Course founder Emma’s first post...

By Emma Serlin
October 28, 2010

Something powerful

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This is the first post for the business that I started two years ago—London Speech Workshop. I wanted to write you a little introduction to tell you about what we do here at LSW, how we help people and how the work has surpassed all of my expectations and become, not just a job, but a huge part of my life.

I began London Speech Workshop with a view to providing English Pronunciation courses for foreign professionals in London. At the time, I thought it was just about teaching people the sounds and mouth positions of neutral English, so that they could avoid the misunderstanding and confusion plaguing so many non native English speakers. Of course now I know it is so much more.

So what is that ‘so much more’? And where did it come from?

Well. That begins, as all good things do, with a story.

By February 2009 I had designed my courses in accent softening, and was teaching from my studio in Kentish Town. I was beginning to wonder if people really could change their accent. After all, it seemed to be a question of rewiring the brain (which, as it happens, it is, only now, I have found the short cuts and techniques that make the rewiring so much easier –but more of that later) and if it is rewiring the brain, surely doing it with communication, the thing that makes us most essentially human, is going to be the biggest feat of all? People were enjoying the courses, but I knew the courses weren’t excellent, not the kind of standards I would have liked. Meanwhile, I was planning to be a psychologist, and saw the accent softening as a means to an end, to support me in my retraining. What I didn’t know, but quickly came to realise, was that the kind of work I dreamt of; that is, helping people be more fully themselves, could be done through my business - London Speech Workshop.

Anyway, one day, I was with a private client. He was French, and I was talking about him needing to commit more fully to the words he was saying, in order to bring him SELF to the table or the conversation so to speak. But then I stopped, and decided to ask him, why he was taking these classes at all. He was successful, fluent in English, married to a lovely English lady, his accent had all the connotations you would associate with a sophisticated French accent, why did he want to change it? And his answer? In English, the mother tongue of the country he had chosen to make his home, he felt unable to be fully himself. He was blocked by his accent, which corrupted his intention en route. Like a computer code which got slightly garbled as it emerged. In essence, his accent got in the way of him being fully himself when speaking English. The fluid connection that I take for granted when I communicate with someone in English, was denied to him and furthermore his use of intonation prevented him from working the melody of English to achieve different effects. The air in the room became quite heavy, and for a moment, I thought we both might cry. We didn’t cry. But for the first time I understood, how having an accent can feel like a burden, getting in the way of simply being and connecting with others as you would in your native land.

That was the first stage in my understanding. This new insight motivated me to find ways and methodologies of teaching that made the difference for the non native speaker. I realised it wasn’t simply about knowing where to put your mouth or tongue to make the correct sound, but a question of getting under the skin of the language, getting to know how it works, how pauses and emphasis and vowels and consonants work, how melody and word stress and connected speech works, so that actually, each person can build their own relationship with the English language, and learn to use it as a tool that empowers them.

And the great news is, I can say for sure that this approach does work. Often it works quickly and more often than not people will start to change after their first lesson. What actually happens is that each individual finds their own key to unlock the language for themselves. They get to know the secrets of spoken English and with that the intimidation factor starts to fade. Our students begin to feel more confident and empowered.

It’s a tough nut to crack the English language, but it’s beautiful. I’m passionate about it, and find it a privilege that I can share its secret delights with others.

Well that’s my first blog—it is nice to speak to you! If you like, call us to find out more about what we do and if we can help you discover the joy of communicating in English! I don’t imagine the next blogs will be as long, but I plan to write communication topics and also include some of the little gems I discover when I am teaching - the metaphors and hot tips that seem to unlock the doors far quicker than lengthy explanations… so I do hope you come back for more!

Speak Soon, Emma

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