Firstly, you have just one second to make an impression. Make it count!!
If you’re a non-native speaker of English and you have reached a comfortable level in the language, you may start focussing on the way you speak it. It’s obvious that a person’s native accent intrudes in their second language.
Are you worried about your accent? Do you want to sound more native? For example, do you want to speak with a native English or American accent? Or, do you feel that you’d like to reduce your original accent in English? Perfecting your accent is what I refer to as polishing or putting the icing on the cake. It’s probably the last thing you work on in a language.
The TWO main aspects we look at in our clients are:
1) Intelligibility – Are you easy to understand? This is the most important aspect. For effective communication people need to understand your message and what you want to communicate.
2) Is it enjoyable to listen to you when you speak? Even if your listener is able to understand you, or most of what you say, the way that you are speaking may require effort and be tiring, irritating or frustrating.
Who needs an English voice coach?
If you are a non-native speaker of English and you sense that you need to improve the way you use your voice when speaking in general or speaking professionally and in public, then you need a voice coach.
It’s true that English native speakers sometimes want to reduce their regional accents if they are very strong, but here I’m going to focus on people who don’t speak English as their native language. You could be a teacher, an international speaker, an executive or anyone with a job where speaking English clearly is important.
How does voice coaching work?
In the first meeting, a voice coach will listen to you and do a speech analysis which will be used to create a plan to improve your voice. This includes:
Which aspects do you want to improve? How do you feel about your voice and the way you speak? Most people have an idea about what features they are not happy with.
What’s your purpose / objective? In which situations do you need to improve your voice?
An action plan will look at any of the following areas.
Delivery. This is the overall way you speak and project your voice. This is broken down into different features that influence the way your message is communicated and received.
Intonation and Pitch This is the way the voice rises and falls and influences heavily the meaning you communicate: interested, bored, surprised, etc.
Tone: From a vocal quality point of view, the features are, hard, husky, soft, silky, low, high, etc. Tone can also de defined on 4 dimensions:
Stress patterns. These provide the rhythm or melody of the sentences, an example might be a “sing-songy” effect. English is a stress timed language. This means important words in a sentence such as nouns, adjectives or adverbs are given more emphasis, and small words such as articles, auxiliaries and propositions are not. The way you link words together is known as “liaison“.
Pacing (Speed) This is a feature you have 100% control over. You may find you speak more slowly in a foreign language than you want to. Normal speech is around 140 WPM, fast speech is 170 WPM. It’s important not to speak to slowly or quickly, but equally it’s good to vary the pace of your speech to maintain interest.
Volume – you can speak loudly or softly or somewhere in between. This is under your control in whichever language you speak. Using volume is useful tool for maintaining audience attention.
Articulation: Mouth and tongue positions : These affect your ability to make the sounds of the language.
Pronuncation of the sounds of English (phonemes) and the correct stress patterns on words are the main features of your accent.
Body posture. The way you stand and position your head and throat have a big influence on the way your voice sounds.
Facial expressions convey meaning and can be interpreted differently depending on the nationality of your audience. Thye also alter the way you sound.
Breathing. How do you breath? Breathing means everything in the control and the quality of your voice. Learning to control the way you breathe is one of the key features of great voice delivery.
The listener / audience Be observant and notice if you are influencing them through your voice, and make changes so you can connect with them. Even with an audience, you can get rapport.
We work on the features by order of priority. Trying to change too many things at the same time is a big mistake. Often, changing just one or two features can be a game-changer for the speaker and the effect it has on the listener.
Example process of helping omeone who wants to speak in public.
Step 1. A Voice Analysis
Step 2. Creating a plan and Setting objetives,Sessions begin with breathing and vocal warm-up exercises. Body, neck and face are included here. Then the classes begin according to the plan and objectives.
We take the speech that the person is working on and do “Sound scripting”, breaking the text into meaning phrases, also know as “chunks” focussing especially on pausing between them. From here, we will work on overall tone, intonation, pitch and stress patterns taking into account what the person wants to communicate, e.g. influencing or inspriring.
LANGUAGE: If the person is a non-native, feedback is given on recurring grammatical, lexical and pronunciation errors, as well as any ‘annoying habits’ in the language.
HEALTH: Other METAVOICE areas include diet and habits: types of food alcoholic drink intake, exercise and smoking.
What to do next
As you see, there are a lot of factors to take into account when finding your true voice and improving your spoken communication.
If you want to improve your voice and the way you influence people around you, contact me without obligation: