Voice Care with British Voice Association


Breathe out completely through the mouth and breath in through   the nose for a count of three.  Breathe out again completely through the mouth on a count of five and in again through the nose for a count of three…..  Avoid the over rising of the chest and
Hum from low note to high note and back.
Exhale on “zzz” “vvv” “fff” “sss”
Takes sips of water throughout the day.
Eat mostly alkaline based food
Re-align your neck and back by standing up against a door or wall –
keep your chin down and your eye level straight ahead.
Breathe out completely by  flopping  over – with your pelvis
supported by a wall.
Sip warm water infused with two or three slices of raw ginger
Steam with hot water with sea salt added.
Suck a ricolo herbal lozenge.

If you have prolonged vocal problems go to the page below to find your nearest Voice Clinic

With Thanks to Phyllida Furse, Carol Fairlamb and Carrie Garrett

Frances Parkes at CIOL workshop
Frances Parkes at CIOL workshop

A Support System for Interpreters


A few years back I was asked to give a talk for interpreters at a Conference in the City of London.  There were highly successful interpreters and heads of departments of various universities also speaking.  The Conference was aimed at giving working interpreters information and support on how best to maintain physical and mental well being while they were working on sensitive jobs.

Interpreters are highly trained academically but sometimes their need for more practical skills have not been met.   At that time there wasn’t much training given to interpreters on how to handle the physical and mental rigors that come with the job.  Much discussion was given over to methods of relaxation after a day of mental gymnastics and physical constriction.  One highly successful interpreter believed that the Alexander Technique was the practice that had helped him the most.  This technique guides your body and mind into a state of release.  It is a fantastic technique for interpreters who can benefit so much from the released posture and mental relaxation.  Many people use yoga exercises for relaxation – again an excellent form of tension release and those of you who practice meditation may have found it life changing.

My own specialty The Grotowski Technique, is a useful tool for using “on the job”.  While relaxation exercises are part of the interpreters daily routine, Grotowski offers a way of dealing with sudden surges of stress sometimes connected with sensitive subject matter, that can trip the amygdala and open up the parts of the brain that deal with emotions.  It can happen at any time to interpreters and the effort needed in dealing with the emotions, without letting them affect the voice and the ability to speak, is draining.

One interpreter explained that when she was 4 months pregnant and interpreting at a conference for orphaned children, she found herself choking on the words she was interpreting.  The description of the conditions orphaned children lived in was too much for her to bear.  Many would say that it was unprofessional of her – but how can we convey the meaning behind the words of the speaker if we don’t take in that meaning. Normally we are able to maintain a separation between the general (others) and the particular (ourselves) because the brain can separate the two however the Amygdala can allow our feelings to switch the parts of the brain that we’re using and an in certain circumstances can highjack our words.  A practical understanding of how the voice works and how speech is made together with instruction on how to place the voice in different areas of the body for different effect, is a helpful tool to any interpreter and recommended by the ITI.

Recommended reading – Goldman – Emotional Intelligence

For more information on courses – please click contact

How the brain can hijack your thoughts and words.
How the brain can hijack your thoughts and words.

Scurrilous, Scandal-Mongering, Scoundrel


Scurrilous, Scandal- Mongering, Scoundrel – 18th century words that made it back into political talk during the last election of the Mayor of London.  Somehow these words worked and the attempts to make Sadiq Khan look like a threat to our democracy failed. With the campaign up to Brexit, any attempt at rhetoric was thrown to the wind and much of what was said by both sides was designed to terrify us into decision making.   While we’ve known all along that all words that come from politicians have a political purpose what’s happening now is more sinister as Mark Thompson writes below:
“What happens when political language fails?  When the rage and incomprehension boil over, and we run out of a common vocabulary and sufficient trust in each other’s words to be able to sit down and work through what unites and divides us?”
Clearly with the onset of the internet and the views that are expressed, we are in a place where our respect for politicians has hit a low.  It’s as if we feel we’ve been left out and we are just subject to decisions made, uninformed of the bigger picture. No wonder the real scare-mongers are being listened to. There are still some great politicians out there,  if and when they are allowed to speak – we need to listen to them and their rhetoric.

William Pitt the Younger 1759-1806
William Pitt the Younger

Siri needs help with pronouncing your Name


This fantastic piece of software – Siri, is a virtual assistant with a voice-controlled natural language interface that uses sequential inference and contextual awareness to help perform personal tasks for iOS users.
There are just a couple of drawbacks.  The almost constant requests to update iOS can sometimes stop you from using your phone to make simple calls, send mail and texts.  The other is that Siri does not always get the pronounciation right with names.  This is not a problem for me – I like it when my surname is pronounced in 2 syllables as Parkez instead of the one syllable Parkes.  Others are not so keen.  Barbara Striesand had to point out to the H/O Apple that her surname is pronounced “Streisand with a soft ‘s’ like sand.  Tim Cook has agreed to change the pronunciation on the next update.

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand

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

The Voice, Speech and Communication Specialists