Saturday, 15 October 2016

The wrong voice

Apparently business is booming for voice coaches (aka speech therapists). Lots of people are sufficiently unhappy with their accent or way of speaking to ask a voice coach to help them change it.

They think their voice is too posh and want it to be more ordinary. Or they have a regional accent and want a London one.  Or they're foreigners who still speak English with a foreign accent and want to lose it. Or they feel they don't speak clearly or forcefully enough.

Whatever the motive, they're ready to spend £400 upwards to have their voice altered so they feel more confident and less of an oddity.

Well, I won't be joining them any time soon. I'm quite happy with my accent, even though it's very noticeably posh English and makes many people assume I'm a rich bastard with a country mansion full of priceless antiques. If they only knew....

I'm not keen on the daft assumptions, but I don't mind that little extra respect my accent encourages. Service does sometimes seem a little brisker and friendlier as soon as I start speaking. Or maybe I'm imagining it.

But I don't know why someone would want to shed a regional accent. Most of them are very attractive and a refreshing change from bog-standard BBC English. In fact I gather some employers prefer regional accents because they sound more friendly and reassuring than cool, clipped London posh.

I can understand those foreigners who want to lose the foreign accent, though. Unfortunately racism and xenophobia are a fact of life and people are very likely to treat you badly if you don't speak "proper" English. Naturally foreigners want to blend in and be taken for "one of us".

But I doubt anyone would actually hanker after the genuine "Queen's English". Who on earth would aspire to that bizarre nasal, strangled tone the Queen uses? I would want to die if I spoke like that.

28 comments:

Bijoux said...

Regional accents are generally appreciated here, though most folks deny they have one!

helen devries said...

I've been a foreigner for years, speaking languages other than English...I don't think I'd go to the bother of trying to change my accent as it is obvious by my appearance and dress that I am a foreigner.

Nick said...

Bijoux: I know, if you're actually from the place with the "accent", it just sounds like normal speech. Accent, what accent?

Helen: True, you can change your voice as much as you like but other things will probably give you away. There are lots of tell-tale signs.

Joanne Noragon said...

When I began college, in 1961, life was more regimented here. I was "tested" to be put in speech or remedial speech. I was sent to the latter, where I learned I breathed improperly and had a voice pitched too high. I learned to be a diaphragm breather. I sang the scales down from middle C to the lowest I could reach, came up four notes and that became my pitch. I think it was for the best. They didn't bother with my accent.

Nick said...

Joanne: Your voice was pitched too high? Is it possible for a female voice to be too high? I've never heard of any young women here being told that! Anyway, you were happy with the outcome.

Maria said...

Nick, I remember you mentioned living in Torino; I would have loved hearing you speak Italian with your posh English accent! :)
Greetings Maria x

Nick said...

Maria: No, I never lived in Italy, though I've been to Northern Italy many times. Unfortunately whenever I speak Italian with my English accent, I'm recognised instantly by Italians as a tourist and straightaway they switch to English. So I find it hard to improve my Italian!

John Gray said...

I do hate our local liverpudlian/ welsh accent...its harsh
I miss the lilting broadness of yorkshire

Nick said...

John: I love the Liverpudlian accent. And the Welsh accent. I rather like the Yorkshire accent too. I don't think there's any regional accent I actively dislike.

Dave Martin said...

Although I was born in Kent,we moved to Cambridgeshire when I was only a year old so I avoided developing a Kent accent, which I'm thankful for.
It's one of the accents that does grate on me,along with scouse and Essex.
Mostly though, I find regional accents lend a welcome touch of character compared to my own bland BBC-ish speech.

Nick said...

Dave: Not sure I would recognise a Kent accent. My wife's sister has a very pronounced Essex/Estuary accent, but I like that as well. How eclectic am I?

kylie said...

My Australian accent ranges from broad ocker to educated (but not well spoken) Australian. Since the time I can remember my accent has been too sloppy for my mother, she regularly corrects me even at 45

When I'm relaxed and/or excited I lapse into a lot of vernacular and broad accent so much that an American friend of mine found me impossible to understand

I love all the regional accents from Britain but I'm terrible at identifying them

Nick said...

Kylie: My accent tends to stay the same whatever the situation, though my voice gets deeper or shakier in some emotional states. Re the vernacular, I'm reading Tim Winton's Eyrie, and it's so full of Aussie vernacular I'm sometimes completely lost!

Re regional accents, you should try identifying all the different Northern Irish accents. That's a real teaser!

(Had to look up ocker, by the way)

kylie said...

I just looked up ocker, just to see what you found. My accent is the only ocker thing about me

Tell me a Tim Winton line you didnt understand?

Rummuser said...

1. It is too late for me.
2. I cannot afford it in any case!
3. Queen's English? Does that still exist?

Nick said...

Kylie: Ocker - "rough and uncultivated Australian man". Definitely not you! Can't find any cryptic Tim Winton sentences right now, but I was baffled by "chuck a u-ey", "pikin out", "carn" and "the bottlo".

Ramana: Well, the Queen speaks Queen's English, but she's about the only person in the country who does. Nobody else sounds as if they're being throttled by a mystery assailant.

tammy j said...

LOLOL!!! "throttled by a mystery assailant!" you crack me up.
how's that for american vernacular?
i love ALL things british. especially the accent.
notice how we don't distinguish.
only from watching some shows and movies do i realize the differences.
i think you paid your dues for your lovely accent. being shipped off to boarding school at what i think of as just a wee mite! you came out of all the bullying and loneliness with a gorgeous accent. THAT will teach them!
and thank you for the kind comment on my last post. as you can see...
i'm still around!
just have gotten extremely TIRED of my own voice there. the well dried up! i'll have another blog some distant day. just going to loaf awhile and enjoy others. xo especially a posh git with a beautiful voice i know! LOLOL!

Nick said...

Tammy: Ah yes, crack me up, I know that one. Sorry to say I DON'T love all things British. I don't like the racism and xenophobia, Brexit, the Tory government, the housing crisis, the underfunding of the NHS, and many other things. But I do like all the cultural stuff - art, books, music, films.

I'm not sure a charming accent is enough compensation for a miserable five years at boarding school, but there you are. The rest of my life has worked out pretty well, given my paucity of marketable skills. I've had a lot of lucky breaks along the way.

CheerfulMonk said...

I'm not that aware of accents here in the U.S. Except Southern drawls, I guess. When I watch movies/TV programs with heavy accents I use closed captioning so I can read what's being said. Too bad we can't do that in real life. :)

Nick said...

Jean: My problem with TV programmes isn't the accents so much as the mumbling. I'm watching The Night Of and a lot of the dialogue is hard to catch because it's mumbled. I think I'd find sub titles a bit intrusive though.

Hattie said...

I am absolutely tone deaf when it comes to British accents, whether as class markers or as regional markers. What bothers me most these days among AE speakers is something called "the fry." It's a growly sound that some young women use as a power marker, vibrating their vocal chords and dropping their voices into a low register at the end of sentences. It is often combined with "Valley Girl" vocabulary and intonation and is odd indeed. I try not to hear it, because often the speaker is saying something worth listening to.

Wisewebwoman said...

I speak as one who had her original accent ironed out of her when between 7 & 10. Expensive lessons to appease my mother. Yes it did pay off in many many ways.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Hattie: Yes, the vocal fry is very common these days. Funny, I tend to see it as a sign of low self-confidence rather than power. Either way, it's rather annoying! I had to look up the Valley Girl accent. So that goes up rather than down at the end of a sentence? That's quite common in Australia too, I think.

Nick said...

www: Goodness, you actually had speech lessons? Glad it proved to be of benefit later in life. I never had speech lessons and don't really know where I picked up my posh accent. Till I was 13, the family lived in a very working-class street so I certainly didn't acquire it there! Maybe I picked it up at school.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

We went to and from the wedding in Norfolk by cab and we were talking about accents. The cab drivers had very strong Norfolk accents and I said how much I liked it. We observed that the UK is such a small island but there are so many accents and only an hour or so away from each other . I love the different accents .... I have a London accent and am quite happy with it. I have a friend with a very oosh accent and she has experienced a fair bit of abuse because of it ... I don't think people realise that even posh accents get abused ! XXXX

Nick said...

Jaqueline: I've never been to Norfolk so I wouldn't recognise a Norfolk accent! True, a posh accent can be abused like any other - I think mainly because people see it as a sign of snobbery and haughtiness. I think sometimes they're right!

Ms Scarlet said...

Oh dear, I have the hideous guttural Kent accent, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I love accents. I'm glad we don't all speak the same. I also enjoy regional phrases. Accents have history.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: Like the Norfolk accent, I don't think I'd recognise a Kent accent if I fell over it in the dark. I also enjoy all our regional accents, they add a bit of colour and gaiety to our lives.