When most people first think about accents, they think of them as something other people have. The way you and those close to you speak is "normal" speech, and when you encounter people speaking your language in a very different way, you think of it as them having a strange accent. In actuality, of course, everyone has an accent - and the way of speaking that you consider normal sounds strange to someone else, even if you've both been speaking English your whole lives.
When the native speakers of other languages learn English, they speak it with an accent that is influenced by the linguistic patterns of their own language. But native speakers of English, due to the long and varied history of different English-speaking cultures, speak in a number of different accents that are all their own. This adds up to hundreds - if not thousands - of accents in which our language is regularly spoken.
One of my favorite websites, the Speech Accent Archive, makes it its mission to collect and present these accents. Originally set up by Steven Weinberger from George Mason University, the Archive currently holds recordings by 1135 different English speakers - native and non-native - from all over the world. Each speaker reads the same sentence, which shows off a number of different vowel and consonent combinations, in their own natural accent. The keeprs of the site, in addition to hosting all these recordings, also provide phonetic transcriptions of each speaker's sentence.
Here are some examples of different accents that native English speakers have
And here are some from speakers of different languages.
Kerala State, India (the native language of this speaker is Malayalam)
Taipei, Taiwan (the native language of this speaker is Hunanese)
Nairobi, Kenya (the native language of this speaker is Swahili)
This is just a sampling of the many, many accents you can listen to on this site, so have fun exploring.
Now it's your turn!
In order to record and post your own accent, you'll need the following:
1. A microphone (any kind of microphone will do- the cheap variety that come with many computers is fine)
2. Audio recording software - there are a number of free options for Windows and Mac. Personally I'm fond of Audacity which is free, easy to install, and works in Windows, OS X, and Linux.
3. A place to host your recording. If you don't have your own web hosting, there are a number of places around the internet where you can host files like this for free. I'm a big fan of tindeck which is a very easy to use, free site for hosting audio files.
Once you've got the above liend up and ready to go - start up your recording software and record yourself reading this sentence:
Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.
You should probably record yourself reading it a few times and then select a version - the very first time you probably won't be speaking as casually, and so it won't be as reflective of your natural speaking accent. Be sure to save your recording as an .mp3 file, and then upload it to tindeck or wherever else you are hosting it.
Then post a comment on this article with a link to your file. It's good to explain a little bit about where you live (a general regionis fine, no need to get specific!) and where you grew up, and what languages you speak, so that people can put your accent in the proper context.
If you need help with any of the above, please feel free to send me a PM about any specific isse or ask here in the comments.
To kick things off, here is my accent: Jon's accent
I spent most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area but also lived for several years in Pittsburgh. I currently live in Brooklyn, NY but I've only lived here since last August - I don't think the accent has rubbed off on me yet!