I’m finally learning Italian. It’s a romantic act born of necessity. My husband’s Italian, and though he’s bilingual, it’s a little awkward playing the mime at Italian gatherings. In the holiday season when his friends flock back to Bologna from whichever corner of the world they’ve settled in, we gather in a restaurant and talk… talk… TALK into the wee hours. Well, they mostly talk, and I practise my listening comprehension skills until my eyes glaze over. Eventually my head ends up in the soup.
I don’t know about you, but I learn best with other people in a classroom situation. The social aspect of learning is what gives me the steam. I know there are plenty of fantastic online language learning resources and forums where you can chat and help each other along, but I happen to be able to get to an actual class where I can see actual people, and I love it.
At the end of Week One of the course, I’m reflecting on how learning a language enhances your voiceover skills:
Use words as verbal pick-me-ups
When you learn a new language, you find words you get addicted to. It can be as basic as the word for Hello. For me the word Ciao has magic properties. Maybe it’s the 3 vowels in a row, I don’t know, but I always feel good when I say it. Try this:
❁ Say Ciao aloud. Don’t mumble it apologetically but allow your mouth to open, your eyes to smile, and for each vowel to have its play as you ricochet off the initial ‘Ch’.
❁Put an exclamation mark on the end of it!
❁Say it to your dog/cat/parrot
❁ Say it to yourself in the mirror
❁ Pretend to be on a moped and turn your head to say it to an old friend who you’ve spotted in the street. It’s a summer’s day and you’re headed for another espresso to take a break from the sunbathing…LINK TO EDDIE IZZARD
❁ Say it to refresh your energy level when you’re in the booth. Ride the wave of those vowels.
What does your heart say?
That’s what our Italian teacher Paolo laughingly says as we um-and-ah in class. He encourages us to just have a go. Sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes we get it right, but ‘having a go’ ensures that we keep learning and get used to making mistakes.
This is a helpful tip for voiceover when it comes to overthinking and getting stuck in your head.
How active is your censor? Do you constantly observe how you’re saying something and think about how well you’re doing rather than being inside it? How about telling that censor to take the moped and head to the beach…CIAO!
Refine your ear, develop sensitivity
Making sounds you’re unaccustomed to wakes up your oral and aural senses. Like a baby experimenting with basic sounds, you have to practise making sounds which to the native speaker are second nature, but to you are strange. Pronouncing unfamiliar sounds will give you a more tactile sense of language and improve your sensitivity. You’ll be able to better modulate words that ARE familiar to you.
A Sense of Security: What DO you already know?
Back to Paolo our teacher, who advised us to figure out what we are absolutely certain we know in the Italian language and write it down. Even if it’s 5 words. But you have to be absolutely sure those words are correct. Then, you can circle out from there, adding new bits of knowledge.
This is great advice when it comes to learning voiceover skills. Keep a running list of what skills you definitely DO have and work from there to acquire the skills you need. This is a form of honest self-assessment. A way to move forward and a way to capitalize on what you already have.
Last but not least, learning a language is good for your brain. Well, we all know that.
On that note, I’m off to the beach…Nah, not really.
But definitely in spirit.
Wish me luck at this year’s holiday gathering!