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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



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.



Find Your English Voice: Accelerated Learning

Posted on Monday, January 16, 2017 by Positivevoice

Having studied Neuro Linguistic Programming, i am very much aware that we all have different learning styles. It is for this reason that some people learn more easily than others. The truth is that not everyone has learned to learn in a way that suits their learning style. You see, we all have different ways of looking at the world. Life is easiest for those who learn through a combination of visual and audio stimuli because this is how we are taught in schools. However, we all learn differently. For an auditory person, it is all about audio books and listening to others speaking, for someone who needs to keep their hands busy, drawing diagrams or writing notes could be a winning way to learn. Additionally, a great deal of people learn best by doing or through interacting with others.

It is obvious to me that a thinking audience is a listening audience; it is for this reason that i always make my speeches, workshops and training as interactive as possible. I don't know what your specific learning style is (i wonder if you do), but i do know which styles should be avoided at all costs.

  • Please AVOID: Monologues and lecture style training where no questions are asked or feedback sought
Some people prefer working through things on their own (this is why i have created my Digital course in accent reduction) others require feedback and interaction, which is why i also offer one-to-one lessons. What seems evident to me is that i learn best when i do a little bit of everything: I listen, i read, i draw diagrams and i pass on my knowledge to other people who find it interesting. There is nothing quite like learning something with the knowledge that you will be able to help others by passing on your knowledge. It is with all of this in mind that i have started working on a new programme; one which is intended to accelerate the learning of languages and the development of a native accent. My focus is on English, but this methodology could be used to accelerate the uptake of any language.One of the principles taught in my upcoming course is the habit of 'listening and reading at the same time'. By this, i mean listening to an audiobook whilst reading the written text simultaneously. I have created a book based on English grammar and combined it with the audio book version. I have included several unusual yet highly effective exercises with the intention of giving you the best chance of assimilating the learnings and putting them into practice. Over the coming weeks, i will be publishing extracts from this new course: 'How to Find Your English Voice'.People often claim that they are not good at languages; it would be truer to say that they haven't yet found the best way for them to learn a language.


A Simpler Way to Reduce Your Accent

Posted on Friday, September 02, 2016 by Positivevoice

For sometime now, i have intended to provide an alternative to face-to-face or skype lessons in accent reduction. My 6 month one-to-one course in accent reduction has proved a great success. Yet, i can't help thinking that i could work more effectively in order to help more people to improve their speech. To this end, i am creating a course that has been long awaited by many. A digital course in accent reduction. This does not replace one-to-one lessons, but can be taken as an alternative or alongside Skype lessons. I am now in the final editing phase and intend to launch the programme in the next two weeks.

This course is for anyone who would like to transform their accent or speak in a more polished manner. It is for both native speakers and those learning English as a foreign or second language. In addition to covering the 44 sounds presented in the international phonetic index, i also cover vocal projection, resonace, warm up exercises and mindset. Anyone who has taken Skype lessons with me, will be familiar with the course style and delivery. Having said this, almost all the content is new.

I am currently releasing sneak previews of the course via YouTube. Here is one such video:



One Simple Way to Transform Your Voice

Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 by Positivevoice

Over the years, I have been constantly looking for the difference that makes the difference in voice transformation. I have had clients who have done it in 3 months and others who have taken years… So, what is it that sets the speedy ‘voice transformers’ apart from the rest?

 

We shall take regular practice as a given (without this, nothing will happen very quickly). So, firstly imagine someone who is practicing the exercises done together in class on a daily basis. Secondly, and here is the ‘trick’; the difference that makes the difference; imagine someone who is becoming very aware of how they sound by making recordings of their voice. In and of itself, this sounds very simple, but it is incredibly effective when done in a certain way. This is the first time I have shared this on a blog, I usually reserve it for my one to one clients, but after coming back from maternity leave, I am feeling excited about sharing these things again, so here it is, in chronological bullet form; one of the best kept secrets; an effective way to reduce your accent:

 

  1. Start by recording your voice in everyday conversation. You may wish to ask someone to do it without telling you (think short recordings of 60 seconds max).
  2. Play back the recordings and make a note of what you like and what you don’t like. Notice what you would like to change.
  3. Make recordings in a variety of situations; at work, on the phone; with your partner or husband or wife and with family and friends. Do you have a ‘different voice’ in different situations? Notice when you use your ‘best voice’. How do you feel in these instances? (Your voice and your emotions are inextricably linked).
  4. Once you have ‘got to know’ your voice, you are ready to start transforming it. Point number 3 will prove very useful and is an exercise to be repeated on a weekly basis. The next point, however, may be the difference that makes the difference:
  5. Find a written transcript with an accompanying audio (Past clients have used: audio books and magazines; such as The Economist and even Harry Potter):
  1. Find a short paragraph and read and listen at the same time.
  2. Repeat point a. several times.
  3. When you are ready (or just before) record yourself reading the passage you have chosen.
  4. Play back the original recording and compare it to your own.
  5. Repeat the process until you are happy with the result.The above exercise is one that I do with my clients on a regular basis. We then go through their audios; correcting rhythm and vocal variety.Please do give this a try and let me know how it goes!


Clear Speech: 6 Greatest Mistakes

Posted on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 by Positivevoice

In this video, i introduce 6 of the 'greatest mistakes' that people make when doing their best to speak clearly. Have a watch if you would like to avoid making mistakes and improve your speech.



 

Making Connections Using Language

Posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 by Positivevoice



Francesca Gordon-Smith is a public speaking trainer and confidence coach. She use NLP and hypnotherapy alongside traditional coaching and practical training in public speaking. She is also a professional speaker.


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