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How diaphragmatic breathing can improve your British accent

Posted on Monday, November 06, 2017 by Positivevoice

There are several ways to project your voice:

1.       Use of your diaphragm

2.       Focus on the tooth ridge when speaking

3.       Focus on the middle of the palate

If you have any accent other than a standard British one, the chances are that option 2 and option 3 will strengthen your native accent taking you further away from a British accent. As you may know by now, A British accent resonates largely in the back of the mouth, around the soft palate and in the torso. Most other accents resonate much more in the mouth. So we will be focusing on diaphragmatic breathing.

Your diaphragm is located just below the ribcage, as indicted in the photo, below:

The diaphragm is a large dome shaped muscle located just below the lungs where the two sides of the ribcage meet. Technically, it contracts when we breathe in filling the lungs, but you will feel a sense of expansion in this area as the air fills the space just above the diaphragm. It is this sense of expansion that will help you to use your diaphragm.

Exercise: Lie down on a flat surface (floor or bed), place your hand just in between the two sides of the ribcage, and breathe in deeply. Maintaining the expansion created in this area, say a short phrase or sentence. As you run out of breath, you will feel the area mentioned contracting, simply pause and take in another breath. With practice, you will be able to use your diaphragm by just thinking about it. Wherever you focus goes, your voice will travel.

 


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



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


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.



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.





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



British Accent Coaching Online

Posted on Thursday, February 02, 2017 by Positivevoice

When developing a British accent, in addition to working on your resonance and general technique (I will cover this in more depth in future blogs), it is important to work your way through all the sounds in the International Phonetic Index. All these elements represent pieces of a puzzle and it is our job to put all these pieces together in order to achieve the final result. If you miss a piece of the puzzle, this will be reflected in the way you speak. Here is an extract from my digital course in British accent coaching. I often look at the following two sounds together, as the mouth position required is similar.

6

 

IPA Symbol

æ and e

Sound

‘a’ ‘e’

Spelling

Variations

a cat (æ)

 

e bed (e)

ea bread (e)

ai said (e)

ie friend (e)

eo leopard (e)

æ Vowel
This vowel resonates far back in the mouth, just above the back of the tongue. The back of the tongue comes down in the back of the mouth- this is what creates the short, sharp æ sound. The tip of the tongue rests either in the bottom of the mouth, below the bottom teeth or against the inside of the bottom teeth.  The mouth is wide open; the bottom jaw is lowered and the corners of the mouth are pulled right back. See the image below for the mouth positioning. Please check in a mirror to make sure your mouth takes the same position when pronouncing this sound:

e Vowel

The mouth positioning is very similar to that of the æ vowel; It is just a less exaggerated movement. The differences: the lower jaw is not positioned as low as it is with the æ vowel- the tongue is therefore slightly higher in the mouth. If you position your tongue too low, you may pronounce the æ vowel by mistake, if you position the tongue too high, you may pronounce the ɪ vowel by mistake.

A good way to practice these two vowels is to say æ followed by e, whilst looking in a mirror. You can then monitor your mouth positioning. Also try recording yourself to make sure that you are pronouncing the two sounds accurately.

Please see the mouth position in the image, below:

If you would like to see more, you can purchase my video course via my website: Digital course in British accent coaching



What is stopping you from developing a British accent?

Posted on Friday, January 27, 2017 by Positivevoice


People often come to me saying that they are keen to develop a British accent and from time to time, these same people seem to run out of enthusiasm and stop practicing. 

Is this because they are not motivated?

Actually, the answer is different for everyone, but often they really do want to develop a British accent, but there is something holding them back. For instance, a client i worked with this week isn't managing to fully resonate her voice in her throat and all the cavities in her head and chest. The result is that her voice resonates in her mouth, which stops her from having a polished, British accent. What is causing this, you may wonder? Well, this week she mentioned that she is scared of sounding too loud. So, here we see two conflicting desires.

There is an interesting link between our emotions and our voice. We often show others how we feel through our vocal tone. In fact, if you fully connect with your emotions, others will see exactly how you feel just by looking at your physiology and listening to your voice. Fear isn't a huge problem if the individual is aware of it, as we can quite easily overcome irrational fears, can't we? I often find the best way to overcome low level fears is to question them and turn them on their head:

I asked her if i spoke too loudly? She said 'no'. I then said, well what makes you think you will speak too loudly if you follow the same steps that i follow to achieve a clear voice?

"Many of our fears are tissue paper thin and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them." Brendan Francis (Behan)Need a little guidance and motivation, try my digital course in British Accent Coaching. Be sure to listen to the hypnotherapy audio.


Find Your English Voice: Vital Vocal Improvement Exercises

Posted on Monday, January 23, 2017 by Positivevoice

When it comes to improving language skills, many people are at a loss as to where to start. Having an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses is integral to your success. However, contrary to popular belief, not everyone improves as a direct result of their intellectual understanding of a language. Please remember that children in England learn the English language largely without theory and grammar and mostly through interaction with others, particularly their parents- this explains why we have so many regional accents throughout the UK. There is no denying that this method works, but it does take years for a child to gain a strong grasp of their native language. Additionally, a child's level of English is largely dependent on that of their parents; thus children with parents who have a strong command of the English language, also tend to speak and write better than those who do not have this advantage.

So, how can this process be improved upon and accelerated?

Back in 2012, i decided that i wanted to improve my French, as i was about to move to France. I decided to follow a method that i had heard about from a client. He had managed to take his English to a high level through this method alone. He quite simply listened to an audio book, whilst simultaneously reading the text. In this way, he replaced his voice in his head (that constantly confirmed his mistakes) with the voice of the narrator. This simple technique not only improved my pronunciation, but also the flow of my speech and my use of correct grammar when speaking in French.

In last week's blog, i mentioned a new programme that I have been working on to improve spoken English. The technique i just mentioned, very much forms the basis of this course.

If you would like to give it a go, simply download the audio and pdf in this blog and follow the steps, below. The more thoroughly you follow the process, the better the results will be.

If possible, please print off the following document before beginning this exercise (the audio can also be downloaded, if you wish):

Simple Past downloadSimple Past pdf

1. Read and listen at the same time the whole way through twice

2. Listen and read again, circling any words you don't understand

3. Look up any words you have circled and write their meanings in the margin of the text

4. Take out some coloured pens and highlight anything you consider to be important

5. Listen again, following the, now annotated, text simultaneously

Please do let me know how it goes. If you enjoy the process, i will post more blogs like this.




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