Still talking ‘american’? 5 American English accents explained
From pahking cahs in Hahvuhd Yahd to fixin’ up some of mah grits, America is rich in regional accents that lend color and character to the way we speak. A map of the various American English accents and dialects identified 25 different and unique accents in the US. Thanks to the impact of American movies, TV shows, and music internationality, many global markets can identify an American English accent quite easily, and it’s slowly becoming the default global accent, recognizable regardless of global location.
With such a wide selection of American English accents, it can be quite tricky to find the right voice-over for your video. Many content producers may not even consider accents when choosing their voice actor, but the accent can be critical in generating audience engagement and if used smartly, can add a strategic dimension to your video production.
Accents = particular cultural identities
Southern drawls can evoke images of long, lazy afternoons, sweet tea and delicious comfort food. New York accents are associated with the frantic hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, and the success that comes along with it. When choosing an accent, consider the type of feeling you want to invoke in your viewers because certain accents may work better than others.
Audiences also like to stick with what they know, so if you’re aiming at a local market, it may be a smart idea to keep to the regional accent to engage with your audience on that familiar level. This is really important if you’ve got a complex topic and you don’t want your audience having to decipher what ‘yinz’ is referring to (unless you’re already in Philadelphia).
The standard American English accent
This is the accent that most people will recognize as ‘American.’ Despite plenty of regional differences, the American English accent has a number of common features that set it apart from other English accents. The standard American English accent is so common that some people don’t even hear it while watching TV or movies. Most Hollywood actors talk in an American English accent, and most times that you turn on the TV, you’ll be inundated with it.
Most celebrities, regardless of their country of origin, will work hard to get a standard American English accent. Examples of this are British actors such as Robert Pattinson and Tom Hiddleston who despite growing up in overseas, can put on flawless American English accents almost at will.
You should choose a voice actor with a general American English accent if you’re not too concerned about reaching a particular demographic, or if you’re aiming to present your video to a global audience. Most English-speaking people can easily understand this accent, making it perfect for technical or complex videos. If you’re looking at targeting a large and varied audience, a standard American English accent is a great choice to get your point across clearly.
While the American English accent may be considered average, our VoiceBunny Pros never are.
Midland American English
Midland America is, unsurprisingly, located between the traditionally Southern and Northern States. Sometimes called the flyover states, these states have been heavily influenced by a variety of other languages like German, Polish and Dutch, and their remnants can be found in the accent.
While most Midlanders don’t talk like extras from Fargo, donchaknow, there are a number of distinct regional differences in this pretty large region of the US. Other Midland American English accents sound quite similar to the standard American English accent, with just a splash of local flavor. Tina Fey, known for her performances on Saturday Night Live, hails from Pennsylvania, and you can hear her subtle Midland American English accent come through during interviews.
For less subtle examples, look no further than the aptly-named It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, particularly lead actor Rob McElhenny. If you are targeting this demographic, consider a soft pessel and wudder with your chisssteak for your voice over.
Southern American English
If you want to conjure up images of jazz, okra, biscuits and southern hospitality, look no further than the South. From the swamps and Everglades of Florida all the way to the Sun Belt, the South is rich in history, culture and great scenery. Even in the rapidly developing and diversifying cities of Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and New Orleans you can still hear that distinctive, lyrical twang that characterizes the region.
The Southern American English accent is so popular that most country singers rock it even if they’re from a different country altogether (we’re looking at you, Shania Twain). Plenty of Texan celebrities happily sport their distinctive accent in most roles that they act in. Check out how Matthew McConaughey uses his genuine Southern American English accent to great effect in the latest series of Lincoln car ads:
The South is the most populous of the American regions, with over 123 million residents (38% of the total population). While the South has a reputation for being predominantly rural, a large percentage of the population is moving to the cities, forming large metropolitan areas that contain millions of people. The largest of these is the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area that is made up of 7 million people and is still growing. A Southern American English accent can make people feel right at home, and Southerners really do enjoy hearing an accent that is close to their particular part of the South.
If you’re fixin’ to jazz up your video but are feeling blue about finding the right person for the job, have a gander at the many VoiceBunny Pros who’ve got the grit that you’ll need.
African American English
African Americans make up the largest minority population in the US, making up approximately 14% of the population. With a strong, distinct identity which has a huge influence on general American culture and global culture as well, we can thank African Americans for the rise of jazz, soul, and hip-hop, some of which have diversified and become truly multicultural. African American Vernacular English (or AAVE) is the distinctive accent that developed in the South and has made its way northwards over time.
As the African American English accent has been exposed to regional dialects, it’s also started changing to incorporate some of these differences. A good example of this Morgan Freeman’s accent, which still retains its Tennessee lilt. More great examples can be found in movies and television shows like Black-ish and actors such as Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson.
Latin American English
The US is currently the second-largest Spanish-speaking nation after Mexico and represents a distinct demographic that can be explored and tapped into. Latin American culture is integrating and gaining traction in a number of areas in the US. As a lot of Spanish words are making their way into American vernacular, a Latin American accent is also coming to us as part of franchises like Star Wars or Disney Pixar’s Coco.
Not only did Latin America enrich the American cultural landscape, they gave us great music and TV shows. The Latin American English accent is distinctive and can be heard in increasing numbers of American TV shows and movies. From veterans such as Edward James Olmos to up-and-coming Latino celebrities, such as Michael Peña, the Latin American English accent is taking over Hollywood while remaining faithful to its Latin American roots. The Latin American market is set to explode, and it’s worthwhile to consider a Latin American voice over if you live in an area with plenty of Latin Americans and want to sure that your abuelo and abuela like what they hear!
American English accents vary hugely from area to area and even demographic to demographic; taking these subtleties into consideration can make a huge impact on the tone and feel of your material, be it a promo video, a radio ad or even a fantastic videogame! Once you’ve decided exactly what type of accent you need, we are sure to deliver.
Author: Laura Varon
Content creator, marketer, translator. I studied advertising because I wanted to know a little about everything and I am a translator because I want to know a lot about a lot. I co-write with WritingBunny.