The Friday Fillip

Speaking with an accent is what other people do, right? Perhaps we Canadians, especially, think that our standard speech is the “norm” against which other ways of saying things stand out. But of course that’s bunkum. Every speaker has an accent and none is “right” or “correct,” Professor Higgins notwithstanding.

Thanks to the marvels of the internet and diligent scholarship, we can have some fun listening to how other folks say it.

The Speech Accent Archive is a wonderful site where you can hear the same paragraph of English text spoken by people for whom English is a second language and whose native tongue is one of 130 other languages. … ganda from Uganda, vlaams from Belgium, malayalam from Sri Lanka, and on and on in this acoustically rich world. There are 29 recordings from Canadian-born people in the database, all sounding quite different.

Because this is the outgrowth of an academic enterprise, you’ll find helpful supporting material (including a phonetic transcription) with each illustrative voice. If you’re so minded, you can submit a sample of your own speech to add to the database.

Another splendid site for hearing accents is Accents of English from Around the World, also an academic venture. Here you can choose a single word and a chart will appear with links to sound files of that word being spoken by people from various regions. (The beauty of this site is that the sound files run as soon as you hover your mouse over a link.) The emphasis here is on the British Isles, with files from other English speaking countries as comparisons (“standard Canadian” included). Here, for example, is a page (a frame, actually, as it’s a frame-based site) for the word “daughter.”

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