Workshop

Introducing: Your English accent

Are you a non-native English speaker? Do friends or colleagues often ask you to repeat yourself in English? Would you like to feel more confident about communicating in English during meetings or phone calls?  Would you like to improve your accent but don’t know where to start?

Mixed group talking in city building

This introductory workshop aims to break down the component features of an accent and give you some insight into the practical work involved in improving your own English accent. Work within the group (max 18) to explore your vocal potential in a safe and relaxed environment.

Who is it for? Anyone curious about improving their oral communication in English. Presenters, customer service reps, teachers, public speakers, singers, indeed anyone who wants to know more about speaking more clearly and confidently in English. Over 18s only.

What will I do? You’ll be guided through a series of practical exercises to explore and develop awareness of the mechanics of an accent. You’ll observe how physical adjustments impact on the component sounds and how music and rhythm play a vital role in being understood. The workshop will be in English, but your tutor speaks French also. At the end there’ll be a Q & A session and suggestions for taking the work further.

What do I need to bring? Wear comfortable clothing and bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. A summary pdf  will be provided so there is no need to take notes. If you have any disabilities please let your tutor know beforehand.

When is the next workshop? Tuesday 14th May from 19.30 to 21.30

How much does it cost? €15 – 20 per participant

Where will it take place? :

La Manufacture Chanson

Salle de chant

124 avenue de la République 75011 PARIS

Tel: 01 43 58 19 94

Is your English accent letting you down? 

The international world of business and education now requires more than ever effective communication in English. Whilst your English language skills may be excellent, our dependence on the written word in mastering these skills  may cause us to overlook a factor of major importance in the workplace: accuracy of pronunciation. Phone and video conferencing with non-native speakers of English now plays an ever-present role in meetings, and as more and more interactions take place online listeners can no longer rely on body language to aid comprehension. 

If you are frequently asked to repeat yourself, or find that you’re ideas are not being heard or taken seriously, it may be time to check whether your English accent is letting you down. 

Let’s look at some of the ways in which English pronunciation can be tricky for non-native speakers.

 

Phonetics

Unlike many other languages which are largely written phonetically (letters and symbols represent sounds) the written English alphabet is a very unreliable indicator of pronunciation. For Latin based languages like French there are also many pronunciation ‘faux amis’, ie. words spelt the same in English which have a very different pronunciation in English. Training your ears to listen more effectively to recognise the vowel and consonant sounds of English (not spellings) helps to avoid this interference and to overcome habitual errors of pronunciation. 

Articulation

Speech is the product of breath and vibration bouncing between the static and moving parts within the mouth space. The amount of space we give our voice to resonate is governed largely by the jaw, whilst the agility of the tongue to move rapidly within that space shapes the acoustic space to create vowel sounds. Generally speaking consonants are formed by an obstruction (the lips, the teeth etc) the within that space. Your native language may have a very different default mouth setting to that required for English. You will need to adjust this mouth posture and train the muscles required to form these new shapes.  With training a non-native speaker can learn to  articulate individual sounds with precision and in turn to group these sounds into flowing, connected speech. 

Stress and intonation

As well as, and arguably more importantly than, the phonemes (phonetic sounds) of English, effective speakers will need to master the music of the language. English words have distinct rhythm (stress) patterns which aren’t apparent from the written word. Any word of two syllables or more will have a strong or accented syllable (two in longer words). Native speakers will know where to add volume and change pitch (the ‘notes’) to highlight these stressed syllables, which are not marked in written English.  Similarly English phrases have melody patterns which highlight key words, questions and many more subtle meanings. Non-native speakers will need to familiarize themselves with these rhythm and melody patterns and with their inevitable exceptions, in order to focus their audience’s attention. Without them your audience will quickly lose focus and miss your point. 

You may be missing one or all of these important factors to accent clarity, but the good news is that you can do something about it. An evaluation of your speech by a qualified accent coach is a good place to start.  But even without a coach there are a number of things you can do right away to develop  your  accent awareness.

Look out for my upcoming blog Five Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your English Accent.