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Learn how to develop a British accent in 1 minute

Posted on Thursday, September 21, 2017 by Positivevoice

When teaching British accent coaching, i constantly re-iterate how important it is to PRACTICE. With this in mind, i have been creating regular, short, easy to digest video posts on Instagram. If you're not on Instagram, please don't fret because i have been sharing these videos all over the place. If you follow me on Facebook, you can find them on my Positive Voice page: https://www.facebook.com/fjgordonsmith/

Here is today's 1 minute post. Watch it and practice:



1 rule for better speech

Posted on Monday, September 18, 2017 by Positivevoice

Recently, i've been talking a lot about general technique because 4 of my clients have just finished my 12 week course in British accent coaching and the last few lessons are all about general technique. Three of these clients were native English speakers with regional accents and one was a non-native speaker with a Spanish accent. You may think that these would require very different techniques. In fact, the goal is the same for them all; the voice needs to resonate less in the mouth and more in the cavities in the back of the mouth and throat. Yes, they all have different strengths and weaknesses, but the Vocal Workout exercises are generally the same.

People with regional accents often under-use the muscles in the jaw and so do speakers with non-native accents. Both non-native and regional accents often resonate too strongly in the mouth, yet people with regional accents are often accused of mumbling; each individual has a slightly different challenge, but the solution is more or less the same.

For instance, each time the tip of the tongue comes forwards to touch the tooth ridge, this must be countered by tightening the corners of the mouth and bringing them in slightly (i often refer to this as 'stifling a smile').

Last week, i recorded an Instagram video on this topic; you may find it useful:

General technique #BritishAccentCoaching

A post shared by Francesca Gordon-Smith (@fgordonsmith) on



Positive Voice: Pronunciation Tricks

Posted on Monday, August 21, 2017 by Positivevoice

The above photograph demonstrates the mouth position for the consonant sound 'w'. It demonstrates very well how to position the lips to produce this sound. What it doesn't teach is what to do next and how to move from this consonant and through the rest of the word... All is revealed in my recent video for Instagram:

Pronunciation of the consonant sound 'w' #BritishAccentCoaching www.positivevoice.co.uk.

A post shared by Francesca Gordon-Smith (@fgordonsmith) on



Should the consonant sound t be pronounced

Posted on Wednesday, August 09, 2017 by Positivevoice

During last week's Facebook live, i talked about the consonant sound 't'.

One of the greatest mistakes that people make when it comes to the pronunciation of this one little consonant is over pronouncing it, the other is not pronouncing it at all!

The rules:

Pronounce t:

  • at the beginning of a word: teach.
  • in the middle of a word: butter.
  • at the end of a word when it's followed by a comma or a full stop: 'That's it.' "When i do it, she listens".
  • at the end of a word when the following word begins with a vowel- 'That-is interesting'. Here the 't' flows effortlessly into the vowel.
  • at the end of a word when the following word begins with a 'w': 'That-was interesting' (however, you don't strictly speaking, have to pronounce the 't' here, as it can flow into the 'w': 'tha-was'

Not Pronounced:

  • Words ending in a t, blend into words beginning with a consonant

'That thought you had about that theatre play... was it a positive thought?

The 't' at the end of the word 'that' blends into the 'th' in thought 'tha-thought'. There is a tiny pause that lengthens 'tha' slightly.
  • When one word ending in 't' is followed by another word beginning with 't', 'not to', we only pronounce the 't' once 'no-to' (unless, of course, there is a natural pause or the word requires emphasis).
An aside:
  • the 't' at the end of the word 'thought' can be pronounced as we emphasise this word, which gives us license to pause and when we pause after a word, we do not blend one sound into the next.
  • If you were to pronounce the 't' in 'that thought', you would need to emphasise both words, which can sound a little robotic.

On an entirely different note, a lot of people with regional accents, in the UK, only pronounce a 't' when it comes at the beginning of a word, the rest of the time they replace the 't' with a glottal stop- this is achieved by tightening the muscles in the throat, around the glottis. Although you won't find this in pronunciation books, it is becoming more and more prevalent, as it requires less effort to miss out this sound.

If you are someone who doesn't usually pronounce the consonant sound 't' at the end of a word and want to start doing so; be careful not to over pronounce it (remember the rules, above). You will find further tips in the following videos, uploaded to Facebook and Instagram recently:



British accent training and why little and often is best

Posted on Monday, July 31, 2017 by Positivevoice

In the photo above (taken today), i demonstrate one of the many vocal warm up exercises that i am currently using to help my clients speak with more clarity. If you would like to learn more, look no further than my recent videos (60 seconds long) posted on Instagram, and shared below.

You may be wondering whether 60 seconds is long enough to learn anything. Find out for yourself. Please remember that daily practice is key to your success when it comes to transforming your speech. In order to speak with clarity, you need to train the muscles in your mouth to do so, which requires repeated training. Even i benefit from these exercises (particularly first thing in the morning when i wake up with a croaky voice).

When to pronounce the consonant sound 't':

Consonant sound 't' continued:

How to pronounce the 'L' sound:

HOW to pronounce L in British English in 60 seconds #BritishAccentCoaching

A post shared by Francesca Gordon-Smith (@fgordonsmith) on



The British accent and common mistakes : Part 1

Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 by Positivevoice

As helpful as it is to know what you should do in order to speak English well, it is also important to be aware of the common mistakes made by native, British speakers. Throughout the UK, there are a range of different dialects and regional accents. In areas such as Essex and London, many people confuse ‘l’ and ‘w’ in words such as still, middle and well, so don’t be surprised if you hear someone saying ‘I’m very wew, thank you’ when they mean ‘Very well’. This may sound unlikely to you, but it is becoming more and more prevalent. I have also worked with clients from the West country and Birmingham who make the same mistake.

Sometimes this mistake is just a habit that has been picked up, and other times it is due to a lack of strength in the tongue. If this is the case, there is a great exercise for strengthening the tongue. All you need to do is take a soft sweet, or something similar and hold it up against the middle of the palate with the tip of the tongue for as long as you can. Ideally, this should be repeated three times per day until you are able to make the movement without any difficulty.

So, now that you know what not to do when it comes to the pronunciation of the consonant sound ‘l’, here is what you should be doing :

In the photograph, below, i demonstrate the mouth positioning for 'l':

This sound differs slightly depending on where in the word it is positioned. It is a voiced sound, which means that air passes over the vocal chords creating a sound.

There is one IPA symbol for this sound, ‘l’, even though it varies slightly depending on whether it is positioned before or after the vowel (or diphthong): let vs tell, for instance. When the ‘l’ sound comes before the vowel, it is fairly straight forward: To produce this sound, maintain a neutral mouth positioning (the lips rest gently apart), place the tip of your tongue on the palate just before the front teeth, without actually touching the front teeth, create a little pressure as you begin the vowel that follows and then release to continue with your word. At this point, the middle of the tongue should be slightly raised. If you slow down the sound, you will notice there is a little extra sound that is not represented by an ipa symbol, it is similar to the vowel sound ʊ, as in the word ‘could’.

This extra sound is more apparent when the vowel or diphthong comes before the ‘l’, as in words such as ‘meal’. Even without slowing down my speech, that is to say, in normal speech, this extra sound is very much apparent and if you do not pronounce it, the word won’t sound the same. If you’re still a little confused, please do watch my video on this subject. This is an extract from my Digital course in British accent coaching.

This sound differs slightly depending on where in the word it is positioned. It is a voiced sound, which means that air passes over the vocal chords creating a sound.

There is one IPA symbol for this sound, ‘l’, even though it varies slightly depending on whether it is positioned before or after the vowel (or diphthong): let vs tell, for instance. When the ‘l’ sound comes before the vowel, it is fairly straight forward: To produce this sound, maintain a neutral mouth positioning (the lips rest gently apart), place the tip of your tongue on the palate just before the front teeth, without actually touching the front teeth, create a little pressure as you begin the vowel that follows and then release to continue with your word. At this point, the middle of the tongue should be slightly raised. If you slow down the sound, you will notice there is a little extra sound that is not represented by an ipa symbol, it is similar to the vowel sound ʊ, as in the word ‘could’.

This extra sound is more apparent when the vowel or diphthong comes before the ‘l’, as in words such as ‘meal’. Even without slowing down my speech, that is to say, in normal speech, this extra sound is very much apparent and if you do not pronounce it, the word won’t sound the same. If you’re still a little confused, please do watch my video on this subject. This is an extract from my Digital course in British accent coaching.

l from Francesca Gordon-Smith on Vimeo.



Less effort and more FOCUS

Posted on Monday, July 10, 2017 by Positivevoice

I talk a lot about RESONANCE when i teach my students how to develop a  British accent. Here's the challenge, initially you need to work the muscles in the mouth to access the spaces that you're not used to using. Once you have become more aware of the cavities in the back of your mouth and throat and the muscles in your lower jaw, your voice will naturally start to resonate further back in these cavities. It's not something that you can force. Being relaxed is really important, as tension can stop the voice from resonating fully.

I recommend a series of exercises. It is best to practice them all. However, some people focus more on some than others according to their specific needs. When i teach my students, i constantly vary my approach in order to fulfil different learning styles and needs.

During my recent Facebook Live, i talked a lot about resonance. watching this video is a good place to start if you are interested in this topic:

Here are just a few of my recommendations. 

1. Follow my warm up exercises (visit my YouTube channel for further details): https://www.youtube.com/user/pvfran

2. Drink through a straw to work the muscles around the soft palate3. Read a book or magazine whilst simultaneously listening to an audio version of the text read by a narrator with a British accent that you would like to emulate: A list of books narrated by Stephen Fry A list of books narrated by Joanna LumleyA list of books narrated by Judi DenchA list of books narrated by Kate Winslet


Top Tricks for developing a British accent

Posted on Monday, July 03, 2017 by Positivevoice

One of the greatest mistakes made when it comes to developing a British accent is to focus solely on the movement of the lips, jaw and tongue in order to pronounce the British English sounds listed in the International Phonetic index. A British accent is made up of so much more than this; rhythm, emphasis and most importantly RESONANCE.

When you focus on the movement and positioning of the lips, tongue and jaw, this can cause an undesired result BECAUSE wherever you place your attention, the sound is likely to resonate. This means that if you are lifting your tongue up towards your tooth ridge (the little bar on the palate just before the top, front teeth), the sound is likely to resonate at the front of the mouth: In BRITISH English, the voice must resonate at the back of the mouth, in the cavities in the head and (most importantly) in the throat. As soon as the resonance creeps towards the front of the mouth, the sounds produced are not in keeping with those spoken by a native, British speaker.

By means of delivering an example, i have chosen an extract from my digital course in British accent coaching.

The consonant sounds tʃ and dʒ

The target sounds in this video are consonants that are very much produced with the mouth; one is aspirated (causes the air to pass through the mouth) and the other is voiced (the air passes over the vocal chords). When pronouncing words that contain these consonant sounds, it is important to focus on the vowels that follow in order to form a word that largely resonates in the cavities at the back of the mouth and in the throat.

These sounds form a pair as they take the same mouth positioning. The mid to back of the tongue widens and thickens, touching the top, back teeth (as with ʃ and ʒ). The tip of the tongue is positioned on the tooth ridge (without touching the teeth), as with the ‘t’ and ‘d’ sounds. The sound is created by holding and releasing the tip of the tongue- the air either passes over the vocal chords (dʒ) or passes out of the mouth forming an aspirated sound (tʃ).

:
:

34

 

IPA Symbol

tʃ (aspirated)

dʒ (voiced)

 

Sound

‘ch’ ‘j’

Spelling

Variations

ch chew

tch watch

 

j June

g gentle

ge garage

dge judge

dj adjust

ch and j from Francesca Gordon-Smith on Vimeo.

If you enjoyed this video, please do join me for my first Facebook live, which will be following this topic of resonance and what best to do in order to develop a British accent.

The Facebook live will take place on Friday 7th July at 12:30pm BST (UTC+1) . To join, please connect with me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/francesca.gordonsmith



The British accent and pronunciation

Posted on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by Positivevoice

Today's post is an extract from my digital course on the pronunciation of the diphthong ɪə, pronounced like 'ear'.


20

 

IPA Symbol

ɪə

Sound

‘ear’

Spelling

Variations

ear near

ier pier

eer steer

ere mere

This diphthong combines the mouth positioning for the vowel sounds ɪ and ə. The main difference between these two mouth positions is the positioning of the tongue; for the first part of the sound? the mid to back of the tongue widens and thickens as it comes up to touch the mid to back top teeth, whilst the tip of the tongue comes down slightly and rests in the middle of the mouth. The corners of the mouth come back (like the exercise stifling a smile). For the second part of the sound, the tongue relaxes into the mouth. The lower jaw simultaneously relaxes into neutral position, as the mouth becomes more relaxed, in order to transition into the second position. The final mouth position requires the lips to rest very slightly open, in neutral position. The following photographs demonstrate the two mouth positions for this sound.

The first mouth position, 'ɪ':

The second mouth position 'ə':

Common Mistake:

In the England, we don't speak as we spell, which means that we don't pronounce the 'r' consonant that you see in words such as: ear, near, mere, steer and rear. There is a rule that works most of the time: we only pronounce an 'r' consonant when it comes before a vowel sound. This means that we don't pronounce the 'r' in the word 'ear', but we do pronounce it in the word 'earring'.However, you will notice that we don't pronounce the consonant 'r' in shorter words such as 'here' and 'mere'. In general, when the only letter that follows the 'r' is an 'e', the rule i mentioned above does not apply.

The video lesson:


Vowel from Francesca Gordon-Smith on Vimeo.

For further details about the digital course, visit: http://www.positivevoice.co.uk/britishaccentcoaching or contact Francesca directly: 0044 (0)7903 954 550 or fran@positivevoice.co.uk.



How to make your voice stronger and more attractive

Posted on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 by Positivevoice

Last week, we considered whether your voice attracts or repels others. This week, i am going to focus on how to make your voice more attractive.

I clearly remember the first time i heard an audio recording of my voice, i was at primary school. I was shocked; it didn't sound at all like the voice in my head; i had a nasal voice! It took hearing my voice to motivate me to change it. It didn't help that i suffered from hayfever and asthma. It wasn't until i was at college that i managed to improve the quality of my voice and it wasn't until my mid- late 20s that i finally understood how to do so without losing my voice every time i delivered group lessons or workshops.

In the following video, i teach a series of vocal warm up exercises to improve your voice.

Here are some more precise recommendations to solve specific issues:

Nasal voice: lower your bottom jaw and hum. Move your lower jaw backwards and forwards to shift the resonance into the throat. When speaking, remember to activate the muscles in your lower jaw in order to stop the air passing too harshly over your vocal chords- in the warm up, i call this exercise 'stifling a smile'. 

A soft voice: this can be of particular concern to men. Focusing on expansion and stifling a smile will improve the instrument that is your voice. If you think about the casing of a guitar, for instance, it is hard and thus produces a strong sound. Imagine what a rubber guitar would sound like... Be careful to expand the throat and cavities at the back of the mouth rather than tensing them because tensing will mean that there is less space for the sound to resonate in.

Remember that the warm up is an exaggerated version of what is required. Just practicing the exercises before speaking will improve your voice because once you are more aware of your physiology, you will find it easier to control where the sound resonates.

Finally, remember that these exercises are about making the best of your voice. Your physiology will impact the final result. For instance, if you have an overbite, your teeth aren't correctly aligned, which means that you don't have enough space in your mouth for your tongue, which makes it hard to pronounce consonant sounds, such as 't'. Making a conscious effort to somewhat re-align your top and lower jaw when talking can make a big impact here.

For best results, practice the warm up exercises in this video daily:

Short vocal warm up for clear speech and strong resonance from Francesca Gordon-Smith on Vimeo.




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