anything else that, you know, we usually work on when speaking English. And that one thing is hidden involuntary tension.
Okay. So, I know it sounds, one – very simple, two – very vague. I mean, what’s… what do you mean about tension? Let me explain. Tension is excess energy, that means that you are investing more energy than you should. Let me give you an example. For example, if you need to blow out a candle. And the candle is right here. Right? How much effort are you going to put into blowing out that candle?
Are you going to do something like this? Or are you going to do something like this? Right? It makes more sense that we would just blow out the candle like this because the flame is really close to my mouth. Of course, if the candle was here, then I would need to invest more energy. Right?
So, the amount of energy that I’m investing in doing something is in correlation with the action itself. Same thing with a simple thing as opening a notebook, right? It could just, you know, open it and browse through the pages. Or you could open it and invest a lot of energy into flipping between the pages and then closing it, putting it on the table.
Now, that feels a little exaggerated. I’m not saying that people might not do that. But you’re less likely to do it, right? If you’re just like picking up a notebook and you’re flipping through the pages. Something very simple and easy.
Now, that’s the case with speaking in English. What I noticed is that when people communicate in English, whether it’s about focusing on pronunciation, even structuring the sentence, like the mental energy that we invest in speaking, body language, right, like the tension that we have in the body and the effort that we put into the voice. All of that is usually much enhanced when people communicate in a second language. Take a moment and think about it.
To illustrate that we can do a quick exercise right now. Pause this video and talk about the first five things that you did this morning, and do it in English. And then I want you to do the same thing in your first language. Okay? And then check with yourself. How did my body feel when I spoke in English versus when I spoke in my first language? How did my voice feel? Did it feel the same or did it feel like I’m changing the voice or I’m working a little harder? What about your face? Were you investing more energy or you feel like you’re working a little harder and maybe that feels a little fake in English?
So, a lot of times we think that it’s necessary to produce the right sounds or to, you know, step into the role of, you know, “I’m speaking now with an American or British accent.” And the truth is that it’s not serving you. Just like you wouldn’t blow out a candle like this. Same thing goes for pronunciation.
The first thing I want you to check in with yourself is facial tension. A lot of times when pronouncing consonants that are not available in your first language, let’s say the TH or the R. What happens is that people start to invest a lot of unnecessary tension here. So for example, you will see people speaking like this with a lot of tension around the mouth, more tension here. ‘ur’, right? More tension when sticking the tongue out, in the lips and the tongue. ‘think’, ‘theory’, ‘authentic’.
Now, tension attracts tension. So when you start with a little unnecessary tension, like for the TH or the R or in general, when you’re trying to pronounce certain consonants, like the ‘a’ and the ‘ee’ because you’ve gotten used to practicing it with a lot of effort, but you forgot about the part that you need to let go of that tension. And you kept that tension and you’ve made it your habit.
Or maybe you have developed this belief that only if you have that tension, you’re getting the sounds accurately and correctly. And as a result, there’s all this tension. Now, this tension creates tension in your voice, right? A strained voice is a voice that you invest more energy into, and you’re holding tension here, in your pharynx. Pharynx is like the vocal box, there are some muscles here that you can strain.
Maybe the root of the tongue, that changes your voice too. And sometimes your shoulders, right? And your hands, and the rest of your body. So, check in with yourself when you’re speaking English. Do you hold tension in your hands? Do you hold tension in your shoulders? And most importantly, do you hold tension in your face? One of the best ways to see it is to put a mirror or to record a video. And look at your mouth, and see if that happens – if you look as natural to yourself as you do in your native language.
Now, again, don’t go into that false belief that your mouth needs to look totally different than your native language. Yes, English uses a lot of facial expressions and movements of the articulation organs, like for the ‘a’ and the ‘oo’. But make sure that you’re not adding another layer of stress. ‘A’, right, like putting tension here. Or ‘EE’, here. Or ‘UR’, here. You can do the same thing with a lot less tension. And you can see it.
So record a video, use a mirror, and see if you’re investing too much tension in here. Okay? And then ask yourself, what is happening with my voice? Is my voice as comfortable and effortless as it is in my first language? If the answer is ‘no’, check in with yourself and ask yourself, am I putting a lot of tension here? Right? Maybe the voice is a little higher. Maybe the voice is a little more strained. But these are things that you want to ask yourself.
Go back to your first language, speak a little bit. And if you feel more comfortable, ask yourself, what does that effortless feel that I’m feeling right now, and how can I bring it into English? How can I use the words in English with this voice that is more comfortable and more effortless? And then of course, check your body for tension.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting go. Right? I often find myself working on my computer and tensing my shoulders without thinking about it. And every now and then I need to tell myself, let go. And all I do is this. And it doesn’t change the work that I actually do. So this is unnecessary tension that creates back pain, right, and nervous energy. Because again, tension attracts tension.
So if I’m holding my shoulders like this, then probably it affects my overall stress. Now, probably because I’m stressed, this is what happens. So, we constantly need to check in with ourselves, and to make sure that we’re not investing more energy and more effort into speaking than we need. And again, of course, if you feel stressed out about speaking, it will be represented in different places in your body, like your shoulders or your hands or your voice or your mouth.
So it could be just old habits, old pronunciation habits, and like a false belief that this is what you need to do. But it could be just tension, right, or stress that creates this tension. This tension makes you feel tired and exhausted after speaking.
Here’s the thing. Communication is way beyond the language that we use. We become a vessel of communication. That means that our voice plays a significant role, our body, our mindset, our thoughts, right? It’s not just the words that we choose and it’s not just the sounds that we produce. And it’s not just the structure of the words.
Communicating effectively in English is a holistic process. And this is what I’m trying to do here, on my channel, to teach you about all the things that go into powerful communication. And a big part of it is making sure that you’re not investing more energy than you should in communicating and more tension.
So, to wrap up. Make sure that you’re not investing a lot of energy and tension into your mouth. Specifically, your lips and your cheeks, right? Around the lips and the cheeks. That’s the first thing. And use a mirror or a webcam for that. Then, check in with your voice. I have a bunch of videos about using your voice freely and freeing up the voice and releasing that tension. If in fact, this is what you’re experiencing. So I’m going to link to those videos and episodes in the description.
And then the third thing is you constantly want to check in with your body. And to make sure that you’re not holding tension when communicating. And if you’re walking into an important meeting or any conversation in English, it would be good to kind of like center yourself for a few seconds to think about… to do like this mindfulness exercise. To think about your body, go through your body, all the organs, just like tell your body to relax, tell your voice to relax. You know, tell yourself, “I got this. I know how to speak in English”.
And even if you’re not 100% certain of the words that you’re going to use or what exactly you’re going to say, trust that it will happen if you allow space for it. And if you come to a conversation positive, with the one will – which is to communicate with another person, to actually make a connection.
Because when you make a connection, grammar mistakes, don’t matter. And if you’re not understood for one second because you have confused your consonants or vowels, it’s not a problem if there is a connection between you and the other person, right? So that tension that you feel also centers all your attention on yourself rather than on the person in front of you. Right?
So sometimes just shifting the focus to whoever it is you’re speaking with. And it doesn’t matter if it’s your boss or, you know, the person at the cashier, it doesn’t matter. When you’re making it about them, there’s something very relaxing about it and less nerve-wracking. Right? So, it all kind of goes together.
Okay. So that’s it. That was the one thing that you’re probably unaware of that you have developed throughout your practice or speaking experience. And maybe if you make that one shift, cause it’s very instantaneous, right, like to let go of tension. You do it immediately. But then habits kick in and you will find yourself, all of a sudden, you know, going back to the previous state where you put in a lot of tension. That is okay, it’s just like you need to remind yourself several times until you make that a new habit. So it’s a little bit of work, but it’s not, you know, it’s not hard work. It’s just awareness, and commitment, and consistency.
So I hope that this will allow you to find more freedom and feel more like yourself when communicating in English. If you want more lessons that will help you achieve just that, come on over to my website at hadarshemesh.com, where you’ll find a bunch of different resources to help you get there.
And if you enjoyed this specific episode, and if you have something to share with the community or to share with us, if this has shed a light around why you feel maybe stressed or uncomfortable or tired after speaking English, then let us know in the comments and tell us what you’re going to do about it to improve from now on.
Thank you so, so much for being here. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t yet. I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.
Where do you usually feel tension when you speak English? Let me know in the comments.