This week on BBC Radio 4, this question was posed to its listeners. It is topical at the moment as we are hearing many Olympic event commentators with UK regional accents speaking on TV and radio.
I listened to this programme, presented by Winifred Robinson, with great interest. Issues that arose included people who had taken elocution classes, or voice training classes to change their accent and people who resisted change.
Some people wanted to lose their original accent as they felt it held them back professionally and others held on to their accent and said they had experienced success in the workplace in spite of their accent.
Some people with ‘posh’ accents, acquired through elocution lessons, felt they no longer ‘fitted’ in their original social groups and felt displaced and judged to be a wealthy person, because they spoke in the way a well-educated, well-heeled person would do. There was a barrister with a strong regional accent who was very content to continue advising and representing his clients in his native accent.
So, is it all to do with accent, or is there more at play here?
It’s all about better speech and better communication
At Voice Synergy, we tackle more than accent even if a client requests elocution lessons, for example. Your voice potential consists of a lot more than just your accent.
How you use your voice and the words you choose can be extremely powerful, regardless of accent. The successful speaker will be able to articulate accurately, sounding ‘t, d, th’ and ‘ing’ clearly, but will also use their voice in a way that effectively conveys their thoughts and ambition. In short, it’s not about getting rid of an accent, it’s all about better speech and better communication.
Your voice is important
It is well known that people seek help to communicate more effectively and that includes actors, business professionals, academics and politicians as well as those of us who simply want to get our voice heard. Your voice is important in interviews, in meetings, on Zoom or Team calls and in motivating staff or delivering reports.
So this begs the question, is accent softening only about accent changes or are we seeking a better speaking voice?
It is important to be the best communicator that you can be and that should be included in your accent softening, elocution lessons, public speaking classes, presentation skills course or effective communication projects.
Do I want to be a better communicator?
Currently, you may speak too slowly or speak too fast. Right now, you might suffer from a monotonous voice and want to learn how to speak with a more interesting voice, regardless of accent. The first thing that comes to mind when you are reflecting on your voice might be that you want to change your accent. Perhaps a better question would be, do I want to be a better communicator?
It is important not only to work on clearer articulation (stop mumbling) but think about the quality of your communication.
The aim of every good speaker must be to improve the quality of their communication, and that includes broadening their vocabulary, confidently articulating what they want to say and landing those thoughts to affect their listeners in the way they intend.
For more information about improving your speech skills, please get in touch.
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme.