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.