Saturday, November 3, 2007

ESL and Tone of Voice

One of the things I bring up with my adult ESL students is "tone." The words that we actually use when we communicate with someone in person only make up a small percentage of what we communicate. Body language and the tone of voice we use can be much more revealing. In fact, I believe I've read that body language actually makes up something like 90% of what we communicate (I think the percentage is smaller, but it is something near this).

Our tone can also convey what we truly mean. If I scream, "I'll do it," to someone who asks a favor, the listener probably will think that I am angry and don't really want to do "it." Or "I'll do it," in the proper tone can convey a true willingness to do something.

The same goes for questions. The tone of a question can convey many different feelings or thoughts. For example, if I yell, "Who did this?," probably no one will want to "take credit." If I say it in a very appreciative tone, the doer will probably get the impression that the thing he or she did is appreciated.

Tone is very important in our communications and can convey our true feelings. Different cultures have different "tones." As ESL teachers and tutors, we may want to make sure that the tone our students use truly conveys what he or she intends.


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