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Elocution and language skills

Dr Duncan Markham

Whether you’re a second-language or native speaker of English, good elocution – speaking clearly and effectively, with well-chosen words – is key to being a good communicator.

What use are knowledge and skill if you can't express your ideas eloquently?

What are elocution lessons for?

The modern concept

Nowadays, when people talk about elocution classes they are usually thinking more about learning the skills of good spoken communication.

The term is applied both to second-language skills like accent and pronunciation, and to general skills like:

  • appropriate choice of pronunciation
  • good diction or enunciation
  • expressing ideas clearly and effectively, and
  • communicating with good spoken style.

Eloquence (being eloquent) is about using words well in spoken English, with clear and appropriate pronunciation, expressing ideas clearly and effectively, and communicating with good spoken style.

(We also have a section below called “What isn’t elocution”!)

Elocution and status

Elocution once meant “the way you speak”, with a focus on having good elocution (style of speech) for social status. Young women (in particular) would be sent to lessons in how to sound appropriately “well-spoken”. (Perhaps you've seen My Fair Lady or Pygmalion?)

There are still some clients who focus on the “class” aspect of speaking because of concerns about social status or a lack of confidence in the “quality” of their speech.

Broadly speaking, changing your speech in order to change social group is very difficult for most people to do comfortably, but small changes to “soften“ your accent can help greatly with personal confidence. (See also the “concerns” section of our FAQs.)

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Good communication

Comfortable conversation

The ability to hold a conversation is often regarded as a basic skill, yet the number of bad dates (or frustrating Tinder chats) that people complain about indicate that conversation is a significant challenge for many people!

Not everyone feels comfortable talking about themselves. Some people don’t know how to share information, or they don’t understand how to engage with someone else and show interest.

Some of this is about absorbing and reacting to new information quickly, some of it is about social conventions, and some is about having the foundation knowledge to be able to hold a conversation with the people around you, especially in a new cultural environment.

Get your conversation flowing with Ear & Speak.

You open your mouth to speak, and ...

Some people are naturals when it comes to communicating clearly, public speaking, chit-chat, or talking over the phone.

Some people aren’t. Their presentations might seem stilted, mumbling or lacklustre, or colleagues might have commented on their “poor diction”. Perhaps conversations feel uncomfortable. Maybe ideas never quite come together in words. Perhaps you find it hard to get your thoughts or opinions to cut through in meetings?

Achieve clarity

A key issue in good communication is how people shape and express their ideas.

Our training isn’t about cheap tricks to “make an impact”, but instead about the fundamentals of good communication:

  • understanding the listener’s needs
  • good choice of words and examples
  • clear flow of explanation
  • planning and practising good communication

These skills have as much relevance to a teenager’s customer service skills as to a CEO’s boardroom presentations.
As with all our training, the emphasis is on skills, not marketing fluff.

It is usually a project which requires patience and dedication to good habits.

The real deal

We don’t teach you the empty pseudoscience of Neuro-linguistic Programming, or the evasions of public relations and politics. We don’t pretend that good breathing or body language are the solutions to communication problems. Those are the “solutions” offered by people who can’t teach the fundamentals of excellent, honest communication.

Dishonest messaging: “We encourage you to seek external development opportunities.”

Enhanced communication

Building confidence

We help you express yourself better by challenging you to structure your perception of the world and the ideas you work with, so that you can engage us in conversation. And once you’ve engaged us in conversation, you’re on a path towards greater confidence, clearer presentations, stronger interviews, and better leadership.

We want our clients to be confident users of language (and most skills are transferable to any other language you speak comfortably).

Many people find themselves in customer service or relationship management roles where good expression is essential to achieving the right outcomes, but they aren’t ready for the communicative demands. Ear & Speak can help.

Eloquence: Communicating with style

You might say this is the non plus ultra of building your communication skills.

Learn to expand your vocabulary usefully and discuss issues and ideas fluently.

Find the balance between business clichés and creative expression.

Enhance your written style and grammar, for better correspondence and effective presentation of ideas.

What isn’t elocution?

Unfortunately, the term is going through another change in meaning, as some trainers use it for lazy marketing purposes... All they use it for is “having a nice voice” or “speaking persuasively”. Neither of these things are core parts of good elocution.

But if you want to use language to express yourself better and more confidently, and/or if you want to improve your pronunciation so that you speak clearly and smoothly with good style, then you should see someone who is an expert in how people speak English and how people use English to express ideas clearly — how people really communicate. That’s us.

If you want to change how your voice sounds — literally just the acoustics of your voice (nasal, grating, harmonious, mellow) — then see a voice coach (not Ear & Speak).

If you want to be a better salesperson or politician, then we’re sure someone out there can teach you rhetoric and the art of persuasion. (We definitely don’t teach people how to make a lie sound like the truth, or how to avoid answering questions.)

Let us help you with serious communication.

We don’t train people for IELTS or PTE because we want our clients to improve their real-life communication.

Where next?
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© Duncan Markham, Ear & Speak. All rights reserved. ABN 73 408 528 798
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