The essence of good spoken language skills are twofolds. The first is intonation and the second is modulation of language. In this post, we will discuss intonation, with regard to the art of speaking clearly rather than the style of expression and choice of words, which is commonly referred to as diction.

Understanding Of Intonation


Intonation is what we hear when the sound of the word is produced. For example when a person is angry, his voice is forceful and deep; you can imagine when writing a direct speech in open and closed inverted commas ” I am so angry!”, the sentence ends in an exclamation mark !. When a person is happy, his voice has a higher pitch like the sound of the bird when it tweets. A combination of intonations in our speech can therefore help our listeners to understand how we feel about certain topics in our discussion or conversations.


Some languages like Mandarin have assigned intonation rules called Han Yu Pin Yin. There are 5 different intonation sounds in Mandarin.Book A Mandarin Lesson. Click here.


Where there is intonation in speech, the voice of the speaker pitches from low to high, high to low in graduation and intervals between phrases. Changing pitch in the voice of the speaker demonstrates emotions, emphasis and conviction of topics in conversations. Without intonations or changes in pitch, any form of speech will become monotonous.


When we first learn how to speak a new language, it is not necessary to learn the intonation unless the language itself is governed by intonation sounds. We should focus on how to produce the sound of a word, syllables in a word or letter sounds. This is called the phonetical sounds of the language: Arabic (Alif – Ya) or Dutch, British English, American English (A-Z). Learning phonetical sounds will help you speak in a foreign language more fluently. However, if you are not inclined to begin from basics, you can also learn according to the topics of your interest: travelling, cooking, hairdressing, writing, bookkeeping etc.


It might just be a new sentence you have learnt, “Hello. How are you?” If you learn to use intonations on just the word “Hello” to be used in different ways: to answer a phone call, to greet a person in the morning or to greet someone on skype call. If you translate certain words you learn in as many languages as you can, you will find that intonations can help you convey meaning and even emotions. It may even win you a date! Like saying “I love you” in German “Ich liebe dich”, with a low soft tone.Click Here! To Down German 6 day free course.


Listen to a traveller from a foreign country when he asks directions in his foreign accent. Usually, as he utters the name of the place he wants to go to, he changes the pitch of his voice in many different ways to be understood. “The Taj Mahal?” “No, THE TAJJJJ Mahallll?” As he rolls his tongue the second time, he changes his tone. It is usually the skills at changing the intonations of the words that get our meaning across.


What sort of intonations are there? Well there is:

* Rising intonations – pitch of the voice increases over time
* Falling intonations – pitch of the voice decreases over time
* Dipping intonations – pitch falls and the rises
* Peaking intonations – pitch rises and then falls
Source: Wikipedia

Mandarin in particular attribute a single tone to each character so when the sound of a character is uttered, you must get it right the first time. German langauge tends to emphasise the first syllable of the word and usually the prefix and suffixes are not pronounced. It is almost as if the entire word of 2 or 3 syllables is not pronounced completely. Bahasa Indonesia uses pitches in the voice quite regularly, graduating between high and low in resonance with the moods or emotions of the speaker. And the most interesting sound in this languages is the high pitched nasal sounds (suara sengau)! Dong, Ning. :)


Generally, when it comes to questions (?), intonations of most languages tend to end in a higher pitch towards the final group of syllables to be pronounced. When it comes to sentences, it depends if the speaker is stating a fact, creating humour or simply expressing various emotions such as anger, sorrow or joy.


In the hip-hop generation nowadays, a new wave of intonations have developed. You know how they (hip-hop cool dudes) raise their hands in the air and say things like, “How is it going, my man?” or and a cheerful, “Hey dude!” There are high on ‘going’ and ‘hey ..de’. :)

How To Practise?


If you are able to express emotions through facial expressions, try to convey these emotions with words by changing or modifying your tones of expressions and pitch. Imagine being desparate, poor, rich, proud, sad, mad, angry, tired or happy.


If you love music, practise daily with music, songs, poems and rhymes to exercise your vocal songs. Practising intonation with music not only helps you musically, but also vocally for everyday speech. In this regard, I would like to refer you to previous posts on exercises.


Let’s say you want to ask a girl for date or her hand in marriage. You will definitely rehearse the words over and over again in your head out loud, won’t you? Let me tell you, when it comes wooing the person of your dreams, it is not about how well you express yourself, it is the tone of your expressions that matters.


Or if you are doing a 3 minute speech, you would also spend at least some time rehearsing the speech. It is not a matter of diction or profound language skills; those can be written by experts. The speaker himself must know how to intonate certain important parts of the speech to bring his message across, impress the audience and move them to action.