Does the way you speak define part of who you are?
In a time when neutral accents are in and regionalisms are out, how do you keep that part of your identity from fading into the background?
Share your strategies in today’s Vox Daily!
The Way We Speak
So many actors move to the big city to make it, whether that city be New York, Los Angeles, Toronto or Vancouver. There’s something about leaving where you’re from that changes things — maybe even the way you speak.
Actors routinely take courses or coaching on how to modify their accent to book national work or adopt accents that are desirable to have or in-demand. Learning a new accent or dialect can open up new avenues for auditioning, as voice talent can well attest to.
Howdy! Uh… Hello, Siri
Accent modification can also be strategic outside of acting. Many people seek to improve the way they speak. Some do this to improve employment prospects while others change the way they speak to simply get by.
The Guardian recently published an article highlighting how interactions with Apple’s voice-activated assistant, Siri, are creating new speech behaviors for people who have a regional accent or use colloquialisms. The traditional southern US accent heard in Texas and neighboring states factored prominently into this post.
Instead of speaking to Siri in the way they would normally speak to, say, a neighbour or friend, Apple users accessing Siri in Texas (and other parts of the world) are modifying everything from their accent to the word choices they’re making in effort to help Siri understand what they are trying to say.
If you can remember back to 2011 when Siri first was released, many people whose accents didn’t gel with Siri struggled (and may still struggle) when communicating with voice-activated technologies.
So in other words, speaking to Siri or other like technologies requires extra effort forcing many users to speak differently and in doing so, abandon (for a time), one of the hallmarks of their identity — their accent and authentic voice.
This isn’t new, though.
The Mainstream Media and its Role in Shaping Speech
As we’ve experienced for decades, there are ways that people speak to a national audience that are more standardized forms of their shared language with the announcer or speaker possessing a neutral accent. Mass media has played a huge role in this shift to a more homogenous way of speaking.
For example, popular English language examples of national or standard non-accented deliveries in the world of broadcast television and radio include BBC, NPR and CBC.
But do we really speak to Siri all that differently than we would, say, to any other machine? The Guardian highlights how people tend to use multiple “voices,” having distinct ways of speaking when among family and friends, when we’re on the telephone or the way people speak when we know we’re are interacting with a machine.
Have You Lost Part of Yourself?
Do you feel like part of you has gone missing or is fading into the background of your life? What parts and why?
On the flipside, do you enjoy being able to jump between different ways of speaking? How come?
Let me know in a comment!