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Website of the Week — Speech Accent Archives


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. This week it's an online catalogue of how people from around the world pronounce one of the world's most widely-spoken languages.

WEINBERGER: "The Speech Accent Archive is a web-based compendium of more than 500 English accents read by speakers from more than 200 different languages."

Steven Weinberger is an associate professor of linguistics at George Mason University in Virginia and the man behind the Speech Acent Archives at accent.gmu.edu. In each of the audio samples, the person reads an identical paragraph, designed to capture almost all the sounds used in English in just a few sentences.

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....

Samples there from Peru, Morocco, Kenya and Australia. In addition to the audio, each sample is rendered in the international phonetic alphabet, which is pretty useful for scholars, though perhaps less so for the rest of us. The site gets a million hits a month, and Weinberger says many are people like me who are just curious about accents.

WEINBERGER: "We also get quite a few people who are speech therapists or ESL teachers or actors who want to learn a particular accent in their own work. We get PhD students who want to do research and use the archive for the database."

Despite the hundreds of samples already in the archive, Steven Weinberger is still looking for more contributions.

WEINBERGER: "We are only scratching the surface of the possible languages in the world. We need quite a few samples. You know, it would be lovely to have three to five samples from every region, so we're constantly growing.

And that's where you come in. You can check out the various accents, but you can also contribute a recording that you make to the Speech Accent Archive at accent.gmu.edu, or get the link from our site, VOANews.com/.

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