Saturday 21 July 2012

I have a brand new website! Please check it out - or

Tuesday 26 April 2011

New Website

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Saturday 11 September 2010


Now available - online accent softening tuition through SKYPE! Easier, CHEAPER, more convenient for you and just as effective! For more information contact Ashley Howard through -

Sunday 8 August 2010

FREE - Accent Softening Exercise: H

This sound happens in words like ‘haphazard’, ‘hideous’, ‘hopeful’, ‘Harry’, and ‘how high’.

How is the /H/ made?

This sound is a voiceless sound and is made with the vocal folds approximating in the larynx in the throat (so you can’t see it!). The jaw is relaxed and the teeth are apart. 

Who needs to work on this sound?

Some speakers drop this sound altogether, so ‘haphazard’ becomes ‘ap’azard’, ‘Harry’ becomes ‘arry’ and ‘how high’ becomes ‘ow eye’. If you do this then exercising this consonant sound is vital to your development of a Standard English pronunciation.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

FREE - Accent Softening Exercise: TH

The TH is a tricky sound for both native and non-native speakers of English. It is a sound that can be voiced (sound vibrations) and voiceless (just air). If you rub the palms of your hands together, you will notice a friction-like quality that lasts for as long as you want it too. Both TH's are like this, having a friction-like quality that can last for as long as you supply air or sound vibrations. Speak the following words and listen to what you do:

Voiced - these, them, their, mother, father, brother, bathe.
Voiceless - think, thought, thanks, mathematics, bath.

Some of the typical difficulties with TH:

Some speakers will substitute the voiced /TH/ sound for a /V/ (‘This’ becomes ‘Vis’) and the voiceless /TH/ for a /F/ (‘Thing’ becomes ‘Fing’).

Some speakers will substitute the voiced /TH/ sound for a /D/ (‘This’ becomes ‘Dis’) and the voiceless /TH/ for a /T/ (‘Thing’ becomes ‘Ting’). Some accents use a variation of this, with the tongue tip further forward, maybe touching the back of the upper teeth or lower teeth. They make the sound quite quickly and there is hardly any friction-like-quality about the sound.

Some speakers will say the voiced and voiceless /TH/ sound but will prefer to make most voiced /TH/ sounds voiceless when they shouldn’t be! Speak the groups of words above to see if you do this.

How to make the TH sound:

Both voiced and voiceless /TH/ are made in the same place with the same articulators: the tongue tip gently curves in a long, thin line and touches just behind the top teeth, but the sides of the tongue are not touching anything, so you can still breathe through your mouth. The jaw is relaxed and the teeth are apart. The sound is of medium length, don't cut it short!

Post your comments or ideas!

Monday 2 August 2010

FREE - Accent Softening Exercise: R

The letter R:

This is the sound that you might make when you imitate a grizzly bear – GGRRR – and not the sound your doctor asks you to make when they want to examine your throat – AAHHH.

When does a Standard English speaker use the R sound?

Generally, accents can be grouped into what is called RHOTIC or NON-RHOTIC. A RHOTIC accent will say every /R/ that is written. Speak aloud the following sentence and if you hear and feel yourself saying every /R/ sound, you are a RHOTIC speaker. Start slowly but then repeat it several times at a more conversational speed:

  • Rebecca ran quickly through the flowers and around the river to catch Rover, her overactive dog.
If you said MOST of the /R/'s but missed out the /R/’s in ‘flowers’ and at the end of ‘river’ and ‘Rover’, (and possibly even the one at the end of ‘her’) you are a NON-RHOTIC speaker. This is because NON-RHOTIC speakers only say the /R/ sound if it is followed by a vowel sound. Please remember this! So, if you say the words ‘river’ and ‘Rover’ in isolation, you can see that the final /R/’s are followed by nothing, so a NON-RHOTIC speaker wouldn’t say them. Instead, they would use the sound that you hear at the end of the word ‘comma’ or ‘America’. If you look at ‘river’ and ‘Rover’ in the above sentence, then they are both followed by the consonant sounds of their neighbouring words: ‘river to’, ‘Rover her’, so again the /R/’s would not be spoken. Similarly, the /R/ in ‘flowers’ is followed by a consonant sound /S/ not a vowel sound, so a NON-RHOTIC speaker would not say it. Again, they would use the ‘comma’/‘America’ sound between the /W/ and the /S/ 'flowers'. If you spoke the sentence too slowly or were being very careful, you might not have said the /R/ at the end of ‘her’? If you take the word in isolation then you can see that the /R/ finishes the word and would normally not be said, however, in the context of the above sentence it is actually followed by a vowel sound: ‘her overactive’ and the /R/ would then be spoken. This unique situation is called a LINKING /R/ where the /R/ links one word to the next.

So, is a Standard English speaker RHOTIC or NON-RHOTIC?

A Standard English speaker is NON-RHOTIC, so they only say an /R/ if it is followed by a vowel sound. This might not always be a typical written vowel: a, e, i, o, u. If you say the word ‘Harry’ you will notice that the final /Y/ sound is the same as the vowel in the word ‘tea’, so the /Y/ looks like a consonant but sounds like a vowel, so a NON-RHOTIC speaker would say the /R/ in ‘Harry’.

Want some exercises?


Thursday 29 July 2010


Welcome! This is the first of many posts I hope about accent softening, elocution and voice coaching. Just to get things started, here are some brief descriptions of the three services that I offer. For more info, please go to my website:

Accent Softening

Accent softening is for both non-native speakers of English and native regional speakers who feel that their accent is holding them back in either their personal or professional life from communicating fluently and effectively. As a non-native speaker of English you may have lived in England and spoken English for a long time and are simply frustrated with people always asking you 'where are you from' and 'when did you come to this country'? You may feel that in either your personal or professional life, people struggle to understand you and continually ask you to repeat yourself? Or as a native regional speaker you may feel that you are treated differently because of the stigma of social stereotyping that  is attached to your accent and want to be more neutral?  If you want to speak with clarity and confidence, then what the accent softening courses have to offer is definitely for you.

Elocution / Voice Coaching

Have you ever felt that people appear uninterested or disengaged when you speak? Are you continually interrupted or do people struggle to understand your point? Does your voice fail you in moments of importance? Perhaps you get anxious, nervous or people have said that you speak too fast or mumble? Or do you struggle to speak for long periods of time or strain your voice when speaking in large venues? Whether you need to inspire and make an impact on colleagues or staff at a meeting, presentation or sales pitch, or need to engage and challenge people through a public message or even if you are simply addressing friends at a wedding or social gathering, then what elocution / voice coaching has to offer is definitely for you. Your voice should be clear, confident and effective, able to succeed in all situations and meet any challenge.

Voice Coaching for Actors

Actors need not only to be heard and understood but also need to be truthful and engaging. Voice is part of the way an actor expresses themselves as the character and so simply being audible and intelligible is not enough. Ashley works with the actor's voice in a way that maintains a relationship between technical proficiency and the natural responsiveness of the voice as a part of the actor's emotional and imaginative life.

For more info on these services, please contact me through the website: