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Positive Voice Blog

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.

 


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.



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.



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: 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:



How to Present Yourself with Confidence Via Video

Posted on Friday, November 27, 2015 by Positivevoice

People often come to me to learn how to communicate more confidently. Everyone has a different agenda; for some this could mean learning to say what they mean with their partner, family or colleagues, for others it is all about reducing their accent and learning to speak with clarity and confidence. Occasionally, I am asked how to present via video and this is something I take great pleasure in sharing.

 

I love working on this last one because I know how difficult it was for me to start with! To be honest, some of my early videos could do with being deleted J

 

After years of practice, I can now just be myself on video and speak freely without needing to over prepare or practice. So, how did I manage to achieve this?

 

Effective preparation is key here. I ALWAYS ask myself a few questions before starting:

 

  1. What is my topic?
  2. Who is my audience?
  3. What are my objectives?

 

If you consider this blog, for instance, the answers to the above questions would be as follows:

 

  1. The title says it ALL
  2. People who want to learn to make videos without over preparing and to appear natural
  3. To enable my listeners to present themselves authentically via video

 

Here is how to do it:

 

  1. Brainstorm your idea; make a few notes if this works for you
  2. Once you know exactly what you want to say, create a mind map. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or need to upgrade your skills here, check out:http://www.tonybuzan.com/about/mind-mapping/. Make sure you use as few words as possible and lots of pictures and different colours to make it memorable (images are easier to remember).
  3. Spend some time looking at your mind map. Look at it, taking in the entire presentation as a whole and then look away. Do this several times until you can ‘see’ the whole presentation in your minds eye.
  4. The very most important tip is to forget that you are speaking to a camera and to imagine that you are speaking to your target audience; have one specific person or group of people in mind, if it helps.

 

To start with, you may find that it takes a few attempts, but when practiced regularly, this process will enable you to make authentic videos of you being yourself whilst presenting your message clearly and concisely. 

 

Here is an example of me doing just that!



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!



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