I came across a fascinating story on NPR yesterday that I want to share with you.
If you don’t believe that speaking with the correct intonation matters, when you’re asking questions… this story will shows you why it does.
Did You Ask for Gravy?
The story, Sometimes Getting Along Comes Down To How You Say “Gravy”, is about a communication breakdown that happened at the Heathrow Airport cafeteria in London.
The miscommunication involved the types of intonation people from different language backgrounds used when asking the simple question:
Gravy? (meaning, would you like some gravy?)
This short question, Gravy? ⤴ is said by native Brits ( and Americans) with a rising intonation.
Rising Intonation in Questions
Using a rising intonation on the question, Gravy?⤴ makes the question sound friendly.
And that’s important!
We use the same rising pattern here in North America.
The miscommunication occurred when the Indian and Pakistani cafeteria workers asked the question, Gravy?⤼ using falling intonation.
This came across as rather abrupt and rude to the native Brits.☹
The Message in This Story is…..
So, what’s the message here?
Even if you use the same words… even if you use the same vowel and consonant sounds to say those words….your message may be misunderstood, if you don’t use the correct intonation.
Use Rising Intonation for Many Questions When You’re Speaking American English
In North American English, we using rising intonation on questions like:
- Gravy? ⤴
- Is that all?⤴
- Can I help you?⤴
- Are you ready?⤴
You’ll Sound More Friendly!
If you want to communicate in a manner that sounds friendly to North Americans, you need to do that too!
Here’s an excerpt from the story on NPR~
“So if the same word — gravy — was said by the British women with a rising intonation — gravy? — that was understood as “Would you like some gravy?” The Indian and Pakistani women said it with a falling intonation — gravy. That came across as, “This is gravy; take it or leave it.” (If this makes no sense in text, listen to the audio interview above.)
Neither side was plainly wrong. But even though they were using the same language, they were still talking past each other.
Read the Entire Story Here
To read the entire story on NPR, just follow this link~GRAVY
How to Learn American English Intonation Patterns
I teach you how to use American style intonation in all my American accent training programs. You can see those below.
And don’t forget if you want your questions to sound clear and friendly,….. intonation really matters!