About us

The Ear & Speak team is Dr Duncan Markham and Dr Debbie Loakes. We combine backgrounds in academic research and teaching with years of practical experience in helping people from all backgrounds with their communication skills. We offer the most comprehensive breadth of expertise in Australia for clients seeking help with their spoken English communication.


picture of DuncanDebbie Loakes
picture of Duncan
Debbie Loakes

We are the only trainers in Australia with

  • comprehensive technical understanding of the phonetic and psycholinguistic challenges and solutions that form part of effective, advanced accent learning and modification (see qualifications)
  • up-to-date insight into current spoken and written English language usage in Australia and overseas
  • detailed practical knowledge of the linguistic and phonetic systems of a wide range of other languages
  • extensive experience teaching phonetics and linguistics to various audiences, including university students, speech therapists, and interpreters
  • a history of academic research in accent learning, phonetics, and developments in the Australian English accent

We also have experience in

  • writing, editing and translation
  • communicating complex ideas effectively to audiences from many backgrounds, industries and at many different stages in their personal and career development
  • forensic speech analysis in legal/criminal investigations
  • training overseas graduates in Australia to perform well in job interviews
  • helping medical students and overseas-born medical professionals to prepare for OSCEs, MMIs and other examinations and admission interviews

Dr Duncan Markham,
Principal Consultant

Dr Duncan Markham, Principal Consultant

  • Filosofie doctor in Phonetics and Psycholinguistics, Lund University, Sweden
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Germanic Languages and Linguistics, Australian National University, Canberra
  • former Research Fellow , Dept of Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, University College London
  • former Lecturer in Linguistics, Deakin University, Melbourne

picture of Duncan

I created Ear & Speak in 2002, after many years of international teaching and research. As Principal Consultant of the business I am responsible for most of the core activities.

My areas of expertise are talent and aptitude in language learning, especially with regard to the reasons for and variation in foreign accents, and the characteristics of real-life spoken communication. I speak German and Swedish to a very high standard, and have some knowledge of a large number ... [read more]

I have also worked as a freelance writer, editor, and translator, and have provided forensic speech analysis services to law enforcement agencies.

Before establishing Ear & Speak in 2002, I was a full time researcher at University College London, working on the intelligibility of different people’s voices, and how voices can be enhanced to improve intelligibility. I have previously held a position as Lecturer in Linguistics at Deakin University, Melbourne, where I established a speech analysis laboratory.

I’m an Associate of The Presentation Group, which provides a range of communication training services, and from 2006 to 2010 I was also Senior Communication Consultant for a career management company focused on the needs of immigrant graduates and professionals. I have held training seminars on behalf of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT), and I also participate in public debate about the English language (ABC radio broadcast, Perspective).
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Some of my publications

• Markham, D. and V. Hazan. (2002). Talker intelligibility: Child and adult listener performance. Journal of The Acoustical Society of America 111(5):2481-2481.
• Markham, D. (1997), Phonetic Imitation, Accent, and the Learner. Lund: Lund University Press.
[read more]

  • Markham, Duncan and Valerie Hazan. (2004). The Effect of Talker- and Listener-Related Factors on Intelligibility for a Real-Word, Open-Set Perception Test. Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research 47(4):725-3.
  • Markham, D. and V. Hazan. (2002). Talker intelligibility: Child and adult listener performance. Journal of The Acoustical Society of America 111(5):2481-2481.
  • Markham, D. (2000), Individual differences in the acquisition of second-language speech. In A. James and J. Leather (eds), New Sounds 2000 (pp. 236-9). Klagenfurt: University of Klagenfurt.
  • Markham, D. (1999), Listeners and disguised voices: the imitation and perception of dialectal accent. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 6(2):290-299.
  • Markham, D. (1997), Phonetic Imitation, Accent, and the Learner. Lund: Lund University Press
  • Markham, D. and Y. Nagano-Madsen (1996), Input modality effects in foreign accent. In H.T. Bunnell and W. Idsardi (eds), International Conference on Spoken Language Processing '96 (Vol 3, pp. 1473-6).
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Dr Debbie Loakes,
Consultant

Dr Debbie Loakes, Consultant

  • PhD in Phonetics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne
  • Adv. Dipl. of Management, Holmesglen Institute, Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, Monash University, Melbourne
  • Course Lecturer, Phonetics, Phonology, Linguistics of English, and English Phonetics and Phonology (post-grad), University of Melbourne
  • Lead Researcher, Sociophonetics of Aboriginal English, University of Melbourne

Debbie LoakesI am a phonetician, like Duncan, and my area of expertise is spoken language. I am interested in how people speak in real life (not how other people think you “should” sound). From 2007 to 2009 I worked with Duncan as a Communication Consultant for a career management company focused on the needs of immigrant graduates and professionals, and since then have been working as a language researcher at The University of Melbourne.

My research looks at the production and processing of changes in how people speak. In my academic job I am currently working on ... [read more]

  • regional and social variability in Australian English spoken by native speakers
  • features of Aboriginal English spoken in Victoria
  • (with colleagues:) the adoption of Australian English by Irish and Chinese migrants
  • (with colleagues:) phonetic aspects of Indian English spoken in India

I regularly present at national and international academic conferences, and have lectured many courses including phonetics (the science of the speech sounds) and phonology (the way in which people think about sounds in language). I also have a good understanding of child language development.
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Some of my publications

• Loakes, D., J. Hajek and J. Fletcher (2017), Can you tæll Im from Mælbourne? An overview of the DRESS and TRAP vowels before /l/ as a regional accent marker in Australian English, English Worldwide. Vol. 38 (1), pp.29-49.
• Loakes, D., J. Fletcher, J. Hajek, J. Clothier, B. Volchok (2016), Short Vowels in L1 Aboriginal English spoken in Western Victoria, in C. Carignan and ...
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  • Loakes, D., J. Hajek and J. Fletcher (2017), Can you t[æ]ll I’m from M[æ]lbourne? An overview of the DRESS and TRAP vowels before /l/ as a regional accent marker in Australian English. English Worldwide. Vol. 38 (1), pp.29-49.
  • Loakes, D., J. Fletcher, J. Hajek, J. Clothier, B. Volchok (2016), Short Vowels in L1 Aboriginal English spoken in Western Victoria. In C. Carignan and M.D. Tyler (eds.) Proceedings of the 16th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology, Dec 7-9, Parramatta. Australian Speech Science and Technology Association Inc. Sydney, pp.33-36.
  • Loakes, D., T. Carr, L. Gawne and G. Wigglesworth (2015), Vowels in Wunambal, A Language of the North West Kimberley Region. Australian Journal of Linguistics 35 (3) 205-231.
  • Loakes, D., J. Clothier, J. Hajek and J. Fletcher (2014), An investigation of the /el/-/æl/ merger in Australian English: a pilot study on production and perception in south-west Victoria. Australian Journal of Linguistics (special issue titled “English in Australia: Variation and change in diverse linguistic communities”). Vol. 34 (4), 436-452.
  • Loakes, D. (2013), From IPA to Praat and Beyond. In K. Brown and K. Allan (eds.) Oxford Handbook of the History of Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.123-140.
  • Loakes, D. K. Moses, J. Simpson and G. Wigglesworth (2012), Developing tests for the assessment of traditional language skill: A case study in an Indigenous Australian community. Language Assessment Quarterly Vol. 9 (4), pp.311-330.
  • Wigglesworth, G., J. Simpson and D. Loakes (2011), NAPLAN language assessments for Indigenous children in remote communities: issues and problems. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics Vol 34(3), pp.320-343.
  • Loakes, D. and K. McDougall (2010), Individual variation in the frication of voiceless plosives in Australian English: a study of twins’ speech. Australian Journal of Linguistics Vol. 30 (2) pp.155-181.
  • Loakes, D. (2006), A Forensic Phonetic Investigation into the Speech Patterns of Identical and Non-identical Twins. (PhD thesis)
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