Why our voice sounds weird on a recording


Often when we listen back to a recorded version of our speaking, it sounds weird to us, but usually only to us.

The reason for this is simple: when you are speaking, you can hear two sound sources basically: one is the sound bouncing back from the walls (or the space where you are). The other source is the internal resonance of your voice, amplified by the cavities in your head. So, you are listening to a mix of these two sources.

So what difference does this make?

However – and this is the key difference – a recorder can only “hear” and record what’s outside you, which is the same thing that other people hear when you are talking (or a very close version of it).

Just ask your friends when you show them a recording, they will probably say: “Yeah, it sounds like you”, while you’ll go like “Me? But it sounds so … thin / different / weird etc (you name it).”

A recorder cannot hear the mix that you hear. It only captures your voice the way it sounds in the space you are, somewhat coloured by the space itself. A recording made in a stairway, a cathedral or inside a car will all sound different, yet they will all sound good to the listener who knows you and recognizes your voice.

Your voice will only sound strange to you on a recording until …

Until you get used to it and accept it.

Once you start liking your “other” voice

That’s where the fun begins. That’s where you can use it to your advantage so it can help you to improve the way you sound in English.

When speaking, we’re paying constant attention to a number of things at the same time: vocabulary,  pronunciation, grammar etc. It’s relatively easy to coordinate these in our mother language in a simultaneous fashion.

However, in a foreign language things get more complex when it comes to this kind of simultaneous coordination. For this reason, it can be a useful thing to separate actual speaking from observing speaking when you are practising at home. This will help you be better prepared for real life conversations.

Mobile phone recording quality today is more than sufficient for this purpose. Simply do your speaking and record it. Then listen back to it and analyze what worked and what didn’t work. What you would like to keep and what you would like to change and improve. Then record yourself again, and compare the second one to the first one, and so on, as you go improving those small details that would be hard to notice without this objective feedback.

Good luck.



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