Talking for Affect

I’ve been coaching a Nigerian actress with a view to them teaching the F Parkes Associates  “Speak English Clearly” programme in Nigeria. She was in the UK during a break in filming for her character’s appearance in a Nigerian soap.  Two days into the training she said that she would have to ensure that the Standard English dialect she was learning wasn’t going to leak into her character in the soap, because the character she plays has an “affected” English accent.   Her character pretends to be from a family based in England but in fact her parents live in a village in Nigeria.   Bola Agbaje’s ‘Belong’, jointly presented by the Royal Court and the Tiata Fahodzi  company deals with issues that are related to this.  There is a deep need within us all to stay true to ourselves.
Prospective clients at Max Your Voice, who want to undertake elocution or accent neutralisation training, have sometimes asked me if they will lose the natural personality of their voice.  They are anxious not to sound “affected”.  They have given me examples of  associates who they believe have had coaching in accent neutralisation, who now sound “uncomfortable”.   Actors who are trained in voice and speech can learn a dialect from speech sounds and patterns straight away,  for people who haven’t received voice and speech training,  it’s different.  The simple process of how speech is made is:  thought into breath into note into resonance into word.  The foundation of speech is therefore the connection to our thoughts.  The only way that someone will sound “unnatural” is if this process is substituted by a “this is the way I want to sound” thought pattern.  With voice and speech training, muscles are released and new shapes are allowed to take form. These shapes link into the language part of the brain.
Affectation is when someone talks for “affect” and not for effective communication.  They convey an impression, mostly one of : “I’m above you.”
Symptoms of an affected way of speaking can include:
Elongated vowel sounds.
Slight escape of the breath at the end of a phrase  – this is sometimes called “the creak”.
Sniffing before speaking.
Rapid changes in pitch and intonation in phrasing.
Maintaining a loud voice for too long.
Nowadays in the UK,  the affected speech syndrome is on the wane and you’re much more likely to hear “inverted affectation” when people adopt an accent that is more “street” than their own.
The next  Speak English Clearly 6 week evening course starts on June 11th.

Roy Hodgson’s Rhotacism

It’s bad enough that it’s said that Roy Hodgson wouldn’t have had the England Manager’s job if Harry Redknapp’s wife hadn’t asked her husband to turn it down.  Now the focus is on Roy Hodgson’s pronunciation of “r”.  Roy Hodgson comes across as a genial fellow and a natural leader.  His voice and his soft “r”, sound gentle and modulated.  His articulation is clear.  The Sun’s headline:
“Bwing on the Ewos”
brought in many complaints including one from the FA.  Are they justified?  In this instance probably yes.  Roy Hodgson’s stature and experience in the world of football seems belittled by the headline which is impersonal and doesn’t impart a feeling of warmth and humour.  Fans at Hodgson’s former employer, Fulham FC, had a banner bearing the legend “In Woy We Twust” which does have that feeling of warmth and affection.
While Jonathon Ross or “Wossy” does lean on his pronunciation of “r” as “w” because it’s become part of his trademark and suits his cheeky style, Roy Hodgson does not and his is very slight.  It’s not uncommon for people who can pronounce an “r” rhotically to adapt the “w” pronunciation, as an affectation or way of speaking that’s different.  For many years the “w” pronunciation of “r” was considered the stamp of the ruling class.  This is said to have stemmed from Earl Carrington, 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire, who adopted the “w” pronunciation instead of “r” when he heard the officers around him talking in perfect RP.  He was said to have adopted this pronunciation in order to signify his higher status. The affectation spread among those who were also keen to appear part of the ruling class.
In many instances the “w” pronunciation can be a habit left over from childhood.  It’s endearing to hear a small child – and it happens especially if the child is the youngest of a large family – keep some vestige of baby talk. In other’s it can be because the skin (frenulum) attaching the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is too tight and the tongue is not able to curve back.   In the 60s, over-zealous surgeons sometimes would cut the frenulum and unfortunately many were left with problems.  The operation is still performed today but with the care and sensitivity as you would expect with ENT surgeons such as John Rubin. With patient exercise it’s possible to coach people into a firmer pronunciation of “r”.
Deirdre Finnerty writes on the BBC New magazine
“There will be plenty of people who think the row overblown. As Ross said: “Really it’s not a big deal. I wish we weren’t part of such a judgemental culture. It hasn’t ever bothered me. I’m used to it. And I’m sure it doesn’t bother Roy. He is an incredibly well-read, intelligent man, he will take it as a joke”

Roy Hodgson