Tag Archives: Dolly May

What is your English language dance?

Designing and delivering effective Accent Softening to people from all around the world is a major part of my professional life.  My clients often speak several languages, including have a good grasp of the English language. They are able to understand complex ideas in English, and work in a British company, using English every day.

Despite this, many of them come to me expressing that they struggle to be understood, that they do not feel confident expressing their own ideas in English, and that they find the language difficult to speak.  How can this be when they can speak the language?

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Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, attempting unsuccessfully to speak English with marbles in her mouth

It often feels to me like my clients are trying to speak with marbles in their mouth.  That their mother tongue is blocking their English tongue.

Learning to speak any new language is not just about getting the vocabulary and grammar right.  You also need to be able to pronounce the sounds, express the rhythm and find the melody. There are many accents of English, and they are all valid. The goal is clarity and ease.

dancing2Speaking is a physical act.  Much like dancing, It requires that you move muscles in a particular way with accuracy and speed.

If you imagine that each language, or even each accent, is its own dance then can you see how you will need new steps and even to use slightly different muscles to achieve the new moves.

Moving from one speaking ‘style’ to another is known as code-switching.  It happens when we move between languages, and it also needs to happen when we move between accents.

Successful code-switching is the art of moving from speaking English with your mother-tongue accent to speaking English with your English accent.

It is important to note that you do not need to speak English with an English accent to be a successful communicator. You just need to able to code-switch enough and with ease so that your mother tongue dance is not blocking your English tongue dance.

This would be like Fred Astaire learning to dance Hip Hop!! He could, but he’d have to learn how, and practice lots.

So how can you learn to code-switch?

There are three main things needed for this process to succeed.

  1. The environment
    Surround yourself with an English speaking environment whenever possible.  This can be at work, at home or through technology such as TV, radio or audio books.  Emersion is the key. Even when speaking to people from your own country, try and both converse in English.
  2. Curiosity
    Become curious about English. Notice how different people (especially native speakers) pronounce things.  Watch films and look at the shape of the mouth.  Listen to conversations or radio and mimic the melody and shapes as best as you can. Notice what is different about the way you speak now and English spoken around you. How does it feel different in your mouth?  How does it sound different to your ear? Play with it and mimmic it as often as you can, noticing the details.
  3. Repetition and focus
    The way you speak now is your current speaking habit.  In order to create any new habit all you need to do is repeat a new action regularly enough until you don’t have to think about it any more. Do focused and and detailed practice.  Practicing particular consonants or vowels you find difficult on their own, then putting them into words and phrases. Helping your mouth learn the new steps so you can speak them at speaking speed with accuracy.  Read something out loud, record it and listen back. Notice which sounds you find difficult and practice them.

    You only need to do a little bit each day, but do it in a focused way.

Useful resources

What is your English dance?

Changing Your Communication Habits

I have been reading a lot about the neuroscience of changing habits. It is an utterly fascinating topic and at the heart of all my teaching.

habit (1)

 

Something old

Something new

Change a habit

And you change you

 

 

When I am working with clients on their communication skills the main thing we are doing is swapping current communication habits, which are not effective, for more effective ones. As human we need to function by habit otherwise our brain gets overwhelmed.

The key to habit changing is motivation coupled with repetition, repetition, repetition!

To find out more read the Blog I recently did for City Academy here

Women in Business

I was invited to speak at a wonderful event recently called Show Up; Sparkle & Be Heard run by the charismatic Kay White.  Kay and I met at a day of training I was running on Voice for Business.  She invited me to speak at here 3-day event for Women in the corporate world.  The governing ethos at the heart of the event is to be true to yourself.  That you are your most powerful, most memorable and most effective when you are in your true self. This ethos is so in keeping with my own coaching ethos that I accepted the invite with delight.

Working With Voice

Working With Voice speaking at the Show Up; Sparkle & Be Heard Live event. March 2015

I gave a practical talk on the value and power of breathing when using your voice. On how freeing the breath gives your voice more vocal power and grounds you.

The women in the audience are ambitious career women, often working in sustained stressful, and often predominantly male environments.

Through the brief talk I shared with them some simple yet effective breathing techniques and linked it to using their voices and feeling strong.  Many women approached me afterwards to tell me that they found the exercise really powerful, reporting that they really did feel different afterwards.  For some there was genuine release! For some it was as though they were breathing again for the first time in a long time.

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Participant doing a breathing and centring exercise

The work I do is holistic in nature, and its objective is to allow the real you to flourish with courage and ease.

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No more pretending. No more holding your breath. No more feeling small and intimidated.  Through body, breath and voice work lies the path to the Real You! 

Let your voice be heard! 

Exhibiting at Surviving Actors

Exciting news.  Working With Voice is attending its first trade-show.  We will have a dedicated stand at the Surviving Actors event in London on the 7th Feb 2015.

Dolly May will be there to greet you at the stand and answer all your question about Working With Voice and vocal training.

Find out more about this wonderful free event here

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We are also delighted to announce that we are running a 45 min Vocal Warmup Toolkit workshop at the event at 4.45pm on that day

Book onto the workshop it here

Follow me on Twitter

Hello,

You can follow me on Twitter for voice tips and inspiration.


I will tweet links here to any new videos, or articles I create.  This will cover many areas of vocal coaching from singing exercises, accent softening tips, or exercises for the spoken voice.

Be inspired by voice

Accent Softening Workshop – Spanish Chamber of Commerce

Teaching an Accent Softening workshop at the Spanish Chamber of Commerce.  The workshop targeted the rhythm and intonation of spoken English.  It also showed you how to use your voice to become an engaging, interesting speaker and avoid misunderstanding due to accent.

Here is a link to the feedback in a blog post they did about the session:

Spanish Chamber of Commerce blog

Accent Softening tip – difference between ‘W’ and ‘V’ position

I’ve made this video to target the difference between the ‘W’ and the ‘V’ sound. Indian people will find this particularly useful.It gives you tips to help you find the right position and sound, as well as some words and phrases to practice on. Enjoy!

 

Accent Softening tips for Russians

I’ve made this video targeting the difference between the Russian and English ‘L’ sound. It gives you tips to help you find the right position and sound, as well as some words and phrases to practice on. Enjoy!