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Positive Voice Blog

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.





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:



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.



 

7 Phenomenal Secrets to becoming an Extraordinary Communicator

Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Positivevoice


Have you ever assessed your own ability to communicate?

If yes, how did you rate yourself?

If no, it is never to late; read on!

Recently, I worked with the loveliest little boy to improve his speech. Essentially, his mother brought him to me saying that he needed to improve his speaking skills and confidence. When asked, he said that he believed that once his speech was clearer, he would feel more confident- he had difficulty pronouncing certain words and sounds, which made him hard to understand at times. Initially, he was not motivated to work directly on his confidence or his manner of communicating; just his pronunciation.

Fast forward 6-8 weeks and I notice that he has something emotional going on, which is impeding his progress when it comes to correcting those speech problems. Every lesson, I calmly asked him how he was feeling in terms of confidence at school and each lesson I was met with the same one word response: good. I wasn’t convinced. One lesson, it became apparent that he was blinking back tears.

Finally, he agreed to open up to me and have a coaching session. A big reminder that you can’t help someone until they WANT to be helped.  It transpired that all the children in his class at school were ignoring him. He tried to speak to them, but they didn’t listen; it was almost as if he wasn’t there. As is often the case, as time went on this had an impact on his grades at school and gave him yet another thing to be upset about. All of a sudden nothing was fun anymore. All he could think about was the misery at school; even when he was at home! He talked to no one but me about this.

So, we had some coaching which had a huge impact on how he felt and of course how you feel has a big impact on how people behave around you, so come the next day at school and that little problem whereby all the other kids were ignoring him had just disappeared!

Another interesting thing about all of this is that in the weeks that followed, his speech improved inordinately.

However, as is often the case, he needed more than just one session focused entirely on this little issue of confidence. As, I can’t force people to do a follow up, he had only had one session. Unfortunately, this breakthrough was followed by a little breakdown just a month later. So, we looked at his situation again. One of the things that jumped out at me was this:

How he communicated did not fill me with the greatest sense of self importance and worth; I was never quite sure how much he was listening to me or taking in. I just kept getting those one or two word responses. So, here is the lesson I taught him next:

How you communicate with others has a HUGE impact on how they communicate with you. When I talk about communication here, I am not just referring to TALKING, but LISTENING! If you are an excellent listener, others will be encouraged to talk to you and furthermore, they will feel amazing around you.

So, here is how to become a great listener (this is a great challenge for all you TALKERS out there).

Before I begin, take a moment to think back to all the greatest conversations you have had. Consider not just the words, but the extent to which you were listened to or encouraged to listen.

After all, what is the point in speaking if no one listens!

7 Secrets to becoming a GREAT listener:

  1. Eye contact: without this, no one will know that you are listening
  2. Undivided attention: put away your phone/tablet!
  3. Facial expressions: smiling, nodding and generally showing keen interest
  4. Avoid the temptation to focus on what you are about to say next: If your thoughts are elsewhere you are not listening. You may be able to repeat back what has just been said in the manner of a parrot, but have you really taken in the deeper levels of meaning?
  5. Little words and noises of agreement or understanding: yes (accompanied by a nod), really, how interesting, oh ok, are you sure? Hmmmm (or similar noises of agreement)
  6. Avoid interrupting: if number 5 (above) involves more than 2-3 words, this is considered as an interruption- some sensitive speakers can’t cope with more than one word, so be a sensitive listener. Always be willing to adapt your listening techniques to fit in with the person speaking- notice what they respond well too
  7. Last but not least: the number one secret: Behave as you would like others to behave around you. Consider those around you as your mirrors. If they are not listening to you, perhaps you are not REALLY listening to them either!

These are just 7 secrets; in reality the list could go on forever. For instance, you could do all the above and go away with nothing after the conversation. Real listening is not just with the eyes or the ears; it is with ALL the senses and only occurs when we really feel what is being said.

During the very best conversations I have ever had; I have lost all awareness of space and time and become totally engrossed in what is being said. This is LISTENING.

In my next post: How to Become More Convincing and Influential, I show how to apply this same little rule to public speaking.



Creating Suspense

Posted on Monday, March 15, 2010 by Positivevoice

It's often hard to strike a balance in public speaking. We often want to create suspense, but we don't want it to be too melodramatic. By slowly building up a story piece by piece and creating a vocal climax with effective use of pause this can be achieved to great affect. But, please remember to feel the words rather than exaggerating them too much.

The following story provides a simple example of this:

'I just gazed at my feet as he shouted, and prayed silently that he wouldn’t single me out… (pause) When he called my name, I cringed… (pause) As I followed him down the corridor, I could hear that his breathing was laboured and I felt pity for him. I know now that he was insecure and weak… but I was still scared… I can still visualise him wringing his hands as we walked in silence and my heart was pounding… He was clearly unwell and distraught with anger… anger at his lost power…. Anger at his inability to control a small child.Then he turned and looked at me. (pause) It was a look devoid of emotion… and he said in a very hushed voice (pause) "try not to talk so much next time"… then he smiled.'

With effective use of detail and pause and by connecting with our emotions, we can keep our audience engaged throughout. It is important to have good vocal variety in a speech like this in order to maintain an audience's attention.


Confidence Boosting Tip #1

Posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 by Positivevoice

I'd like you all to consider how you communicate with yourself on a daily basis. Do you have an internal dialogue which weakens your resolve to become a stronger, more confident person? I'm talking about that niggling internal voice in your head that tells you, 'you can't possibly do that' or 'you're going to really embarrass yourself'... Have you ever wondered how good it would feel to turn the sound off?!

Sometimes, just laughing at it is enough.

Try this:

Think about a situation or task, which you're nervous about and ask yourself how it's going to go?

Your response might come in the form of emotions, images or words. Whatever, the response, make a mental note of it and remind yourself that this is the sum of your experiences speaking. It is built up every time you have a new experience. It is all knowing and vulnerable. It worries about being late or not good enough and is often proved wrong, but seldom learns. It is totally separate from you.

It is only by creating this separation that you can become truly free of your thoughts- whether they be emotions, images or words. So, every time your thoughts get carried away and take you on an imaginary journey- which usually involves the worst case scenario, bring them back down to earth and embrace uncertainty instead- it's a lot less volatile.

Over the next few days- once you've had a chance to figure out whether your response is coming in the form of emotions, images or words, I'm going to send out tips to confront all three. For now, just keep reminding yourself
of your ability to separate yourself from your thoughts. It always manages to make me smile.



Project Your Voice

Posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 by Positivevoice

How loud is too loud? What’s the difference between vocal clarity and shouting? These are just some of the concerns that people have.

Rest assured, I don’t think anyone can speak too loudly when up on stage in front of an audience.

So, we can all push those concerns to one side…

It’s true that some people naturally have louder voices than others, but I’d like to show you how to make the very best of ‘your voice’.

To all those who take exercise: would you ever go to the gym or go out for a jog without having a good stretch? I certainly wouldn’t… and our voices are no different.

Think of the vocal chords like the strings of an instrument. If they are too tight, our voices are raspy, and if they are too relaxed the sound stays in our mouths. So, we need to find a happy medium.

Recite these lines from a poem:

Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill,
Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.
You said, "Through glory and ecstasy we pass;


Sounded OK, but I think we can do a bit better.

We need to warm up first!

Speaking Stance:

relax stomach (if you hold your stomach in it causes tension in your voice)

Support the sound:

by practicing the following exercises:

  • Round and round the rugged rock, the ragged rascal ran (exaggerate mouth movements)
  • Tongue Boot Camp (move your tongue around your mouth, on the outside of your teeth in circular movements. Repeat this 8 times clockwise, 8 times anti clockwise, 7 times, 6 times... and so on until 1.

Open Up your throat:

  • Ho Hum: say ho and then extend the hum, so that you hold it in your throat.

Chanting:

Chanting has two purposes: it opens up your throat and prepares your voice for speaking and it is also very relaxing. Whenever we breathe from our stomach, it is extremely therapeutic.

E oh ah A

Now repeat the poem.

Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill,
Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.
You said, "Through glory and ecstasy we pass;



Better?


If you want to fill the room with your voice and command your audience’s attention, make these exercises a daily ritual.



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