12th October 1997


Home Page Front Page OP/ED News Business

Elocution: farce fad or bonus?

By Daphne Charles

In the run-up in the rat race, parents want the best. Among the multitude of classes offered in the present day and age, one of the most popular is elocution.

But the word itself is a widely misunderstood term. Many understand it as learning to speak with an accent. The word elocution is derived from the Latin term "elo" and "loquor" which means, speaking out. Thus elocution means speaking out expressively. What exactly is this expressive speech all about?

Mrs. Zulfika Musafer, an elocution teacher based in Polhengoda said that along with adding colour to tone, the child also learns to speak with clarity and understanding. Mrs. Musafer who has been teaching for over 20 years said that elocution definitely helps those who do not have the access to hearing good English.

Mrs. Indrani Mayadunne, who conducts elocution classes at her home in Kohuwela, had similar views on the subject. She said that elocution teaches good poise, the child loses fear before an audience, and gains confidence.

Mrs. Nandani Ranatunga, a teacher at St. Bridget’s Convent was happy that she had sent her daughter to be tutored in elocution. Her daughter, Duneesha, had learned to overcome her initial shyness. Elocution has been specially helpful to Duneesha in speaking up in public. Remembering her own classes, Mrs Ranatunga said that elocution exposes one to general knowledge and good literature. A student of Mrs. Musafer, Duneesha said that she enjoyed her classes very much; as much as she had learnt from them. She has successfully passed upto Grade 8 in her examinations and hopes to obtain a Diploma.

Angelina Hermon, a pupil of Ladies’ College said that elocution has helped her vocabulary vastly and has given her confidence while speaking.

But a widely misunderstood concept, as some teachers revealed, is that elocution classes are seen as places to learn English. It may help one widen one’s knowledge and usage of the language, but for a slow leaner who does not even know the basics of the language, it can be a rather difficult process. Students of elocution are tested in various aspects such as speech and drama, effective speaking, spoken English, speech theory, written English, choral speech and group drama. These tests build up oratorical skills, knowledge of literature, general knowledge, dramatic skills and public relations. The classes involve breathing exercises that help the tone of voice, poetry, prose, improvisation, posture, gestures, conversations and games for the younger students. These exercises help the students to relax before an audience which is also important in delivering a message effectively. There are both local and London examinations which lead to a Diploma certificate.

Elocution certainly helps build communication skills, along with other benefits that may differ from person to person. Yet not everyone is of the view that elocution is necessary. Mrs. Dorothy Vairawanathan, mother of radio personalities Rajan Vairawanathan and Krishna Vairawanathan, attributes the necessity of elocution only to the failure in teaching good English in schools. An old-girl of Chundukuli Girls’ High School, Jaffna, she said that they were taught admirably and the need for extra tutoring in spoken English was not necessary. She said that she did not send her sons to elocution either. As she had said before, there was no need for it. They were taught sufficiently in school. That’s from the mother of two of the best radio personalities. There is now an awareness to avoid artificial accents that do not agree with our Sri Lankan Standard English accents. On the one hand with the rising popularity of drama and the English language itself, the growing popularity of these elocution classes is no surprise. On the other hand, there are those with the inborn talent of interactive skills who do not need any extra tutoring.

There may be no question on the benefits of elocution classes, but the necessity to get this extra bit of tutoring, which also happens to be one of the "done-things" of the present age, depends on the need of the individual.

Continue to Plus page 8 -Murders and other crimes

Return to the Plus contents page

Read Letters to the Editor

Go to the Plus Archive



Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to or to