Interpreters: Speak Like You’ve Never Spoken Before

speak like never before

Some people are naturally expressive. Others are naturally monotone. For the interpreter, it doesn’t (necessarily) matter what your natural speaking style is, except to be aware of it and then adjust to what is needed in the moment. Naturally emotive people might need to tone down their natural speaking style to match the speaker. People with a naturally flat speaking style might need to turn up the expression.

Getting out of your comfort zone can be, well, uncomfortable. One way to get more comfortable in speaking in an uncomfortable way is to practice speaking with different tones or styles. You can do this by taking a few simple phrases and practice saying them with different emphasis or emotion.

For example, take the phrase It is snowing. Now say it in a way that conveys the different emotions listed here:

  • Frustrated
  • Unsure
  • Angry
  • Sarcastic
  • Joking
  • Sad
  • Elated
  • Exhausted
  • Indifferent

Got a team? Make a competition of it. Create a collection of short statements or phrases. Give everyone the same phrase (you can write it on a whiteboard) and is assigned a different emotion, which only they see. Each person reads the short statement conveying the assigned emotion as best they can. Use only short statements that won’t challenge memory or reading skills (those are not the focus of the exercise. . . I mean game!) One point is awarded to the “performer” for every person who correctly identifies their emotion, and one point is awarded to every guesser for correctly identifying the emotion. The round (or game) ends once everyone has a turn as a performer. The winner gets. . . bragging rights or a new car, whatever your budget allows.

This game helps build critical listening skills and develops proficiency in conveying different tones of voice.

Don’t have a team? Get a group of friends and family together and play the game with them (no interpreting experience needed). They’ll just think you have a fun new game to play. You’ll secretly be developing your interpreting skills. Pop some corn and you have a great way to spend a Friday night!

What skills exercises help you match the speaker’s tone of voice? 

Interested in growing your skills at matching the speaker’s tone? Join us for Watch Your Tone! an online continuing education course for medical interpreters.

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