English Communication Confidence Blog

Adding Gestures To Your Spoken English

May 09, 2023

Did you catch my educational email earlier this week? I gave a little teaser about how to use gestures along with rhythm. Surprisingly, the two are very intertwined and can help your message go far – especially with a big audience. Read along to learn ways you can make sure the rhythm of your speech lines up with your use of gestures to make your English communication even more effective. 


Adding Gestures To Your Spoken English

Rhythm is one of the most important Frameworks in The Diamond Method, well, in spoken language to be honest. The rhythm of words and phrases enhances your clarity when you speak. But did you know that it can also be a way for you to add expressiveness to your speech?

Let's start with a little reminder about rhythm before we get into your enhanced communication.

If you've been following me, you've heard me talk about rhythm time and time again. It all starts with you remembering that English is a stress-timed language. This means that stressed syllables in our words and sentences are pronounced more prominently than unstressed syllables. 

Additionally, intonation – which is the rise and fall of pitch in your voice – can convey meaning and emotion. Don't forget to emphasize the right syllables and use appropriate intonation to convey your message clearly. 

Two-syllable words can sometimes be the hardest to get right because, well, there are just two syllables, and it is easy to get the stress wrong or to simply give equal stress to the syllables. Where would you put the stress on these words?

1. system

2. trial

3. implode

4. divide

5. manage

Did you get them right?

1. system - SYstem

2. trial - TRIal

3. implode - imPLODE

4. divide - diVIDE

5. manage - MAnage

Now, what would happen if I suggested you say these five words and you added a big gesture on the stressed syllables -- something a little dramatic. Imagine that you are throwing a frisbee across the way to a friend. On the stressed syllables of the words above, you can stretch your arm all the way out as if you are going to release it to fly in the air. 

And then you have to hoooooold the vowel of that stressed syllable to really make sure you are giving the word the right amount of syllable contrast, ok?

Let's look at some 3 syllable words now and see if you can first guess the stressed syllables and then do the frisbee exercise to get your voice to streeeeetch on the right parts of the words. Here are some 3-syllable words for you:

1. strategic

2. familiar

3. conduit

4. management

5. guarantee

OK, make your guesses before I give you the answers!

1. strategic - straTEgic

2. familiar - faMIliar

3. conduit - CONduit

4. management - MAnagement

5. guarantee - guaranTEE

Were those harder? How about saying them now with an exaggerated gesture? Stand up this time and stretch your arm completely out in front of you on the stressed vowel sounds. 

In the real world, I think we both know that these types of big gestures are hardly ever used in public speaking, but, did you know that hand gestures, in general, help us retrieve vocabulary from our brains? I know how important using the right word at the right time is for you. You should really try adding gestures to your speech more often.

And, you can take that big "frisbee" gesture and add it to your stressed syllables with more appropriate movements when you communicate.

It's going to enhance your communication, help others understand you, and make you much more interesting to listen to.

For example, you might use a small hand gesture to indicate the size of something little or you may use a sweeping gesture to indicate a broad concept or idea. 

Have you ever played charades? The game where you have to act out the word you're trying to say with actions in silence? Well, in real-world public speaking, we certainly need to be more delicate and natural looking with our gestures, but I think you can imagine how the game of charades helps you use gestures to accompany the description, personality, character, or size of what you're saying. 

Do you know what I mean?

One thing I recommend you try is to record yourself speaking with gestures. Then, of course, you'll need to playback the recording to see how your gestures match your speech. Try it out the next time you are preparing for a presentation.

Overall, syncing your gestures and rhythm will facilitate how you communicate when speaking effectively in English. You need to pay attention to the rhythm and use gestures to emphasize important points so that you get the most out of conveying your messages with impact.

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