Accents of English

Posted by Jim Johnson on November 06, 2012 0 Comments

I do some SEO work on the site – “Search Engine Optimization.” I never used to know what that meant, and now that I know, I feel like I still don’t quite know… It’s about making search engines find the site when people do a search. I want to optimize the site in such a way that the search engines (who doesn’t rely on Google these days?) will put the AccentHelp site a little higher up in searches so that people will find it.

I’ve learned a lot about what I should be doing on the site – though a lot of it is guess work, even from the experts. I’ve also learned a lot about what the people who are doing the searching are thinking. The challenge is that there are a TON of misconceptions out there.

Learning an English Accent

A lot of people search for information on Learning an English Accent, but, in the words of Princess Bride, ”I do not think it means what you think it means.” If you want to learn an accent of English, you’re really looking at a VERY broad category. Firstly, you are probably not making a distinction between an accent and a dialect, which is okay – most people use the terms interchangeably. But “accent of English” is frightfully broad – that can really be ANY accent or dialect in the world, while speaking English.

Learning a British English Accent

It’s very possible that the person is really trying to learn a British accent, but that’s pretty broadly interpreted by a lot of people… Some people would really only mean that they want to learn RP or a Standard British accent, while others might even think of a Scottish accent as a British accent – which might offend some people, quite frankly. It’s usually best to offend people immediately, though, so that they either get over it or go away… 

This is still a really broad category. We’ve really only got a limited selection of accents of the UK at this point, though I’m planning an extended trip within the next year or two that should remedy that. If only the magic plastic card-giving people didn’t know my phone number, it could happen sooner.

Learning an American English Accent

This is also a frightfully broad category. New York accents are quite different from Chicago accents, but you also have to be more specific about it being an upstate NY accent or a NYC accent. People who have Boston accents will never agree that you can do theirs, even if you’re from there. There’s sort of no such thing as a General American accent – Central Plains Midwest probably comes the closest. I was just working with an Australian actress this week who was working on a Mid-Atlantic accent, which doesn’t exist today except in movies, which is the main place it ever existed, frankly.

Other English Accents

But, oh, there’s so much more: Australian accents, New Zealand accents, Canadian accents… South African accents will be another future development for the site, as will Caribbean accents. This isn’t even getting into the accents of people who are speaking English as a second language, such as a French Canadian speaking English. Belize, anyone? Belize is a country in Central America just south of Mexico that has English as the first language. There aren’t a lot of plays or movies that call for the accent, though, so that’s a little further off into the future for the AccentHelp site. I really think I need to take a trip there, though…

Learning an Accent

Any time you learn an accent, you’re generalizing a bit – you’re basing a broad concept of accent based on a grouping of individuals’ idiolects and figuring out what’s essential in them to tell us that you are from the appropriate place (not to mention other issues, such as class and ethnicity.) The more specific you can be in your search and the way you think about it, the more specific you can be in the search results you come away with, and accent you come away with.

If you ever feel a little lost about what accent is appropriate, feel free to send an email my way. I’ll be only too happy to be your personal Google SEO’er. Let’s both just pretend we know what that means.

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