In this blog page I will be adding articles that I have posted or published elsewhere

Technique or expression?

Spoken communication is made up of a number of factors. Technically correct formation of speech sounds is obviously one aspect and this can be considered by many to be the most important aspect. However a technically brilliant voice is not necessarily one that is easy to listen to.We need to balance this with expression and possibly more importantly, enthusiasm. As listeners we would, at least, most of us would prefer to listen to someone speak who sounds passionate about what he is speaking about.Don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer to listen to someone who sounds enthusiastic with an energetic voice but who is also technically correct.BUT sometimes, what stops a more quiet, introverted person from speaking out is not the ability to learn how to open their mouth wider for diphthongs or how to put the consonant ‘t’ and ‘d’ at the end of a word or knowing when to use the or thee but the  fear of using their voice to convey expression, energy, enthusiasm  or emotion. This is a much harder skill to teach and much more difficult for clients to gain the confidence needed to use it.

Top tips for clear speech

Most people, most of the time, speak too quickly. Consequently they don’t give themselves time to open their mouths wide enough to get the sound out or time to move their tongue to get clear crisp consonant sounds. The result is that they mumble or sound lazy!

I’m Serena and I have been teaching people to speak clearly and confidently since 1994 and as a child I was so frightened of talking to people that my parents sent me to elocution lessons. I learnt how to speak with confidence but I still have a slight Dorset (Rural South of England accent). A bit about me can be found here. I am qualified to the highest level obtaining my fellowship in June 2014 and I have taught amongst others, doctors, university lecturers, children, managers, teachers to speak clearly and I have articles published world wide and an academic paper on the relationship between dance and speaking.

But back to your speaking. We all need to open our mouths wide enough for the sound to get out — unless you are a trainee ventriloquist and not many people are. Consonant sounds need to be crisp and clear, whether they are at the beginninng of a word, in the middle of the word or at the end of the word and I am mainly talking about the ‘t’ and ‘d’ at the end of words such as and, got, it etc. Your tongue needs to touch the roof of your mouth in order to make the sound. You would never write the word ‘and’ without the ‘d’ so why would you say it without the ‘d’. Another problem sound is the ‘th’ sound. This requires your tongue to be outside of your mouth before you make the sound as it is bringing it back into your mouth that makes the sound. Out of curiosity how do you say the word ‘something’? Many people say it incorrectly, some say ‘somefing’ or perhaps ‘somethink’ or even ‘somefink’…….these are all obviously wrong. It has a ‘th’ in the middle and ‘ing’ at the end.

When people speak they often use filler words — ‘okay’, ‘alright’, ‘um’ while they think about what they are going to say next because they are afraid of silence. This can be extremely irritating for the listener. If you can’t stop yourself from saying these words try thinking them instead of saying them out loud. The silence that you are afraid of is only a fraction of a second and your listener needs you to pause so that they can contemplate what you have just said.

This leads us on to pausing. You must pause at the end of every thought and if you are reading aloud you must pause at punctuationThis is essential if you want your listeners to be able to understand what you are talking about. Pausing can also have a dramatic or emotional effect on what you are saying.

At the beginning I said that most people speak too quickly. You need to give yourself time to say all the syllables in a word. Let’s take, for example, the word ‘different’, it doesn’t have two syllables, it isn’t ‘diffrent’ it has three syllables, ‘diff e rent’. When you write you leave a space between the words, when you speak make sure the words stay apart. This doesn’t mean being silly and putting huge gaps between the words anymore than you would if you were writing them. A good way to slow down is to stop thinking about slowing down because that does cause people to just put huge gaps between the words and that just sounds stupid, instead think about makign each word longer. 

By slowing down you also give yourself time to make the important words stand out and consequently your speech sounds more interesting and people will want to listen to you. 

There are two important parts to clear speech. The first is the technical part, opening your mouth, saying all the consonant sounds crisply and then there is the expressive part, making what you say sound interesting. It could be argued that the expressive part is more important than the technical skills but that’s the topic of another story another day I think.

Before you go I have created a couple of online courses that explain and demonstrate the points above. The first is How to Speak English Clearly and Confidently and the other is Vocal Exercises that will improve your Speaking Voice . 

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What people say.....

You are a "Guru" (teacher) in the true sense of the word, as you impart and share your knowledge in totality, and I'm lucky to have you as a teacher. Kavita.

I would like to thank you for helping me have confidence in my speech today. It is because of you I did much better than I have before when presenting as speech. I was a little shaky, but other than that my voice sounded fine and I pronounced every word slowly and with emphasis on those that I wanted people to hear! Elections are tomorrow. Without you, this would not have happened! You are an inspiration! Thank you so much, Joe from New York

At the end of last term my son went for head boy and delivered an amazing speech, something we never imagined he would put himself forward for. Many of the teachers complimented him and were taken aback by his confidence and presence, he buzzed with excitement for days afterwards and said he loved speaking in public. It is through all your hard work that he has this turn around in his approach to speaking and for this we will be forever grateful. Elaine

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