Preaching Well . . .
Speech from A to Z
By Louis Colaianni
(Author, “How to Speak Shakespeare”)
In our everyday speech, we tend to take the sounds of language, namely, vowels and consonants, for granted. But when properly focused, these sounds can aid us in making important points and have an emotional impact on our listeners.
Letâ€™s begin with vowels, which are open-mouthed sounds, shaped by the tongue and lips. It is said that vowels express emotional values in language. You have only to listen to the cry of a baby, open throated and all vowels, to know that this is true. Furthermore, great orators are skilled at varying the lengths and maximizing the resonance of vowels. They know that vowels contain the spirit of language â€” they flow and add melody to the message.
By contrast, consonants are formed when the lips, tongue and soft palate interrupt the flow of vowels. Consonants are known as the â€œmarkers of meaningâ€ in language. They provide the intellectual life of the message. If consonants arenâ€™t clearly heard, meaning is obscured.
Letâ€™s try a simple experiment. Here is a common phrase written with all of the consonants omitted:
a i i i e
Here is the same phrase written without the vowels, only the consonants are given:
It is much easier to infer the meaning of the phrase, â€œThanksgiving dinner,â€ from the consonants than it is from the vowels. The vowels are necessary, mind you, for they provide the underlying substance of each word. But the message is made specific by the consonants.
So, how do vowels and consonants relate to your preaching? Following some simple rules can bring satisfying results: Make a â€œjoyful noiseâ€ with your vowels. Extend them, let them resonate. Use vowels to express the essence of your message.
Be explicit with your consonants. Speak them clearly. Let the consonants â€œspell outâ€ the meaning of your message.
Let your face and mouth be animated when you speak. Maximize the mobility in your cheeks, lips and tongue.
This will help you to be more exact with your vowels and consonants. Strive to be articulate When your read from the pulpit — when you preach — place the greatest emphasis on the verbs, and the second greatest emphasis on the nouns. As you read aloud, don’t try to act your message, instead, concentrate on communicating meaning.
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