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Herman I Neuman

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Why I May Confuse You
By Herman I Neuman   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Posted: Sunday, June 05, 2005

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This is my Toastmasters speech about vocal variety.

Bon jour mes amis. Het is mijn genoegen hier vandaag te zijn.

As you have learned in your Toastmasters studies, interpersonal communication involves a lot more than just spoken words. For example, listeners intuitively also read the lips, facial expressions and the body gestures of speakers. Therefore it is important that the spoken words are in synch with all other signals being conveyed. If this is not the case the messages, as well as the speaker, may lose credibility or cause doubt in listeners.

Therefore I may confuse you when I speak. I may even confuse you when I’m telling you “I am standing here.” When I speak, my lips may not say what my words tell you. And furthermore, my body language may also be ambiguous. In your mind, both my lips and my body language may not convey my message in the way American-born people have learned to interpret them. Therefore I might give you the impression that I’m a famous politician or a distinguished esquire.

I apologize if my lips move, promising you a lot of money. Or if, as my lawyer recently joked about some members of his profession, make your skin crrrrawl. And now I will tell you why I might appear to be a liar.

By the time I was seventeen years old, I was learning three major languages in school. They were Hochdeutsch, Français and English. I also could fluently “plattproten,” speak Low German, which sounds like Dutch. And since I also have lived in Switzerland and in Germany at their common border, I also learned to speak the Schaebisch and the Switzerduetsch dialects.

For example, the expression “I have nothing with me” contracts in Hochdeutsch as “Nichts dabei,“ in Schaebischduetsch as “Nix dabei. But just across the Rhine River in Switzerland it is “Nuet dabie.”

Speakers of different languages use their vocal chords, tongues and lips differently to form their distinctive sounds. Some languages include a lot of nasal sounds, others sound throaty, while still others are more song-like, because they contain a lot of vowels. Not only that, some body gestures and expressions of emotions also vary between regions. These can range from stiff upper lips to lively arm flailing. Some of which I may also have unknowingly acquired to various degrees during my travels to various countries.

Personally I may never be aware of all of my own mixture of non-native communication habits. And some of them may almost be impossible for me to change. Like Enry Iggins’ struggle in the movie, “My Fair Lady:” “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plane, The rein in Spein steis meinly in plein.“

My subtle non-verbal communication signals may also add to my one-man mini-Babylonian language confusion. Undoubtedly I use various subtle mixed communication attributes when speaking English. I will always have an accent, which will always be unique. And my communication confusion may manifest itself in my listeners in at least two ways.

One. Over the years I have asked dozens of people, whom I just had met, to guess where I’m from. And they placed me from all over the world. Austreilia, New Yoik, Nu Joisie, Taaxas, and a couple of them even thought that I was an Afrikaaner. This may indicate false generalized stereotypical assumptions about me on part of my listeners.

The second, and more serious manifestation, may be that I may not get my point across. And therefore listeners may even ignore my messages. A few have ignored me, even though I sounded warnings about very serious, but not obvious, health hazards.

The difference of my lip movements in forming words was also confirmed by a totally deaf person. He told me that he could read lips. Except my lips. While his ears heard me say: (mimic silent words) Can you hear what I am saying to you?, my lips seem to be babbling something like this: Kauf joip ear wha am sane u loo. I concluded that the reason he could not read me, was because I mix various speaking traits.

Therefore I may never be able to get elected to a public office. Because I may not be able to convince enough voters that I will not take advantage of them. To them my lips are just moving. Even if I truly do mean that I really can lead them into Nirvana with subtle wealth transfers schemes, but which really mostly benefit those who lobby me the most and bribe me the most.

Merci beaucoup. Es war meine Freude mit Euch heute zu besuchen.

Web Site: Heroes from the Attic: A Gripping True Story of Triumph

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Reviewed by Tracey L. O' Very (Reader) 11/27/2005
This is so true. BUt I don't think it's because of the different languages it's just people and deaf ears but everything here is so magnificent and an excellent message.

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Herman I Neuman

Heroes from the Attic: A Gripping True Story of Triumph

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Nonverbal Japanese language communicator primarily for English speakers. Easy to use reference. Proven and effective tool...  
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This programmed, self-paced lesson focuses exclusively on the use of postpostions (ga and (w)o) with grammatical objects in the Japanese language without wavering or getting off tr..  
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