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Chapter II. ARTICULATION AND BREATHING PRACTICE
In order to acquire correct pronunciation, to manipulate the organs of speech one is to be taught breathing technique. The first and the most important thing in any system of voice exercises is the formation and control of the breath. We never breathe out completely in speech. Complete exhalation takes place only in breathing exercises. In normal breathing there is some reserve breath remaining in the lungs. The exercises given below will help you to control your breath, as breath control is the keynote of all that is necessary for speaking.
The mass of air breathed in is kept in the lungs. The lungs are inclosed in the region covered by the ribs, and extending upward, they fill the chest cavity except for the space for the heart. While breathing we fill only the upper part of the lungs with air, but for speaking and singing it is necessary to fill the lower part of the lungs. This is reached with the help of the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is a large muscular membrane lying just above the waist line. It forms the floor of the chest cavity and in
correct breathing increases its capacity, filling the lower part of the lungs with air as well. That is 'deep breathing', so necessary for correct speaking. To master it you should do the following exercises properly every day for two weeks until the normal capacity of the lungs has been reached. Make progress slowly.
EXERCISES ON DEVELOPING DEEP BREATHING
1. [This exercise should be taken every morning and evening before an open window.] Stand straight with your hands on hips and shoulders back and down. Close the mouth. Now draw a slow full breath through the nose. You will feel that the lungs are full. Hold your breath counting mentally "one", "two", "three"; then exhale slowly and completely. When you breathe in deeply you see the expansion at the waist line first, then of the middle part of the lungs and at last in the upper part of the chest. When you breathe out you relax the diaphragm first (a movement which lessens the size of the waist line), then the lower ribs, and lastly let the chest sink.
Count "one", "two", "three" again and repeat the exercise.
Jf you find it difficult to hold your breath between breathing in and out, start by counting "one". The maximum number to count between should be "five", the maximum number of breaths is "ten".
2. While walking slowly somewhere (when you are not in a hurry) breathe in rhythmically with your steps. Inhale during three steps, hold your breath for three other steps, now exhale during three more steps, hold for another three steps. Continue doing the exercise as long as you feel no strain. If it is difficult to hold the breath for "three" at the beginning start with "one" or "two".
3. [This is all excellent exercise for speakers.] Stand at the end of a long room and try to hit the opposite wall with each word you read. Keep the pitch of the voice low and count slowly-
Stand erect with your hands on the hips. Take a full breath
'through the mouth, count "one", while breathing out count "one", "two". Breathe in through the mouth again counting "one", "two", "three". Breathe out through the mouth, count
"one", "two", "three", "four". Continue in this way until you count "ten". Be sure not to allow any breath to escape between counts. Repeat the exercise during the first week. For the second week reach 15 in counting, for the third week reach 20. If you find it quite hard for you to count 10, begin with counting 5.
4. [This exercise is also meant to develop your ability to control your "deep breathing".] Choose a long paragraph from a Russian book. Take a deep breath and begin reading the paragraph without stopping at punctuation marks. Read as many words as possible in one breath . Now mark the place where you have stopped and continue reading. Mark the next place you have stopped and so on until you come to the end of the whole paragraph. Read fairly loudly and at a normal speed.
Take the same paragraph each day for a week and gradually you will be able to speak a greater number of words with each breath.
5. [You may move on to this exercise only after you have reached good results with the previous ones. This exercise is meant to develop the ability to obtain the volume of the voice without raising its pitch.] Compose a list of words (of not more than two syllables). Standing in a long room about a meter from the farthest wall pronounce one of the words distinctly and within an ordinary conversational pitch of voice.
Now walk back two meters and read the same word in exactly the same pitch but increase the volume to cover the additional distance. Move back two meters and repeat the word again, this time with more force and more volume, but be careful to keep the same conversational pitch. Continue moving back and doing the exercise till you stand with your back against the wall.
Do not make haste while working at the exercises. Slow growth is permanent growth.
Now that you have achieved pretty fair results with the breathing exercises you may begin working at developing your active organs of speech.
Learners of English must be aware of the fact that each language is characterized by its own peculiar way of articulation. They should study the descriptions of English vowels and consonants very carefully because what seems a quite small difference may in fact be very important in recognizing and producing an
English sound correctly, and the small difference in the movement of the speech organs may make the main difference between the English and Russian sounds, thus:
(1) English voiceless consonants are produced more energetically than the Russian ones; the voiceless [p, t, k] are pronounced with aspiration (a slight puff of breath at the end of the articulation of the sounds).
(2) Forelingual consonants in English are produced with the tip of the tongue (apical articulation) o/itfie teeth ridge while the similar Russian consonants have dorsal articulation , i. e. they are pronounced with the blade of the tongue on the teeth, cf (t — t] in rip — mun; [n — h] in net — Hem.
(3) The English do not move their lips with much energy; the lips are never very far apart or spread very much; they are not very rounded or protruded as for some Russian sounds, cf [u — y] in put — nyg.
(4) English vowels are grouped not only according to the quality but also according to their quantity into long and short.
(5) Some vowels ([i:, u:j and the diphthongs) are characterized by a gliding articulation from one vowel element to another, while in Russian no diphthongs could be found, cf eye [ai] (one vowel) — au [aj] (two vowels).
(6) There are back open vowels in English while in Russian low position of the tongue is associated only with central vowel [a].
So the next important step before studying English sounds in detail is to master the work of your articulating organs of speech. The following exercises deal with articulation of sounds. For this purpose, take a mirror, put it in front of you that you can properly see your face. Now begin doing the exercises.
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