Category Archives: NEWS

Taking the Speak English Clearly Course to Spain

 Teachers of English from different parts of the world often attend the Speak English Clearly course here in London.   Usually they come individually or in small groups to a course that coincides with their holidays.
 It’s an added bonus for us here at Max Your Voice because we get to hear more about the places they come from:  Jersey, Japan, Italy, France, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, China, The Seychelles and  Hong Kong to name but a few.  The standard of English grammar among these teachers is always high.  Having met quite a few Spanish teachers of English on the UCL Phonetics course, it was a pleasure to be invited to take the Speak English Clearly course to Elda in the south of the Valencian Community in Southern Spain.   The three main teachers from the school would have come over to a course here in London but 11 other teachers of English from the same region also wanted to receive coaching in Standard English pronunciation.  One teacher wrote:  “Many students depend on us, so for me pronunciation is very important.”
The head of the school, Francisco, was included in the group.  This was nerve racking as it transpired that he’d taught English to all the other teachers on the course, including his son, from the age of 9.  His knowledge of English grammar is profound and his students are a credit to him.  Over lunch at the Santa Ana where I was staying, he told me of his early years spent in Hampstead and of the work he’d done in London and the English exams he’d taken.  J Clifford Turners Voice and Speech in the Theatre was the text book he used for English pronunciation.  This is the black, early 80s edition, with the introduction by Dame Peggy Ashcroft.   J Clifford Turner set the benchmark for actors in his time, including Laurence Olivier, and his textbook was the first voice and speech book we were asked to read when I studied at the Guildhall.  Standard English speech has  moved on by eons unless you’re an actor in Downton Abbey. Francisco took some persuading that RP has had its day in contemporary English speech.  He also took some persuading on how to achieve fluency and intonation in contemporary Standard English.  I admire him so much because the reason why he chose the Speak English Clearly course was because the course has its roots  in vocal communication.  Not just in English, but in any language or dialect.  His inner struggle was letting go of the English accent  he’s had for so many years and taking on board the new flow of English sounds and rhythms.  The process of how the voice is made, is key to fluency with bilingual speakers.  Some Spanish speakers find the letting go of their Spanish accent while speaking English especially hard, because of the joy in their culture of expressive communication in Spanish.  Letting go of the Spanish accent with the wonderful breathy tongue sounds and back rs, runs deep into  psyche and sexuality.   You can always tell when there’s  resistance.  The concentration on individual sounds persists long after the all the sounds are perfected and the speaker would normally just “let go” and speak English.    Eventually, it’s consideration for their listeners that motivates people and once they’ve achieved clarity and flow in spoken English, their confidence grows along with their inner security, as did Francisco’s.
Speak English Clearly – next course August 17th and 18th, Harley Street, London W1

Teachers on the Speak English Clearly Course


The Professional Speakers’ Association

The Professional Speakers Association

Went to the Professional Speakers’ Association’s Convention in Bloomsbury. This was a piece of a voice coach’s heaven. Just sitting back and listening to professional speakers for the day. There was an opportunity to meet with experts in their field and it was interesting to meet with Deborah Swallow who was giving advice on Cross Cultural Communication. One of the first things I learned when I started training people in India was to respect their dress code for women. There was a friendly HR lady who advised me at the time. Learning about other people’s culture is one of the perks of working internationally. Debbie spoke about the content of Presentations and how to change the ratio of emotional content, factual content and anecdotal content according to whereabouts in the world you’re presenting. I just love listening to stories – and that’s apparently what Americans like. Graham Davies who’s written the best selling book on Presenting was another expert giving advice. His book is great – so well researched and written. With a background as a barrister he’s in a prime position to know how to sway an audience. The barristers I’ve worked with have sometimes been better sight-readers than actors. The need for a confident voice (not a bullish voice) is an asset for a barrister. I believe that people who give speeches in public and people who present – all benefit from voice training.

Accent Neutralisation & Reduction

Francis Parkes with a student

Accent reduction and Accent Neutralisation are terms that have been used by Corporate organisations for the past 6 years or so. We use them as well because people looking for clarity of English courses are Googling Accent Neutralisation and Accent reduction. It sometimes strikes me as strange though, because I, like all voice coaches, like to hear full and vibrant voices and the idea of people neutralising or reducing their accents seems to be taking the life from people’s voice and speech rather breathing life into people’s voice and speech. I don’t like the idea of dumbing down an accent with all the watering down of vocal personality that this implies. Rather, I like to up peoples’ ability to enjoy the sensation of speaking English in a way that they can be understood internationally. The course that I researched and devised is about just that – speaking English Clearly. It’s desirable to express yourself freely when speaking English even though it may be your second language. Accents can enhance our speech – it’s not your accent, it’s the way you use your accent that matters. If the way you use your accent blurs the sense and clarity of what you’re saying then that’s not good. When your accent attracts the listener to pay more attention to what you’re saying, then that’s good.

Max Your Voice StudentsEveryone is different, Everyone has a unique voice which gives them a unique vocal profile. At Max Your Voice we work with a persons whole vocal profile. The end result is of course clear speech but the voice has to go through different processes to be made, before coming into the mouth to be shaped by the movement of the mouth, tongue and lips into sounds.

English is a language that is spoken all over the world. Some people may speak English with a drop dead gorgeous voice, but that is no good if people cannot understand the words they are saying. And it is no good having perfectly clear diction and saying the words clearly in English, when no one can hear you because your voice is not audible. It is also no good having a wonderful voice and speaking English with perfect diction when the words you are saying are vapid and empty and in no way connect with your thoughts.

This is why here at Max Your Voice we give attention to the whole of your vocal profile – meaning all the aspects of your voice and speech that create the overall sound. Many features including pitch (intonation), rhythm, and speed are addressed when we work with clients. Overall confidence increases with the ability to release your voice into clear speech.

I am often asked about phonetic symbols and how many we work with and looking at page 65 of our Speak English Clearly manual guide which accompanies our course and I can see that there are 27. Of these 27 – 14 are single vowel sounds, the rest are made up of simple combinations, so you can understand how important it is to have the building blocks of the single vowel sounds in place. Phonetic symbols are also a useful tool to really help people identify the sounds in written English and transpose them into spoken English.

Speak English Clearly CD SetOther people ask me how long it takes. Obviously, the better your knowledge of English the easier it will be. Some people have a natural drive to succeed in communication and these people take less time to master the different sounds of standard English. They will telephone and Skype frequently to ask whether it is this sound or that sound that goes in this particular word. Others need more time. Once you know your target sounds and have mastered them, you can put the rest of the sounds into the overall jigsaw. You will get really good results after 3 months, providing you keep practicing using the Speak English Clearly book and the CDs.

Opening of the Thistle Theatre at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Frances Parkes with Rona Laurie

Plenty of fun and a chance to see friends at the opening of this theatre just around the corner from Moorgate. It was great to see the inspirational teacher Rona Laurie. A great lady who proves that voice work is fantastic for your overall health and well-being. It was good to see Geoffrey Freshwater too, he’s currently playing Gloucester in King Lear with the RSC, to fantastic reviews. The much loved Lesley Nicol or “Pickle” was there. Great news about West is West and the new Downton Abbey series.

Courses on CD

Rathan Sippy
Rathan Sippy, the owner of Wimbledon Books

Our ‘Speak English Clearly’ box set was made CD of the month again at the prestigious Wimbledon Books. Our special thanks to the owner Rathan Sippy who has been in publishing all his working life. His vast knowledge is invaluable when you want a good read. They also have a range of classical music CDs – definitely a shop to visit if you’re in the area. Alternatively the logo below to have a look at their website!

Wimbledon Books

Audiobooks direct have a fantastic selection of audiobooks. You can contact them on +44 (0) 207 486 7040 or online at Audiobooks will also help you if you’re looking for a book read in a certain accent. They also sell our Speak English Clearly CD box sets along with Amazon UK.

Our CD downloads and box sets have proved to be very popular. You can buy downloads and boxed CDs on our website.

The experts in voice are at Harley Street

Frances at Harley Street

We’re now located on the third floor of 1 Harley Street close to Oxford Circus and Bond Street tube stations. It’s an ideal location in central London. I give one to one training in Accent Neutralisation, Presentation, Interviews, Dialects and Elocution from here. Small, evening tutorials in the Speak English clearly course for accent neutralisation also take place here. Our next evening course starts on Tuesday September 27th and runs through to November 1st. There’s also a special weekend intensive on September 3rd and 4th. Our courses using filmed feedback are held at the Actors Centre. There’s a one day course in Presenting coming up in December. A really popular course for people who want to improve the way they use their voice is also held at the Actors Centre – this is the Improve Your Voice by 90% course.  This isn’t filmed – there’s a lot of physical activity in the course and you need to feel free to let go. Our next open Improve Your Voice by 90% course is in November. A great mix of people come on these courses and the facilities and location of The Actors Centre make it an ideal weekend venue. Check out our course dates by clicking the Courses button at the top of this page.

Karen Halliday

Karen Halliday

Karen Halliday has been assisting on our courses for the last five years and your feedback has told us just how much you’ve appreciated her kind attention and helpfulness.

Karen is now giving follow up sessions in Standard English conversation for previous Speak English Clearly course participants who would like further practice, or just a refresher at an affordable price. Karen will come to your home or office.

Karen has been trained in RP pronunciation by Frances. Contact her at:

Training via the web

Skype sessions

Our website training facilites are in development. We’re in development on making a DVD which many of you have requested and we’ll be able to bring you inter-active audio/visual training in the future. We are training more people over Skype. You can access Skype booking details by clicking on the courses button at the top of this page and scrolling down that page and clicking on the Skype Training link. It’s always good to have a Skype training session before coming on a Speak English Clearly course and that’s why we include one Skype training session free for every Speak English Clearly participant.

Please email if you’re interested in either of these courses or would like to be notified of our Webinars. Call +44 (0) 20 85422777 to speak to us.

Frances Parkes in Shanghai

Frances Parkes in Shangai

Frances Parkes went to Shanghai in September to train in Voice and Presentation. The course ran over 4 days and incorporated the ‘Speak English Clearly’ programme.

It was a great success with the participants who were involved in the steel industry or commodities. A special thanks to Cheng Hui who did arranged the course and worked on camera.

She will be taking the course back to Shanghai, India and Europe.

Mor more information, call +44 (0) 20 85422777 or email

How to do Accents

How to do Accents
As well as giving courses, we like to attend courses to keep up to date on our training and research methods. Richard Ryder and I went on a course given by Edda Sharpe and Jan Haydn Rowles called “How to do Accents”.

It was fun and great to be on the receiving end of a voice course given by 2 people who really know their stuff. We came away refreshed and buoyed up. It was good to know the see it, hear it, feel approach that we use, is also a technique favoured by them.

This course was aimed at voice coaches who train actors, which we all do at Max Your Voice, but the knowledge crosses over when training people in all jobs.