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Dialects: ‘Sore-ee' … It's ‘A-Boat'
Time You Voice In Generic English

By Deb Munro

It's said that 90% of all voice jobs today are for productions serving the U.S. market. In fact, English is the common language for the majority of mainstream productions in the world's major markets.

And technology gives you the ability to do voice work for this market from anywhere in the world.

This all adds up to great voice-over opportunities, right?
Well, yes … if you have the right dialect.

Most voice work in North America requires a non-accented, or “generic” American English dialect. So, if your natural speaking voice reveals a regional twang, a peculiarity, or the mark of another nationality, you'll want to master the generic dialect to get more work.

Need some examples? Take Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson.

Would you guess from their films that they're Australians? We admire actors like these for their hard work to meet the industry's demands. It takes real dedication.


Does a non-generic accent ever slip into your speech?

It does for many of my fellow Canadians. We can't necessarily hear it, but the accent is obvious to U.S. audiences.

While we pronounce most words in generic English, certain words give us away, putting us at a competitive disadvantage in auditions. For instance, a Canadian's …

  • “about” often sounds like “a-boat” to an American ear. The correct generic pronunciation is more like “a-bowt.”
  • “sorry” sounds to an American like “sore-ee” instead of “sah-ree,” as it is pronounced in generic American.
  • “process” has a long “o,” while the standard American sound is “prah-cess.”

In multicultural Canada, we're pretty laid back “a-boat” diversity, and often don't care – or even notice – subtle linguistic differences. But much of our industry serves American productions, and that forces us to care.

I lost at least one major hosting job for HGTV because, at the time, I didn't have a proper generic American accent. I can only imagine how much money that cost me!

Today, conforming to the industry norm has helped me tremendously. I even speak with a generic accent in everyday conversation now. It's become habit.

So how much is your dialect costing you?

If you always voice copy with a generic American accent, you will cater to a much broader market. Why not learn to do it that way? Take a dialect class soon. It will pay for itself many times over.

Deb Munro is a leading voice talent, coach, and owner of Chanti Productions, in the Vancouver, B.C., Canada area. She offers private coaching and MIC & ME workshops on voice acting, business and demo prep in many Canadian cities.

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