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Helping Hispanic Talent Speak Unaccented English

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

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Join Voice Over Expert Phyllis K. Day in her podcast lecture, "Helping Hispanic Talent Speak Unaccented English". Phyllis gives us a taste of her work with a female Hispanic voice over talent who is trying to break into the English market, identifying some differences between Spanish and English and how those differences affect how the language is spoken.

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Transcript for Helping Hispanic Talent Speak Unaccented English

[Opening Music]

Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It has never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else.

This week, Voices.com is pleased to present Phyllis K. Day.

Phyllis K. Day: Hi, thanks for downloading this podcast. I'm Phyllis K. Day. You may have heard my other before and after podcasts here on Voices.com's Voiceover Experts or this might be your first listen. Well, I'm a voice coach and I can help you find what I call your X. Your X is something about your voice that is changing it in such a way that it covers your original sound. I was born with what I consider a God-given ability to not only hear sound but get an idea of what affects the sound as it goes from your brain to your body and out of your mouth. It's as if I'm getting visual feedback as to how you were using the inside of your mouth and throat and sometimes, what emotions are creeping in too.

Sometimes, I refer to myself as a drug sniffing dog. I'm the one that can find the drugs, your X. But for the finer points of acting, you'll need someone that specializes in that. Which reminds me, once I'm done working with someone, they'll ask me who they should use for an acting coach and I really don't know. I would like to hear from you if you are an acting coach so I can get an idea of how you work with your clients so I can give my clients a few choices that I can personally recommend.

Today, we're going to talk about Jessica. Jessica sounds like this.

Jessica: [Spanish voice over demo plays]

Phyllis K. Day: Pretty good, huh? But when she would audition for English parts, she sounded like this.

Jessica: Our community is waiting for people just like you to find their way home.

Getting old biz into to new media is not for the faint of heart.

Let your light shine at the Youth for Christ concert in support of our missionaries serving communities in El Salvador.

Phyllis K. Day: And Jessica was hearing comments like, "I like your voice but you have an accent." What could she do? She lives with her husband, her son and her parents and she's the only one that speaks English and she speaks very good English. Her family and her Hispanic friends don't hear the accent in her English but to potential VO clients, there was indeed an accent. My first thought when I heard her voice was Mexi-Midwestern and the sweetness of the American Midwestern accent was only making it harder for her to really differentiate between what she would hear in American voices and what she would hear in her voice.

So what's the deal with Hispanics and speaking on accented English? It's all in the song of Spanish speech. Spanish compared to English is sweet and is practically sung. Listen to it with that in mind and you'll notice most words are linked together. And the R's are rolled. Spanish is spoken farther back in the mouth and uses the center of the tongue and is very fluid and flexible. I call that the Spanish setting for the face.

In English, no R's are rolled and we use the tip of the tongue and all of our lips speaking in the front of the face and mouth and never in the back. I call this the English setting. Watch Spanish TV with the sound turned down then watch American TV with the sound turned down. You can see how differently they are using their faces. I've heard non-natives say that after a day of speaking English, their face hurts.

Aside from teaching Jessica how to stop using her face in a way that she has done for over 20 years, I had to also teach her to hear her accent so she could adjust as needed before a potential client gave her the "nice but too much accent" comment. There was a lot of laughing as we went over piece by piece what words caught here and which ones didn't. In particular, she had trouble knowing when an S made a Z sound or not. That might sound weird but when you think about it, there are a lot of words in English that if you read it, it's an S but it has a Z sound like 'bargainz', not bargains. It's 'bargainz' and chairs. It's 'chairz', not chairs. But anyway, she also wasn't used to enunciating each word. We don't link any words, almost like stopping the word and then starting the next one because that's really how English is spoken so when she didn't do that, it made her English sound sloppy in places.

Once she got the idea, her English began to come out without an accent but it sounded a little choppy and for a little while, it kind of took away her style but that's normal. It's kind of like learning to walk after an operation. It's not going to be smooth because you're using things differently and some, you were using for the first time. Jessica is a work in progress but the most exciting thing is that when she listens back to her work, she now hears the accent if it's there and that's the whole point, to improve and make me obsolete.

And again, here she is before.

Jessica: Our community is waiting for people just like you to find their way home.

Getting [Indiscernible] [0:05:35] to new media is not for the faint of heart.

Let your light shine at the Youth for Christ concert in support of our missionaries serving communities in El Salvador.

Phyllis K. Day: And here she is after.

Jessica: Any church consultant will tell you that if you are not focusing on attendance and follow-ups, then your church is simply not reaching its maximum potential.

If you've been looking for a family dentist, you're in luck. Certified as a practicing orthodontist for kids.

For surgery scheduling, for information regarding Web consultations, press 1.

Phyllis K. Day: Of course there's nothing wrong with a Hispanic accent. However, the job leads for unaccented English are far and away more plentiful than any others in English VO projects. Plus, there are times when we don't want to be profiled by the way we speak and once you know how to use you face in an English setting, you can make a choice that fits the situation.

Is your X your accent or is your X something you can't quite figure out? Contact me at VoiceCoach@PhyllisK.com and we'll go from there. Thanks for your time today.

Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceOverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
If you're a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes Podcast Directory or by visiting Podcasts.Voices.com. To start your voiceover career online, go to Voices.com and register for a voice talent membership today.

[Closing Music]

Julie-Ann Dean: This has been a Voices.com production.

Links from today's show:

Phyllis K. Day
Phyllis K. Day on Voices.com

Your Instructor this week:

Voice Over Expert Phyllis K. Day

Phyllis K. DayPhyllis is a freelance technical writer and voice professional with over thirty years experience. A Broadcast Journalism graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, Phyllis became an anchor a few months later on the North Carolina News Network. She has also anchored on Business Radio Network and American Forum Radio Network in Colorado. Her voice has been heard nation-wide and she was also the narrator for a show heard daily on NPR and Armed Forces Radio in the 1990s. Phyllis was part of a mentoring program for several years at North Carolina State University for the students in NC State's radio program. She currently runs personalized coaching workshops, in addition to narrations for e-learning and business presentations.

Did you enjoy Phyllis' episode? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Related Topics: accented English, Hispanic, Phyllis K. Day, podcast, unaccented English, voice overs, voice talent

Comments


    Hi Phyllis, I am also a voice coach who specializes in accent reduction. I am also an actress. I think I can help you with some tips to help the acting of your clients.

    Posted by:
    • Jill Tarnoff
    • July 29, 2009 2:42 PM

      I love it thank you so much for all of your help Phyllis.....

      Posted by:
      • Jessica Trinidad
      • July 30, 2009 8:56 PM

        Phyllis, I am also a voice coach who helps hispanics with their ACCENT REDUCTION. It would be nice to exchange points of view and teaching techniques.
        I expect to hear also from Jill Tarnoff.
        Please contactme through Skype: spanishvoiceover.

        Posted by:

          I'm just starting out and would like to know if my accent is big enough to affect my chances of getting a job? I been mostly focusing on trying to do spanish voice overs because I feel that I have a little accent that might hurt my chances of booking a job, but then I don't know if is me just being to critical? and how do you know if you really have what it takes to do Voice Overs?

          Posted by:

            Phyllis: Great work with Jessica! She sounds just like the one to represent an American product or service.

            I also would love to be in touch with you to exchange ideas. For instance, I still hear an 'o' in Jessica's 'consultation' where it should be 'ah'. While it's not distracting, I think that she would be well able to incorporate this difference and really polish her English in all words with short 'o'.

            For my part, I could use more skills in teaching the overall sound of English vs. Spanish. I teach Pronunciation at the local college and privately. If you are interested in a conference call with me and Rene, above, the accent coach, I think it could be very fruitful. Thanks for your great work and outreach.

            Posted by:
            • Alice Wujciak
            • August 26, 2011 9:50 PM

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