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Positive Voice Blog

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




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