What is elocution, anyway? The word evokes old-fashioned images of people repeating phrases to speak ‘properly’.
This seems outdated, but the word ‘elocution’ still pops up. When I tell people I’m a voice and speech coach, people often say: ‘Oh, so you teach elocution?’ Good question. Do I?
Elocution: dictionary definitions
The Oxford Learners’ dictionary defines elocution as the ability to speak clearly and correctly, especially in public and pronouncing the words in a way that is considered to be socially acceptable.
The Cambridge online dictionary’s definition is the art of careful public speaking, using clear pronunciation and good breathing to control the voice.
The Collins dictionary states that Elocution lessons [teach someone] to speak clearly and in an accent that is considered to be standard and acceptable.
The word ‘clear’ comes up in all of these definitions. I certainly help many of my clients to speak more clearly. People come to me feeling that they speak ‘too fast’ or often getting asked to repeat themselves. In this sense, I do teach elocution.
Much of my coaching is geared around preparing for public speaking, so by the first two definitions, I teach this aspect of elocution.
Hmm. Oxford and Collins mention ‘acceptable’ pronunciation and accent. That’s subjective. I’m more about equipping people with the tools to communicate their message clearly and with impact, rather than fitting into an arbitrary social model.
While pronunciation training needs a framework as a practical tool, I don’t think my training fulfils this particular aspect of the definition of elocution.
While I’d never use the word ‘elocution’ to describe my coaching, the word is still alive and well! My work fulfils the ‘clear speech’ and ‘public speaking’ definitions of the word.
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