Voice Training for Interpreters

A few months ago, we went to see superstar voice coach Roger Love, who had come to Vegas to give a presentation for the Downtown Speaker Series. We asked some of our interpreter friends to join us, and we learned  a great many things. Roger is an entertaining and accomplished speaker, and we loved his point about taking some time to improve your voice. After all, if you hate hearing yourself on voicemail, other people will probably feel the same way. Of course voice is important for everuone, but even more so for interpreters, who work with their voice for a living. However, relatively little is written about this subject beyond avoiding very hot beverages, coffee, alcohol, etc.
Roger Love in Vegas. Photo by Judy.

Roger mentioned that most people fall into one of a few so-called voice categories, and the one that we've heard very often -- and the one that makes speakers sound the most insecure -- is the "Valley girl" voice, where your voice goes UP the beginning of a sentence rather than down, which makes everything sound like a question. We are sure you have heard this one before, and many women unconsciously do it. We actively try to avoid it, but we fall into plenty of other voice traps. Roger likes to do a bit of show-and-tell in his presentations, and he takes question from the audience, which mainly consist of queries about what to do if my voice sounds XYZ (too high, too low, etc.) and he guarantees 30-second fixes. They usually work, too! (Roger has done this before; once or twice.)

We figured we'd let Roger speak for himself, so you can have a look at his voice tips here. He also has some nifty free videos. However, rather than full-sized videos, they are just very short video clips with one or two tips. The are useful enough, though.
We do have the same voice! Photo by Judy

One thing that caught our attention was Roger's mentioning of the fact that no two people have the same voice; that voice is almost like fingerprint. Being twins, we beg to differ, so we went up to talk to him after, and yes, we did prove him wrong indeed. One  voice tip that he had for us (we got a bit self-conscious around him voice-wise, as did others, too) was the following: unclench your jaw. Who knew we were talking with our jaws clenched all this time? Of course, Roger exaggerates a bit to make his points, but his advice is excellent: we need to open up our jaws indeed (this also happens to be the first tip on Roger's vocal tips page).

There are also a few interesting-looking voice books and CDs that you could buy, but we have not yet done so.

Do you have any other great tips for your voice, dear fellow interpreters? 


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great seminar; interesting point about self-consciousness, though. I watched a documentary a while back in which an actor explained what he would do if he really disliked a fellow actor: he would compliment that person on having such a gorgeous voice. Pretty devious. I also took a few weeks of voice lessons a few years ago, and the teacher had us do some "scatting" do loosen up our vocal and personal inhibitions. After the first "doo-whop aroo-bop" it all fell apart because we couldn't stop laughing though :)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 21, 2014 at 10:14 AM said...

@Marie: Many thanks for sharing, Marie! Yes, we were VERY self-conscious. The simple act of speaking to Roger is like having lunch with a registered dietician! And yes, those excercises are so hilarious indeed. It's nice to do them in a group so you don't feel quite as silly. :)

Julia Carlson on July 9, 2014 at 10:16 AM said...

I didn't know there was voice training for interpreters! This is news to me. My sister-in-law is an interpreter. She must have gone through this. http://interlangueinterpreting.com/interlangue/about-us.php

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