What is English Voice Coaching, and why does it matter?
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, and even if you speak English very well, you may exhibit certain features in your speech that are distracting and detract from your overall message and your intended effect.
Are you worried about your accent? ACCENT MODIFICATION
Do you want to sound more native? For example, do you want to speak with a native English or American accent? This is very difficult. I can certainly reduce the prominence of your native accent in English, which will make you more intelligible.
Perfecting your accent is what I refer to as polishing or putting the icing on the cake.
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?
Do you need to speak or pronounce English better when you sing in English?
I can help you with your English skills in both.
I have been an English coach on A2VEUS on TV3 (a singing competition).
I can help you FIND YOUR PERFECT VOICE in ENGLISH.
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 or singing professionally and in public, then you need a voice coach.
I coach people who speak English as a foreign or second language. You could be a singer, a teacher, an international speaker, a trainer, an executive or anyone with a job where speaking English clearly is important.
How does voice coaching work?
Voice Assessment & Analysis
In the first meeting, a second language voice coach will listen to you, assess the way you use your voice and language and do a speech analysis which will be used to create a plan to improve your voice.
The first questions are:
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, or have heard opinions from other people.
What’s your purpose / objective? In which situations do you need to improve your voice?
Who do you speak to and where? Each situation requires a different voice.
An action plan will look at any of the following areas.
DELIVERY This is the overall way you project your voice when you sing or speak. This is broken down into different features that influence the way your message is communicated and received.
VOICE TYPES: You have a natural vocal range, which can be extended with practice. For convenience these can be called high, middle and low. For speaking a middle voice is useful, and I teach people how to find it.
INTONATION & PITCH. This is the way the voice rises and falls. It heavily influences the meaning and feeling you aim to communicate in song or a talk: interested, bored, surprised, dramatic, loving, passionate, etc.
TONE 1. From a vocal quality point of view, the features are, hard, husky, soft, silky, sexy, masculine, feminine, low, high, etc.
TONE 2. can also de defined as the impression you give on 4 dimensions:
RHYTHM. English has a melody with a beat, because it is a stress timed language. This means important words in a sentence such as nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs are given more emphasis (strong beat), and small words such as articles, auxiliaries and propositions are not (weak beat).
The way you link words together, such as connecting a consonant to a vowel, is known as “liaison“. This makes you sound more natural.
SENTENCE STRESS. The rhythm gives you the general beat, but you can emphasise one of two specific words in a sentence to change the meaning of the sentence. Compare “I’m an ENGLISH teacher (I teach English) vs “I’m an English TEACHER.” (I’m English and I teach something. Not necessarily English).
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 too slowly or quickly, but equally it’s good to vary the pace of your speech to maintain interest.
A song has a certain number of beats per minute, but there are an infinite number of ways you can vary a word, length, volume or speed as well as pitch: high or low.
PAUSING When to pause is also a key feature in both singing and speaking.
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.
WORD STRESS means putting the ‘accent’ on the right syllable. Stressing the wrong syllable can cause more confusion than pronouncing a phoneme wrongly. Compare IMport (noun) imPORT (verb)
PHONEMES. The individual sounds of English (phonemes) are important to be intelligible when singing or speaking. One that you need to master is known as the schwa /ə/ found in many vowels that are not stressed.
Articulation. Mouth and tongue positions : these affect your ability to make the sounds of the language.
To sum up, whether you are a singer or a speaker, there are three vocal areas to work on.
- How do you pronounce individual sounds. e.g. do you say Voice instead of Boice? Do you pronounce the R too strongly like RR? This is the first stage.
- How well do you connect the sentences? You need to link the words through liaison and recognise sounds that change in natural speech and songs, such as weak forms of words.
- Prosody is the way you convey meaning, feeling and attitude, and includes Pitch (high, low), rhythm, stress patterns and timing that give us the melody or rhythm of a song or a talk.
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.
Voice shapers are features that influence the quality of your voice.
BREATHING. How do you breathe? 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.
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.
Areas include diet and habits: types of food alcoholic drink intake, exercise and smoking.
Example Voice Coaching Session.
The course is based on the objectives taken from the
individual Voice Analysis using the features mentioned
Step 1 . Warm up.
Sessions begin with breathing and vocal warm-up exercises. Body, neck
and face are included here.
Step 2. Review of the previous session.
We go over the main points of the previous session.
Step 3. Action
The classes begin according to the plan and objectives.
Step 4. Feedback
We talk about how the session went.
Step 5. Homework
We set tasks to do at specific times for the next session.
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.
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 inspiring.
Voice Recording – Hearing your own voice is important, because we don’t hear our voice as others hear us. Sometimes it can be a surprise and sound like someone else.
Vocal exercises – Specially prepared texts are used to practice voice and pronunciation features in isolation before putting them back in context.
Learning to observing your Audience and Listener
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.
What to do next
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to take into account when finding your true voice and improving your spoken communication.