Speaking to Succeed
Here are just a few comments by those who know
in many different professions...
"Slang is for idiots, innit? ... We have to reinvest, I think, in the idea of articulacy as a form of personal human freedom and power"
Emma Thompson, actress, quoted in Daily Telegraph
"The worst accent for a top job is working-class Essex ... the one most associated with success was the Received Pronunciation [Standard or Queen’s English]."
Poll of Business Executives (Daily Telegraph)
"Brummies disown accent. Almost eight out of ten people from Birmingham wish they had a different accent ... Traditional ‘Queen’s English’ is still considered the most desirable accent"
SpinVox poll (Daily Telegraph)
“Dr Snell [socio-linguistics lecturer at King’s College, London] said that people who spoke with Queen’s English accents were more positively perceived than those who spoke with lower social class accents ... Non-standard accents such as those from Glasgow or Birmingham consistently rated low for traits like intelligence, competence, confidence and integrity"
Press notice of King’s College London research on
Language, Education and Disadvantage
“RP [the Received Pronunciation or Queen’s English] is now something people are striving for, so that they have the sound of success in their voices as well as an accent that will be listened to.”
Professor Khalid Aziz, Voice Coach and Speech therapist for business leaders. Author of Presenting to Win – quotation from Fry’s English Delight (BBC Radio 4)
“This is your Captain Del Boy speaking. They make great cabbies but cockney pilots make air travellers nervous. Home counties accents are the most reassuring … the celebrity voice passengers found most comforting was that of actor Nigel Havers”.
Business Travel Show poll, Metro
“Elocution lessons can boost your confidence in all walks of life ... It is probably another, rarely discussed, reason why independent school pupils often outshine their state school counterparts in interviews. They have been coached to be confident in speech and drama lessons.”
Susan Elkin, Education and Training Editor, The Stage
“A lot of students are on the [barristers’] course who can’t cope with the language ‒ whether foreign or British born. I want a lawyer who is not just good in English but very good in English ...”
“The [advocacy] profession needs to sift out linguistic stumblers, just as the tone deaf are not admitted to music school, nor are the two-left-footed to ballet school”.
A survey on linguistic competence among both native and non-native English speakers highlighted the inability to speak fluently, with close attention to grammar, vocabulary and syntax as the main deficiency among trainee barristers, “some of whom were so poor in English that it would stop them ever succeeding in the profession”.
Baroness Deech, Chair of the Bar Council as reported in
The Financial Times and all major newspapers
“I once career-coached a law graduate who had straight AAA at A-levels, a very high 2:1 degree from a good northern university, lots of relevant work experience and a good all-round extra-curricular track record. I gave plenty of advice, but I reckon the one piece of advice that would have made the most difference was for her to go and get elocution lessons. Her accent was very strong Merseyside … and she will be discriminated against in her career because of this.
To have a chance of getting into one of the so called “Magic Circle” [crème de la crème] law firms in London it is essential to be able to “speak very clearly without any trace of a regional accent
Jonathan Fagan, Founder and Managing Director of top London
legal recruitment consultants, Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment.
Student lawyers need to adapt
“A survey on linguistic competence among both native and non-native English speakers [on the barristers’ training course] highlighted the ‘inability to speak fluently, with close attention to grammar, vocabulary and syntax’ as the main deficiency among trainees who were so poor in English that it would stop them ever succeeding in the profession’. What is true of potential barristers is no less true of solicitor advocates and solicitors generally. Of course students have their own lingua franca and dress code, but they must learn to gain respect by emerging from the student chrysalis and adapting speech, language and dress to the codes of their chosen profession and career. In the case of written and spoken English it is particularly essential for a lawyer to acquire precision and clarity to be sure of being accurately understood. If students of whatever social and ethnic background have not appreciated this and learnt to adapt accordingly, it is hard to see how they will display the flexibility of mind and expression to develop into top-class lawyers of the future who will attract class clients to a class firm and serve all sorts of clients with the respect and skill they deserve ...
A real command of English is essential, but often lacking, in other professions too, and this lack has had disastrous and even lethal results. We have all heard of the case of a death caused by a doctor from Germany who ‘could not speak English, yet the flawed system allowed him to perform out-of-hours care’. For the future it is reassuring that the outcry against EU regulations preventing stringent English language testing of European Economic Area doctors is likely to be heeded, but there will still be foreign doctors practising here whose English is so poor that patients have to resort to communication by drawings ... Accuracy, precision and clarity in writing and speech are essential in every profession. Sloppy communication also usually implies sloppy thought”.
“Teachers in Portsmouth school to receive lessons in the Queen’s English after an Ofsted report singled out their heavy local accents and grammatical inaccuracy.”
Daily Telegraph report
“Pupils will be taught to speak properly ... They must be taught to recognise when to use formal language, including standard spoken English”
Sir Jim Rose, former Head of Ofsted, reported in The Times
“The Innit Generation. Wotcher, Miss! We is not tort proper. You dunnit. No warrimean? Chiz ... To be able to communicate in standard English is the birthright of every Briton ... Not every child can be eloquent, but each child deserves to be articulate”.
The Times (leading article)
“At the BMA annual conference the first speaker said that it could not be acceptable for doctors whose knowledge of English is about as good as his knowledge of Chinese to be able to practise virtually unchallenged in the UK.”
“Woman left in agony after treatment by doctor who spoke little English.”
Headline, Daily Mail
“The Presidents of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians say that language competence of doctors from the EU working in Britain needs urgent attention.”
Letter to Daily Telegraph by Professors Sir Norman Williams and Sir Richard Thompson
“Health Secretary ... says doctors from overseas must speak English or be banned.” “Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, says “This is a vital issue for patients ‒ they must have confidence that the doctor who treats them has the communication skills needed for the job.”
Headline, Daily Telegraph
Joyce Robins, Director of Patient Concern says: “The European Union rules [preventing English language testing] should be changed to cover language tests for overseas nurses as well as doctors.”
“Scandal of failing foreign doctors ... One problem is revealed to be communication”
Mail on Sunday
“Stephen Fry laments the gradual disappearance of RP ‒ the quintessential sound of the BBC”
“BBC standards are dropping to get ethnic minorities on air, says Indian-born Dr Samir Shah, OBE, former head of current affairs and former member of the BBC’s executive board. The problem is they lower the barrier. It is done with the best of intentions but for someone like me, from an ethnic minority, my heart sinks. It is just embarrassing."
“Margaret Thatcher, who did more than any other politician to storm the heights of privilege, dressed with exquisite care and spoke a carefully practised version of the Queen’s English ... It was not that she sought to conceal that she was a grocer’s daughter: that was one of her great political selling points. It was rather that in her demeanour, she deferred to an ideal of quality, excellence and class”.
Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph (leading article)
English Speech and Pronunciation:
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