In this English vocabulary lesson, I will teach you words that are being used a lot right now, and that have to do with current issues in society and politics. You may have heard these words already, but what exactly do terms like “millennial”, “trigger warning”, and “fake news” mean? Whatever your politics, this lesson will give you a perspective on the social trends and political change that is going on in our age.
Edgar Alan Poe’s ‘Ulalume: A Ballad’ — my voice performance. ‘Ulalume’ is a poem about a ghostly October journey In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
BIOGRAPHY – My Journey
I am not a naturally gifted speaker but I am someone who has worked extremely hard to get where I am today. I consider speech to be both my greatest weakness and my biggest strength in life. When I was a child mutism was a big issue for me; I couldn’t talk even if I wanted to in situations where I felt uncomfortable or shy. In fact, I do still suffer from mutism, but improving my speaking skills as a result of making over 500 YouTube videos and changing my lifestyle in ways that suit my introverted personality means that it happens much less often nowadays.
Speaking for me is full of contradictions: in some situations I close up like a clam and can’t say a word, and in other situations I can’t shut up! At school I always sat at the front of the class and put my hand up for every question, and at university I happily engaged in debates with lecturers and students alike, often dominating seminars with my outspoken opinions (I graduated with a First Class degree in English Literature). Another contradiction: while I can give a spontaneous talk lasting an hour to a crowd of 200 people with relative ease, I sometimes feel painfully awkward when saying ‘thank you’ to a cashier in a shop.
The English language and its words have always been an imaginative escape for me. When I was little I would even get absorbed reading the back of the shampoo bottle while having a bath: ‘Aqua, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate…’. Another fixation I had at around ten years old was reading every entry in my giant Oxford English Dictionary until I finished it.
My fascination with the English language began with reading words, though over time this has changed into the sounds of words and voices speaking words. The sounds of speech, word choice, the presence or absence of vocal ticks and the position of a person’s voice is something that to me carries layers upon layers of normally hidden information. When I hear a voice now, I can peer into a person’s psychology, like an x-ray machine. However, I limit those kinds of observations as doing so and talking about what I find is snooping and boundary violation, unless I have been specifically asked to read a person in that way.
A big failure for me is that so far my talent for language does not extend to actually speaking any foreign languages beyond the basics. While my ear can quickly pick up a language when it comes to understanding what is going on, my tongue is frozen unless I am completely comfortable. I lived in Turkey for two and a half years and during that time I can only recall one conversation where I felt comfortable enough that I let go and actually spoke Turkish, absolutely astounding myself that I could speak the language, for once! The rest of the time either my mind was blank or I would awkwardly deflect attempts at conversation with short, automatic answers. Before living in Turkey I did encounter instances of foreign language mutism in myself but it was definitely not on such an impossible and frustrating level. If there can be any positives to take away from this experience of personal failure, I know how to make people who have a tendency to mutism when speaking English comfortable and how to get them speaking when normally they can’t say a word. When this has happened in the past it has been immensely fulfilling to give another person the gift of speech over mutism. It’s a wonderful gift and I wish I could give it to myself so I could speak foreign languages too!
In terms of my own voice and speaking skills, this is something that continues to evolve. Whereas I used to be motivated to eliminate my personal speech difficulties so I did not have to face them anymore, now I am much more accepting of what makes my own speech unique. This is also shown in that nowadays I am much more compelled towards being authentic rather than perfect in the way that I present myself in videos. My view is that with persistence speech difficulties can be overcome and triumphed over, though not all of the battles we face are worth the strain of a long, hard fight. So I recommend that you choose your battles wisely.
And lastly, I hope that as a teacher I fill you with knowledge, make you think, and give you inspiration to speak.
Jade Joddle is a YouTube Speaking Skills Specialist. Not a naturally gifted speaker, Jade who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has had to battle her personal speech difficulties on the way to gathering her half a million subscribers. Jade’s message is that if she can learn to speak, you can do it too!
This talk was recording at Hull Public Speaking Society at the University of Hull.
A fun interview about the voice, breathing and learning an English accent with ‘The Chris & Ciara show’ on RTÉ Irish Radio:
I did a really fun and funny interview with hosts Jay-Jay, Dom and Randell from New Zealand’s biggest breakfast radio show. We talk about what makes a seductive, sexy voice. Listen to a three minute clip of our chat by clicking the player below:
A poem about ghosts (words below the video)…
When The Ghosts Come…
There are those among us
Who go a-hunting for them.
With torches in hand
And breaths held tight
At the stoke of midnight
in paranormal search they wend
Infra-red gizmos calibrated
To detect the unbodied
Those who were
Our once dear
And now, sadly departed kin
Stuck somewhere between
Here and there
Wandering and lost.
There are those among us
Who go a-talking with them
In sodden graveyards
By the light of the moon.
In secret ritual they invoke
With magical chants
Or rapt, solemn
Calling forth the souls
Of the dead but not gone
To commune with them.
There are those among us
Who go a-dreaming with them
When the night is black
And the living deeply sleep
Dreamers with ghostly sight
In supernatural encounter meet
That which exists in the unseen
Between here and there.
What do the seers see at night?
A message, a ghoulish sight
A spinning orb of angelic light?
Only the dreamer can say
In the drowsy moment
Before the spectre fades away.
I have spent years of my life feeling like an invisible ghost in social situations because my friends won’t speak in English. This happens to me when I am in a foreign language situation and I am the only one who doesn’t speak the main language. While my non native friends like to speak English with me on a one-to-one level, this preference is quickly dumped in group or party situations. Over the years I have got used to just sitting there saying nothing, going into my own head, and feeling like a ghost.
When I feel like a ghost I am disconnected. While ten or fifteen minutes of it is fine, an evening of it hurts because it means being lonely in a room full of people. In particular it hurts because I have experienced this so many times as a repeating pattern in my life. Feeling invisible. Just sitting there like a blank screen and trying to leave as quickly as possible so I can get back to my cave.
People may say every hour or so, ‘Oh we should talk in English because of Jade,’ but then they just continue speaking in their native language. I grow more invisible and more lonely.
The longer the ghost thing happens the more worthless any contribution I can make to the conversation begins to feel. I grow resentful. Then I don’t want to speak any more. I want to go in my cave and never see those people ever again. Avoid. Avoid. Fear. Anxiety.
To stop feeling like a ghost I have a need to be included in the social moment and to communicate. However, I have been my own worst enemy regarding this need. I don’t ask people to translate for me and I don’t just say things in English to begin my own topics of conversation to the group. Somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that I am inconveniencing people if I ask them to translate for me or to tell me what is happening (note to self: I am unworthy). I am pretty sure this stems from being a mostly silent child who felt INVISIBLE.
The way I have been dealing with the ghost problem in the last year is to only stay for a short time in such group situations where the main language is not English. This means that I am always looking for an exit (which leads to increased anxiety). I will avoid situations where I imagine there is no way to escape. It is a strategy all based on avoidance and only makes things worse. Often, however, it’s hard to see that your actions are only hurting yourself more when you’re caught up re-enacting your deepest patterns.
I know the winning strategy to deal with feeling like a ghost is to become more assertive. If I am with people in a social situation; I am worthy to be included. This means I may have to ‘make’ them speak to me in English.
Today I overheard an American woman say loudly to her friends, ‘If you guys keep talking in Spanish, I’m going to leave!” Once she had said this, the conversation went back to English. The American woman was pushy, but I wonder how it might work to say honestly, ‘Guys I am feeling lonely because I don’t understand anything. What are you talking about?’
I have had enough invisible ghost experiences in my life to know that I am creating the disconnected feeling for myself. If I don’t include myself, why should others go out of their way to include me? Avoiding these situations doesn’t make the feeling go away. It’s up to me. And if you know what the invisible ghost feeling feels like: it’s up to you too.
UPDATE 2018: If you’re just on holiday and don’t intend to make a life there, then being in these kinds of situations where you can’t speak can happen. That’s okay. But if you plan on living there and you’re still mute after a time and can’t learn to speak the language — why are you still there? I would also add here that after a few of these silent kinds of mute holidays it gets a bit boring, so ask yourself if that’s a good way to spend your time.