Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar. And this is episode number 295. And today we are going to practice intonation, rhythm, and tone of voice with Tanya from The White Lotus.
Hey, hey everyone, welcome back. Thank you so much for being here with me today. So, do you like TV shows? Are you a fan of watching television? Do you like binging on different shows on Netflix and HBO and Disney and Apple and Amazon Prime? Ah, I’m just getting tired thinking about all the different options and possibilities for good, mediocre, and bad television.
I am not a fan of television. Actually, up until two years ago, I didn’t even have a TV set in my apartment. And I caved to the family only because the television looks like a painting, cuz it has this nice frame, so it’s like a fake painting. And I don’t feel like I have this big television in front of me all day, every day.
So, I don’t love TV, but I like good shows, I really do. And every now and then I find a really good show and then I am addicted. So it’s kind of like all or nothing. Either I don’t watch any television, any movies, nothing or I get hooked on a show and then I cannot stop thinking when can I watch the next episode. And usually I binge watch and finish everything within a few days, and sometimes a couple of nights. And that has been the case with the show The White Lotus.
If you haven’t seen it, then know that this show was created for HBO, and it’s an American black comedy drama. And it is so good. First of all, the acting is so realistic. The actors are really incredible. And the dialogue is so funny and smart, and the situations are like, ah, this is so good! Everything – the music, the editing, the directing. So, as you can notice, I highly recommend it.
But also as English learners, you know, we’re always looking for fun ways to practice and improve and develop. And finding good sources to work with is a good opportunity, and this is what I’m presenting you with today. Because in the show there is a character called Tanya, and she is hilarious. She was actually in both seasons, the first and second season of The White Lotus. She’s the only character who returned in season number two. And she is portrayed by Jennifer Coolidge. So you can look her up if you don’t know who she is.
And some of her dialogues on the show are so funny, and in particular how she uses her voice to convey an emotion. And her tone is always very distinct, and her rhythm teaches us a lot about the music of English, and what works and what doesn’t work. So, I figure that would be an exciting opportunity for us to practice with Tanya, who is actually Jennifer Coolidge from The White Lotus.
This episode is also on video, can be found on video, and I’m going to link to the actual video in the show notes. And there is also a PDF that goes along with this practice if you wanna go a little deeper, if you wanna listen to it and see the notes and kind of like have a visual representation of all the things that I talk about when it comes to intonation and rhythm. Some people find it very helpful, especially visual learners, or if you are the type of person who learns better with writing notes and taking notes. So, that is a resource that is going to be helpful, it’s absolutely free, and I’m going to link to it in the description as well.
All right. I am hoping that you are going to enjoy this episode. I definitely enjoyed recording it. All right, so let’s go ahead and listen to it.
Today we are going to practice American intonation and rhythm. I’m going to teach you how to stress words in English and how to use the melody of your voice to do that. And we are going to do that while analyzing some scenes played by Jennifer Coolidge, who is playing Tanya in the White Lotus.
Now, before we start analyzing the speeches, I wanna tell you something about the intonation and the rhythm of English. The intonation and rhythm of English are designed to serve the message of the speaker. Meaning, that the words that are more important are going to stick out differently than the words that are a little less important that are there just to connect the main ideas.
So words that are more important, that drive the meaning – also called stressed words or operative words – are usually stretched out and are different in pitch so that they are captured by the listener. Whereas words that are reduced are reduced to a schwa, the vowel itself is reduced, and they’re connected. Let’s look at the first scene and see what that looks like.
“My POOR MOTHER.”
‘My POOR MOTHER’. Now here all the words are stressed, so she stretches each one of them and even takes small breaks in between. ‘My poor mother’.
“She DIED in JUNE.”
‘She DIED in JUNE’. Now, listen to the rhythm. It’s not ‘she died in June’. Not every word receives the same beat, but the stressed words are longer, and the reduced words are shorter. ‘She DIED in JUNE’. ‘in’ is reduced. ‘She died in June’. It’s very melodic, she’s almost singing it.
“And she LOVED the OCEAN.”
‘And she LOVED the OCEAN’. Now the word ‘loved’ obviously sticks out here. And how does she do that? She goes higher in pitch: ‘And she LOVED the OCEAN’, and she stretches it not only by elongating the vowel, but also elongating the consonants – loved, loved. So you can use all the sounds in a given word to emphasize it. ‘And she loved the ocean’. ‘an-shee’, right, that is a little faster.
“Just LOVED it.”
‘Just LOVED it’. And again, ‘it’ is reduced, right? So the word ‘LOVED’ is longer, has more volume, and higher in pitch.
“My poor mother, she had a BEAUTIFUL HOUSE in CARMEL.”
‘My poor mother’, she repeats what she just said, but a little faster. ‘had a BEAUTIFUL HOUSE in CARMEL’. BEAUTIFUL, HOUSE, CARMEL. It’s really easy to detect the words that are stressed. BEAUTIFUL, HOUSE, CARMEL.
“and she tried VERY VERY HARD to be a REALLY GOOD MOTHER.”
‘And she tried VERY VERY HARD’. So, ‘and she tried’ is one unit. ‘tried’ is the keyword here. ‘an she TRIED’. So ‘TRIED’ is longer than ‘and she’ that are reduced. ‘VERY VERY HARD’ – look at all the emotion that she puts in, into those stressed words. – VERY VERY HARD. ‘HARD’ is more stressed than the ‘VERY’ and the ‘VERY’, right? ‘VERY VERY HARD’. But all of it is stressed, there’s a lot of weight that goes into it. ‘and she tried VERY VERY HARD’.
“to be a REALLY GOOD MOTHER”.
‘to be a REALLY GOOD MOTHER’. ‘to be a’ – that’s reduced. ‘to be a’ – ‘duh-be-uh’. REALLY GOOD MOTHER. Because ‘to be a’ is not that important as ‘REALLY GOOD MOTHER’. And these words are stressed, they’re longer, they’re pronounced clearly. Now, why is it important? Because every language has its own rhythm and stress and intonation patterns. Now you have a unique rhythm for your language, your first language, if it’s not English. And there it is perfectly fine, but sometimes if you bring that into English, it might change the quality of the speech, and maybe the message is not gonna be delivered as quickly if you don’t use the rhythm of English or the intonation, where you change the pitch and you make the word longer when it’s important. Let’s look at another scene.
“Yeah. He likes the first LAYER.”
‘Yeah, he likes the first LAYER’. ‘Yeah’. ‘Yeah’. Notice this intonation, it’s kinda like, ‘Yeah, maybe’, right? That is, it’s like up-down-up. ‘He likes the first LAYER’. So, ta-DA-ta-DA-TADA, LAYER is stressed, so it’s going to be longer than the rest. ‘Yeah, he likes the first LAYER’. That type of intonation or tone of voice is somewhat doubting or uncertain.
“MAYBE, I don’t know.” Right? Same thing here. ‘MAYBE, I don’t know’.
“But what about the SECOND layer?”
‘But what about the SECOND layer?’ ‘wadabout’, right, that is reduced. ‘What about the SECOND layer?’ SECOND LAYER – these two words are stressed.
“And the THIRD LAYER.” ‘And the THIRD LAYER’. Let’s practice the word ‘third’. ‘thir’, ‘thir’ – TH to an R.
“and then EVERY STEP ALONG the WAY”
‘and then EVERY STEP ALONG the WAY’. ‘an-then’ – reduced. EVERY STEP – stressed-stressed. ALONG the WAY – stressed-stressed. ‘and then EVERY STEP ALONG the WAY’. Now try to really imitate the melody and the rhythm, don’t just repeat the words. This is how you start changing your rhythmic habits, right, that you carry from your own language. And give yourself this freedom to try out new things and play with your voice. That’s what makes it interesting, and that’s how you start discovering new things as well.
“I have to WORRY ABOUT”. ‘I have to WORRY ABOUT’. ‘I have to WORRY ABOUT’.
“you know, is he gonna like the NEXT LAYER?”
‘you know’, ‘you know’, that’s a common filler phrase, ‘you know’. ‘Is he gonna like the NEXT LAYER?’ Let’s try that with our voice, right, like this exaggeration. You know, you charge it with emotion and then that changes your voice. ‘Is he gonna like the NEXT LAYER?’ This is fun, isn’t it? Let’s try another scene.
“You’re on VACATION” Now here she’s pissed off. ‘You’re on VACATION’, right? The tone goes up here. ‘What do you want? Why are you doing this? You’re on VACATION’. Which word is stressed here? VACATION. ‘You’re on VACATION’.
“Yeah. You INSISTED that we come to SICILY and have this ROMANTIC WEEK”.
INSISTED, SICILY, ROMANTIC WEEK – these are the stressed words. ‘You INSISTED’, right? So she really raises her pitch here to stress the word INSISTED. Right? I dunno what you’re saying. Imagine that she just said it like this: ‘you insisted that we come to Sicily and have this romantic week’. It wouldn’t have the same impact, right? So you use your voice to tell the other person what it is that you’re feeling.
‘You INSISTED that we come to SICILY’, right? And the words that are stressed are longer and higher in pitch. ‘and have this ROMANTIC WEEK’. Try it out.
All right. Let’s do one more line from the show.
“Listen, I’m in DESPERATE need of a MASSAGE.”
Now, I think that’s a sentence that we should all memorize. ‘I’m in DESPERATE need of a MASSAGE’. ‘I’m in DESPERATE need of a MASSAGE’. ‘uh-vuh-muh’, ‘of a MASSAGE’.
“Is THAT POSSIBLE?” ‘Is THAT POSSIBLE?’ ‘Is THAT POSSIBLE?’ She’s asking, but she’s also demanding. Can you hear it from her tone of voice? It’s not really a question. ‘Is THAT POSSIBLE?’ She’s dropping her pitch down. She doesn’t say, ‘Is that possible?’ ‘Is that possible?’ ‘Is THAT POSSIBLE?’ Right? There is something about this tone and intonation that shows that she knows that her request is going to be answered. Something that we should all practice, every now and then.
All right, that’s it. Now we have collected for you a bunch of different sentences from the different scenes with links to the scenes, and a phonetic transcript, which means that you will see in front of you the stressed words and the reduced words, so that you can practice effectively with Jennifer Coolidge, who is also Tanya from White Lotus.
I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider sharing it with others. Don’t forget to download the PDF that we have prepared for you. And I cannot wait to hear what you think. So let me know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this episode, check out my website at hadarshemesh.com for many more and many other resources for you. You can also follow me on Instagram at @hadar.accentsway.
Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the week, and I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.