We've had a hard time of things over the last two years, haven't we? That is unfortunate but, just like every bad situation, there is good to be had from it, too.
For one, we had to rethink how we communicate.
Normally, when you're talking with friends, you're in the same room. Before you can say the first word, they know whether you're happy, excited, sad or depressed by reading your body language; they can also sense your mood from your tone of voice.
Living socially distant, as we have for so long, has forced us to meet each other over our favourite chat app. Sure, we could see each other's faces but the rest of our body language was lost. And we could smile... but did that smile mean you were happy to see me or excited about something?
And then, there's the small matter of spotty internet connections and poor equipment. Did you also struggle to hear your friends through low-quality earbuds and weak WIFI signals?
Let's put all bad memories of that terrible, isolated time aside to look at the good it brought us.
We sure learned how to use our words better, didn't we? And didn't you find yourself slowing down and speaking more clearly so your loved ones could understand you well?
Now that we can enjoy each other's company again - and attend our ESOL classes in person, let's not lose this momentum. Let's find out where we can find elocution lessons to continue building our English speaking skills.
Elocution is a fancy word to describe the way we talk. Usually, it refers to public speaking - an exercise that can help ESOL students minimise their native accent. We could generally state the elocution definition as the art of public speaking.
It comes from the Latin word ēlocūtiō, which means 'expression of an idea in words' and 'a manner of expressing oneself'. Elocution did not mean 'public speaking' until around the 15th Century.
You might know another word that comes from the same Latin root: eloquent. If someone speaks eloquently, it means they speak clearly, intelligently and beautifully. That's a goal every ESOL student should work to reach.
With that explained, you might now wonder: what are elocution lessons?
Have you ever seen the film My Fair Lady? It's about a professor of phonetics making a bet with his friend (who is also a speech elocutionist) that he can teach a girl with a horrible-sounding Cockney accent to speak the type of refined English that polite society uses.
One way he helps Eliza train is by filling her mouth with marbles and having her repeat the same phrase, over and over.
That trick was used millennia before, by a public speaker named Demosthenes. Such a poor speaker was he that he was laughed out of the Roman senate! In despair - the only job he ever wanted was to be a public speaker, he ran away to the beach, stuffing his mouth with small rocks once there. And then, against the roar of the ocean, he shouted his speech, over and over, until he could speak clearly, even with a mouthful of rocks.
Fortunately, you won't have to risk breaking any teeth or accidentally swallowing a marble; you only need to find an elocution coach to achieve the same results as Demosthenes and Eliza Doolittle.
You could type 'Elocution lessons near me' into your favourite internet search engine and contact the one(s) that sound the best to you...but we would rather you would let us help you find voice modulation and elocution lessons.
Elocution Lessons in Select Cities
Some people think that a voice coach, a singing coach and an elocution coach all basically do the same thing. That idea isn't quite right. A voice coach or singing coach could help you with some aspects of learning how to speak - mainly controlling your breath and projecting your voice.
An elocution coach will also teach you how to breathe properly, help you correct your posture and show you how to make your voice more powerful, but their focus is specifically on how you speak. First, they will work with you on enunciation - how to pronounce letter combinations and whole words. And then, they will teach you how to inject tone into your speech.
When you master all of these skills, you will be able to sound warm, welcoming, excited or energetic, depending on the speech you're giving.
If you live in London, you have many elocution classes to choose from.
You might, for instance, take elocution lessons with London English, a company with a long history of working with both ESOL students and native English speakers.
What we like about their approach is that they arm their students with a few stock phrases, suitable for all levels of conversation. They don't believe that having a massive vocabulary is the key to speaking English well; instead, they teach you how to use the vocabulary you have for maximum effect.
Matt Simandl is another excellent London elocution coach. He specialises in Received Pronunciation - what's known as RP or BBC English and accent reduction.
You will start your learning journey by mastering English phonetics; first at the letter-combination level and moving on to words and phrases. You will also learn how to write and read phonetically. And then, as your reading skills improve, you will start working on more complex words... until you're speaking with an RP accent like a BBC presenter!
If you're in York, Leeds or Manchester, you might take elocution lessons with Elizabeth Darley. She and her staff have worked with business clients and ESOL students across northern England. Her lessons are fast-paced and tend to focus on the technical - she works with a lot of engineers.
But she also works with clients from all walks of life so, if you're already advanced in your English studies and living in northern England, you should contact her for elocution lessons.
Elocution Lessons Online
Whether you live in London, elsewhere in the UK or anywhere around the world, the best place to find elocution lessons is online.
When looking for elocution lessons online, you'll likely see a lot of teachers who have taken acting or singing lessons. That's because the same elements that make for a good speaker also make fantastic actors and singers.
So how can you know which elocution coaches have the necessary skills to teach you how to speak without an accent? Look for adverts for elocution lessons that mention:
- articulation: the ability to express thoughts and ideas using suitable vocabulary. You may want to learn how to use British slang words correctly but don't count on your elocution coach to teach you how!
- pronunciation: this is how words are spoken; this aspect of speaking deals with proper syllable stress. You'll learn that stressing words incorrectly can change the meaning and function of a word - at best or, at worst, make it impossible for people to understand you.
- rate of speech: if you talk too fast, your listeners might not understand you. Your elocution coach will show you that slowing down your speech will make what you say easier to understand - and easier to say, too.
- speaking the spaces between words: In English speaking - as in writing, there must be breaks between the words. Your elocution coach will show you how to speak those spaces.
- speaking punctuation: your listeners won't know you've ended a sentence or asked a question unless your tone reflects it.
- avoid fillers: 'um', 'ah', 'uh'... all of those sounds we make as we search our brains for the word we're looking for.
- avoid useless words and phrases: 'like', 'you know', 'innit' - all of these words and phrases signal a speaker who doesn't have a clear idea of what they want to say. Your elocution coach will teach you how to make your words and ideas flow without using fillers or meaningless words and phrases.
Note that free elocution lessons online may not provide the same level of quality or consistency that the elocution training you pay for does. People are in business to make money, after all. So, unless the free elocution lessons online are sponsored by a charity or a school you're already paying for, you can count on them being more of a free trial than a full course.
Sometimes, elocution lessons for adults advertise a certain number of free sessions but then, want you to pay for more. Taking those few lessons isn't a bad idea to help you get started but, before agreeing to pay for those lessons, you should look around and compare prices. You might find a better deal if you did an internet search for 'Elocution lessons near me', 'diction classes near me' or even use the singular form: 'diction class near me'.
The most important aspect of enunciation training is working with a speech elocutionist; a person who is formally trained to give enunciation lessons. If you learn only from videos and recordings, you won't have anyone to tell you when you're pronouncing words wrong or teach you how to correct your mistakes.
It might cost more to take elocution classes but you will have proof your money was well spent when everybody compliments you on how well you speak.
Your First Elocution Lesson
Whether you're a native English speaker taking diction lessons to hone your speaking skills or someone whose native language is not English, you're probably wondering how your classes will go. Here's a preview of what you can expect.
First, your elocution teacher will create a welcoming environment by asking everyone to introduce themselves and maybe share some information, such as why they're taking elocution training and what they hope to gain from it. With everyone now at ease, the lesson will begin.
The bulk of your lessons will focus on how to pronounce vowels. Some languages only minimally use vowels, like Hebrew and Arabic, while English has fully 22 different vowel sounds. Distinguishing between them and using the right one at the right time takes a bit of work and practice.
To encourage progress, your elocution teacher will introduce vowel sounds in sets - all of the sounds A can make, and then E and so on. And then, they will probably challenge you to a tongue twister contest, invite you to sing songs and assign students to give short speeches in front of the class.
The next aspect of your elocution training will likely be syllable stress because not stressing words properly can leave your listeners wondering what you were trying to tell them. This part of your training will cover standard rules for pronouncing 2-, 3- and 4-syllable words and may include lists of words with unusual syllable breakdowns, like 'geography' and 'society', for you to practice.
Once everyone has a good handle on syllable stress, it's time to work on tone.
The words you stress when you speak and the tones you use to give meaning to what you say so using those aspects of spoken language incorrectly makes it likely that your listeners won't understand your meaning, even if they understand your words. For instance, "Mary, take the dog out." is vastly different from "MARY! Take the dog out!".
The first example is an ordinary request while the second suggests that Mary is wilfully ignoring whoever is speaking and, if given the chance, she would probably take the cat or her younger sister out.
As you progress through your enunciation lessons, don't rely on classwork to get the results you want. Practising on your own is just as important to your success and, even if there's nobody around for you to talk with, you should still work on what you learned in class.
But how can you know you're speaking clearly and correctly when practising on your own?
You can use the talk-to-text function on your mobile to find out if you are pronouncing words clearly. If you have a notepad app installed, simply open it, find the microphone icon and speak or read out loud. As you speak, the app will convert what you're saying into written text.
If the text matches what you said, you can rest assured your diction is clear. However, if you end up with mystery words on your screen, know that you have a bit more work to do.
Taking an Elocution Class
For all of the elocution lessons out there, probably your best option, ones that won't cost too much, will be with a private tutor.
Professionals from all walks of life, from speech therapists to trained actors and singers work as voice and elocution tutors when they're not working their usual job. That means that you could benefit from the same professional expertise at a fraction of the cost.
Superprof has more than 50 elocution tutors ready to help you reduce your accent and speak English better; some of them for less than £20 per lesson.
Superprof elocution tutors' verified credentials and low prices aren't the best reasons to learn how to speak better English with them, though. It's the high praise left by their students that makes the best statement of their skills and abilities.
You too can learn the importance of intonation for English fluency from a five-star-rated Superprof. The only question is: which one will you choose to learn with?
The platform that connects tutors and students