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Elocution lessons on the increase

A growing number of people are seeking elocution lessons to improve their voices and, they hope, their job prospects
By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
female therapist consulting female patient

19th January 2012 - The Only Way is Essex may make popular TV but the accent should be avoided if you want to get ahead. It seems a growing number of anxious Britons are turning to private elocution tutors to help them reduce their regional accents and improve the way they speak.

Last year, thetutorpages.com received more than 500 requests for elocution coaching, more than for any other subject. Its director, Henry Fagg said in a press release: "There appears to be a significant change taking place in our culture which, despite the popularity of TV shows like The Only Way is Essex, is making elocution lessons and voice coaching fashionable again.

"You could say it’s a return to the days of Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, when many ambitious people were denied opportunities because they spoke with a regional or working-class accent.  A lot of people who have contacted us do appear to be trying to improve their prospects by learning to present themselves better and to speak more clearly," Henry Fagg says.

Softening accents

The largest number of enquiries for private elocution lessons, according to a report by thetutorpages.com, came from people living in the West Midlands, many of them looking for help to soften their Birmingham or Black Country accents.

A senior manager told the website: "I work at a prominent Midlands factory and as my career is progressing I find myself having to give more presentations and hold conference calls and meetings with members of senior management. I have a strong Brummie accent and often the first impression people have of me when they hear me talk is that I am ‘thick’. One person even said I sounded like a thug when I spoke! This does affect my self-confidence when giving presentations. I want to improve my elocution, tone down my Brummie accent, as I think it may hold me back in my career."

The report says other regions where large numbers of people have turned to elocution tutors for help include Manchester, Merseyside, the North of England and the West Country.

Many requests came from people in London and the Thames Valley who said they were unhappy with their accents, often described as 'estuary English'.

One barrister with a “very broad South East London accent” sought help after he discovered he had almost been turned down for a promotion. He told the website: "I am beginning to get tired of the reaction I get when I open my mouth and although proud of my roots I am wondering if I should have some elocution lessons in order that I am taken more seriously."

Another enquiry came from a woman seeking lessons for her daughter, who said: "She has a degree and her partner is an accountant and they feel that their Essex accent holds them back from achieving successful posts and career opportunities."

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