Bilingual news and shares about the brain, languages and coaching
Newsletter 18 - Breathe
the L in NeuroLanguage Coaching®
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thich Nhat Hang
In the 1st of this 3 part series about the Breath (the N in NLC) I gave you a quick overview of the link between your breathing and your nervous system (you can read about it here)
In this 2nd part (the L in NLC) find out the importance of breathing and the breath for your language learning and speaking.
TO BREATHE (the EA is pronounced like the EE in “to need” - you need to breathe)
Just like languages have distinct sounds, they also have unique paces. English has minimal punctuation and quick phrases. In contrast, French has abundant punctuation and embraces eloquent pauses.
French has an even rhythm, meaning that each syllable is pronounced with the same duration and stress. English, on the other hand, has a variable rhythm, meaning that some syllables are longer and more stressed than others.
But the influence of breathing extends beyond mere rhythm. In tonal languages, such as Mandarin Chinese or Vietnamese, the pitch or tone of a word can change its meaning entirely. In these languages, maintaining breathing steadily is not just a rhythmic necessity but a crucial component for accurately expressing different tones.
French punctuation indicates when to pause and breathe. In French, commas, semicolons, dashes, and periods are used to separate units of meaning and introduce pauses. These pauses allow the speaker to breathe and also convey the structure and tone of the sentence.
In English, punctuation is less frequent and less consistent, so the speaker has to rely more on their intuition and context to decide when to pause and breathe. This means that English speakers may have to inhale more quickly and frequently than French speakers - you’ll notice it more when reading long and complex sentences.
One of the aspects of communication that is influenced by the breath and breathing is the use of pauses and silence in conversation.
Different cultures have different norms for pauses in conversation, which affect communication. Pauses and silence are part of the non-verbal communication that can convey different meanings depending on the context and the culture. In some cultures, pauses and silence can be a sign of respect, reflection, or agreement (in Japan for instance). Incorporating intentional breaths during these pauses not only aligns with cultural norms but also introduces a calming rhythm to the conversation. In others they can be perceived as a sign of discomfort, confusion, or disagreement (in the United-States for example).
This is a fascinating subject which deserves a blog or a newsletter onto itself. Stay tuned for that.
THE BREATH (the EA in “the breath” is pronounced like the EA in “wealth” - your breath is your wealth)
The Calming Power of Breath
Think about being in a situation where you have to speak a language that makes you feel unsure of yourself, like during a meeting or in front of an audience. In this case, breathing with purpose can help you with your language skills. Yes you read right. Taking slow, deep breaths can calm you down, enough to realize that you are not in any real immediate danger. You can start using your prefrontal cortex again -reasoning, getting out of the panic zone and why not, feel more confident about saying what you need to say.
Inhale Confidence, Exhale Doubt
In moments of intimidation or self-doubt during language-intensive meetings, your breath stands as a silent partner. Inhale confidence, exhale doubt, and let the rhythm of intentional breathing guide you through the pressure of having to speak in a foreign language.
Breathing is not just a biological necessity; it’s also a linguistic and cultural phenomenon. Breathing affects how we speak, listen, and understand different languages. It shapes the rhythm, intonation, and tone of our speech. It also reflects our cultural norms and expressions.
In practical terms: when learning a new language, we need to pay attention to how breathing influences its sound and meaning. How ? You already do it: listen. But now do it better: really listen, with intent, hear the rhythm, the pauses, the accents. Why not also read aloud to "test" punctuation.
Breathing is also a powerful tool for overcoming stress and boosting our confidence.
Stay tuned for more insights in our next newsletter - part 3 of this series on the breath.
And if you want to go back on my other newsletters that cover all kinds of brain related, language related, coaching related fascinating subjects, I suggest you go to my newsletters webpage
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Good to know
The Neurolanguage Coaching® certification is accredited by the ICF
La certification est accreditée par la Fédération Internationale de Coaching