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Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Year: 2010
Genre: Documentary
URL: http://bobnational.net/record/30165

Review by: Luna Ferraraccio

This radio programme discusses the speech that can be heard on the usual public addresses on trains, in the supermarket and other venues.  The broadcaster goes to talk with people that regularly make the public addresses.

The speakers observe that these kind of announcement are more and more frequent but that often the language used is peculiar and nothing like the natural spoken English that people use in their everyday lives. The first example that they take is the use of words such as “beverage” or even ”vestibule”. Rarely heard in a simple conversation, they are regularly used in the public announcements.

The broadcaster observes the phenomenon of adapting one’s voice when talking for a crowd, how some voices adopt almost a musical rhythm or are more hesitant. It is also interesting to note that these changes are often described as unconscious by the speaker. However, the speakers seem to be able to controls the inflexion of their voices in order to give a very specific impression or feeling. Indeed, an interviewee explain that he always tries to come across as “friendly” and “approachable”.

An expert in public speaking whom also teaches his techniques to amateurs is then interviewed. He explain the Colloquial Formality Syndrome which affect people who are not used to public talking and adopt a specific and formal speech, sometime archaic words. He talks as well about the process hidden behind the change of one’s voice during a public announcement. Also, the expert comments on the phenomenon of suppressing stresses and emphasis.

The meeting with the expert is then followed by a discussion with various people whom regularly have to make public announcements because of their jobs. The broadcaster equire after their intentions during the announce and their feelings while they speak. Often, the answer to his questions varies from one person to another, sometime drastically so.

Some of the store announcers discussed on the programme were then invited into the broadcasting house to be coached to improve their speech by a professional radio speaker, for example by using some vocal exercises.

This clip would be useful to all the students studying discourse analysis, the notions of audience design, broadcast talk and institutional talk. It can also be used as a source for group project wanting to focus on this kind of material. However, if using this radio programme for research, you should also seek other scholarly research on the topics as the programme does not cite any.