Meiling Ma
How to Acquire the English Intonation?

Hello, English instructors and learners! 

My mother tongue is Mandarin, in which we have 4 tones.

It is not a flat toned language, but it is not the same with English intonations. 

I speak very flat toned English, do you have any advice to practice intonation?

I listened to podcasts very often, recently I've been into the TED NPR's How I Built This.

I find the storytellers are not exaggerating their intonations like people in the cartoons or the films do, which I am not able to make at all because I have a quiet and shy character.

I tried to shadow mimic the TED speakers' intonations.

But still, when I give a free talk, my speech is as flat as usual.

I am totally upset about my inability. 


Is there anyone who experienced the same frustrations?

Have you found any effective methods to improve your intonation of speech? 

Please do share with me, thank you in advance!

Jun 4, 2018 1:51 AM
Comments · 4
I know you’re reluctant to “exaggerate” the intonation due to your self-identification as “quiet and shy,” but given the nature of your issues, I would suggest the following:
If you exaggerate during practice sessions, your intonation will automatically be “toned down” when you find yourself in a real conversation. In fact, when you use normal intonation, you’ll feel like it’s nothing — thus alleviating your shyness. To everyone else, you’ll sound normal, instead of flat. 
June 4, 2018
Your problem is very common. You’re doing the right things to resolve the issue, and I’m sure you’ll be successful in time. It’s perfectly natural that you perform better in practice than in real life, but eventually, your “live performance” will catch up. Here is something you can do that might help (besides finding a teacher with experience in teaching prosody): Next time you practice intonation, imagine you are in a real situation where you’ll be using English. Imagine the room (perhaps a meeting room at work) and the people you’ll be interacting with. Then, when you get into that environment, your subconscious will recognize it and automatically apply put your lessons to use. Let me know how it goes!

June 4, 2018

Carolyn Graham does something called Jazz Chants to teach the rhythm and flow of American English:

June 4, 2018
Do you know there are some sort of rhythm and tempo in English speaking?  That is a key feature of English speakers have to well master to speak as fluently and naturally as a native speaker.  There are no 4 tones in English but some other rules or regulations in English can make your speaking sound more fluently.   
June 4, 2018