Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Paired words can make learning English pronunciation easier

I'm not a provider of "neutral global accent" training as called for by the international call centre industry. The intention of this post is to offer assistance to South Africans who are speakers of languages other than English and who are looking for help in pronouncing certain South-African English sounds which are known to be challenging. 


PRONUNCIATION OF ENGLISH VOWEL SOUNDS (MONOPHTHONGS): pair the sound you know with the sound you don't know

People who have worked with me will immediately recognise this exercise as a favourite of mine.  Those pesky English long monophthongs will be tamed by the simple pairing of the sound you know: the SHORT one, with the sound you don't know: the LONG one. Speaking words in pairs in this way helps the speaker to differentiate sounds, it's easier to hear and feel the similarities and differences.

Speak the word containing the short vowel sound followed by the word containing the long vowel sound.  You can slightly exaggerate the length of the long vowel sound in the second word if this helps you. Of course you would not exaggerate it in an unnatural way in everyday speech, but only for this exercise.


live (to live)

Practise these paired words as often as you like.  Add new pairs that occur to you.
Practising at least twice a day will usually improve your pronunciation of these vowel sounds in as few as ten days.

As always, if you'd like to find out more about how I can help you or if you'd like to contact me, you can do so from my website.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Three favourite talks from TED

Challenging topics presented with humour and empathy, delivered with confidence and warmth in expressive interesting voices.

Isabel Allende: Tales of Passion

David Kelley:How to Build your Creative Confidence

Margaret Hefferman: Dare to disagree

Hope you are inspired by these talks.

For voice, speech and public speaking coaching you can get in touch with me through my website

Friday, July 27, 2012

3 Ways to improve your Sound

I was yesterday asked, "What can I do to improve my voice and speech in time for my presentation next week?" I have three suggestions. You can decide which exercise to go for depending on which aspect you want to improve. If in doubt, practise all three.

You absolutely should start with the breathing and vocalising as described in Warm up your Voice: Part 1 and Part 2 .  You can then add one or more of the following exercises:
  • Is your voice weak, soft, breathy or tending to fade before your thought is completely voiced? You need to co-ordinate thinking, breathing and speaking by practising this counting exercise:

    Imagine yourself simply and calmly saying the word ONE, then inhale and speak “ONE”
    Imagine yourself saying the words, then inhale, speak “ONE TWO” on one breath
    Imagine, inhale, speak “ONE TWO THREE” on one breath
    Continue adding the word for one more number at a time. Practise once or twice a day until you are comfortable speaking each of the numbers from one to ten calmly and clearly on one breath. If it helps you, you can choose an object in the space about two metres away from you and project your words to this object.
  • Is your articulation of consonant sounds slow or imprecise?  You need to practise these sentences to reduce mumbling and gain crisp articulation.  Allow your lips, teeth and tongue to move freely to form the sounds, keep your jaw relaxed.  Don’t strain or shout, the pace is steady and careful. These sentences have proved to be really helpful for improving confidence and competence in articulating English if that is what you need.

    Pass the pens and pencils please

    A packet of mixed biscuits

    Packing prickly pickles poses problems

    She sells sea shells on the sea shore

    Six times six is thirty six

    Bring me some coffee in a proper copper coffee pot

    What a lot of little bottles

    Quick! Quick! Quick! Bring the twins a drink!

    Red leather [lorry] [lolly], yellow leather [lorry] [lolly]

    Fred refused to view his defeat as final

    Leave the lazy lion alone

    The pilot landed the plane safely
  • Are you unused to hearing and feeling your own voice as you speak? Simply practise humming, "HUMMMMMMM". With a relaxed throat and shoulders, and without strain, try humming more softly, more loudly by using more volume of air, sending your sound further, then nearer, humming at a higher pitch, at a lower pitch. In other words, playing with your sound. This will also help you sound more audible, expressive and interesting.
Good luck with your next presentation or speech

To make an appointment for voice coaching or to book a workshop please go to my website

Thursday, June 14, 2012



Once again I'm offering my fantastic WINTER SPECIAL! 

During June, July and August 2012 you get this amazing deal: for every two private lessons you pay for, you get a third lesson free. YES, FREE!

What does this mean? It means that you could benefit from three sessions for the price of two or six for the price of four and so on. It means that the expert coaching you thought would be way too expensive right now is actually affordable.

Of course, as I'm based in Cape Town you need to be here too.

Contact me here

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Does your Mother have a Garden?

I'm working in my garden today, autumn work for the waning moon: pruning, clearing, making space for the resting time to come and place for the new growth when it's due.

As well as that it's Mothers' Day in South Africa this Sunday so I was thinking about that as I worked.

I thought that I'd like to ask you something: does your mother have a garden?

It might be a food garden or a garden for the spirit.  It might be large or be two pots outside the door. Whatever.  Look carefully there, in her garden.  It might reveal some things to you, you might be able to see her more clearly.  You might see revealed some of what she has lavished upon you.

What might you see? Her creativity, her vision.  Her hopefulness, her perseverance.  Her planning, her carrying out her plans.  Her acceptance of what cannot be, her idea of what could be, her working with what she has.  Her making meaning, her working with not against, her putting food on the table. Her tenderness, her nurturing, her patience.  Her bitter disappointments, her ruthlessness, the defeats which could have crushed her.  Her delight.  Her refusal to back down, her time given unstintingly.  Her joyfulness, her heart ... who knows what you might see manifested in your mother's garden.

So does your mother keep a garden? Go on, you might be with her this weekend, take a look at her garden.  I hope it'll remind you of good things which might otherwise be forgotten.

Happy Mothers' Day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Top Ten Slide Tips from Garr Reynolds/Presentations

Simply the best advice on how to present your information using slides.  I share it with all my clients who are seeking to add that final polish and make their presentations outstanding. 


Good luck with your presentation!

Need help? You can go to my website here to book an appointment for expert coaching in Cape Town.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

21 Reasons why working with a communication and voice coach might just be the greatest gift you give yourself in 2012

  1. better voice projection lets you sound more confident
  2. improved posture and physical poise lets you look confident too
  3. an expressive and well-modulated voice is interesting, engaging, attractive
  4. 'as we breathe so we think', if your breathing is more relaxed and more controlled so are you
  5. you improve your ability to articulate ideas, explain your thinking
  6. this in turn enables you to be more persuasive and more influential
  7. your self-confidence improves
  8. your self-esteem rises
  9. you can speak up and speak out instead of remaining silent
  10. so you find it easier to be more assertive
  11. you contribute more socially, professionally and in your community
  12. you communicate better in meetings
  13. you communicate better at home
  14. you communicate better in presentations and speeches
  15. you speak better even when unprepared
  16. you develop deeper awareness of yourself in relation to others
  17. this leads you to listen more and with greater empathy
  18. you find out how to be heard more clearly
  19. awareness of how you communicate with yourself lets you develop more positive and encouraging self-talk
  20. you learn how to deal with, and express more usefully, anger, resentment, frustration
  21. you enjoy yourself more and gain more joy from your relationships!
These are just some of the ways communication coaching can help you
 ... in the meantime: good luck with your next presentation!

To make an appointment for coaching or to book a place on a workshop go to

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wedding Speech Structure and Etiquette

If you are participating in a rather formal western-style wedding and have to make a speech you might be wondering exactly what you're expected to say! This article gives you the basics and is helpful in making sure you do and say the right thing. I find it handy, follow the link!

Good luck with your speech!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

These 5 TED speakers inspired me in 2011, I hope they'll do the same for you in 2012

This collection of five presentations showcases a variety of speakers and skills.  I have used most of them as teaching examples for my clients, Monika Bulaj's presentation is a new addition to my collection.  I hope you'll find them helpful as you seek out and develop your own special gifts as a speaker.

Some are experienced and skilled speakers, like Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda.  Eve Ensler shows us just how powerful it is to evoke emotions through language,  metaphor and specific examples. Jane Fonda shows us how to convey new ideas confidently and articulately.

Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body

Jane Fonda: Life's third act

Monika Bulaj's short talk moves and influences us while showing us that the fact that English is not her first language cannot detract from her compelling words and images.

Monika Bulaj: The Hidden Light of Afghanistan

Here Kevin Slavin puts paid to the notion that "technical" presentations can't help but be dry as dust, factual and lifeless, appealing only to experts in their particular field. Note especially the visual impact and simplicity of his slides.

Kevin Slavin: How algorithms shape our world

Cartoonist Liza Donelly entrances with her cartoons.  More than that, she shows us how someone who might not usually verbalize her point of view can find her voice and be interesting and articulate. As well as how she says it, women especially might take note of what she says.  Developing physical presence, occupying the space in which you find yourself, are aspects so important for speakers.   Only about 18 minutes long, worth taking the time to make yourself comfortable, watch and listen to the wisdom of Liza Donnelly.

I hope these presentations from 2011 will encourage and inspire you in 2012.

Best wishes for the New Year and good luck with your next presentation!