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Learn English Intonation with Frozen

I recently got a great lesson in intonation and expression from an unlikely source: the Disney movie Frozen 2. ☃️ ❄️ You read that right. My daughters were watching it with their headphones on, which allowed me to observe the characters without hearing their voices. What I noticed was that I could get the meaning of what they were saying purely by watching their movement, gestures, and facial expressions, which corresponded perfectly with the rhythms of American English. On stressed words there was some kind of movement, whereas unstressed words had none. It was pretty fascinating to watch. In today’s episode, I’ll be teaching you the differences between stressed and unstressed words and sharing clips from Frozen 2 to show you how the character animation helps convey those operative (stressed) words.


Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar. And today we are going to talk about what I’ve learned about intonation from Anna and Elsa. And yes, Anna and Elsa from Frozen.

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast. I’m really, really happy to have you here. Now, as you’ve heard in the intro, and probably from the title of this episode, you already know that there is something a little different today. Because I’m going to talk about what I have learned and what you can learn about communication, body language, intonation, rhythm, stress, all of that good stuff, from watching animated characters.

And yes, it’s that good. Because you can learn so much from them. And I’m not saying that you should walk around and start imitating animated characters, but if you understand how they were created and why they move the way they do, you can understand so much about the English language, and how to use it in the most effective way. And how to communicate in a way that people relate to you and listen to you. And in a way that helps you to get what you want. Because ultimately, that’s what we want in life.

So, all of these realizations came from me watching Frozen 2 with my daughters, but without the sound on. Because they had their headset on, and I was just watching the characters. And all of a sudden, I realized so many things that I haven’t noticed when watching the movie with the audio.

So, I’m going to share all of that with you today. And there’s actually a video version of this episode. So, if you want to watch the video and the clips, then you can click the link below and watch the video on my website.

And by the way, before we go into the episode, if you like this podcast and you enjoy the episode, if you could take one minute out of your time to rate and even review the podcast, that would be absolutely amazing. And I really, really appreciate it because when you rate and review the podcast, then it helps it reach more people. And then they can practice with Anna and Elsa too. All right. So, are you ready? Let’s listen to today’s episode.

Hey everyone, it’s Hadar. Thank you so much for joining me. Today, we are going to talk about what you can learn about American intonation and rhythm from Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Yes, I said it. So, let me tell you what made me create this video. So, a few months ago I was lying on the couch, and my daughters wanted to watch Frozen 2.

Now, I think we’ve seen that like a gazillion times. And the last thing I wanted is to hear their voices in my head while I’m doing other things. So I said, “Sure, you can watch it. It’s that time of the day. But you need to use your headset because I need some quiet in my head.” And they said, okay. So, there were watching with the headset on.

And at some point, I came over and sat on the couch with them. And I was watching the screen, and all of a sudden, I recognized something that I haven’t noticed before, while watching the movie. I noticed that the movements of Anna and Elsa and all the other characters had this really unique rhythm. And I noticed that they’re using their body language while speaking. And they were like going back and forth, and using their eyebrows to express things. And I realized that it’s connected with what exactly they’re saying.

Now, I know it sounds obvious. And yes, we’re using our body when we’re speaking, and it’s always connected to what we’re saying. But how is that connected to intonation and rhythm? So, if you haven’t heard me talk about it just yet, know that the intonation of English, the melody of English – when we go up and down, and the rhythm – the long versus short in her speech, is the result of the content, of what it is that we’re saying.

It’s not necessarily this external melody that we just put on top of what we’re saying, going up and down. No, it is the result of what it is that we’re saying and what we want to stress. So generally speaking, words that we want to stress and emphasize are longer, and louder, and higher in pitch. And we put more energy into it. And that energy is represented not only in our voice, but also our body, and our hand gestures, and our face. Right?

Even me when I speak, you can see that every time I say a word that I want to emphasize, I’m either using a certain gesture, or I’m opening my eyes, or raising my eyebrows because it helps you understand that this is something important that I’m trying to say. And I’m doing it with my body, but I’m also doing it with my voice – raising the pitch and stretching the word when the word is important, when I want you to pay attention to the word.

Now, watching Frozen 2 without the audio helped me recognize this ongoing rhythm that exists there too. And I thought it would be beautiful to bring it here and talk about it, and show you how this idea of rhythm and intonation is so deep and so rooted in the language. And once you start paying attention to it, it makes it so much more fun to practice English, to listen to English, and definitely to understand English, and to use it confidently.

Alright. So, what I’m going to do now is first, I’m going to show you a clip without the audio, and I want you to pay close attention to the facial gestures – eyebrows, eyes in particular; hand gestures, right, and body movement of the characters while speaking. And I want you to guess what would be the moments where they emphasize a word.

All right. So let’s take a look at this clip.

Now, let’s look at it a bit closer. And we’re going to pull out one sentence from this clip, and take a look at what Anna does when she speaks.

Now let’s listen to it with audio.

“Oh, Elsa. When are you going to see yourself the way I see you?”

Now, if you look at it really closely, you’ll see that there are three moments where she leans forward.

Now let’s listen to it with audio.

“Oh, Elsa. When are you going to see yourself, the way I see you?”

Let’s take the sentence and break it down. “Oh, Elsa” – let’s put it on the side. “When are you going to see yourself the way I see you?” Now, even if you just isolate this one sentence and only listen to the audio, you can hear that she goes up in pitch in three words. “WHEN are you going to SEE yourself the way I see you?” WHEN are you going to SEE yourself the way I see you?”

Now, if we also look at the video, we’ll see that these are the three points where she moves forward. “WHEN are you going to SEE yourself the way I see you?” Let’s do it together. WHEN are you going to SEE yourself the way I see you?”

Now, why is it so important to recognize? Because in English, not every word is stressed the same – only the key words, the operative words that move the idea forward. Everything else is somewhat reduced and pronounced fast. And a lot of times it’s reduced so much until the vowels are not even fully pronounced, but pronounced as a schwa.

‘When are you gonna, are you gonna, are you gonna see yourself the way, th’, th’, the way I see you?” Right? So, it’s not only the reductions that matter. It’s also the fact that it’s lower in pitch. And lower in energy, and faster. “When are you going to see yourself the way I see you?” Let’s do it again together. “When are you going to see yourself the way I see you?” Let’s see what happens after.

– What would I do without you?

– You’ll always have me.

“What would I do without you?” “What would I do without you?” We have three stressed words: what, do, without. Right? ‘What’ – the question, ‘do’ – the action, ‘without’ – the point of what she’s trying to say. She cannot live without her, right? “What would I do without you?” Now, everything in between – ‘what would I do without you’, ‘you’ is a little lower in pitch; full vowel, but lower in pitch.

– I know what you need. Come on, come here.

“I know what you need”. See how she stretches up when she says ‘I’? And her pitch is up as well. “I know what you need”, right? So the body represents the movement of the voice and the movement of the pitch. Now, it’s not really how people speak all the time, even though now that you are aware of it, you’ll start paying attention to the fact that people do move their bodies when they stress words more. Especially good speakers that try to convey their message in all possible ways.

But because it’s an animated movie, they need more and better ways to engage the people watching, the audience, right? And one of the ways to do it, to make it super clear also with a movement of the body. Also, it makes it a lot easier and clearer for the actors that narrate the scenes to do a good job because they know exactly what intonation it requires, based on the animation. It’s just really interesting to think about, like how it all works together. Let’s look at another fun scene.

Okay. So there’s a lot of motion and emotion in this scene. And I want you to see now how it works with the speech, and how it all fits the movement. Okay? So let’s watch it with the audio now.

– Anna, no. I have my powers to protect me. You don’t.

– Excuse me. I climbed the North Mountain, survived a frozen heart, and saved you from my ex-boyfriend. And I did it all without powers. So, you know, I’m coming.

– Me too. I’ll drive.

– I’ll bring the snacks.

So, the first sentence that Elsa says: “Anna, no. I have my powers to protect me. You don’t. Let’s see how she says that. “Anna, no. I have my powers to protect me. You don’t.” Now, you can see that she says ‘I have my powers to protect me’, right? She uses her hand gesture to stress the word ‘protect’. That’s the key word, that’s the operative word. This is why she doesn’t want her to come with her. Because she’s protected by her powers. “I have my powers to protect me. You don’t.” Right? And you can see how she moves the body according to those stressed words. Then Anna says:

– Excuse me, I climbed the North Mountain, survived a frozen heart, and saved you from my ex-boyfriend.

“Excuse me. I climbed the North Mountain, survived a frozen heart and saved you from my ex-boyfriend.” So, even that part alone, you can see that every time there is a key word – ‘climbed’, ‘survived’, ‘and’ – she uses her body. Right? She either leans forward or has a somewhat bigger gesture.

– And I did it all without powers. So, you know, I’m coming.

– Me too. I’ll drive.

“And I did it all without powers”. ‘All without powers’. And she drags the word. Because the idea is that I didn’t have any powers, right? ‘ALL without powers’.

What I’m trying to say here is that no, you don’t need to sound like Elsa or Anna. But stretching words to emphasize what you want to say, using your body, using pitch to convey your message is an excellent tool to communicate.

And it’s not just about English, but English does a really good job utilizing those elements – length and pitch. And when you look at good speakers who speak English really well, you’ll see that their body and their voice is always aligned with their message. Let’s look at what happens after.

– Me too. I’ll drive.

– I’ll bring the snacks.

“Me too. I’ll drive”. Right? There is this rising intonation, falling intonation – “Me too. I’ll drive”. And the same thing happens with his body. “Me too. I’ll drive”. Lifting his head up and dropping it down. “Me too. I’ll drive”.

So, to conclude: this is a great tool to practice your English while you’re watching animated movies with your kids, your nieces, your nephews, your neighbors, or even by yourself. So, it’s something to pay attention to because it can help you understand so much more about the language, but it’s not just when it comes to animated movies.

I want you to see that the body is intrinsically connected to the voice. And when you start recognizing that, you become more confident in using that. But it’s not enough because you need to put it into practice. Practicing using your body and using your voice is something that can definitely help you become a better communicator.

In fact, in my program – New Sound, I have an entire module about the voice, and a few modules about prosody, which is all intonation, rhythm and stress. So if you liked this video and you want to go deeper into understanding how the language is organized and how to use it to convey a clear compelling message, I invite you to get on my waitlist to find out when I open doors for New Sound, my signature program. The link is going to be below.

Now, I would love to hear from you. Have you ever noticed that when you watch animated movies, the movement of the characters is usually associated with their intonation and stressed words? If not, let me know as well. And tell me if it was helpful.

Thank you so so much for watching. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to my YouTube channel. And if you want to find out more, you can come on over to my website at hadarshemesh.com, or follow me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway, where I’m almost always available.

Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

?️ I’d love to hear from you: Do you notice your gestures or expressions when speaking English? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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