Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Speaking Lesson from Gabrielle Giffords

I find Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' recovery process inspirational, particularly as a speech trainer.

How does a person begin to recover from such traumatic brain damage? How does a person relearn the ability to speak?

According to a recent NYT piece by Marc Lacey and James C. McKinley Jr., one way is through singing:

With a group of friends and family members acting as a backup chorus, Ms. Giffords has been mouthing the lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby.” And as a surprise for her husband, who is celebrating his birthday this month, a longtime friend who has been helping her through her rehabilitation videotaped her mouthing the words to “Happy Birthday to You...”

According to Dr. David Langer, an associate professor of neurosurgery, the use of singing... is a standard technique to help restore speech in people with brain injuries.

This reminds me of an earlier post, in which I quoted speaking advice from Roger Love, one of the foremost vocal coaches in the world:

Try practicing singing your speech.

Love explains:

"When you do (sing your speech), you'll find yourself discovering interesting ways to emphasize words, you'll hear them a different way, and you'll begin to hear the real message shining through...Singing gives you new perspective on your material because it's one of the only times both sides of your brain -- the creative, imaginative side and the orderly, logical side -- operate together. When you practice by singing a few phrases, then going back to speak them, you tap into the power of your whole brain...and you can't help but express yourself in a way that feels whole. You might even surprise yourself. Your delivery feels fresh and people can't help but listen to you."

(Roger Love, Set Your Voice Free, p178-9)

From the Green Room: Practice singing your speech. Singing opens up your voice and helps you tap into the essence of what you are trying to communicate.

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