Let’s be honest with each other. Do you like your voice when you speak English?
Are you comfortable with how you sound when speaking English? Or do you find it challenging to listen to your accent?
Does hearing your voice make you feel insecure or self-conscious because you don’t sound the way you think you should sound?
A few years ago I was meeting with a client who told me that she wanted to speak English the way she talked in her native language:
I speak my language extremely well. It’s part of my identity. I don’t want to lose this. I want to sound the same in English.
As a non-native Spanish speaker, I’ve definitely felt self-conscious about my accent because I feel like it doesn’t reflect all of the hard work I’ve done to learn the language.
When I first moved to Argentina, I avoided speaking up as much as possible, worried that someone would say something about how I sound.
As I got older, and hopefully wiser, I realized that I actually spoke better Spanish when I didn’t worry so much about sounding perfect.
But when my client mentioned that she wanted to sound as articulate, intelligent, and eloquent in English as she did in her native language, it really hit me.
You see, our voices are part of our identity.
Until we can connect how we see ourselves with how we sound, it’s going to be hard to feel confident speaking up.
In this video, you’ll learn how to like your voice in English.
We’ll talk about how to change your mindset about how you sound so that you feel less self conscious and more confident speaking up.
You’ll find out why you need to adjust your expectations so that you can better express yourself, your personality, and who you are when speaking English.
Let’s get started!
How Do You Feel About Your Voice?
First, let’s talk about how you feel about your voice.
Do you like your voice in your native language? How about English?
Perhaps you have a beautiful voice in your native language. People always comment on the lovely melody of your voice and say that they’re drawn to you because of how you sound.
Maybe you’re like the rest of us. You’re fine with your voice, but you don’t have any specific feelings about how you sound.
If people are always commenting about your amazing voice in your native language, it can be a harsh reality to hear that you have an obvious, strong accent in English, especially if they mean it negatively.
If you don’t think much about your voice in your native language, then it can be less work to adjust your expectations about how you sound in English.
On the other hand, if you hate your voice in your native language, you’re probably not going to like your voice in English either.
Why People Don’t Like The Sound of Their Voice
Researchers actually study why so many people don’t like the sound of their own voice.
In this TED talk, Rébecca Kleinberger talks about how we have three voices.
We have the outward voice, or the one that other people hear when we’re speaking.
This is how we project ourselves in the world.
We hear this voice when listening to recordings or videos.
Often the sound of this outward voice is different than we expect. We might even reject it!
And that’s because our inward voice is different.
When we listen to ourselves talking, we hear our voice from inside our bodies.
We hear both the sound coming to our ears as well as the sound vibrating in our bones.
Our voices sound lower, more musical, richer, and more resonant inside our heads.
Besides that, since we’re so used to hearing our own voices, it’s the sound we hear more than anything else, we actually don’t hear ourselves.
Your brain never listens to the sound of your voice. It filters it out!
Think about that. Our voices sound better inside our heads *and* we don’t really hear ourselves, so it’s pretty shocking when you hear a recording.
On top of that, we also have the inner voice, or the voice that you hear when you read silently to yourself.
This is the voice that rehearses conversations and practices what you’re going to say.
I don’t know about you, but when my inner voice is reading Spanish, it actually speaks with a perfect accent!
(This discussion shows that I’m not the only one.)
That’s why it’s such a shock when I hear a recording of myself speaking Spanish and realize how I actually sound.
Get More Comfortable Hearing The Sound of Your Own Voice
Here’s the thing. If you don’t like how you sound, you have to get more comfortable hearing yourself.
This goes for your native language and English, or any other foreign language.
I’ve now made hundreds of videos. I’ve listened to interviews of myself, and I’ve edited recordings for my courses.
I get uncomfortable when I hear my voice straining, or nasally vowels, or vocal fry when I run out of breath.
That said, because I’m so used to watching and listening to myself, I’ve become much more comfortable with how I sound.
I understand that this is MY voice.
Of course, I can tweak and adjust things, but this is how I sound.
In other words, I’ve resolved the cognitive dissonance, or the disconnect between my outward voice and my inward voice through repetition and exposure.
Just like getting over your fear of heights, you can get more comfortable hearing your voice by recording yourself and listening to how you sound.
With practice, you’ll start feeling like this: “This is how I sound and I’m okay with that.”
You’ll make peace with your voice.
And you won’t react as strongly when someone makes a negative comment about how you sound.
And if you decide that you’re not okay with how you sound, then you’ll be able to better hear what you need to work on.
(We’ll talk about that in just a moment.)
Understanding How The Way You Sound and Your Identity
Now let’s talk about how your voice and the way you sound in English relates to your identity.
As I mentioned, you might feel like the way you present yourself when speaking is part of what makes you you.
You may want to translate this same identity over to English.
Maybe you use very colorful, descriptive language, complex vocabulary, or intricate grammar structures.
But when you speak English, it feels like the language you’re using is basic, simple, less precise.
Once again, you’re feeling a disconnect between how you see yourself and how you sound.
This is why I encourage you to get more comfortable with having different identities in your native language and in English.
You can be an eloquent speaker of Japanese, French, or Russian, and a not-so-articulate speaker of English.
You can have a lovely speaking voice in Italian, Arabic, or Greek and a harsh or rough voice when speaking English.
You can be both at the same time and it doesn’t change who you are at the core.
Believe it or not, you may actually come to realize that you prefer how you sound in English over how you sound in your native language.
In fact, you may start liking your voice in English better than your native language.
Even if you don’t like how you sound in your native language, it’s still possible to learn to like how you sound in English.
Beauty is in the eye or, in this case, the ear of the beholder!
Understanding Your Personality in Different Languages
Let’s consider your personality in English and your native language.
Who are you when you speak English?
Learning another language is an opportunity to discover new facets of yourself.
As you’re exploring how to express yourself in another language, you’re finding out new ways to see the world and yourself in it.
Each language has its own unique character.
Some languages are precise, direct, specific. There is a preferred word for every concept.
Other languages are nuanced, flowery, descriptive, even romantic. There are countless ways to express an idea.
Others may seem colder or harsh or abrupt, while still others may seem overly polite or hesitating.
Some languages are more emotional and all about the feelings, while others are rational and all about the mind.
Because we learn how to exist in the world through language, we can pick up these personality traits as well.
Who Are You When You Speak Different Languages?
When we learn a new language, we have the opportunity to learn new ways to express ourselves.
You might find yourself talking about concepts that you never discuss in your native language.
Or you might notice that you worry about certain things in your native language, but it never crosses your mind in English or another foreign language.
Some languages have three, four, or even 20 words to describe concepts that can only be expressed by one word in English!
In English, I tend be silly and chatty and I love to tell stories.
In Spanish, I tend to be more curious and inquisitive; I’d rather hear other people tell me their stories.
In English, I often feel the need to be an authority.
In Spanish, I can relax and be uncertain and let other people take charge.
Maybe you can express a more playful side of your personality as you continue to explore the English language.
Like I said, this may be an opportunity to relax and become more comfortable with imperfection.
When you learn to be okay with being a different person in different languages, you’ll feel so much less pressure.
And you might get even closer to how you actually want to sound!
Set Specific Goals for Improving Your Voice and How You Sound in English
Last, if you still struggle to like your voice and how it sounds in English, you can set specific goals for yourself.
Decide what you’ll need to achieve to be okay with how you sound.
Decide what’s enough.
Remember, for most people it’s challenging to sound just like a native speaker.
That can be an eventual goal, but let’s get more specific right now.
If there are sounds you really struggle with in English, you might want to choose one or two to master.
You may choose to work on sounds that affect how easily people understand you, or sounds that will help you have a more natural-sounding accent.
For example, you may want to finally get the two “th” sounds (/θ/ and /ð/), the light and dark /l/ sounds, or that flap “t.”
You might want to be able to hear a difference between how you pronounce /s/ and /z/ or /ʃ/ and /tʃ/.
You might want to work on emphasizing key words by really holding the stressed syllable.
Or you may want to increase your pitch range so you can use your intonation to sound more friendly and interesting.
Set three to five goals maximum and work on those.
With each small step forward, you’ll realize you’re doing the best you can to make progress.
This will help you trust yourself and feel more confident about how you sound when speaking.
Remember, you want to decide what’s enough for you, your voice, and your accent.
While you may be concerned about getting negative feedback on your voice and your accent, the opinion that matters most is yours.
How you feel about how you sound is everything.
For more practice finding and exploring your voice in English, check out this video with some fun vocal exercises.