This afternoon (Saturday) I was in a sizeable party of people touring York Minster with one of the official guides, a German girl named Charlotte. At the same time the Black Dyke brass band was rehearsing for a concert this evening.
Many have suggested to me over the years that orthoepic (i.e. correct, whatever that means) vowel sounds make you more coherent. I don’t agree and say so. I always urge people to cherish their accent and preserve it as an important part of their personality, taking other steps to perfect their diction – steps like those I describe in my booklet, Every Word Heard.
Charlotte could not have made my case more powerfully. She has a strong German accent; our party exceeded 20 in number so couldn’t cluster tightly around her; the brass band were making a hell of a lot of noise (though a nice one); the acoustic in the cathedral allowed the sound of a practising brass band to penetrate the whole building and to deny the existence of a quiet corner; and I am quite deaf. Frequently she gave up speaking, believing that she could not be heard, and every time it was I who piped up to tell her that she was coping brilliantly.
And she was. Everyone takes a little more care over speaking a foreign language and often that means not indulging in idle habits like squashing syllables together. Charlotte spoke highly fluent, idiomatic English – but clearly. And as a result, against that catalogue of huge opposition, made her every word heard.
Excellent advice. For an example of the opposite case, read one Cat Hudson of the UKYCC explaining at
why she thinks they couldn’t understand her northern accent in Naples, then hear her interviewed in Durban at
to learn the real reason.
Yup. I don’t think that needs further comment.