For rising stars on the international business stage
A fellow voice coach who works with actors called me once.
“Susan," she said, "I’m working with a Hollywood A-lister on her next big role, which needs your accent.”
My accent being "standard" 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.
Your voice is as unique as your fingerprints and your accent integral to your social identity.
One of the many things I love about voice is the diversity and richness of accents.
And one of the many things I champion, is the importance of seeing accent bias as a diversity issue, which workplaces must tackle with as much energy and effort as sexism, racism or ableism.
But in an international environment, where English is the spoken language of business, a strong regional or non-native accent can sometimes make it hard for others to understand what's being said. And that doesn't do you or them any favours.
Regardless of your native language, if your success depends on communicating effectively in English, some simple things can make a big difference to getting your spoken English better understood.
One of them is crisply articulating consonants, especially at the end of words. It's not as easy as it sounds, not least because the English language has groups of consonants with no vowel between them (think 'gth' at the end of 'strength'), but keep going because, as EY's Sankar Hariharan found, practice and patience pay off. Read Sankar's case study here.
You could also try practicing a passage like the one I recorded for the movie star I mentioned earlier.
It's called Comma gets a Cure and it's one of a handful of passages that contains a very wide range of English speech sounds.
In this recording I read the passage aloud in my 'standard' English accent. An actor might use it help them mimic my accent for a role but it's equally useful for dialect researchers and anyone wanting to practice English speech sounds they find difficult.
Give it a go and let me know if it helps.
Susan Room is a former C-suite leader, turned International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and holds a degree in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She’s one of the rare few qualified to provide business voice coaching. Her unique approach sees her help others feel, look and sound confident – improving performance and happiness at work.
Susan works virtually and in-person, helping clients at every career stage explore their speech habits and improve their mental, physical and vocal confidence. She also works 1-2-1 with corporate leaders and high potential executives, 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.