In this extract from the best-selling ‘The Lowdown: Improve YourSpeech – British English’, David Gwillim and Deirdra Morris talk about fluency, ‘kicking across’ and when to say ‘the’ or ‘thee’ or ‘to’ or ‘te’
CLEAR SPEECH means FLUENT SPEECH. This simply means keeping the sound flowing, without un-natural breaks. Think of the end of each sentence as the target - and aim for it. If you have to breathe before you get there, do so, gently, but still AIM FOR THE TARGET in your mind.
IT’S – EASY – TO – GET – THE – IMPRESSION – THAT – GOOD – ARTICULATION – REQUIRES – SEPARATING – THE – WORDS. Well, this isn’t the case. In a long presentation, such separations are an effort for the voice and they act like tiny slaps in the face for your audience, who will soon start feeling it’s an effort to listen.
What you want to do is ‘kick across’ the final sound of each word onto the beginning of the next.
To help with this kicking across, there are some useful linking sounds – W, Y, and R, for example. Rather than GO OUT we can say GO WOUT. Rather than SEE ALL we can say SEE YALL. And we can put an R into phrases we wouldn’t have dared to forty years ago – instead of DRAW UP we can say DRAW-RUP.
Now think of ‘T’ at the end of a word, as in ‘I lent a lot of money’. The T of ‘lent’ and ‘lot’ are in front of the vowels ‘a’ and ‘o’, so to keep the fluency we say ‘lenta’ and ‘lotof’.
Another roadblock to fluency is saying ‘THE’ incorrectly. For example, it’s THE SKY - but if the word after THE begins with a vowel, then THE should become THEE. THE EARTH. THEE EARTH. See how the second pronunciation makes the phrase flow more easily?
Take a piece of writing – anything: a paragraph from HARRY POTTER or an article from your daily paper. Circle in black any ‘THE’ you find before a word beginning with a consonant. Circle in red any ‘THE’ you find before a word beginning with a vowel. Read the speech aloud a number of times, taking care to differentiate between ‘THE’ and ‘THEE’ where indicated. Keep reading until it starts to come naturally.
It’s the same with TO, as in TO ACT. The TO is TOO because the following word begins with a vowel. So it’s TOO WACT.
But TO before a consonant becomes TE as in TE GIVE. Got it? – David Gwillim and Deirdra Morris
Taken from The Lowdown: Improve Your Speech - British English, by David Gwillim and Deirdra Morris, published by Creative Content Ltd.