Olympic Athletes Can Help Business Owners Focus on Their Goals

The excitement of this year’s Olympic games is exhilerating.  The commentaries are so good you feel as though you’re there and it’s fantastic that Britain has some amazing athletes winning medals that they really deserve.  No one can doubt that all the contestants go through a massive training programme to get these medals – and it’s a great motivator to take on board if you run a business.

Olympic athletes can help business owners focus on their goals.  Sally Gunnell, a major track title holder now runs a successful business in Corporate Health and Well Being.   She acknowledges that rising above the competition is tough for businesses – especially for entrepreneurs.  Competition is healthy – it’s what makes us tick and achieve better results, providing we don’t become swamped with unnecessary detail that can deter us from achieving our goals.  Sally Gunnell recommends

  • Visualise your Goal and the Steps to Achieve it
  • Motivate Yourself and Your Team
  • Surround Yourself with the Right Team
  • Stay Grounded to Adapt to Change
    Nicola Adams - gold medal winner
    Nicola Adams – gold medal winner

    Sally Gunnell
    Sally Gunnell

Make Your Voice Heard

By rapper and actor Riz Ahmed
(mixtape ‘Englistan’ is out now)

“The referendum has proved the need for young people to get out and get involved in shaping our politics, otherwise other people will shape it for them.  We need to go further than Facebook activism and turn up to make a difference.  We have more information at our fingertips and more ease of connection to like-minded people than ever before.  If  you’re passionate about something, you can share it with more people than ever.   Of course you have to fight harder to make yourself heard above all the noise, but if you’re willing to be consistent and work hard, the barriers to reaching people are lower than ever.  You can be heard.”

Riz Ahmed
Riz Ahmed

Learning Lines Off By Heart

Sir Salman Rushdie is an advocate of  memorising  and speaking poetry and prose.  He believes it enriches our relationship with language and I certainly go along with that.   The rhythms of lines and words written for speaking out loud, echo in our heart and mind long after they’re spoken.
“It is a simple exercise that enriches the way you enjoy poems and enriches your relationship with language and once you have done it – it stays with you forever.” Salman Rushdie.
Anyone who’s learned songs and poems in a different language to their own – before even understanding the meaning – will know how it inspires you to enjoy making the sounds of the words and inspires you to find the meaning of the words.
Christine and the Queens – speaking in French in those very appealing clear French sounds, gets you listening and memorising.
Some rap artists are putting their message across in words delivered with fantastic rhythmic precision and defiance.   Others like George the Poet are giving  hope to people on the edge of depression.

A couple of lines learned and spoken just once a day can help lift your spirits and freshen you up.
Nonsense poetry like Jabberwocky is great for just beating out the sounds and making yourself and others laugh.  The Foals words charge your imagination and take you to another land.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Lewis Carroll

Now the wolf is knocking at my door
Bang-bangin’, ask for more
Stand here, we stand tall
You can move beyond these walls
The Foals

The Foals
The Foals


The Truth – Learning Languages Inspires us

Christopher Hampton, the writer of many of the best plays of his generation: Les Liaisons Dangereuses The philanthropist and Savages has made the point that our indifferent approach to learning languages has been fuelled by government policies that feed off the line that English is the only language needed.  Hampton is a French and German speaker, he has said “It’s very sad how modern language departments have started closing down.  It’s a great loss that French as a foreign language isn’t encouraged as it used to be.
Hampton’s translation of French playwright’s Florian Zeller’s The Truth transferred to Wyndham’s Theatre yesterday and runs until September 3rd.
Lyndsay Posner’s critically acclaimed original production at the Meunier Chocolate Factory transfers with the same cast.

Christopher Hampton's translation of The Truth
Christopher Hampton’s translation of The Truth

How to learn a foreign accent

The best way to understand someone with a foreign accent is to speak the same way yourself.  

Written By Lucie Harrison

“The first thing to do when learning an accent is to find a native speaker of the language. So if you want to learn a French accent, get hold of a French person.

The next step is to get your hands on a set text that covers all the consonant and vowel changes within a language.

There are three main texts used by voice coaches – Arthur the Rat, The Rainbow Passage and Comma Gets A Cure. You then ask your native speaker to read the text out loud while you make a recording.

When you listen back, mark down all the differences between their pronunciation of each word, each consonant and vowel, and the way you would say it.

Record the answers to two or three questions about things that interest them so they become animated and begin speaking fluidly. You could ask about the place where they are from, or where they like to go on holiday, or their childhood.

Listening back to a recording of their answers will also help you get to grips with their pronunciation, but most importantly it will allow you to hear differences in the rhythm and resonance of their speech.

As they speak, watch their articulators at work. How do their lips, cheeks, jaw, tongue and teeth move as they enunciate each word?

You will notice that Scottish and Russian people sound more throaty because their tongue comes up to the back palate and pushes the resonance back as they speak.

British Received Pronunciation seems to move forward straight from the lips like a dart because the articulation causes lots of forward placement.

But Australian accents can sound nasal because the mouth does not open far.

After looking at your native speaker, look at yourself in a mirror as you speak and note the differences in facial movement.

Think about the origins of the language. Sometimes the geography of an area can affect an accent. Texas is very flat, so the Texan accent is very flat. Wales is very hilly, so the Welsh accent is lyrical and rolling, like the hills.

Finally, try speaking some words and sentences of the language whose accent you are trying to master and see how the pronunciation tastes and feels in your mouth. Speaking the language can help you learn the accent, and vice versa.”

Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche

Peaky Blinders’ Talk This Way

Helen McCrory spent time with Julie Walters learning and preparing the Birmingham accent for Peaky Blinders.  Then when Helen went to  the first meeting all the actors were told that they were going to go for an original  “Peaky Blinders” accent which wasn’t quite the same thing as a Birmingham accent.   Whatever it was, they all sounded good to me, I was grabbed by the production straightaway – as was everyone I knew who’d watched it.   A pure regional accent in England is a rare thing nowadays anyway.  Authenticity of the period is in the costume and set rather than the accent.  The acting is what matters and the accent should enhance rather than get in the way.  The rule on regional accents on television is that an accent has to be understood in America, if it’s going to sell.   I’ve seen Peaky Blinders in France with sub-titles, which is great!
However it’s taken time for the Peaky Blinders’ accent to settle in according to Lucy Townsend, who’s from Birmingham, in a piece she wrote a couple of years ago.
“Peaky Blinders marked a change of approach…(in the Birmingham accent).  As Cillian Murphy dropped his soft Irish lilt for Tommy Shelby’s understated Brummie, he demonstrated that the accent could be serious, subtle and spoken by sharp-minded people.

As a possessor of a Birmingham accent myself, it was a relief – but Peaky Blinders’ cadences were not always so well received. My Facebook feed, made up largely of West Midlanders, was telling. “Why do some of them sound Liverpudlian?” asked one friend. “Love it – but why are they speaking like that?” wrote another.

The Guardian called the accents “dodgy”, while The Spectator’s James Dellingpole, who grew up just outside the city, wrote: “Some sound like a melange of Liverpool and generic northern.”

Steven Knight, who wrote Peaky Blinders says that it’s intentional. “I remember going to Birmingham City matches as a kid and there were these other kids in Small Heath who had their own odd, partly Scouse accent,” he told the Birmingham Mail.”
The energy of the writing brings the love of the place and its characters to a level outside and inside of reality.  The accents of the characters are another part of the style of this amazing series.

Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders

Sonnet XXXIL (32) – If Thou Survive My Well Contented Day

This has been a favourite to read out loud over the last couple of months.  Is Shakespeare teasing his lover – is it possible that he wasn’t aware of his own genius?  Perhaps Stewart Trotter author of the Shakespeare code could explain?

‘If thou survive my well contented day,

When that churl death my bones with dust shall cover,

And shalt by fortune once more re-survey

The poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,

Compare them with the bettering of the time,

And though they be outstripped by every pen,

Reserve them for my love, not for their rime,

Exceeded by the height of happier men,

O! Then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:

‘Had my friend’s muse grown with this growing age,

A dearer birth than this his love had brought,

To march in ranks of better equipage:

But since he died, and poets better prove,

Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.’

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare


The Voice of Love – Origins of Echo

When people repeat what you say just after you’ve said it, it can drive you to distraction, but many people don’t even know that they’re doing it.  It’s better to adapt.   Be patient and kind towards them .  It’s just an expression of their love and admiration for you.
The same reasoning applies when others express their love and admiration by finishing off what we’ve begun to say.
It’s a habit that can be irritating when your partner, child, sister, brother, colleague, friend finishes off your sentences for you. It can also be scary to know that someone is so right in predicting what you’re going to say.  When this happens, take heart and be kind – it’s a demonstration of love and admiration.
Susan Dikker of New York’s University Department of Psychology says that the predictive power of our brains can play an important role in human communication,  (as if we didn’t know):-
“During conversation, we adapt our speech rate and word choices to each other — for example, when explaining science to a child as opposed to a fellow scientist — and these processes are governed by our brains, which correspondingly align to each other.”

Consider what happened to Echo, the nymph from Greek mythology, who was hopelessly in  love with Narcissus and pined away until nothing was left of her but her voice.

Narcissus and Echo
Narcissus and Echo

Want to know more about how to make the best of your voice?
Click on Improve Your Voice by 100%

From Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

“For better or worse, the further from the midrange of things you go, the less relative qualities matter.  The same holds true for wavelengths:  Pass a certain point and you can hardly tell which of two adjacent notes is higher in pitch, until eventually you can’t distinguish them and finally – you can’t hear them at all.”

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami

The Gentle Voice

It’s true that there are some great voices in the media and acting world at the moment.  Some will make you melt some will make you cry and some will make you angry, but it’s unlikely that any of them will alienate you.
This alienation (being pushed away by someone’s voice) happens when the person’s voice sounds different to yours, (hostile) or without appropriate emotional content.  Comforting and gentle voices are what we need to hear when we’re ill or in shock – it’s one of the reasons why children in hospital need to hear their parents voices or old people in care need to hear gentle voices around them.
While some accents and dialects can sound harsher than others, it’s not the accent itself that will alienate; it’s the way the accent is used that will express the harshness/softness, emotionless/emotional element of our voice.
Sometimes coaching in elocution is referred to as accent softening – particularly by companies in India.  The different use of breath and rhythm in standard English is seen as a means of “softening” the way Indian English is spoken.  Whatever the first language (and there are over 400 of them in London at the moment), real connection and use of voice come from understanding how the voice works.   Coaches, carers and counsellors are increasing in numbers on the Speak English Clearly course.   The benefit of learning an English accent that will be understood internationally is good.  The importance of being able to comfort and put people at ease with your voice in the caring professions is paramount. This is why coaching in the way we produce the voice and the thought to voice connection is also taught on the Speak English Clearly course.
To find out more about the specialist course on thought to voice connection go to our
Improve Your Voice by 90% course page
To find out more about learning standard English go to our
Speak English Clearly page
To be notified of future courses please fill in the form on our contacts page

Asad Ahmad
Asad Ahmad




The Voice, Speech and Communication Specialists