Why don’t people notice when their speech is goofed up? Does that guy with a lisp just not realize that everyone around him is able to pronounce sibilants that he always misses? Does that girl who makes all her Ms into Bs and her Ns into Ds because she’s restricting exhalations from her nose not hear that other folks aren’t doing this?
I think that we get used to the little handicaps we introduce into our speech for one subconscious reason or another. They become a part of our habit and are effectively invisible. Or inaudible, rather.
Nothing brings those errors into crisp contrast than recording yourself speaking, and then listening back. Most folks dislike hearing their own recorded voice, due to the fact that it is a different experience than hearing it as you speak. When you speak, you experience both internal and external stimuli, so when the sound is separated from your body and played back, it sounds foreign. You don’t like it because it isn’t you, isn’t a sound you would want coming from you. And it’s embarrassing, because you realize it’s how everyone else hears you.
I use that example to help guitarists understand why they hate the sound of their rigs miked up and recorded. When you are playing with an amplifier in the room, all that low-end boom from the cabinet and the reflections of the room make up part of your sensory experience. As does the feeling of playing it, of having that resonating instrument in your hands. Separating and playing back the sonic response from a point right in front of a speaker (where the mic is) takes away much of the original experience and thus, much of the enjoyment.
For the last couple months I have been recording my own voice, reading Shame the Devil, a novel I published a few years ago. Recording an audiobook.
It’s been hell.
I sit there and read a sentence, hear myself missing syllables, slurring consonants, having weird vocal breaks in the middle of passages that you can only understand by using context . . . and then I do it again, and again, and again. Trying to stop that behavior. Failing.
And it gets worse. There are a lot of parts of speech I simply cannot pronounce. Normal things that when I try to mouth them, cannot be uttered by the equipment in my head. Like the word grasp. I can pronounce it all the way out to the P, but put it in a sentence and I cannot do so without taking so much time it breaks the sentence in two and ruins the rhythm. “Trying to understand more than he could grasp put him in a difficult situation” becomes “Trying to understand more than he could grass, puh, put him in a difficult situation”. I hear it, I know I’m doing it and I know what I’m doing wrong, yet I cannot change it.
I should have taken speech class in elementary school.
My Ss are too soft. My Ts are often missed or only implied. My CHs are inconstant. I can’t seem to get out of an M fast enough to keep rhythm, so I either sit on it too long or avoid it altogether, making “mountains” into “mmmountains” and making “permanent” into “peranent”. I cannot say “Lake Titicaca” more than once unless I am allowed to take four seconds to do it. I cannot say “Lake Tiki Titicaca” at all. Not even once. Maybe if I have eight seconds. It should only take about one second.
My advice to you, is never to record your own voice. It’s like going into a bathroom somewhere, and looking at yourself in a mirror under that weirdly penetrative fluorescent light that exposes every bit of skin damage you’ve had since you were eight years old, and makes you look like you haven’t slept this month. It’s reflective of a part of you your brain has willfully trained itself to ignore. Sometimes, ignorance is best.
However, if you’d like to hear me masticate an entire novel with my nasal, error-laden, lisping, always-sounds-like-he-has-a-cold voice, you should absolutely listen to me read my novel.
You can get the audiobook for cheap or free, or just check out a three-minute sample of it, at the Amazon page for Shame the Devil. Just click on the mic: