For rising stars on the international business stage
Something unusual happened to me this week.
A fellow voice coach who works with actors called me.
“Susan, I’m working with a Hollywood A-lister, and she needs your accent.”
My accent being Standard British English.
“Can you record something for her to practice with please?”
Doing so got me thinking about accents - not in the movies but in business.
Our voice is as unique to us as our fingerprints and our accent integral to our social identity.
One of the many things I love about voice is the diversity and richness of accents.
But in an international environment, where the spoken language of business is English, accent can sometimes prevent an audience from understanding non-native speakers.
Earlier this month world leaders (mainly non-native English speakers), gathered face-to-face for the G7. This high-profile meeting is certainly one where nobody around the table can afford for their pronunciation to muddle meaning.
Yet international gatherings take place day-in, day-out, in business. And while these meetings may not be as high profile as the G7, they may still be high stakes for those involved.
So, whether you’re the President of France or a native French speaking executive at Renault, if your success depends on the outcome of a meeting conducted in English, your crisp pronunciation of consonants (particularly mastering the ‘s’ at the end of words), will likely be a determining factor in your being understood and, ultimately, your success.
I’m using French speakers illustratively above, but there are common pronunciation challenges for speaking English as a second language, depending on where you are from.
The good news is that, regardless of your native language, some simple things can make a big difference to getting your spoken English better understood. One of those things just happens to be practicing a passage like the one I recorded for that movie star I mentioned earlier.
Given I’ve spent much of my coaching career adapting actor voice training to help business professionals advance, I thought this recording might also be useful to share more widely.
Comma gets a Cure is one of a handful of passages that's used to help actors acquire an accent for a role. For example, there's a good chance Olivia Coleman's voice coach would have used it to help her acquire the accent needed to play the role of the Queen in Netflix's hit series The Crown. The passage is used because it contains all the sounds of English speech and, when spoken aloud, lets the listener compare their pronunciation of the words with the speaker's.
In this recording I read the passage aloud in my accent - Standard British English. An actor might use this recording to practice if they wanted to mimic my accent for a role. Likewise, non-native English speakers might use it to practice pronouncing English sounds they find difficult.
This is not about coaching people to have the same accent. Nor is it about class or status. All accents are equal. What matters most is being able to communicate effectively in English.
What are your thoughts on accents?
Susan Room is an International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach (PCC). She’s one of the rare few qualified to provide voice and executive coaching. Her unique approach sees her help others feel, look and sound confident – improving performance and happiness at work.
Susan offers virtual group programmes, which include exploring speech habits and vocal confidence - valuable to those at every career stage. She also works with corporate leaders and high potential executives on a 1-2-1 basis, weaving accent coaching into her work with non-native English speakers if helpful.
*Comma gets a cure: A diagnostic passage for accent study is copyright © 2000 Douglas N. Honorof, Jill McCullough & Barbara Somerville. All rights reserved.