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Marketing: Accents

Are ya ready ta tawlk? Pull up ah chaah. Cuz da Bowssess wanna speak ta youze! Don’t worry, you won’t need a translator for today’s episode, but you’re sure to get a laugh out of our accent antics. The Bosses are talking all about dialects and regionalism and how they can impact your voiceover business.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. One of our staff pointed out that the Boss Ladies occasionally have some accented moments.

  2. As two women from the North East, this should come as no surprise.

  3. We all come from somewhere and accents are perceived and heard differently based on where you are from.

  4. It’s rare to completely lose an accent. It’s common to adopt speech patterns as well.

  5. In years past you had to be completely accent neutral in order to have a career in voiceover.

  6. It was believed that you had to be speech neutral in order to sell a product or service to a broad audience.

  7. Knowing where and how an accent can be fitting in VO is critical.

  8. Commercial buyers want something real and less than perfect. As do video games and Audio Books.

  9. You can reduce or modify your accent with therapy and speech training.

  10. Dialect coaches help you to hear and understand your accent so you can become aware of it.

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up

Hear more about the neutral accent with Monique Bagwell
Recorded on ipDTL


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Anne: [in New Jersey accent] Let’s talk, Gabby.

Gabby: [in New Jersey accent] Let’s talk, all right.

Anne: Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my cohost and BOSS bestie, Gabby Nistico. Gabby!

Gabby: Hey, how youse doin’?

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Are you rolling? Hold on, are you rolling?

Anne: I’m rolling, I’m rolling.

Gabby: You sure? You’re sure you’re recording?

Anne: Are you ready to talk, are you ready to talk with me?

Gabby: I’m always ready to talk. To you, always.

Anne: I got my coffee – it’s always about coffee and talking.

Gabby: Always. I got some water, I got some water. I’m good.

Anne: [laughs] [normal accent] Gabby, we need to talk about accents today. So much fun. [laughs]

Gabby: [normal accent] We do. So here’s the deal. Dianna Conley, who works, you know, on the podcast, she’s one of our staff, also a voice actress, she, she pointed out to me not so subtly while we were at the VO Atlanta that periodically as Anne and I really get going –

[both laugh]

Gabby: The further we progress into an episode, the more likely it is that our original accents and speech patterns start to come out. And so I was like –

Anne: [New Jersey accent] We start talking faster.

Gabby: [New Jersey accent] Talking a little faster. We get a little BOSS.

Anne: Talking a little bit more – yeah, getting a little more –

Gabby: Little BOSS action going.

[both laugh]

Anne: [normal] I find that, yes, when I go back to Jersey as well, when I start talking, my accents come back. So let’s talk about accents and how they affect us in voiceover.

Gabby: I think it’s a great discussion. I don’t feel like it’s touched on often enough. So yeah, if you don’t already know, I’m a native New Yorker. I grew up on Long Island. [laughs]

Anne: Long Island.

Gabby: So my speech as a kid, I mean, I think about it, and I think about growing up with my friends and the way everyone – it was horrible. Absolutely horrible. These weird, very harsh New York affectations that when I was in radio in New York, by comparison to the general population, my accent was much less than everyone else. So it was interesting because living there, you know, people would say, “oh, you don’t sound like you’re from here at all.”

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: But then you leave.

Anne: You know, Gabby, I’m originally not from New York City area but from upstate –

Gabby: Upstate, right.

Anne: For me, everything was very much like a flat A, like wahder, cahr, it almost sounded Bostonian in a little bit.

Gabby: Or Canadian.

Anne: What happened – or Canadian, exactly. What happened when I moved to New Jersey, and I started saying wahder, cahr and things like that, they just made so much fun of me –

Gabby: Of course, of course.

Anne: That I ultimately, after hanging out for 23 years like I did with Jerseyians, with New Jerseyians, I started to adopt a lot of the same accent. And then I, and then I went into voiceover and literally had to really try to neutralize, because back then, Gabby, and this is me, older – back then it was very advantageous to have a very neutral accent, especially because I did a lot of narration. And that’s what they call for, that’s what they like.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: It still is, but not as much, Gabby. There are some, there are some, some forgivings I think as of late because –

Gabby: Agreed.

Anne: Because of the whole trend to be inclusive and have to verse –

Gabby: Conversational, real.

Anne: Conversational voices. Mm-hmm.

Gabby: I agree. And I know, I know exactly what we are talking about. I think the same holds true for me. When I first got started, it was critical. You had to be accent neutral.

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: So we were all faced with this, no matter where in the country or in the world we were from as voice actors, we had to neutralize –

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: And just eradicate the cultural differences.

Anne: Any accent.

Gabby: Yes.

Anne: And that was for because no other reason but to be able to sell, right, and more your market was greater.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Because people – it was the belief that you could sell more to a broader audience if you had a neutral accident. Because it wouldn’t be like “oh, this product is only in the South, or this product is only in New York.”

Gabby: Sure.

Anne: Neutralizing meant that a company could sell a product in more places, and your voice could be used in more places rather than regionally.

Gabby: Yeah. People are still very judgmental, and they always will be. And one of the things that human beings will always be judged on is how they speak, the way they pronounce things, the – again, the influences upon their speech patterns. So nationwide, there are stereotypes about different regions and how we perceive them, and that’s, you know, what perpetuates all of this. It’s not a matter of is it right, is it wrong – we are not here for that. We are not here to debate that or even get in to it. It’s simply, what do we do with this? How do we as voice actors use this information, what’s important to our businesses?

Anne: I think you really have to think about what genres you’re working in, number one.

Where’s an accent fitting and where’s an accent maybe not necessarily as fitting?

Gabby: Agreed. You know, I’ll use myself as an example. So I’ve been in the southern United States almost as long as I lived in New York. It’s almost right down the middle now. So some things I say are still very northern and some things have sort of a southern tinge now, because we assimilate. Right? That’s what we do.

Anne: Yup.

Gabby: It happens to pretty much everyone when you move them somewhere. Vocally they just chameleon in to whatever the norm is.

Anne: Yep.

Gabby: In commercial work, it’s not as important anymore as it used to be. In commercial work, they want a little bit of that flair, that sense of realness, that sense of someone who’s not quite so perfect a speaker.

Anne: Exactly. And –

Gabby: Of course.

Anne: And even so as much as that global – right, have we all heard about the global accent? Right? It’s not even like localized to, let’s say, British accent or –

Gabby: It’s made up.

Anne: – Australian –

Gabby: No.

Anne: It’s the global or the international sound.

Gabby: It’s a made up European.

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: That doesn’t exist. [laughs]

Anne: Exactly. That’s because it will cover a whole lot more area than just, let’s say, the U.K.

Gabby: Exactly. But here’s the thing. OK, while commercial is seeking these things out, video game, character work, all of that, yes, of course there’s a home for accented speakers there.

Anne: Oh yeah, and audiobooks as well.

Gabby: Then we get into things like medical narration. And corporate narration. And e-learning. It’s like, whoa. [laughs]

Anne: I’m going to say, I’m going to say for medical and for e-learning, unless you are in a specific region, more of a neutral accent is going to be preferable just because the voiceover can be used pretty much anywhere and be understood. For most e-learning, you’re not necessarily trying to sell anything. You’re simply informing and teaching. So therefore you have to be clear and you have to be articulate. And so that’s where I think that whole thing comes in. Some corporate narration really is a soft sell. And so there might be a call for accents in corporate narration, especially when we’re talking about global companies, companies that sell to not just the United States but all over the world. That might call for an international or a global accent or even if you have an accent of any type –

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: – would not necessarily be turned away.

Gabby: No, but it’s an interesting thing though because domestically, I’ve always paid attention to this, we see anything overseas, anything foreign as something exotic, and it’s interesting, it’s different, and people are drawn to it.

Anne: Yes.

Gabby: But the same doesn’t hold true for the accents that are domestic and that belong to the United States.

Anne: True.

Gabby: Instead we perceive those as uneducated, or it’s, you know, like I mean again, living in the South, this is such a common thing here, right? It’s just, you know, oh, people, they speak kind of funny, and they’re slower, and they don’t have the same level of education. None of it’s true. [laughs]

Anne: Very interesting.

Gabby: None of it’s accurate.

Anne: Very interesting.

Gabby: But these things still exists.

Anne: I was gonna say, why is it that as Americans, we would buy anything, anybody that had a, like a British accent would sell to us, right?

Gabby: Rights, isn’t that strange?

Anne: Yeah, and for a long time, anybody that had a British accent in e-learning was quite in demand.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Because they made a brand sound elegant. And that is our perception of that. I guess I’m saying that European listening to American, unless it’s some sort of a translated language from Spanish, and then United States, that sort of thing, or whatever it might be, French and American having dual language commercials, or something that might be dubbed, that’s where I feel that they would want the American accent. Other than that, it could be back to what you had just said about –

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: – there’s levels of education.

Gabby: But again the same holds true in other countries. You’re right. Sometimes they will hear an American accent and go ooo. It’s just, you know, to them it’s exotic. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s sexy. I’m like, OK.

[both laugh]

Gabby: It’s kind of a fun little thing. It really is interesting how we perceive these things. Now let’s talk about what it means for voice actors that are maybe a little bit newer, people who are just getting going. The first thing I think is so important is to understand we’re all from somewhere.

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: And you can make huge strides in reducing or modifying your accent or regionalism, as it were, but are you ever gonna completely eradicate it? Probably not. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Anne: Well and to do so, Gabby, my goodness. Do you ever watch late-night TV, and you’ll hear an interview with someone that’s – but an actor that you’ve known all your life, then all of a sudden they’ll answer a question with a British accent, and you’ll be like, “oh my goodness, I had no idea?” Like that happened to me all the time. I had no idea, and they actually had probably spent years studying, right, the American –

Gabby: Years and years and years before I realized Nicole Kidman was Australian, yeah.

I had no clue.

Anne: Right? Exactly. So if you, as a voiceover talent, are looking to completely, I guess, eradicate your accent, wherever it’s from, know that it’s going to take some time and some resources, and probably some investment to be able to do so. And you know, when I get students that come to me, and they have an accent, I usually try to work with it. And if they really, really want to eradicate it, I have them worked with a dialect coach.

Gabby: What did you do?

Anne: But it will work with a global accent. What did I do? I –

Gabby: What was your process?

Anne: I actually went to a dialect coach to understand where they were to begin with, because you have to be able to hear them in order to eradicate them.

Gabby: Mm-hmm, yep.

Anne: And then worked on it. And then ultimately I really just tried to assimilate with other people that had a more neutral accent. Because a lot of it is immersing yourself with people and friends, and speaking, and hearing, and listening. All of that, that was a big help to me. What about you?

Gabby: I mimicked.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: I mimicked national broadcasters. CNN was my lifeblood.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: And I would, every single word that an anchor said in a story, I would repeat it back –

Anne: Oh yeah, absolutely.

Gabby: – specifically to see if I was saying it the same way or not. And if I wasn’t, then I was making mental notes of those words. And the other thing is too, and with broadcast and voiceover, this is kind of fun because your friends will help you do this, if you make them aware and you say, “hey, I’m trying to work on this. If you really hear me say something, tell me.”

Anne: Yeah, point it out.

Gabby: Exactly. So for about two or three years I’d say, everyone I worked with in radio would just be, “say it again.” They would just say the word back to me the minute I said it.

Anne: Oh, there it is. That would be me too. I said twahk, everyone with the A –

Gabby: It’s aggravating.

Anne: – with the Jersey A, the cwahffee, whenever I did that, the twahk, there it is. Boom.

Gabby: Horrible.

Anne: “There’s your Jersey.” “Oh, OK.” And then I would know, and then I would start to listen for it, and I would start to watch out for it. It’s not easy though, guys. I want you to know.

Gabby: It’s frustrating.

Anne: It’s not easy, and you cannot correct it until you hear it.

Gabby: No.

Anne: And you’re not gonna be able to hear it until you actually like know what it is and get it pointed out to you. And so what a great idea, Gabby. Like have your friends help you.

Gabby: Fun fact, you’ll get worse before you get better.

Anne: Oh yeah. [laughs]

Gabby: Because it’s like learning how to speak again.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: And so all of a sudden you become so overly conscious that –

Anne: [laughs] That you’re all proper.

Gabby: – your diction starts to do weird things. Yeah.

Anne: You get all proper and everything.

Gabby: Yeah, and you over-correct.

Anne: But it’s not impossible at all. Alex Lee was a student of mine a long time ago, but he was very conscious, right, of any accent that he had, and he does a lot of work now with video games. He was one of the most dedicated people I knew that wanted to really neutralize his accent, and he worked his tail off, let me tell you, to do so, and really has made great strides in his own career. But I don’t think it was inhibiting him, but it was just something that he set his mind to, and I would say made amazing progress in a year on really reforming his speech patterns. And it was something that, until he knew, and I remember I would just stop him every time, he would, you know, he would hit a word or hit a vowel sound, and I would say, “there it is. Boom, there it is, just mark it up in your script.” And that also helped too I think where he would actually just underline like vowels or words that he would commonly mispronounce or – not mispronounce, but just not have an American accent on. So that was something that I know that he worked – he was very conscientious. It’s amazing how far he came in a year.

Gabby: We have to do due diligence when it comes to these things. We have to really look at our family, we look at the people around us, the people who were close to us when we were growing up, and sort of say, you know, scale of one to 10, 10 being the most, how heavy is their regionalism or accent, because the heavier it is for them, that’s likely where it falls for you as well.

Anne: Oh yeah.

Gabby: And there’s also assessing the fact that there are some parts of the country that are almost accentless, almost.

Anne: Yes, yes.

Gabby: Or at least very neutral. Ohio.

Anne: Neutral. Ohio, yes.

Gabby: A lot of the Midwest –

Anne: Midwest, Midwest.

Gabby: – tends to be. Yeah.

Anne: Gabby, if I go back to New Jersey and I start hearing people talk, I will absolutely just match right up with them again. It’s amazing how much I hear the accent once I go back. And I’m sure if you go back to New York, you hear it.

Gabby: Oh yeah, takes me two seconds. Mm-hmm.

Anne: Talking with them, yeah. We’re talking, and we talk faster, louder and –

Gabby: Umm all of our R’s disappear.

Anne: Yup. [laughs]

Gabby: My poor husband is standing there going, “who are you? What? Who is this woman?” Like, he doesn’t recognize me at all. It’s really funny.

Anne: I don’t even know what you just said because you just said it like 10 times faster than normal.

Gabby: Yeah, yeah. I need a translator. Please.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: And then also areas where you don’t find a lot of people who are locals, like where you have a lot of transplants also have a much – California. The state of California by and large has a very reduced accent because not a lot of people that you meet there are from there.

Anne: Agreed, yes.

Gabby: At least that’s what I’ve always found, especially in L.A. Everyone’s from somewhere else.

Anne: Everyone is a transplant.

Gabby: Yeah, so the accent becomes kind of neutralized or reduced. We see a little bit of that here in Charlotte.

Anne: Or they hold right onto it. They hold right onto their accent.

Gabby: [laughs] Yeah.

Anne: Right? [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah, exactly.

Anne: They’re in their own communities, right, where they’re all speaking their – it’s just like New York. Right? They’ll have like a Little Italy section. They’ll have, you know, all different –

Gabby: Oh yeah, of course.

Anne: – different sections of town too, where they’ll – and they’re not in voiceover necessarily. [laughs]

Gabby: No, and that’s the thing, guys. Again, it’s why I’m very, I’m very quick to point out the difference between foreign accent or non-native U.S. speaker versus a domestic dialect. Because if English is not your first language, and you’re pursuing the voice acting, chances are you are pursuing it in your native tongue. So your accent is essential. It’s part of that art form. But domestically, it’s a little bit different.

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: So yeah. And there are – there are some great resources, great places that you can go to. I’m a huge fan of speech pathology in general. I think it’s an art form unto itself, and a science, and can be very beneficial to voice actors. And then again, get a little bit of an accountability group going on, people who will kind of poke at you and go, “hey, what are you doing?”

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: “You said that funny.”

Anne: Lots, lots of great resources I’m happy to tell – to talk to anybody about. The dialect coach I worked with an even one of our podcast guests from before, Monique Bagwell –

Gabby: That’s right.

Anne: – works on accent reduction as well. There’s lots of resources out there, guys, for you, if you want to start working on that. Again, I don’t think it’s as critical as it used to be, because these days we’re now looking for more natural, authentic, native speakers, and that is actually I think a great thing, because I think really it’s voiceover for all. [laughs]

Gabby: It can be part of your brand. It can be part of your marketing.

Anne: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Gabby: That’s what’s amazing. We’re finally at a place where having something that makes us unique, makes us individuals can actually be a benefit.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: And it can be an integral part of your voiceover business. It’s simply knowing and understanding the difference.

Anne: Right, know your markets.

Gabby: Yeah, if your accent’s gonna limit you significantly, make some adjustments. If it’s not, roll with it.

Anne: I say as long as you can be understood, you can absolutely maybe use it. And I would say even go so far, some people I know go so far as to even have a specific demo –

Gabby: Yes.

Anne: – with their accents.

Gabby: Absolutely. I have some of those.

Anne: Because you can market it.

Gabby: For sure.

Anne: Yeah. Understand your own – understand the market that would be buying for that particular accent. I don’t know if I would necessarily mix in 100 different accents in a demo unless it was a character demo, unless it was a character demo. But yeah, no, if you are really good at a specific accent, hey, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a demo or even something like I call mini-demos that have a couple of examples of spots with you speaking in that accent and you can help to market yourself that way.

Gabby: Yeah. It becomes part of a repertoire. It becomes part of this bigger resume that we offer, and again character acting like everything else is becoming so niche in our industry, it’s worth it to separate them out so that a particular buyer can find you faster and more easily.

Anne: [New Jersey accent] I love that we talked about this today.

Gabby: [New Jersey accent] I know, it’s so good to talk to you. Anytime, anytime.

Anne: Gabby.

Gabby: It’s like butter.

Anne: “It’s like butter.” [laughs]

Gabby: Had to say it at least once. [laughs]

Anne: [normal] Huge shout-out to our favorite sponsor, ipDTL. You too can sound like a BOSS and connect like a BOSS to your clients. Find out more at

Gabby: And also we want to give a big thanks to, the newest player in the game. Oh man, we’re really excited about what these guys are doing. Efficient, fair, transparent, “your voice, your way.” Check them out.

Anne: They’re awesome. [laughs]

Gabby: Aren’t they? They’re the best.

Anne: Have a great week, and we’ll see you next week. Bye.

Gabby: [New Jersey accent] Buh-bye, take care.

Anne: [New Jersey accent] Buh-bye.

Gabby: OK, be good.

Anne: We’ll talk, we’ll talk soon.

Gabby: All right. All right, we’ll talk next week. OK.

Anne: We’ll talk, we’ll talk later. Coffee talk.

Gabby: All right, bye. All right.

Anne: Bye.

Gabby: [laughs]

Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.