Shopping for a dialect? You can have any one you wish!

Cynota

Many of my students ask me to work on pronunciation but it not feasible to address all students’ pronunciation problems of a whole class as each language speaker has specific problems. I usually suggest that students take one on one tutoring to work on their accents. Many language students are very self conscious of their accents.

If you want to pick out your own dialect of English, you can in fact make this wish come true! You can select any accent that you want: Australian, Cockney, Deep South, Dialects of British Isles and Ireland, Aafrikaans, South Boston, are amongst the offerings online. Paul Meirer has trained many people to speak with different accents and has a website that offers a wide range of English language services (http://www.paulmeier.com).

Meirer is a teacher, voice over actor and language trainer for professional movie stars. He also is founder IDEA: International Dialects English Archive, a database that began as a resource for stage actors to consult when they need examples of dialects of English (http://dialectsarchive.com/paul-meier-founder). It holds hundreds of speech samples of dialects of English spoken all over the world and is used by international business people as well as language students.

There is a map on the IDEA website that shows the contributions made by English speakers all over the world.  Braj Kachru (1985) in Van Herk (p. 26) describes the inner circle, and outer circle, both are represented in the archives. Van Herk says that variational linguists usually work on English from the inner circle, because of their interest in the variability of a regular form of English and sociolinguists who are interested in the role of language in society, study the outer circle. The IDEA website covers English from areas of both inner and outer circle as the users of the data are interested in variability of the dialects as well as the authenticity and accuracy of dialects for representing a specific place in the world. The samples submitted must follow guidelines and each speech sample page provides the identity of each participant, as well as ethnicity and level of education. It would be very interesting to use the speech samples to do a study of pronunciation of English as it relates to history or geography, using the samples in the IDEA database.

I have always wanted to learn more about accent reduction, but at the same time, it feels wrong to change people’s accent as it is so much a part of a person’s identity. It speaks of their history and the history of the place that they came from. Would you want to change your manner of speaking English for a different dialect?

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2 thoughts on “Shopping for a dialect? You can have any one you wish!”

  1. Hi Cynota,
    This is a fascinating post! Many learners are concerned with and feel ashamed of their accents and work hard to reduce (erase? is that possible?) their accents. It might help to distinguish between accent and pronunciation. Accent leads listeners to ask “where are you from?” (the desire to geographically locate people), whereas pronunciation leads listeners to ask “can you repeat that?” I can see the pedagogical value of focusing on pronunciation because this can help improve intelligibility. Accent “reduction” seems like a different kind of work and more connected to identity, belonging, and locating in a particular place. This can be important work for many language learners, but not all. Of course, this is very important work for actors.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    Like

  2. Bonnie Reimer

    Thanks for your posting.

    As an ESL teacher, I also often have to respond to language learners wanting to reduce their accent to sound like native speakers I always ask them why they want to sound like me. Some of them seem to incorrectly equate native-like pronunciation with fluency. I try to convince them that their accent is part of their identity and that they should be proud, as it shows that they can communicate in more than one language. Others learners maintain that people don’t understand them, in which case the issue is intelligibility, which teachers should address. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, learners may come from diverse linguistic backgrounds, not to mention older learners, which compounds the difficulty. Though we do our best, sometimes there just is not enough time to devote to pronunciation in an already heavy curriculum.

    Like

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