supposedly precious commodity from both pulpit and lectern! And how few books there are (Christian books especially) on the market on clear and effective speech communication! Well, if you feel as frustrated as I do, I have good news for you. Help is on the way.
Robert Jacks' book, Getting The Word Across: Speech Communication for Pastors and Lay Leaders deals with the principles of Speech Communication for Christian ministry. The author is an associate professor of speech communication at Princeton Theological Seminary. The book is a rare find, the only one in its category as far as I know.
The book comes in two parts. Part One, entitled "The Word Springs to Life," deals with issues concerning how to handle a written text. The author dwells at some length on the balance between technique and transparency. We need all the technical skills we can acquire to do the job properly; and yet, in the end, the question is whether we will be transparent enough for people to see through us to the wonderful truths of God, or whether they would only be dazzled by a dramatic performance. And some useful techniques include having presence of mind, maintaining an expressive demeanour, being able to highlight important idea by way of emphasis, and communicating effectively through correct phrasing and visualization.
Part Two is entitled, "The Instrument Comes Alive," and the author likens a proficient speaker or reader to a Stradivarius (reckoned the violin of violins!), a well-crafted instrument fit for the Master's use. Well, what makes good music? Most of it has to do with clarity and resonance. With speech, the resonance part can be improved upon with the right breath control; and the clarity part comes from well-formed sounds. And so the book spells out the method for correct breathing - what is known in speech and vocal training as diaphragmatic breathing. And then it closes with a section on phonetics, on how we can speak more
clearly through an understanding of the science of sounds, and through the practice of more effective articulation and vocalization.
The book is written in a rather unique style, which is both an advantage and a drawback. The drawback is that it is not written like the average speech training manual, and so the material does not seem terribly systematic. For example, there is no chapter numbering, and the titles of each chapter does not tell you exactly what the issue is that he intends to deal with. But herein lies also its strength. It is a book written for the average layman, and attempts to be user-friendly (as well as entertaining) by not adhering to the conventions of a standard textbook. You can almost hear the speech teacher in Robert Jacks speaking directly to you.
For those who are trying to find something to help them speak or read nicely, this may be just the book they are looking for.
[P.S. The book is available at the BGST library; but it is on the reserved list as it is the textbook used for a course currently being taught. But take heart! You can purchase a copy from the Bethesda Book Centre].
(Review by Ng Seng Chuan)