Hands up if you like hearing the sound of your voice when it has been recorded? Not me.
Not many people in fact. It’s strange how we feel our voices don’t sound like we believe them to when we hear them recorded.
Why you should record yourself speaking
Recording your voice and then listening back to it has lots of benefits though when working on improving your speaking. It’s only when we can listen back to something we have said that we get a real understanding of our fluency, accuracy and naturalness.
While speaking, we may be aware of little grammatical mistakes we make or that we feel more fluent in some parts of the conversation we are having than at others. We won’t be aware of more than this though because speaking and thinking what to say next takes up most of our brain’s capacity.
Use your smartphone
It’s really easy to record yourself using a smartphone these days. You can also ask your friends and colleagues if they are happy for you to record some of the conversations you have. The recordings can be a short 1-2 mins. or longer. You probably don’t want to record much more than 5 minutes though as more than this is too much for you to analyse realistically. If you are recording a conversation, it’s best if you can both forget about the device to keep the speaking sounding as natural as possible.
What to listen out for
Once you have the recording, here are some things you can do with it:
• Listen to the speed at which you spoke. Was it appropriate for the situation? Was it similar to the speed of the person you were talking to?
• How many times did you say um, er or other hesitation phrases? [It’s OK to use these sometimes, everyone does, but it’s best not to use them too often] • Did you frequently self-correct yourself? This can be quite confusing to listen to. It’s better to say it as you started and then correct at the end of the sentence or if your listener asks for clarification.
• Does your intonation match the emotion of your vocabulary? For example, if you are describing something good does your intonation sound positive? Or, if you are trying to show empathy, does your intonation sound concerned?
• Did you respond appropriately to the other person in the conversation? If they asked you a question, did you answer it? If they told you some new information, did you use an appropriate phrase in response? What responses did the other person give you?
• Were you giving the other person chance to share their opinions and ideas or, alternatively, were you simply responding to what the other person said rather than making any of your own suggestions?
• Listen to the vocabulary you used. Was it appropriate for the situation and person you were talking to? Was it varied or could you have included some more interesting words?
The possibilities are endless but should be directed by what you already know to be your speaking weaknesses.
A little pain leads to a lot of gain
If you are happy to, you could also ask the person you recorded with or a teacher to listen to the recording too and give you their feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.
It may not be nice to listen to yourself but it is worth it to check on your performance and then focus on the problems you identify.