Power of speech

By Farzeen Ismail. Farzeen is an aspiring writer and a poet. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Adult Blogging Prize 2014*

When I came across Maya Angelou’s quote – ‘WORDS MEAN MORE THAN WHAT IS SET DOWN ON PAPER. IT TAKES A HUMAN VOICE TO INFUSE THEM WITH SHADES OF DEEPER MEANING’ it inspired me and generated quite a number of ideas which I have elaborated below under subtitles.

Actions speak louder than words

Words written on paper are merely theoretical until they are given power with a ‘Human voice’ which in turn has force to fill the air with words. To change the world for the better, actions are required and words set on paper need to have a voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning. People need to hear a voice to determine whether an action should be taken forward or not. Thus verbal expressions have more power to reach hearts than words read silently from a paper. Not everyone is literate enough to read, but generally people have the ability to speak and yet not everyone is a good speaker. Nevertheless, the majority are made aware with word of mouth, through speeches, television and drama, radios, concerts, theatres, political platforms, schools and colleges etc. As a result the human voice has the ability to infuse the words with shades of deeper meaning.

I believe that oral words are deeply ingrained in the memory whereas written words might slide away and not move the reader profoundly. Great speakers have the skill to read the written word using the expressions with fluency, such that it makes an influential impact on the listener. Factors such as the accent, tone of voice, actions, the passion and persuasion with which the speech is delivered, the enthusiasm shared will all determine the message with deeper shades of meaning. It may give a feeling of excitement and depth or merely boredom depending on the speaker. Hence, speech has more force on a listener than words read silently by a reader who is alone.

Everything and everyone needs a voice to be heard. Poetry would not sound as fascinating if not for a passionate voice reciting it with all its rhymes and rhythm giving it due justice. A famous quote says it all ‘Poetry is music written for the human voice’ (1989 In ‘The Power of the Word’, Public Broadcasting Service, 15 Sep.) To elaborate further on this I’ll shed light on an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s book-‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ where the above quote was actually derived from.

She opened the first page and I heard poetry for the first time in my life. “It was the best of times and the worst of times . . .” Her voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing. I wanted to look at the pages. Were they the same that I had read? Or were there notes, music, lined on the pages, as in a hymn book? Her sounds began cascading gently.

Mrs. Flowers (the reciter of the poem) had entranced the little girl Marguerite with the recital of the poem rhythmically, such that the girl was marveling long after Mrs. Flowers stopped reciting. Her musical voice had won the little girl’s heart for poetry.

Therefore it’s true for all. A song sounds lifeless with its lyrics read on its own until given energy with a soothing and emotional voice. A movie script or play is just another tale if not given a meaningful performance with the sound of various artistes’ voices, unfolding the message to be conveyed. Fairy-tales read by children who do not understand half the words in them would never have the same effect on children if not expressed in the most interesting way by the narrators in their life e.g. a grandmother, mother or teacher. Holy scripts and divine messages of any religion would not motivate as much to practice if not for the inspiring voice of a preacher. A face to face confession with a strong voice would be better than one read in a letter as it would provide better expressions and feelings of the confessor and make its mark.

A poem can be voiced rhythmically, a script dramatically, a speech passionately, a story enthusiastically, a song tunefully, a confession convincingly, a sermon persuasively. The human voice is thus exceptional in infusing the words with shades of deeper meaning.

Taking an example of Friedrich Nietzsche quotes (German classical Scholar, Philosopher and Critic of culture, 1844-1900): “We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.”

An idea would be accepted or rejected depending on the tone of the voice. The voice that persuaded or was doubtful, influenced or was reserved, inspired or dull, informed or ignorant, spoke the truth or lied, provoked or senseless. Whichever the case, the exact meaning will be verified by the different voices to decide on the outcome. For instance, he who reads an authoritative speech by a leader of a certain country in a newspaper, but wasn’t present while the actual speech was delivered will have a different and unsatisfactory perception. While one who heard the speech with all the might in the voice of the leader would be affected positively or negatively. Since human memory is more perceptible to what is said and heard than what is read.

Contemplating on one woman’s voice that moved many during a speech in Harvard ‘When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful’ – Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai- a 16 year old girl from the Swat Valley region of Pakistan and an international symbol for women’s education. She raised her courageous voice to change the world and bring education to restricted areas.

Malala’s voice was sympathetic to the women of the world regarding education as she strove to push for extensive education in countries where access to schools, specifically for women, is limited or denied. Thus proving the point that words are infused with deeper shades of meanings with a human voice as her idea was accepted by majority. If her words were merely set down on paper, she would not have achieved her goals as efficiently as she did with her voice.

Comparing internet to schools/colleges

Students who learn through lecturers are brighter than those who learn through the internet. Students stay alert when lessons are read aloud by the lecturer as this inspires them and promotes academic responsibility compared to ones who work online in a one-dimensional world. In classrooms, students live in a multidimensional world sharing excitement as views are exchanged, questions raised, discussions done freely all with the supremacy of voices.

Students are more prone to be motivated through practical learning and impressive lectures than boring online courses that require a lot of reading on their own. Why? A lecturer who presents an idea with the force of his personality overcomes the internal resistance of his students. While impersonal transactions can ruin one’s obsession to continue learning in online courses.

Finally, a poem I wrote to pay tribute and conclude the quote:

Voices in the air

A voice is a universe for words,

A voice is a palace for words,

A voice is a weapon for words,

A voice is gift for words,

A voice can comfort and heal,

A voice can hurt and split,

A voice can thrive to ascertain,

A voice can provoke and threaten,

A word is a voice for the voiceless,

And humans are voices for the words,

Each of us needs a voice to be heard,

And so does a human voice to be heard.

29 comments on “Power of speech

  1. Debajyoti Dey on

    the article speaks for itself. the way the writer has emphasized on the voice has become one of the x factors of this article. the writer also impresses us by the way she used her examples. the article was simple and sober without any ornaments in it which makes it easier for the readers to relate themselves with it. thus, the writer has been able the o reach the readers which us a plus point.

  2. Llewellyn John on

    This phrase; ‘Action speaks louder than words’, is being understood in different light. But your profound zest to write this article is appreciated. You really elaborated on it, with simple, layman’s language. Unequivocally, you are a good writer. I praise your might in doing research. Well done, Sister!
    Your work is meaningful and deserves credits!

  3. Kelly O'hara on

    Love the article it certainly speaks volumes both in content and words. The poem at the end is certainly powerful and beautifully written. Poems are often words than cannot be spoken directly but are the music of the soul.

  4. Maryam Naaz on

    you have carved a niche by putting your thought. i can only say………,

    Speak! for your lips are yet free.
    Speak! for your tongue is still your own,
    your lissom body yours alone,
    Speak your life is still your own.

  5. Abhik Shome on

    I agree, poetry is music for the words. It is being an artist, creating arts with placing of words in such a way that the meaning it creates results in deep emotional or metaphysical catharsis of sorts in the minds of the reader, and inspires his or her creative process, enriching it or making it ponder. That is what playing with voice is all about. Great job Farzeen.

  6. Anshu Priya on

    I do agree with you Farzeen,
    You have mention Malala’s voice in your article.
    A voice is such a deep, personal reflection of character.
    I wish you Good Luck…Great work….

  7. Aboo Ahmad on

    Never though that the importance of ‘voice’ could be expressed in such a decorative and touching way. Change my entire perception of great thought and how far or deep can that though be penetrated
    Way to go , I am for sure impressed .

  8. Amir nabi on

    Beautifully written..inspiring for people who both love to speak and who have a desire for public speaking and a taste for it..although it talks about the power of speaking I must confess here to the author that your written words also are truly inspirational and beautifully put.

  9. Mohammad Irfan Khan on

    Words are just imagination in our mind unless we give it voice, once a word is expressed in voice it can bring emotions in people and influence in better way. So really great article..

  10. Meraz Ashraf on

    It ‘s good to hear something in order to learn and/or observe the same. But as for as Written words are concern for learning and/or observing a thing then it(Written Words carry its own advantages and benefits.
    Both Action and Words carry its own merits.

  11. mohd anas on

    The article is appreciative in highlighting the role of voice in effective communication .As said ” Pen is mighter than swords ” . One voice pitch , tone ,annotation describes the might of a personality and charisma . It gives ones the power to influence people , to attract people , to convince people and times control the people .Article clearly emphasis role of voice in live and alive communication

  12. Rafakat khan on

    Well!! Spoken words long last and evoke feelings, emotions, values to a greater depth of human soul. Power of speech as written so well and expressed with deep fervour for words is moving and equally a worth appreciable. The words die down if not spoken in letter and spirit..passion must persuade them to move out and get heard of…The best and worst times witness their immense power when an orator takes charge over the audience/masses by his/her magic craft of woven words. A crying child stops sobbing when its a motherly call of care and comfort from far off. It goes to all and hugs/bugs each and everyone irrespective of being good/ bad.
    I must appreciate the value of article written with fine words and inspirational quotes.
    What we say..we must think over twice..Spoken words last longer and live far more than our existence…coz without speech we are numb souls or less humans.
    Keep writing..its good to read words woven with life.

  13. admin on

    Well said
    It was only Malala’s voice what created fear in
    the brutal heart of Talibaan. A well patterned
    article with great content.
    Keep it up.

  14. Aquib shaikh on

    you left me speechless!!
    it is not an easy task to describe Influence and
    effectiveness of voice in human life but you have
    done it in perfect manner. Your words are as
    good as subject.
    Keep thinking!
    Keep writing!
    Keep inspiring!

  15. Heyate Khizre on

    Good Words and Great Ideas!
    You emphasised on importance and versatility of voice in a decorative manner as it deserves.
    Brilliant Work!
    Keep It Up!


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