A schematic diagram of the human speech production mechanism. 

Speech Mechanism: Breathing for Speech

Supported breathing for speech is not just important for communication, but for life. Yup,  try living and not breathing, just not happening. We call that state, being dead! So, yes we all know breathing is vital, but did you know that breathing affects your speech?

Problems such as poor vocal quality,  reduced volume, strong accents, or stuttering can be improved with proper breath support. Each voice is created because of our own unique instrument starting with the lungs and ending with the lips. Everyone’s voice is different because the parts of our instrument are different shapes and sizes. No two people sound alike. Most of the time, breathing is coordinated with our speech. We take a shorter inhalation and speak as we exhale. We generate airflow in the lungs and the vocal folds create a vibration for sound.   As the air flows up through the oral cavity, the air is shaped by the oral cavity, our tongue, teeth, and lips. Who would have thought that breathing properly is needed for good speech production?

What happens if you speak on the inhale,  start to speak part way through your exhale, or hold your breath before you speak? Well if severe enough we call those difficulties speech disorders, but they can also just result in speech that isn’t optimal.  Difficulty with volume, strong accents, blocks, and pauses can often be affected by inadequate breathing patterns.  Someone who speaks English as a second language may breathe and pauses the way they would in their native language, but layered on a second language that same pattern creates a strong accent. A stutterer’s blocks result in tension in the oral mechanism cutting off air flow creating even more tension in the system. Breathing out of synch results in choppy, rushed, or forced speech patterns.   Overall communication is impacted.   Breathing is not only important for living, but it’s a critical component of communication.

Diaphragmatic breathing is the best type of breathing. I love that learning this type of breathing for speech can also result in reduced stress and improved overall performance in the body because more oxygen is going to the organs. Check out the link above for a 3-minute video on breathing and get in touch with your inner breath and improve your speech!