Accent Base is an online educational tool for anyone visiting an area of the world where the local accent and dialect make it difficult for spoken communication to take place on arrival. Many overseas business people, students and tourists often struggle with local accents.
There are thousands of languages spoken across the globe, and many times more accents and dialects. Accent Base started in the UK in 2017 and so the obvious starting point was to begin capturing great diversity of accent and dialect across the British Isles and other English speaking countries (like the USA). A little research will show that a major problem that visitors face is not being able to understand people on arrival, often believing that people are not actually speaking English. This has the effect of undermining the visitors' confidence and also possibly alienating them immediately from the local population.
So who is Accent Base aimed at? Well, once you've visited our website, you'll see that the people who would find Accent Base useful, helpful and interesting is pretty much everyone. Why? Because everyone has an accent and our vision is to bring people together and integrate people, wherever they are going in the world (as explained in our introductory video - near the bottom of this page).
This is the obvious group who will find Accent Base very useful. These people will often struggle with listening to and understanding accents in "real world" situations. As classic example is someone from overseas who has had formal language training in speaking standard English. In a classroom setting, they can understand English very well. They have good conversations with their tutor and perform well in all their exams and tests. However, the moment they step out into the real world and have to interact with local people they suddenly find themselves unable to understand what people are saying. Overseas people who have had no formal English training are likely to struggle even more.
Language and linguistics academics would also find Accent Base very useful (see the section Research Tool below).
In addition to finding Accent Base helpful and informative, we hope that eveyone will find it interesting and fun because generally it's nice to hear how people speak in other parts of the world.
Why don't we stamp out local accents and encourage everyone to speak standard English with received pronunciation? Some people argue for this on the basis that communication would be easier if we ditched our accents and all spoke standard English like BBC Newscasters. Another argument is that frontline staff should be recruited on their ability to speak with 'received pronunciation' and that from a young age people should be trained to speak this way.
We need to ask ourselves: is it fair to exclude local people? Do we really want to live in a world where there is no colour and variety? Where local identity, character and spirit is eradicated from a region or country in favour of practicality and convenience? Accent is something that people are very proud of. It is embedded in the various distinct cultures that you find in the British Isles and indeed every part of the world.
We can all make an effort to communicate better, it just takes a little understanding and awareness. This is why we created Accent Base – so we can help understanding and hold on to our accents proudly.
Accent Base promotes better understanding and awareness for both groups:
So informing visitors of the possible linguistic problems they may face prior to their stay and providing them with the tools they will need to quickly overcome them may pay dividends for any local economy. Once people finally begin to engage with local dialectic and accentual idiosyncrasies, they are always amused and interested.
Another positive effect that the web based platform will have is to provide people with a forum to openly celebrate their regional cultural diversity through sharing their linguistic differences. This will strengthen local pride and national unity, and hopefully be entertaining and fun into the bargain.
The platform will be interactive. Each city and region will be represented on a map image of ‘accent constituencies’ based on postal districts. The contributor or “accent ambassador” will be able to simply copy sound or video files and paste them into the relevant ‘constituency’. Once done any user or visitor to the website will be able to access them directly by clicking on the link created.
Each video or sound file will consist of a short passage read out by the subject. The passage will contain every phonetic sound in the English language. This script will be available on the website, and a choice will be provided, depending on the subject’s own preference. The site will also provide a guide to using the International Phonetic Alphabet, in received pronunciation for any interested user or subject to better understand the project.
All of the video/sound files are provided with subtitles of transcript in English and the phonetic symbols relating to the prescribed passage(s).
At the end of the video/sound file the contributor will be allowed a short time to leave a personal message for the user, which could be any information, promotion or advertising that the contributor may want to communicate to a potential audience. This would hopefully provide additional incentive for the subject’s involvement and will be optional.
The platform will also provide other areas for those involved or interested in the overall topic area of English Language study and accent to chat and exchange digital information.
The overall intention is to provide an educational tool, and support overseas visitors with the problem of accent but other interested parties in the demographic would be linguistics academics and actors/performance artists. As the site is uploaded it will provide an opportunity to map the accents of a nation in audible form, and available to everyone for the first time ever.
The site would also provide ample opportunity for the advertising and promotion of local businesses that may want to attract visitors to each area. It is hoped that this would provide a business platform for the site to build and expand into other areas of interest for the visitor, especially university students and businesses. These visitors often find it difficult to integrate with the native population and further services could be provided to help them overcome such difficulties, once interest in the site has been garnered.
As mentioned above a central idea to the mechanism of the user experience and interaction is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Another feature of the website and any possible further published material connected to the business, apps, videos, books etc., will be a complete overhaul of its current use. All of the audible versions in use provide the target language of English, only in its most standardised forms. Through the process of allowing the user to access various accents, Accent Base will apply its symbols to a much wider group of pronunciations.
It is the intention of this project to map the world with a language learning tool using any available media and phonetic systems for all languages, to bring people together through communication.
There are a number of other related activities already on the web, and it’s important to note how accentbase differs from these. On YouTube and other social media sites such as Tumblr you’ll find ‘accent tag’ and ‘accent challenge’ videos. These also involve people saying certain words and phrases in different accents. There are lots of accent videos out there, and this is not a new idea but so many of them involve people demonstrating their own ability to mimic different accents. They are often very entertaining but may not be of use to language students because they are often an approximation of certain accents and as we know watching actors struggle with local accents, they’re sometimes wildly incorrect.
Where accentbase is unique is that we intend to put our videos to practical use and help learners and performers learn them from genuine sources. There is one other website that has produced and archived accent sound files for this purpose and that is the British Library for use by students of linguistics.
Click on the Accent Ambassadors tab to find out how you can help and get involved in what will become a global phenomenon…