Most everyone has a voice and your speech will differ dramatically from speakers of other regions, even if you speak the same fundamental language. Cockney or posh, American English or British English, Scouse or Brummie, there are a million and one ways to speak English.
One cannot escape the conclusion that, in the UK, some accents 'count' more than others.
An accent that is perceived as neutral – presumably the Queen's Received Pronunciation or the highly exaggerated BBC English seems to be more readily accepted and more highly respected.
Unfortunately, among English speakers in the UK, one’s pronunciation is almost immediately taken as an identifier of pretty much everything, including social class, wealth, education.
Seen in those terms, you’d be easily forgiven for any anxiety about your spoken English.
The British have a fixation with pronouncing words correctly. Seeking expert advice and maybe even accent training is the best way to meet those high standards.
There has been a massive demand for elocution, speech training, and communication skills lessons in the UK over the last few years for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are shedding the down-home tones to sound more cosmopolitan and thus competitive in the jobs market.
If you would like to know more about elocution, you’re in the right place.
Let's talk about talking: how to get good at it, why it's important for you to do so and where you can find elocution lessons near you.
We hope you find it helpful. Remember, though, your voice is wonderful the way it is.
What is Elocution?
Communication is symbolic; sounds are final.
That philosophy underpins the study of formal speaking otherwise known as elocution. So, what is elocution, in a nutshell?
Elocution is defined as the study of expressive and clear speech, with definition and clarity of pronunciation and articulation.
Alternatively, we can define it as the study of formal speaking, in all aspects of speech – from pronunciation and grammar to style, tone, and register.
Elocution has roots as far back as Ancient Greece, when Demosthenes, an aspiring orator, stuffed his mouth full of rocks at the seashore and shouted speeches loud enough to be heard clearly above the crashing waves.
All of his practice paid off. The Roman statesman Cicero once commented, after hearing a speech given by Demosthenes after his training, that the lad was indeed a great and powerful speaker.
Likewise, in the story My Fair Lady, poor Eliza Doolittle was endlessly and mercilessly tormented by Dr Higgins to shed her supposedly vulgar-sounding Cockney accent for a manner of speaking deemed far more refined.
Later in the film, clad in fine silks and with accessories to match, she spoke with grace and eloquence, becoming a source of great pride for her elocution teacher.
Fortunately, elocution lessons these days involve neither shouting at the sea nor stuffing one's mouth full of marbles or rocks.
Let us find out what an elocution lesson might consist of.
What Are Elocution Lessons?
You may have guessed by now that elocution lessons help people learn how to speak more clearly. The less obvious question is: why do people need elocution lessons?
We've already mentioned toning down one's regional dialect accent but there are many more reasons that people need such lessons:
- to manage a medical condition such as apraxia or ALS
- to recover full speaking ability after a stroke
- to combat/overcome a speech impediment (eliding vowels, rhotacism, lisping, and so on)
- to combat/overcome a speech disorder such as stuttering
- to develop language capability in people who are autistic and those with Down syndrome.
Already we can see that elocution lessons are important as a form of therapy but there are yet other reasons to seek an elocution teacher.
Let's say that you are plagued with a terrible shyness; the prospect of speaking out leaves you feeling ill - if not making you outright sick.
Or how about getting that promotion you've long hankered for and, suddenly, you are required to address both upper management groups and your team of employees?
What if you want to make a living as a public speaker? Like the many Demosthenes's throughout history, you will only succeed if you can be clearly understood.
In all of those situations and others, being able to communicate in a clear, commanding voice will boost your confidence and make you a more effective speaker.
The takeaway: although elocution lessons are generally meant to improve one's speaking ability, it is important to know what type elocution lessons to take to meet your specific needs.
Get information about English tuition here.
A Typical Lesson for an Elocution Class
Elocution courses often incorporate reading out loud, speaking practice, accent modification and phonetics.
However, every situation is different, so every course has its own focus and specific aims. The course aspects outlined here can give you a general idea of what to expect during your course; you should talk with your elocution teacher about any specifics concerning your particular situation.
Warm-up exercises: you will flex and stretch the muscles in your face, particularly your mouth and jaw. You will also warm up your vocal cords prior to engaging in any class activity.
You may also do physical exercises, especially upper body work that will reinforce good posture and breathing.
Reinforcement: your elocution teacher should take you back over your last session; what was learned, what progress was made and how much you practised the assignment you were given.
Repetition: your elocution teacher will have new words, phrases and texts already prepared for you to work on. S/he will lead the instruction, coaching you on how to position your lips, tongue and jaw to form the sounds properly.
Independent work/pair work: this is the part of the lesson where the student takes the lead. Either working with a classmate or individually if you're taking private lessons, you will work with the material you just learned.
Reading/speaking aloud: many people just starting elocution lessons feel more comfortable reading while those who have been hard at work don't mind giving a speech of their own. Again, it comes down to whatever suits you and your situation the best.
Keep in mind that the materials and pedagogy - indeed the whole class structure will vary for children.
For example, those working to overcome speech impediments will have different lessons than children who are autistic.
Here again, it would be best to talk with your child's professional team - doctors, teachers and minders, to determine which courses are best for their unique situation.
How Can You Learn Elocution Online?
It might seem like a strange thing to be able to take elocution classes with an English teacher online. However, these days, you can study pretty much any subject you would like online – even when those subjects require you to practise speaking aloud.
This obviously includes elocution: all of the different aspects of elocution – from intonation to pronouncing vowel sounds – can be now taught online.
In most cases, this happens over Skype. However, you might be surprised to hear that there are one-way elocution courses too that you can watch.
Online elocution courses would benefit any teen or adult who sees public speaking in their future or needs a confidence booster.
Keep in mind, though, that speaking well cannot happen in a vacuum, meaning that, throughout your lessons, you must occasionally have an audience to critique your performance and make suggestions for improvement.
To that end, we recommend that, if you're taking one-way elocution lessons, you join a speaking organisation such as Toastmasters International to meet and work with other 'amateur' public speakers.
With that being said, let us now take a look at the different courses available to you online and so you can find the best options for what you need.
You can learn all you need to know about elocution too!
The Best Places to Find Elocution Lessons Online
Whilst the internet is a wonderful place for learning, it is also a great place in which to be led astray. When you are conducting your search for elocution lessons, be smart and be savvy. Don’t fall for offers that might be too good to be true – because, simply enough, they probably are.
Always when looking for training online, ask for proof of credentials and qualifications. Not all tutors are legit; even those who are lovely might just not be worth your time and money.
But with the warning out of the way, let’s take a look at the best places online that you can find elocution training.
Improve Your Elocution with Cambridgeshire Elocution.
Cambridgeshire Elocution is a very professional teaching outfit that has gone completely online recently. Based, as you could probably imagine, in Cambridgeshire, they offer elocution training for the native English speaker and non-native speakers too.
You will pay for an annual or monthly subscription to generic content: video lessons on speaking skills and the desired English accent, the phonetic chart and the correct tongue and lip placement for pronunciation.
With the packages, you’ll also have the opportunity to book Skype lessons with Charlotte, the designer of the course. She’ll help you with any specific issues or difficulties you are having, whilst pointing you in the right direction for future improvement.
Try the Pardon Me? App for Elocution Lessons Online.
It was only a matter of time before elocution lessons became available on the go. And, lo and behold, here it is, the first elocution app: Pardon Me?
Designed for people who are having to sit the IELTS speaking exam or for those who just struggle to make themselves understood, the Pardon Me? app works on the basis of imitation and repetition.
With all these new-fangled technological opportunities – from recording yourself to watching your own face in real time on your phone – elocution training has become easier. And that’s why the Pardon Me? app is such a winner.
Get in Touch with UK Speech Academy for Elocution and Accent Reduction Online.
The UK Speech Academy is another elocution training organisation that is slowly moving its operations online.
With tutors that claim to instil improvements in their students after just one session, and with a range of different training opportunities – from business or personal contexts to dealing with nerves and overcoming your accent – there’s a good chance that these are one of the better elocution trainers out there.
As their name suggests, they focus on training for speeches as much as for elocution per se. This means that, if you have an important presentation to be doing, this is the place to come.
Get in touch to book a session over Skype – and go from there.
Take Elocution Training with Positive Voice.
Positive Voice are another provider of elocution training, offering one-to-one lessons on Skype, a pre-recorded training course, or a combination of the two.
The digital course is made of forty videos, a training guide, and a hypnotherapy track – all of which comes to work in parallel with the one-to-one course facilitated by Francesca, the owner of Positive Voice. You’ll learn things from breathing rhythms and face muscles to English grammar, sentence structure, and the placement of stress in a sentence.
Francesca suggests taking the course intensively over nine months. Whilst this might be more than you would like to commit, to nail your English this is the amount of time you probably need.
Find an Elocution Tutor with Superprof.
Superprof is a platform that connects prospective students with tutors from all over the world. With over ten million tutors globally, there are plenty of elocution tutors to choose from – either online or in person.
Our platform is seriously easy to use. Search for the subject you want to learn, scroll through the tutors available, and click to get in touch. In the vast majority of cases, they’ll offer their first lesson free.
With Superprof, you’re completely flexible: find the tutor that suits you with the teaching style that suits you. It’s really easy.
Improve Your Pronunciation at British English Pronunciation.
British English Pronunciation is another course that is available online for people who want to improve their speaking.
This one consists of seventeen different lessons, with supplementary video and audio. You’ll cover everything you would expect with Anna Tyrie, the actress and voice coach.
Take an Elocution Class with Voice Training.
Finally, Voice Training offers a range of products – from videos and books to lessons and training events – on the topic of elocution and speech improvement.
They have worked with everyone from actors to business leaders, from children with speech impediments to speech therapists themselves. Whatever you want to get out of your speech training, Voice Training can help you out.
Elocution Lessons Online for Children
Elocution is not just for adults. Children and teens can profit hugely from taking elocution lessons even if they don't have a speech impediment/defect or a neurological condition such as autism.
These lessons provide the same benefits as they do for adults: increasing self-confidence and self-esteem, all while helping them earn better grades in school.
If your child is of school age, relatively disciplined and can take instruction via webcam, there is nothing wrong with them learning how to speak better and more clearly through online lessons.
Naturally, you should be present to oversee their work and discuss any questions or concerns with their elocution teacher before the lesson ends. Make sure that you and your child understand any assignments to be completed before the next lesson.
That's great for kids training to speak more clearly but what about kids who are working with an impediment or medical condition?
Learn Elocution Early with Elocution Kids.
Elocution Kids is a welcome addition to the speech therapy landscape, as they offer elocution training and speech therapy online and in person across the south of England.
They offer LAMDA exams for children too – which are certifications of their ability to speak well, in public speaking and conversation.
How Can I Improve My Elocution?
If you have no time or patience for lessons; if there are no elocution teachers near you and learning online isn't an option... you can still improve your diction.
Is your voice too quiet or do you speak too fast? Conversely, are your words ponderous and slow to come? Do you feel your vocabulary is lacking the depth and breadth you need to express yourself in the manner you want?
Do you find you're lacking in professional vernacular or is it the opposite: you speech is too verbose?
Your first step in becoming the speaker you always wanted to be is determining what you want to change or improve about how you speak.
If your case revolves around a lack of vocabulary, playing word games and reading more are good ways to remedy that situation. In the case of excess verbiage, a thesaurus can help you simplify your expressions until they're understood by the majority of people.
If a lack of confidence is negatively affecting your speech - speaking too fast, too softly or not at all are indications of such, exercises designed to boost self-confidence should be your first step.
Stand up straight with shoulders back and hold your head high. Practise speaking firmly and clearly in the mirror, pushing on your stomach so you get the force of your breath behind your words. Find power texts to read out loud while standing.
You'll be amazed to see your transformation and hear the difference in your voice!
Once you get in the habit of projecting confidence, your speech patterns will evolve naturally to mirror the new, assertive you.
Elocution to Neutralise an Accent
If you want to flatten out some of the more distinctive tones of your regional dialect, you will have to have at least a bit of help.
At your local library or online, you may find recordings of people speaking in region-neutral language. You could use them as your guide to speaking more clearly.
If you're intent on going it alone, you will have to have a recorder so that you can play back what you sound like in comparison to the text you're learning from and re-record it as often as you need to until you sound the way you aim to.
However, as stated before, speaking does not happen in a vacuum.
While you could certainly work on your speech patterns without input or help, it would be far more effective to have someone to work with; someone who can guide you and make gentle corrections.
With that being said...
Are Elocution Lessons Worth It?
The worth of a thing is what it will bring.
This idiom is generally spoken in context of marketing and economics. If nobody wants to buy your product, it is worthless. Conversely, if everybody wants to buy it, it has a high value regardless of its price tag.
That idiom works as well for tangible goods as for education.
If you will derive no benefit from taking elocution lessons - you will not gain a promotion, find a better job, do better in school or feel more self-confident; if your child will not overcome their speech impediment and your grandmother will never speak clearly again...
Elocution lessons will still be 'worth it' for the experience of doing something new and different, for all that you learn along the way whether it helps you speak better or not... even if you come to appreciate your down-home way of speaking more, elocution lessons have worth.
Assessing worth is a very personal inclination. What a Superprof values may have no worth at all to you and what you cherish above all else may be meritless to your neighbour.
As you contemplate signing up for elocution lessons, you have to think of them not in terms of what they will bring you - a promotion or community respect but what you will get out of them: maybe a renewed love of learning and higher self-esteem.
Don't those make any learning venture worth it?