English is the third most commonly spoken native language in the world, and if you count people who speak it as a second language, it’s probably the language with the most speakers overall. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone speaks it in the same way – far from it! Even among native English speakers, there are too many local dialects and accents to name. When you throw in people who speak English as a second language, the variation becomes even more extreme.
To help document and catalogue the many different ways in which English is spoken, Steven Weinberger, a linguistics professor George Mason University in the United States, has created the Speech Accent Archive.
According to Voice of America, the archive consists of recordings of people reading the following paragraph, written to include most of the sounds in the English language:
“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, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.”
You can search the archive by region, or by the native language of the speaker. It’s quite interesting to browse on its merits, but it’s also proven its worth to professionals in a variety of fields. According to Weinberger:
“We get notices from speech pathologists, from computational engineers who do speech processing, from PHD students who want to do research on bias and accent judgements, from actors who need to learn a special part.”
The archive is available online here, free of charge. Check it out and add your own voice, if you feel so inclined!