Published: 11th of July, 2022.Last updated: July 13, 2022 at 18:26 pm
I’m presently creating a language course to teach English to Brazilians. The course is meant to build vocabulary and teach pronunciation. The question is: pronunciation of which English accent? There are the American, British, Canadian, Caribbean, Australian, and so many other English accents. And even within those countries, there are varying “regional accents.” Here it is a question of marketing a product, and that product needs to deliver on its promise.
I first proposed to sell the American accent. Perhaps in the future I will add British, Canadian, and “neutral” accent, if there is such a thing as a neutral English accent. I know there is a “neutral American” accent, but even this is questionable.
I’m torn between paying a professional voiceover talent to produce the audio for the course and doing it myself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. If I produce the audio myself, I become more of a “rock star” rather than a “behind the scenes guy.” This increases my personal value, and can also increase my ability to market the course…if I do a good job.
But I do question my ability to produce the audio for the course to a standard that is respectable. The issue is that I grew up and got most of my education in neighboring Guyana, South America where the pronunciation of many English words leaves much to be desired. Guyana is a country which was colonized by the British, but most Guyanese grew up on American television, and more Guyanese migrate to the USA than England. So we mix the two accents up – and badly. On top of that, in everyday life, most Guyanese speak a form of Creolese – a sort of broken down version of the English language.
In general, Guyanese mispronounce and accentuate many English words incorrectly. On the other hand, I’ve been told that there is no “gold standard” English accent, and that these differences are not necessarily mistakes or errors, but they are what make us special and help to identify us and where we came from. In fact, in another article, I wrote about how our accents are our “geographical signatures” because they help to pin us to a location.
The great thing is that Brazilians are very open minded, and they do not necessarily idolize a standard American accent. Many Brazilians told me that my English is excellent, and that they would prefer to learn from me than from a native American. Many Americans have also told me that my English is better than “most people.” And this gives me encouragement to produce the audio myself. My voice is not bad either. I’ve been told on many occasions that I have a “beautiful voice.” One memorable example is when I was teaching English in Campo Verde, Mato Grosso, in the year 2013. One of my students interrupted the class to exclaim, “Patrick’s voice is so beautiful!”
All the more reason to produce the audio myself, but I still harbor an inkling of a doubt as to whether my English is good enough. Even though I’ve spent years refining my English pronunciation and developing a greater awareness of the American accent, many things do not come naturally to us Guyanese. For example, we say “chaRACter” instead of “CHAracter.” Only tonight, my Brazilian friend Emerson, who learned English as a second language, and who now resides and works in England, alerted me to the fact that Guyanese pronounce the word “definitely” differently. The correct pronunciation is “de-fi-nit-ly,” but we say “de-fi-NIGHT-ly.” And I didn’t know that until tonight. The “th” sound does not come naturally to most Guyanese English speakers. We have to practice that for years to perfect it. We pronounce “aunt” and “herb” the British way while using the American style “aluminum” and “elevator.” And the list goes on.
But jumbling up spellings and confusing pronunciation to create an entirely new “English accent” is nothing new. The Canadians certainly did it, and so did the Australians. But most notably, the Americans did it. In fact, the Americans mispronounced and misspelled the Queen’s English so badly that they rebranded it as the American accent. And the only reason the rebranding met such stellar success is the fact that the United States is such a huge, powerful, and influential country.
I was talking to a friend from the Southern United States tonight, and she told me that the regional accents vary so much in the United States that sometimes residents of the Northern United States have difficulties understanding residents of the Southern United States. That settles it. I’m producing the audio myself. I might not be able to brand it Canadian, American, Caribbean, British, or Australian English accent, but it will still be workable English. I may not always be able to pronounce every word perfectly, but is there really a “perfect English accent”?
P.S: I’ve decided to review the text using a text-to-speech software to make sure my pronunciation is on par with the American accent before doing the audio.