Articulation + breating problems (native speaker)

lily fenley   Monday, September 20, 2004, 23:08 GMT

I'd like to ask your help and advice on some speech problems.

I live in London, I'm 15 years old, and I've been speaking English all my life but I've only recently noticed these problems because I used to be really shy and didn't talk much. So here are the problems...

1. I have trouble starting sentences with some consonants, especially "h". I don't have trouble pronouncing but once I begin the sentence with the consonant, my speech is halting and I can't breathe properly. Example "Have you eaten your dinner yet" is a very difficult phrase for me to get through (but "are you eating your dinner now" is easy for me b/c it begins with a vowel sound and flows smoothly).

2. I tend to gloss over prepositions, conjunctions, and some other unstressed syllables. Well, everyone does (I mean, who doesn't pronounce "of" like "uv" and "and" like "und"?) but my case is especially severe. People, including real Cockneys, have commented on how the vowel sounds in my prepositions and conjunctions were almost inaudible. I recorded myself and found that what they said was true. Also, I have trouble pronouncing word combinations like "were almost" clearly: my pronunciation sounds like "wralmost".

Now, what I consider my greatest problem...
3. When I have to talk continuously for more than five seconds, I begin to have trouble breathing and this subsequently affects my articulation and forces me to stop talking and take a deep breath. Today in English class, I was beginning to deliver a speech on Oedipus but I had not spoken three sentences when I felt my stomach and lungs beginning to contract. Soon, I had to tighten my eyebrows and spit words out of my mouth with a lot of force. And around twenty seconds later, I don't think my words were articulate enough to be intelligible any more; I think I was only puffing out consonants because I didn't have enough breath to pronounce vowels. After the speech, my throat felt very dry and sore and my cheek muscles were aching.

So, can you please tell me what my problem is (i.e. problem with breathing, articulation, etc.)? I've asked some other people but my problems seem to be very uncommon because everyone only knows about stuttering, improper prounciation, etc. I mean...I can pronounce words correctly and I don't stammer but talking's just very painful for me. Please help me!

Thanks a lot!
Ed   Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 01:52 GMT
Maybe that's a psychological problem. Go to a speach therapist or coach, or whatever they're called.
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 03:17 GMT
I agree. It sounds purely psychological. See a speech therapist for the speech impediment, check with a doctor to rule out organic causes, and possibly see a psychologist for the psychological aspect.

Speech impediments are extremely common on boys (but quite uncommon in girls).
lily fenley   Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 03:50 GMT
Thank you. I'm a girl. Are you sure it's a speech *impediment*? I think it's more of a breathing problem, or some other problem that can be alleviated with good habits. Maybe I'm just not used to talking so much and I'll get better at it with time :-)

The funny thing teachers and friends at school don't seem to realise anything wrong with my speech (my parents and their friends do though).
Ailian   Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 10:27 GMT
Hello, Lily! =)

Have you considered taking voice lessons (for singing)? The articulation and breath control are generally things that can transfer well to your speech. You may also have the bonus of discovering that you have a lovely singing voice. ;)
mike   Wednesday, September 22, 2004, 12:36 GMT
Dear Lily,

I sometimes have the same problem. I noticed it causes a great deal of trouble for me when I'm supposed to talk about something for quite a long time. I've also discovered it's got to do with my getting nervous having to say something complicated. I don't know why but the more complicated an issue is the more breathing problems I tend to have. I've noticed that when I finally manage to somehow calm down the breathing problem disappears.
I'm a rather nervous person by nature and when I say something I often want to get it over with as quiclky as possible often to the effect that nobody knows what I mean. It's very frustrating and the only way to overcome the problem is for me to try hard to calm down. Maybe it's also got to do with the fact that I've always been shy and quite reserved in front of other people. I always want to get across my message as quickly as possible and make other people pay attention to someone else. Yes, I guess it's a psychological problem so if you think it is much more serious than mine I suggest you go to a doctor. I hope it helped a bit.
Mxsmanic   Thursday, September 23, 2004, 19:23 GMT
Actually it sounds like OCD rather than a speech impediment. As I've said, speech impediments are rare in girls, who are usually quite articulate. And the way you describe your perception of the problem and the perception of others (or rather the lack thereof) implies a psychological or psychiatric cause that would not be inconsistent with mild OCD or with other mild psychological disorders that make you self-conscious, nervous, etc.
lily fenley   Friday, September 24, 2004, 07:28 GMT
Thanks to you all! Yeah- maybe I need to calm myself down, speak naturally, and just SPEAK MORE. Oh, and I'll try singing too.
glider   Friday, September 24, 2004, 16:02 GMT
practice more tongue twister..
Mxsmanic   Friday, September 24, 2004, 17:30 GMT
Carly Simon is a famous example of someone who got around nervousness in speaking by singing instead.
lily fenley   Saturday, September 25, 2004, 19:36 GMT
Odd...when I practise tongue twisters I always get stuck on the parts where I'm not supposed to get stuck on.

For example, using Ailian's tongue twister in the other thread...
"If I put it in my batter,
"It will make my batter bitter...
So, it was better Betty Botter
Bought a bit of better butter"

I have some trouble pronouncing "if I put it" and "it will make" but I apparently glide very smoothly and articulately over "bought a bit of better butter."