I want to talk about our special gift, the voice because today, April 16 is World Voice Day.
Celine Dion has a voice doctor; David Beckham’s legs have his legs insured. Other people who do not own their bodies have vested interests in protecting and maintaining THEIR physical health conditions for professional reasons. Professional singers, stockbrokers, financial advisors, sales entrepreneurs or teachers alike depend on their voices to make money. Indeed, our voice is an integral part of the human anatomy.
We use our voices everyday. They are important in communicating daily activities with members of the family, friends and colleagues at work. Without voices, it is impossible to imagine how civilisation will evolve on earth: how does one speak to another about directions, health, shopping, trading, business, cooking, education and music? People born with a voice must therefore be aware of the importance of this special gift.
The World Voice Day was established on April 16th with the main goals of increasing public awareness of the importance of the voice and alertness to voice problems. The event started in Brazil in 1999 as the Brazilian National Voice Day. It was the result of a mixed initiative of physicians, speech-language pathologists and singing teachers that belonged to the former association ‘Sociedade Brasileira de Laringologia e Voz – SBLV’ (Brazilian Society of Laryngology and Voice). This initiative was followed by other countries, such as Argentina and Portugal, and the Brazilian National Voice Day became the International Voice Day.
Download the full .pdf report (2 pages) here: April 16th: The World Voice Day
Here are some useful tips to keep your voice in good health:
Learn to control your breath: If you take a real deep breath, you will feel that your lungs will slowly expand forcing your chest out. If you direct your breathing towards your diaphragm and away from your lungs, your stomach will be bloated instead. Learning to control does not mean to keep that air in the stomach or exhale in one go after holding it in for a few seconds. As soon as you breathe in, your lungs are full (the chest is forced out completely), exhale gradually and start to count to 10, say the days of the week or just practise your times table! The most important thing is not to use your throat muscles to manage the volume of your voice. You have to use your abdominal muscles instead. Keep your back straight at all times and shoulders square.
Speak to a child. One of the reasons for doing this is that children, being visually smaller in built, will naturally cause us to tone down our voices to a lower, softer pitch and also slow down the pace of our speech. Before I conduct a class for kids, I would have to practise my lessons in front of my co-teachers or on my own to make sure that I do not overemphasise certain new phrases I want to introduce to the kids for the day.
Extra tip for mums: I started reading to my own child when she was just 40 days old. And I am not the only mother in the world who is happy to do this. I wanted my daughter to pick up the quality in the voice so when she is ready to speak, sing or talk, she is able to emulate the pitch, intonation and modulation. For a baby, you can do this for as long as 24 months because the baby’s first intended spoken words are said to start at around 1 year old. When you are speaking to older children, maintain a low pitch (and soft tone). It is very hard as a parent to do this especially when emotions of anger and frustrations do happen and will be heard in the voices. In this case, tell yourself it is not worth the energy to raise your voice to display anger and frustrations; kids are will not respond to an angry parent. More often than not, they do react by sulking or throwing tantrums on future occassions.
Practise articulation of your speech with tongue twisters, learn foreign languages or sing. In all cases, you are making use of your brain to give feedback to the muscles used for speech and voices to speak clearly. People with good command of spoken language do mumble or mince their words as they speak. Good language skills do not necessarily lead to better speech.
Do not speak when you are upset. Try not to speak when you are angry lest “the devil will speak out before you do”. Emotions like anger and frustration can cause unnecessary strain to the vocal chords during speech because the voice is forced.
Rest your voice by resting, silent reading, drinking with cool drinks and lots of sleep. Maintain healthy oral hygiene by gargling and frequent brushing of teeth. Take care of your breath and look after your teeth; tests have shown that a fruit-flavored sugary syrup – made from a natural sweetener called Xylitol – can protect teeth against corrosion.