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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.



Does Your Voice Attract or Repel Others?

Posted on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 by Positivevoice

Whether you like it or not, your voice categorises you. It speaks volumes about who you are and how you feel. It gives people an idea of where you're from and whether you are switched on and emotionally balanced. When someone picks up the phone to you, they will quickly read in between the lines and assess what kind of person you are and whether they want to interact with you.

Isn't it interesting that people go to gym to look after and perfect their body, but only a few seem to train their voice? When was the last time you had a vocal check-up? If you lose your voice from time to time, you probably aren't using it correctly. If you don't like your voice, you could do a lot to improve it. Without it you are lost, with it many are mis-understood. The voice is highly overlooked and neglected, yet invaluable.
I recently worked with a business woman who had an incredibly soft voice. When I mentioned this to her, she said “I know, it’s because I’m shy”. This response may seem fairly logical to you, but it left me with several questions; when did she decide to ‘be’ shy? Does she just feel shy sometimes or does this emotion define her? If she strengthened her voice, would she feel more confident? In any case, a couple of months later, she left me a voicemail to say that she was running late for her Skype lesson and her voice sounded incredibly loud, clear and confident. Working on her voice and resonance had clearly made an impact.

This whole process is holistic, so ideally we work not just on the voice, but mindset as well, so that when you communicate your voice and emotions are in alignment and saying the same thing.


For further information about training in spoken communication and mindset, contact Francesca directly:

or 07903 954 550.



Learn How to Speak with a Clear British Accent

Posted on Tuesday, May 09, 2017 by Positivevoice

the above picture shows me forming the mouth position for the pronunciation of the British consonant sound w.

Whilst the mouth position is important, there are some other tips that i would like to share with you that will make a huge difference to your pronunciation of this sound and to your ability to correctly pronounce words containing w.

In British English, vowels are more important than consonants. What does this mean?

Vowels are voiced sounds, which means that when you pronounce a vowel sound air passes over the vocal chords, so your focus should be on this area rather than the front of the mouth and the lips.  however, when we pronounce a 'w', the lips become the most obvious thing about our speech because we push them forwards in a pout (or kiss) like movement. Essentially, wherever you focus, the sound travels, so your challenge is to focus on the cavities in the head, back of the mouth and throat in order to allow voiced sounds (particularly vowels) to resonate fully here. If you find your focus is more on the consonants, this may mean that you are not enlarging the space at the back of the mouth enough to produce strong, long and full vowels. The best example of this is the Indian accent, which is very consonant heavy and resonates mostly at the front of the mouth.

Today's blog is all about how to focus more on vowel sounds in order to encourage the sounds to resonate at the back of the mouth (even when there is a consonant as obvious as 'w' in the word). If you succeed in focusing on your vowels, your speech will become fluid, clear and smooth, rather than short, sharp and staccato. It is no coincidence that speakers of English as a foreign language often find it easier to sing with a British accent than they do when speaking. This has a lot to do with resonance. When we sing, vowels are full and long and resonate in the cavities in the throat, head and back of the mouth; this is exactly where you need to resonate British vowel sounds. Obviously, when we sing, everything is exaggerated; longer, fuller and a wider range of pitches, but the concept is similar.

I integrate humming and chanting into warm up exercises for my clients in order to allow them to feel where the sounds need to resonate. The IPA symbols and guidance on how to position the mouth are useful, but the only way to develop a clear British accent is by transforming your resonance.

For further information about British accent coaching or to book a session, please contact Francesca directly: fran@positivevoice.co.uk or 07903 954 550.





Overcome anxiety in one simple step

Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2017 by Positivevoice

Anxiety is a state that comes from within. Yes, of course external factors play a part, but the final decision as to whether you feel anxious is yours. Anxiety can be very useful, as it acts as a warning signal; If you feel anxious about an upcoming commitment, it usually means that something needs to be changed. If you need to pack for your holiday, the anxiety serves as a reminder to finish your packing. If you have a public speaking engagement coming up, perhaps the anxiety is a reminder that you need to prepare your speech. If you have been invited to your ex's wedding, then the anxiety may just be a warning sign that you shouldn't go! Only you can decipher your anxiety. Ask yourself BOLD questions and you will receive BOLD answers.

If your anxiety relates to things outside your control or you struggle to find a rational explanation for it, then my latest hypnotherapy audio may be just what you are looking for. Let go of anxiety now is available on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon music.



British Accent Coaching and Consonant Pairs

Posted on Thursday, April 06, 2017 by Positivevoice

Today's blog post is an extract from my digital course in British accent coaching.

33

 

IPA Symbol

ʃ (aspirated)

ʒ (voiced)

Sound

‘sh’ ‘zh’

Spelling

Variations

sh shout

s sugar

ch machine

 

sure pleasure

ge prestige

zure seizure

These two sounds are studied as a pair, as they take the same mouth movements. The lips are pushed forwards in a rounded, flared shape. The edges of the tongue (from mid-back) widen, touching both the top and bottom set of teeth. The tip of the tongue comes down, touching the inside of the bottom teeth.

The differences between these two sounds are as follows:

ʃ: The air passes between the palate and tongue (the mouth positioning forms a tunnel) creating an aspirated sound (we often use this sound to tell people to be quite or to comfort a baby).

ʒ the air passes over the vocal chords creating a voiced sound (this sound is like a vibration).


There are 8 other pairs of sounds in the International Phonetic Index for British English. Each pair is comprised of one voiced sound and one unvoiced, or aspirated sound. For instance, b (voiced) is paired with p (aspirated), d (voiced) is paired with t (aspirated) etc. You will be able to tell if a sound is voiced or aspirated by placing your hand in front of your mouth; the aspirated sounds create a slight rush of air that can be felt on your hand.

voiced

b

d

v

g

z

ʒ

ð

example

be

do

vet

got

is

pleasure

journey

this

aspirated

p

t

f

k

s

ʃ

θ

example

pea

too

fetch

cot

hiss

push

church

thought



How to pronounce r in British English

Posted on Monday, March 13, 2017 by Positivevoice

Today's post is an extract from my digital course in British accent coaching.

31

 

IPA Symbol

r

Sound

‘r’

Spelling

Variations

r run

wr write

rr sorry

rh rhino

When to pronounce 'r'

What makes 'r' a challenge is not just to do with its pronunciation, but also to do with the fact that we often don't pronounce the letter 'r' in words. Here are a few examples where the 'r' sound is not pronounced: here, far, start, store, were, work, her, perfect, near, hair, where, water, wonder... The list is fairly endless. You may find it interesting to know that we only pronounce the 'r' sound when it appears before a vowel. So, in the word 'remember', we pronounce the letter 'r' that appears at the beginning of the word, but not the 'r' at the end of the word. You have probably noticed that there are a few words that appear in the above list where the 'r' does come before a vowel, such as here, store and were, the important thing to notice with these words is that the letter 'r' appears towards the end of the word and that the 'e' sound is not pronounced. In the word 'remembering', we pronounce both 'r' sounds.

How to pronounce 'r':

This is a voiced consonant, which means air passes over the vocal chords when producing the sound. The sound produced is mostly due to the positioning of the tongue. The tongue is pulled back in the mouth (some people curl it back and get an almost perfect sound, you will not get a perfect sound doing it in this way). The tongue widens causing the edges to touch the top back teeth, the tip of the tongue touches the middle of the palate. If you make the sound in slow motion, it will sound a bit like a dog growling. The tongue should not flap around, hitting the palate (roof of the mouth) when you produce the sound- if it does, you are doing it incorrectly.

If you still haven't quite got it, this video should help:



How to overcome anxiety

Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2017 by Positivevoice

Anxiety is an emotion like any other. Some people are better than dealing with it than others.

In this video, I explain how to let go of anxiety and rapidly change the way you live your life.

Please do forward this blog on to family and friends if you feel they would benefit from these insights too.



One of the Greatest Mistakes Made When Speaking English

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 by Positivevoice


In most languages, particularly in Spanish, we speak more or less as we spell, which makes reading aloud fairly straight forward. This is not the case when speaking English. There are some general rules, but for the most part, you just need to listen and learn.

This week, i taught a Purchasing Director. 'Purchase' spelled phonetically is:

pəːtʃɪs

The most interesting learning here is that when you see the spelling 'a' in words, such as purchase, sausage and luggage, it is pronounced  ɪ, as in 'is' or 'it'.Similarly, we don't clearly pronounce the 'u' in ambulance, it is more like amb-y-l'nce- as you can see, the 'a' between the 'l' and the 'n' is also missing. Ambulance spelled phonetically is:

ambjʊləns

short of learning every word in the dictionary, the best way to pick up correct pronunciation is to listen and read at the same time. This really helps the brain to process the pronunciation of new words and is a great way to correct mis-pronunciation of words that already exist in your vocabulary.

Try re-reading this blog whilst listening to the following audio:

Speaking and listening at the same time



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