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The Executive's Speech

I recently watched the Oscar winning The King’s Speech. For a story with such a thin plot, little or no action, and grating upper class English accents, it was an utterly absorbing and strangely compelling film. I loved every minute of it and would happily sit through the whole thing again.

I assume the intention of the filmmakers was to firmly align the sympathies of the viewers with Lionel Logue, the king’s Australian-born speech therapist. If so, then it certainly worked in my case. Whether this was more so because I now work in a vaguely related field I don’t know, but I found myself recognising one or two of the dilemmas faced by Logue in the face of the hugely demanding task he found himself landed with.

This week I was called upon to provide a crash course in English conversation to a high flying executive who has to make a business trip in a fortnight’s time and who wants to ‘make a good impression’ with his pronunciation. He doesn’t stutter but though his basic vocabulary knowledge is reasonable his pronunciation and use of grammar is poor. In many ways it’s an impossible job, and one that you can only do so much with.

But like Logue I found myself summoned to the side of a very busy man who appears to have little room for manoeuvre.

Where to start? At the beginning I suppose, but normal rules are out of the window. There just isn’t the time and I found myself like Logue, trying to establish some kind of cross cultural rapport to smooth the waters a bit. If my man gets through his business socialising without causing an international incident or insulting the Germans then I’ll consider it job done.

I don’t have a tricky stammer or the Queen Mother to contend with of course but then Lionel Logue never had to coax consonants out of a Granadino. I’m not sure which is the easier task.

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