Accents are important…discuss

I am in the process of working with a new client who feels that his ‘accent is holding him back in his career’.

The person in question (who shall remain nameless for confidentiality reasons) suffers from a variety of dietary issues that caused him to have issues with his teeth during his teens & has recently undergone extensive reconstructive dentistry to address this.

His dental issues, compounded by his native accent (Irish) & speaking pace have made him virtually incomprehensible to those who don’t know him. Hardly ideal for interviews or career progression.

Due to having the surgery outside the UK he was not afforded the opportunity to see a speech therapist (which, of course I am not), but he came to us to reduce his accent & develop strategies for slower, more considered speech.

Please note that I am not claiming to be a speech and language therapist & am working with him as I would any other voice client.

This particular client wanted to eradicate his accent as he felt that that was the issue that was holding him back. In fact, it is the clarity of this speech rather than the manner, so we have worked on this facet of his speech.

The idea of accent eradication intrigues me, as both Gemma & I are passionate about regional accents being preserved. It’s one of the things that makes speaking to people from different places interesting. Television, radio & the internet are beginning to homogenise our accents into a mid-atlantic/antipodean English-speaking sound which shouldn’t be desirable for anyone!

Speech is about communication & the plethora of differences in the ways that we turn a phrase, pronounce words & speak to different people makes for a rich & varied society.

Leaving the issue of speech aside for a moment, I’d like to discuss the preconceptions we have about accent.

Here’s a list of some regional British accents, try to hear this accent in your head…what is your immediate reaction to each accent?
– London
– Birmingham
– Glasgow
– Irish (Southern)
– Irish (Northern)
– Manchester
– Welsh

Do your reactions change depending on the accent? Does the ‘character’ of the speaker change in your minds’ eye?

Here are links to the Speech Accent Archive with some Male & Female examples of each accent.

– London
Male     Female
– Birmingham
Male     Female
– Glasgow
Male     Female
– Irish (Southern)
Male     Female
– Irish (Northern)
Male     Female
– Manchester
Male     Female
– Welsh
Male     Female

Does your image of the person speaking change according to the accent or does it have more to do with the clarity of the speech, pace, diction, inflection etc?

Clearly, some of the people featured in the recordings are more adept at reading aloud, but aside from this there is relatively little difference in their performances.

It’s interesting to note where the differences in intonation, vowel length & emphasis take place. How do you say the following speech?

Please call Stella. 
Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: 
Six spoons of fresh snow peas,
five thick slabs of blue cheese,
and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. 
We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. 
She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

We’d love to hear a recording of you reading this…just use your smartphone to record yourself & email the clip to Leon at leon@tempervox.co.uk & we’ll upload it to the blog.

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About Leon Trayman

Company Director of TemperVox Ltd - Making Professional Voices Heard. Vocal Coaches for professional people, we work with anyone who uses their voice as part of their job. This includes Teachers, Lawyers, Actors as well as Business People and Politicians.
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