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Mend your speech a little,
(SHAKESPEARE: Lear, 1, 1.)
42. Training the physical agents of speech The preceding chapters have dealt with those phases of vocal expression which are the direct result of thought and feeling. The aim so far has been to show that the promptings of the inner nature, the energies of mind and heart acting upon the voice, determine the speech style of individuals. Yet expression can be full and true only when the bodily agents are responsive and capable. The deaf and dumb person, though trained to speak by mechanical methods, never attains that natural utterance possible for the individual of normal physical endowments. His speech attainments are limited by his inability to hear his own voice or the voices of others. In common with all arts, speech involves certain mechanical processes, the mastery of which is a prerequisite to simple, free, and adequate utterance. The painter must first learn how to combine and lay on colors before he attempts to paint pictures for public exhibition; the pianist devotes months and years to practice for agility and responsiveness of fingers and hands before he is able to command his instrument in the service of his finest purposes; and only by dint of much labor does the writer gain mastery of words and the ability to express his thoughts easily, accurately, and attractively. All have something to express, but, until the means of expression are under control, their efforts are experimental and more or less rudimentary. Skill and effectiveness come only by practice and experience, and the art of speech is no exception. Clear and beautiful utterance, like clear and beautiful writing, is the result of good example and diligent effort for accuracy and fineness.
Perhaps the failure on the part of many educated people to recognize the necessity of vocal training is due, partially at least, to the peculiar nature of speech itself. Of all forms of expression it seems to be the most involuntary, the most spontaneous, the least dependent on external means. The speaker needs no instrument of any sort save those agents and energies which are a part of himself. And since we have by instinct a disposition to use the organs of speech for purposes of communication, we have assumed that, like the winking of the eye or the beating of the heart, speech is an involuntary act and requires no special attention. “ If you have something to say, say it and you will say it well,” is a familiar admonition. Indeed, some good people have an idea that the voice is incapable of being improved by training, and can no more be altered than one's nose or the color of one's eyes. A teacher of experience and mature years once remarked to the author: 6 Why talk about the speaking voice ? You can't change a person's voice, can you ?” But the brain, too, is a part of oneself, yet no one questions whether it can be trained to obey the will. As the brain is strengthened by exercise, and the fingers of the musician made nimble by practice, so the voice, and all parts of the organism concerned in speech, may be improved and trained to act with a readiness and exactnese no less remarkable than is the ability of the mind to hold itself to the solution of a problem in mathematics, or the response of the fingers to the will of the musician.
The child, by observation, imitation, and many halting and laborious attempts, learns to speak words. Eventually