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ETpro's avatar

How do Americans learn to speak Newscaster accent?

Asked by ETpro (34247 points ) July 18th, 2012

Is there a stoah (In Boston or a Store somewhere else) that sells Rosetta Stone for Newscasters. How do I master ESFL, or English as a Second First Language? Right now, I’m stuck somewhere between a Virginia and Boston accent with a liberal smattering of Santa Barbarian and a touch of Minnesotan thrown in for good measure.

Yesterday, @jaytkay posted a link to this quiz that purports to identify where in the USA you came from. I don’t trust it. While it did identify a number of Jellies correct birthplace, it bungled mine terribly. Here’s what it said:

“Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you’re not from Philadelphia, then you’re from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you’ve ever journeyed to some far off place where people don’t know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn’t have a clue what accent it was they heard.”

Wrong. I was born and reared in Virginia, spent 15 years in California, 3 in Minnesota, back to California, Virginia then Massachusetts 7 years ago. I’ve spent no more than 1 week of my 68 years in Philly. Nothing against the place, but that’s just not where I learned my pronunciations.

But accurate or not, the quiz does make the point that even when most of us think we speak standard American English with no accent, we do have quirky regional ways of pronouncing things. Those who read the national news generally do not. How do I ditch all my quirky pronunciations and adopt Network Standard English?

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28 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

Voice coaches, singing and breathing lessons. I have a cousin that was an anchor for a few years. She had to do all of the above^. Since she also acted and had an acting coach, as well.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m not sure why you would want to do that or if it’s worth the effort. The way you speak is part of who you are and part of your charm, like it or not.
I was in a play in Boston (Pirendello) and chuckled inside every time one of the actresses said, “But we ah in ouah pots.” I suspects she still talks like that, if she’s still alive.

syz's avatar

I would think that to speak like a newscaster would be to eliminate as much of whatever accent you have as possible.

(@jaytkay’s link was reassuring for me. I grew up in north Florida with a mother from NC and a father from Pa, and I considered myself pretty accent-neutral. I recently attended a seminar in Wisconsin where I was ruthlessly mocked for expressing the opinion that it wasn’t that I had a southern accent, it was just that I didn’t have a Wisconsin accent. According to the link “You have a Midland accent” is just another way of saying “you don’t have an accent.” You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio. I realize that it’s a pretty simplistic online quiz, but I’ll take it.)

bolwerk's avatar

@ETpro: as I understand it, your accent solidifies in your teenage years in most cases. Where were you then?

bkcunningham's avatar

So you’re a mongrel. My husband is from Northern NY but only I would know that by certain little words he says with that specific accent. Otherwise, you may guess he’s from just about anywhere in the northeast. He thinks he sounds like he is from the South because he’s lived here so long. Uh-huh. Nope. Not a chance. He still sounds like a Yankee.

Judi's avatar

It says I’m from the west and I don’t think newscasters have an accent. You should just come on out to California for some immersion training.
It also said my accent was “the lowest commoon denominator.” Was that a dis?

bolwerk's avatar

I got:

You may think you speak “Standard English straight out of the dictionary” but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like “Are you from Wisconsin?” or “Are you from Chicago?” Chances are you call carbonated drinks “pop.”

@ETPro I actually grew up in northern Virginia, and never really get that. Maybe it just chokes on Virginia, which has seen a lot of in-migration in recent decades.

Of course, I may be answering how I idealize those words (e.g., caught and cot are in theory slightly different to me, with “caught” being closer to “cawt,” though in practice I know most people pronounce them the same way – and I go by context clues to know which people mean).

syz's avatar

@bkcunningham Fascinating. I am definitely firmly rhotic. I guess I was influenced more by my Pa stepfather than I thought.

Cruiser's avatar

That quiz nailed me to a tee. Born and raised in the windy city.

You may think you speak “Standard English straight out of the dictionary” but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like “Are you from Wisconsin?” or “Are you from Chicago?” Chances are you call carbonated drinks “pop.”

cazzie's avatar

I don’t know about the others, but I am on a mission to civilize.

tinyfaery's avatar

Come to California.

Cruiser's avatar

@bkcunningham Yes please. :-)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Meh, it got me right yet wrong at the same time.

“You have a Midland accent” is just another way of saying “you don’t have an accent.” You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

I’m definitely not from the Midland, but I’ve been told that I don’t have much of a twangy Southern accent, like other Texans.

downtide's avatar

I did the quiz because I was curious which American accent is closest to English. I got this:
“Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.”

I definitely do not have a New York accent.

bolwerk's avatar

@dawntide: much of the northeastern U.S. upper class has what is considered a midatlantic accent, which I think is common in the U.K. too.

bewailknot's avatar

Some of us are just born with it (newscaster accent).

I lived in Arizona; Buffalo, NY; Philly and 2 places in New Jersey all by the age of 4. From 4½ on I have been in California and that website also listed me as Midlands accent. I would love to do voice work but tend to verbally stumble too much.

ETpro's avatar

@SpatzieLover Thanks, but that answer brings out the Maynard G. Krebs accent in me.

@Sunny2 That’s exactly what I was trying to express to @SpatzieLover. I nevah planned for this to involve WORK!

@syz I really don’t think I do have an accent, and the horrible job the online quiz did only confirms that for me. No need to do any WORK!

@bolwerk In my teens I was in Chesapeake, VA; a suburb of Norfolk.

@bkcunningham Given my travels, mongrel WORKS! for me.

@Judi 25 years in California wasn’t enough?

@bkcunningham Thanks for the interesting link. Maybe the quiz had problems with me because I don’t suffer from the “cot/caught” merger. I am definitely a rhotic speaker, and the Bostonians I live among now are amusingly not.

@bolwerk Actually Northern Virginia and Washington DC are pretty much Newscaster central. You probably speak the golden standard of Newscaster American English. You would be lousy on British telly, though.

@Cruiser I find it much easier to nail a Wisconsin or Minnesota accent than one from the Windy City, but they all do have their pronunciation quirks.

@cazzie So what accent would accomplish that?

@tinyfaery See my answer to @Judi above.

@WillWorkForChocolate I think that’s why it has trouble with me, too.

@downtide Amazing. So the quiz is a shot in the dark at best.

@bolwerk Not even close. Here’s upper-class North East and here’s a British Dialect.

@bewailknot All that moving before one dialect was set probably left you with perfect Newscaster American English.

bolwerk's avatar

@ETpro: First of all, I said “some of.” Secondly, I’m not sure Bloomberg’s background would be considered upper class. Either way, “Midatlantic” English (think Franklin Roosevelt, Fraiser/Niles Crane) is found in both countries.

downtide's avatar

@bolwerk No British accent I’ve ever heard is anything like mid-Atlantic. I always assumed mid-Atlantc meant halfway down the Atlantic coast, sort of around Washington DC and surrounding states. It doesn’t mean “middle-of-the-Atlantic” and isn’t meant to be halfway between American and British.

I like your NYC pronunciation of my name.

bolwerk's avatar

@downtide: no, I think mid-Atlantic mainly cultivated for show – probably stage and later screen, but it’s distinct from the American newscaster accent (similar though). People are or at least were taught it because it was seen as elegant/presentable. To be honest, I thought it originated in the UK and was exported here in the early 20th century.

That “pronunciation” was a typo, but it probably would be closer to a southern pronunciation. Or maybe one of those isolated American communities with a brogue. :-p

(FWIW, people in NYC would probably pronounce “down” much the way you do.)

ETpro's avatar

@bolwerk I can’t think of anyone today who talks like FDR did. Any candidates you can link to?

cazzie's avatar

Is anyone watching that new TV show with Jeff Daniels called The Newsroom? Jeff has a great midwestern accent. I am a real voice person. The cutest guy could walk up to me in a pub here in Norway, but if he has a horrible accent or dialect, forget about it. There is also more to a voice than the accent. Timbre, nasality, vocabulary, the look in the eye as they speak that makes you believe what they say and that there is a brain behind the eyes.

You know what I mean?

bolwerk's avatar

@ETpro: Candidates? Hell no, that would probably get you booed nowadays. I do meet people with that accent now and then, I guess.

ETpro's avatar

@cazzie I’ve seen this clip, and it was love at first sight. I will definitely become a fan of the show.

bewailknot's avatar

@ETpro Love that clip. I wish I had that channel.

ETpro's avatar

@bewailknot Sigh. There’s always the bits that show up on YouTube.

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