Main Profile

At A Glance

An Archive of English, Spoken in Many Different Accents

This is the VOA Special English Education Report from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Steven Weinberger is the director of linguistics in the English Department at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Students in his beginning phonetics class are mostly interested in teaching English as a second language. They wanted to study how non-native speakers pronounce different sounds. "So we sent the students out to record non-native speakers, and we compared those speakers to each other and to native speakers of English."Professor Weinberger wrote a sixty-nine-word paragraph for all of the speakers to read. The paragraph uses common words but contains almost all of the sounds used in English. Here it is: "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."In nineteen ninety-nine, Professor Weinberger put the recordings online. The Speech Accent Archive is for anyone who wants to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers.Some people think the archive would be better if it included natural speech -- people talking freely, not just reading the same words. Professor Weinberger recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of his site. "The biggest plus, of course, is that it is so uniform that you can immediately compare a Kiswahili speaker to a native English speaker. But the downside is that a less-than-skilled reader will have difficulties with the paragraph that might not demonstrate their true phonetic abilities."People often use sounds from their first language until they can reproduce the ones used in the language they are learning.Professor Weinberger says the site gets a million visits a month. "We get notices from speech pathologists, from computational engineers who do speech processing, from PhD students who want to do research on bias and accent judgments, from actors who need to learn a special part."The archive contains more than one thousand five hundred recordings. Professor Weinberger would like more people to send in their own samples. There are about six thousand languages in the world today. The archive only has samples from about three hundred fifty of them. For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 04Aug2011)
Length: 04:01

Contact

Questions about An Archive of English, Spoken in Many Different Accents

Want more info about An Archive of English, Spoken in Many Different Accents? Get free advice from education experts and Noodle community members.

  • Answer

Ask a New Question