Wouldn’t it be nice to be more engaging when speaking English?
Have you ever wondered what words you need to stress in a sentence to deliver your message?
Intonation tells us a lot about your mood and thoughts and it’s what makes your speech more interesting and alive.
In this video, we’re going to analyze a part of Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris’s victory speech and her amazing message to the women and girls of the world.
Practice with me if you want to find out how American English intonation works and how you can be more effective and clear in English.
Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m your host, Hadar, and this is episode number 78. And today we are going to learn about intonation, rhythm, and public speaking from Kamala Harris, the new vice president of the United States.
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. InFluency because you are constantly in fluency. It’s like you’re in motion, but you are in fluency. And also, you influence because you’re fluent. Anyway.
I had totally different episode recorded and planned out for you, to be honest. But yesterday I was sitting at my studio and I found myself getting sucked into the rabbit hole of watching a whole bunch of videos related to the elections that just took place last week in the United States. Now, I don’t live in the United States, but it was very much involved. It’s funny, cause I feel like I was more involved and excited about what’s going on, or upset, more than I was in the previous elections that we had here. But that’s a different story.
So anyway, I was watching a lot of videos and speeches and people celebrating, and I was really moved by witnessing this historic moment, where the first woman ever was elected to serve as the vice president of the United States. And Kamala Harris, who is the Vice-President-Elect, is not only the first woman to be elected, but she’s also a woman of color. She’s a South Asian black woman, which is also something that is pretty groundbreaking in the United States.
So I was happy to witness that historic moment and I started watching all those speeches, and then I watched her speech and I started crying. And it was so freaking good that I said, “Okay. No. Let’s stop. I know that there is a video planned for tomorrow, and I know that there is a podcast episode planned for tomorrow. But we need to change things around because this is such a good moment that we cannot let it go to waste.”
So, I think it was like 11:00 PM. I literally recorded this video – that we’re going to share the audio here, but you can actually go and watch it – we’re going to post a link to it in the description, but you don’t have to because there aren’t any fancy titles or anything. It’s just me speaking along with her, so the audio version is perfect. But what you could do is download the script. So I actually created a designed script where you can see the stressed words and the reduced words. So, it’s like a visual representation of the intonation that I analyze.
So I took a small part of her awesome speech – I’m going to link to the speech in the description as well – and analyzed it the way I love doing, focusing on the intent, and the rhythm, and the intonation, and pronunciation. So, there’s a lot of goodness in there. We’re going to share it here.
Again, you can download the transcript and the phonetic script. And you can also find the link to watch the video that I filmed at 11:00 PM last night. So I’m a little tired because then I had to edit it, and usually I have an editor that does that, but I couldn’t call her at midnight telling her, “Hey, listen, I have something for tomorrow.”
So I did it. I used to do it, you know, when I first started creating videos. So I still have my magic, but it’s not as tweaked and fancy as the rest of my videos because it’s not my thing – editing videos. I know how to do it, but, you know, I also know how to cook, but I prefer that someone else cooks. Especially when I’m hungry.
Okay, we are getting distracted here. Let’s go back to what we’re here about, which is to celebrate this beautiful moment and the beautiful speech Kamala gave – Kamala, that’s how it’s pronounced, Kamala.
And that’s it. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you get to learn something. So here it is.
Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. And this is an impromptu speech analysis, which means it wasn’t planned. Because I wanted to celebrate this historic moment where it’s the first time in the history of the United States, where a woman was elected to be the vice president of the United States. And that is huge and very inspiring.
So, I watched the speech that she gave and I wanted to take a small part of it and analyze it with you together. Because what better way there is to celebrate a person’s words than to repeat them again and again? So I’m going to play it and then we’ll repeat it together, and I’ll tell you what to focus on. Okay? Let’s listen.
“But while I may be the first woman in this office…”
But while I may be the first woman in this office. But while I may be the first woman in this office. ‘First’ – notice how she lifted “first woman in this office”, right? So, everything’s kind of flat to stress the word “first”. Why? You’ll see, in a second.
And what does she do? How does she stress that word? She goes up in pitch. She is all the way down here, “but while I may be the first woman in this office” – goes back to the same tone.
“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last”.
Boom. “I will not be the last”. “not”, “last” – these are the key words here. “I will not be the last”. “I will not be the last”. So even though the pitch doesn’t change much here, she uses length to emphasize those words and to move the idea forward, which is what happens in the speech. She keeps moving the idea forward using the key words: “first”, “not last”, right? If we only take those key words, we can make sense of what it is that she’s saying. “I will not be the last”.
“Because every little girl…”
“Because” – very reduced; “because”, cause that’s not important, so we practically don’t hear any vowels here. “Because every little girl”. Now, see how she skipped the word “little”. Not that it’s not important, it’s not as important as “girl”, right? Even though it’s like a word with mostly consonants, she still stressed it, she still dragged it: “every little girl”, “girl”, “girl”. Notice the transition between the ‘g’ and the ‘ir’ and the ‘l’. “girl”. “Because every little girl”.
“Watching tonight”. “Watching tonight”. Now, she starts emphasizing almost every single word. And that’s what we do in speeches when we want to get to the main point. You start slowing down, taking more pauses, and almost stressing every single word, except for the function words – the words that don’t matter. “Watching tonight”, notice what you did here with ‘tonight’, where the T is aspirated – ‘tonight’. And the final T is kinda like swallowed or nasalized almost. “Watching tonight”, ‘tonight’, they don’t sound the same.
“…sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
‘sees’ – high E, ‘sees’. Again, she takes her time: “…that this is a country of possibilities” – punching the stressed words. “that this”, so ‘that’ is short, “that this is a”. ‘i-zuh’, ‘i-zuh’ – reduced. “country ‘uhv’ possibilities”, right? So, ‘this’, ‘country’, ‘possibilities’. All the rest of the words, they don’t really matter. They’re there, they don’t really matter, they’re reduced. “that this is a country of possibilities”. ‘paa’ – A as in ‘father’, ‘possibilities’.
“And to the children…”
“And to the children”. So again, “every little girl”, “and to the children” – so ‘children’ is stressed here. So she starts with the individual, the ‘girl’, and then she goes broader – ‘to children’, so ‘children’ is stressed now. t’th’, t’th’, t’th’; and t’th’, and t’th’, and t’th’. “And to the children”. So here the pitch is a little higher than ‘girl’, “every little girl”, because she’s starting to build her argument.
And now she goes even one step further: “and to the children”, right? ‘chil’, so the ‘ch’ is a little longer than usual; and the ‘i’, which is a short vowel, is a little longer than usual; and the L is longer: “into the children“. It’s kind of like she’s bathing in those words to make sure that people hear them. “to the children”.
“…of our country”.
“Of our country”. Now, it goes back to that formal, official tone: “of our country”. Again, every word is stressed here except for ‘of’ – “of our country”.
“…regardless of your gender”.
“Regardless of your gender”. “regardless” – ‘luhs’ ‘luhs’ – schwa – “regardless of your gender”. “of your gender”. ‘uhv your – it’s kind of stressed – gender’. She didn’t say “of your a gender” [with ‘gender’ unstressed], she wanted to emphasize this word as well – “of your gender”.
“our country has sent you a clear message”.
“Our country has sent you a clear message”. ‘sent you’, ‘sent you’ – also notice the T here, like with… ‘tonight’ – trying to remember what was the word – ‘tonight’. ‘sen[t] you’, ‘sen[t] you’ – held, held inside the nose in a way. “…has sent you a CLEAR MESSAGE” – stressed stressed.
“Dream with ambition.”
“Dream with ambition”: ‘with’ is reduced, it’s less important cause we have ‘dream’ and ‘ambition’ – these are the keywords here. “Dream with ambition”. Now let’s see where that goes.
“lead with conviction”.
“Lead with conviction”. So she keeps the rhythm here. It really kind of like moves the message forward where the rhythm is the same, right, like short sentences. “Lead with conviction”. ‘conviction’ – ‘k’n’ – schwa. k’n-vik-sh’n.
“…and see yourselves in a way that others may not.”
“And see yourselves in a way that others may not” – she has like a that tone changes a little bit here. “And see yourself in a way that others may not” – still something is coming up, she’s not done.
“…simply because they’ve never seen it before” – closing. “Simply because they’ve never seen it before”: that’s it, she’s closing here. Right? And think of what a profound sentence that is, right? Like, people will always have something to say just because that’s how they know things to be, but it shouldn’t change how you operate, how you dream, the vision that you have for yourself, because their opinions don’t matter. Sounds familiar?
“And see yourself in a way that others may not”. So, you can’t define yourself, according to what people think about you or what people think about what you should do and how you should behave, simply because they haven’t seen it before.
“but know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”
And that is it, that is the main point: “and know that we will applaud you every step of the way”, “every step of the way”, “every step of the way” – that’s such a good phrase to know.
Okay. Now let’s listen to the whole thing once again, I’m going to play it and you just follow her words, follow her intonation, follow her rhythm, and follow her courage. Let’s listen.
“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before, but know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”
So much hope. And I don’t even live in the United States! Okay, let me know in the comments what you think and how you feel, and I hope you enjoyed it. And I will see you in the next video. Bye.
FREE DOWNLOAD: My intonation notes
Get my FREE visual intonation notes so you can actually see the phrasing, reductions and stress patterns used in the scene and practice it whenever you want!