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Book review
The Language Teacher's Voice cover
The Language Teacher's Voice
by Alan Maley

(Macmillan Heinemann)

Review written by Scott Shelton

Alan Maley talks about his book
- read the interview

A compelling and in depth look at what is often taken for granted, overlooked and often times neglected, Alan Maley comes forth and speaks out on what is in reality one of the language teacher's most valuable tools: The Language Teacher's voice.

Bringing over thirty years of experience in EFL to this project, Maley exploits his "humanistic" vein and takes special care to lay down the ground rules first, setting up a convincing holistic foundation for voice work, dedicating the entire first chapter to developing the voice. Included are relaxation techniques, which promote not only general good health but also ultimately tie into the use of voice itself and set the tone for the remainder of the book. Much more than a recipe book for lessons, "The Language Teacher's Voice" attempts to address the more fundamental gift of voice and offers long term aids in the way of exercises which can alleviate damaging stress as well as imparting practical skills for developing a rich, flexible and confident voice.

The main thread weaving throughout the entire book is the emphasis on teacher (and subsequently student) awareness of voice as a valuable tool, and places the responsibility for care and development squarely in our own hands. Though never preachy, the tone of the book is serious throughout. However, in happy contrast, many of the ideas and activities found here are energizing and fun to do (alone or in class) and all are linked to finding, exploring, improving and maintaining a healthy and effective voice.

An entire chapter is, however, devoted to practical ideas for class work which not only center on voice but also involve ear-training and ultimately, subtle pronunciation work from the top down. It is in this way that the "unteachable" suprasegmental elements of speech (intonation and sentence stress) are dealt with from slightly off-center and in many an ingenious way. Included are sensitizing activities, physical warm-up activities, ideas for working on sounds, words and sentences as well as for working with texts. The student is involved in exploring his or her own voice, becoming aware of its power and limitations, and developing it in ways which may lead to highly improved pronunciation at both phoneme level and in the all important areas of pitch range and intonation.

Subsequent chapters are dedicated to voice for personal growth as well as exercises for voice maintenance and care, many of which are derived from the viewpoint of holistic health care and maintenance. Alongside physical exercise routines which can improve voice quality and health, common environmental and physical barriers to caring for and maintaining the voice are cited and paired with effective common sense remedies.

An extensive annotated bibliography has been included, encouraging the reader to explore the theme and world of voice further. There are many a nod to Maley's sources of inspiration and ample evidence of his love of promoting self-discovery in the area of teacher development. Books written relating to EFL pronunciation teaching, theater work, poetry and storytelling as well as a select list of useful addresses are included.

In short, this book is for any teacher of language who is either already convinced of the importance of voice both as an indispensable tool in the classroom and as an important part of health maintenance and who wishes to learn new techniques and activities, or a teacher who wishes to explore new possibilities both in and out of the classroom and enter into the infinite world of voice.

Alan Maley talks about his book
- read the interview

The Language Teacher's Voice cover

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