Voice, Speech & Dialects: Diversities in vocal training

Voice, Speech & Dialects: Diversities in vocal training

In this video, Paul explores how the voice provides access to the identity and difference of the speaker in intimate and immediate ways. He identifies challenges with inherited assumptions about the ‘naturalness’ of the human voice and provides strategies for understanding the voice in its cultural/social specificity.

Voice and speech: Diversities in voice training, by Paul de Jong, Program Coordinator and Head of Voice for the Theatre Performance program at Humber College. 

Paul de Jong

Paul de Jong serves as the Program Coordinator and Head of Voice for the Theatre Performance program at Humber College. He has spent four seasons at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as a voice, text, and dialect coach and has taught at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre (Stratford), The National Theatre School of Canada (Head of Voice), The Centre for Indigenous Theatre, The George Brown Theatre School, and The Randolph Academy of Performing Arts, as well at as colleges in the United Kingdom. He received his Masters in Voice Studies from the Central School of Speech and Drama (London, England) and is also a graduate of the Stratford Festival Conservatory for Classical Theatre Training (2000).  As a free-lance coach, Paul has worked on productions such as Soulpepper’s 2009 production of A Raisin in the Sun, the Globe Theatre’s 2010 production of The Syringa Tree, Artistic Fraud’s 2010 production of Oil and Water, and The Grand Theatre's 2012 production of The Great Gatsby. Paul coaches actors regularly for film, television and theatre.  




  1. Paul discusses that the “predominant approach to voice training in North America, [is] one which revolves around a discourse of the free and natural voice,” and as such excludes diverse manifestations of voice and speech. The “standard” of good speech—based on England’s Received Pronunciation--stresses an accent that is devoid of abnormalities. How do standardized voice and speech practices work to benefit some actors training in post-secondary institutions? On the other hand, how does it exclude other identities and lived experiences of actors-in-training?
  2. How can post-secondary institutions embrace cultural and environmental differences that exist amongst actors-in-training? How can such differences be used to create and maintain creative environments that support diversities?
  3. Paul discusses Tara McAllister-Viel’s notion that one should “begin voice training with the assumption that socio-cultural and environmental influences prepare the body/voice with certain skills necessary for discipline-specific actor training.” If we embrace this belief, we acknowledge that our own social and cultural influences serve as the foundation for voice work. How has your own social and cultural background informed your voice training? Do you feel it has positively impacted your acting training? Why?
  4. Paul states that “[t]he voice is then defined by its relationality, the degree to which it searches out, moves and affects the unique other in the creation of an image,” acknowledging that differences in voice and speech add a dimensionality that may be lost when searching for the “free and natural voice.” In what circumstances can diversity in voice potentially create difficulties in acting training? Should Received Pronunciation be used in post-secondary institutions as the basis for all voice training? Why or why not?
  5. Paul gets his students to explore what Roland Barthes “calls the grain of their sound: the so-called 'dirty' sound that characterizes any instrument and makes it unique”. In doing so, the students were able to explore the tension and release of their own socially and culturally constructed voices. What aspects of your voice do you feel encompass your experience of diversity? How can sharing our differences open doors for a range of possibilities in voice training?

References and Resources

Knowles, R. P.  “Interrogating the natural voice.” Shakespeare, theory, and performance, 95. 1996. Print.
McAllister-Viel, T. “Speaking with an international voice?”. Contemporary Theatre
Review. Vol. 17. No. 1: 97-106. 2007. Print.
McAllister-Viel, T. “Voicing Culture: Training Korean Actors' Voices through the Namdaemun Market Projects.” Modern Drama, 52(4), 426-448. 2009. Print.
Mills, L. “Theatre Voice: Practice, Performance and Cultural Identity”. South African Theatre Journal. Vol. 23, No. 1: 84-93. 2009. Print.
Mills, L. “When the Voice Itself Is Image 1.” Modern Drama. Vol. 52. No. 4: 389-404. 2009. Print.


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