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ESPN's FIFA World Cup Announcers
Reveal Two Lessons For Voice Actors ...
July 9, 2014

By Dan Hurst
Voice Talent

Boy, the best example of the difference between announcer, polished/professional voices and natural, conversational voices is the FIFA World Cup TV coverage!

Just watch one of the shows, even if you hate sports.

It’s amazing to me how different the announcers sound when they are reading from the teleprompter or "announcing,” from when they are just interacting with the guest commentators.

I probably shouldn’t mention names, but the most notorious to me is ESPN’s Lynsey Hipgrave (sorry Lynsey). Her over-pronunciation drives me nuts. But then that’s not much of a trip.

Then there are the clowns that have no clue how to correctly pronounce names, which I’ll refer to in a moment.


Watching the games has been a serious reminder to me of how easy it is for voice actors to get caught up in sounding like "announcers” or "professionals.”

In fact, recently I’ve received instructions from clients that want me to sound like an announcer or a "professional” in order to sound humorous! What does that tell you about how clients think about "professional” sounding voice talent?

However, the truth is that sometimes clients want that sound. I have a number of clients that insist on that sound.

Sometimes it’s that stern, professional announcer sound. Sometimes it’s that high-energy infomercial sound. And that’s fine; there is a place and a time for that.

On the other hand, it’s critical to remember that we’re voice "actors.” If we are going to succeed in this business, we need to know how to sound exactly like what the client is looking for, whether it’s an announcer, or a confident businessman, or the guy/girl next door, or the story-teller. Or anything else!


One other thing that drives me nuts on these shows: Can’t ESPN afford to hire a consultant to teach these commentators how to pronounce the names of the people and places they quote?

I heard Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, a couple of ESPN announcers who thought they were pretty funny, refer to "Casta Rica,” mispronounce "Europa,” and mispronounce "Herrera.”

Now, I realize that perhaps mispronunciation is all part of the charm of these announcers, but such is not the charm for voice talents. In fact, in our case it’s just unprofessional.


Before you stone me for being over-pretentious and dramatic, let me tell you a little story of what happened to me recently. I also am guilty of what I speak.

I have the privilege of being able to voice projects in two different languages, thanks to parents who decided to raise me in a Spanish-speaking country. It wasn’t really my choice (I was only 10 months old), but I wanted to be close to my mother.

Anyway, I sort of consider myself to be fluent and fluid in two different languages. However, a client in Argentina hired me to do a medical narration. No problem. I do those sort of things all the time.


However, this time I had a brain fart and mispronounced the Spanish word for "pathology” throughout the entire 20 minute narration.

It didn’t take long for the client to call me, and put me on speakerphone with his entire staff who thought it would be quite amusing to read my misquotes back to me. Oh sure, they had fun. They thought it was hilarious.

My point is that we, as voice talents, are expected to know how to correctly pronounce words and yet sound comfortable and conversational at the same time.

Wanna avoid being the brunt of your client’s jokes?

Lose the over-pronunciation. Be conversational. Sound like you know what you’re talking about. And for heaven’s sake, pronounce the words correctly! Including Costa Rica.
Dan (Daniel Eduardo) Hurst is an experienced bilingual (English and Spanish) voice talent operating out of the Kansas City area. His business now extends internationally, with clients including Maserati, Boehringer Ingelheim, British Petroleum, Kimberly-Clark, McDonalds, Volkswagen, Telemundo International, Shell, Hallmark, TransCanada, Walmart and many more. When he’s not working, he spends his time cheering for losing sports teams and getting kicked off of golf courses.


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Comments (1)
Ralph Hass
7/10/2014 at 1:40 PM
Here in Canada, our national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, has been showing the games live and their pre-game and intermission announcers have been great!

Watching the Argentina/Netherlands game yesterday, I saw the announcer of the game feed was Peter Drury. I see now CBC utilized the world feed commentators for their World Cup broadcasts and this included John Helm, Dave Woods, John Roder, Martin Fisher and Gary Bloom. Handling the play by play solo requires skill and a nice relaxed delivery and I thought of how Vin Scully has done that forever with the LA Dodgers. At the same time, I'm sure he would be the first to admit he could not just jump in and do a soccer match. You lose your credibility pretty quickly if you are mispronoucing names and are out of your element. Gus Johnson is taking a lot of criticism on Fox Sports for his soccer announcing skills as the network begins it's World Cup coverage next year. The Women’s World Cup will be here in Canada!

As a voiceover talent, my biggest pronunciation challenges were for a series of Islamic banking tutorials and I had several pages of Arabic phrases. Most helpful though were voice files provided for challenging names and words.

Ralph Hass
MSG-TV imaging voice for the NHL's Buffalo Sabres (Six seasons)
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