AEE 436: What You Can Learn About Speech Patterns from a Gay Man from New York

covering English speech patterns

What can you learn about speech patterns from the story of a gay man from New York City?

Today hear about a documentary about a gay man who hired a speech therapist to get rid of his gay-sounding voice and find out what this means for you as a learner of English.

This weekend we watched a movie called Do I Sound Gay and it reminded us of some of the challenges that our listeners go through when they want to get rid of their own accents from their home countries.

We can draw parallels between what this man went through and what you might go through if you relocate to the US and try to start a life for yourself.

What is a typical “gay male voice”?

Of course this might be a stereotype in itself but here are some of the characteristics according to speech therapists:

  • Careful pronunciation
  • High, rapidly changing pitch
  • Lisp
  • Nasal tone
  • Breathy tone

 

In this documentary the man tried to figure out how and when he started talking with this voice and started trying to get rid of it.

He was “covering” as linguists would say. He was trying to cover up his natural voice.

He was doing activities and exercises to get rid of his speech patterns.

Eventually he stopped doing the exercises because he realized he was disconnected with himself.

 

Is “covering” always healthy?

Sometimes covering can be healthy.

Healthy covering is getting pronunciation training to have more success in business and be understood in everyday situations when we are living in a new country.

There is also a difference between having an accent and having good pronunciation.

The idea of developing a 100% American accent is not always the thing to work toward.

Sometimes covering can he unhealthy if you are spending a lot of time trying to stop being the person you are. It can also become a form of aggression that we display to ourselves by not allowing anything but “perfection.”

 

What does this mean for you as an English learner?

  • Ask yourself, is your desire to change your pronunciation coming from a healthy place or an unhealthy place? Are you feeling vulnerable? Maybe you are feeling scared if you are living in a new country and you don’t want to stand out and you prefer to blend in?
  • Are you looking for perfection or connection? Do you want to learn in a way that helps you connect with people or do you want to be “perfect”? What are your priorities? What are your values?
  • Are you looking for a connection to yourself? If we are feeling disconnected to ourselves or our bodies we could see a therapist or do yoga or meditation. What are you actually looking for? Is “perfect” English pronunciation really the solution?

 

The extent to which you want to lose your original accent when you speak English is your own personal choice but we are asking you to reflect on that question today.

 

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments below.

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