Neutral vs. Regional Accents On-Air: How to Decide What Works Best for You

Clockwise from top left: Claudinne Caro, Ricardo Gutierrez Olguín, Armando Plata, Raul Escalante

Clockwise from top left: Claudinne Caro, Ricardo Gutierrez Olguín, Armando Plata, Raul Escalante

The issue of whether or not a neutral accent works best in Spanish-language media is an ongoing debate.

Although brands usually opt for a neutral voice-over narration for campaigns in hopes of reaching a broader audience, Spanish-language TV and radio are much more strategic.

While some journalists believe a neutral accent opens up more job possibilities, an assortment of regional accents makes for a more interesting listener experience and user engagement.

Lifestyle journalists, in particular, report that they are allowed to keep their natural accents.

“In entertainment and lifestyle, there’s more freedom to be spontaneous and use your accent in a funny and endearing way,” says Claudinne Caro, a multiple Emmy Award-winning journalist with Univision.

Caro, who was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, explains that the use of your natural accent allows you to be real, show your personality, and connect with your audience.

“I think that the most important thing is not your accent, but that your message is properly and correctly understood,” Caro says.

Sports reporting is another example where regional accents run rampant. Just tune into the World Cup on Univision and you’ll notice a plethora of regional accents. Sports announcers typically keep their natural accents; this makes for some lively commentary.

The same rings true at Telemundo, where programming and publicity manager Ricardo Gutierrez Olguín believes regional accents should not be exempt from sports programming.

“Your accent is a fundamental part of your identity, and you shouldn’t be forced to neutralize it,” Gutierrez Olguín says.

A linguist and sociolinguistics enthusiast, Gutierrez Olguín believes all regional accents must be respected for their particular local characteristics and explains that tone and accent do not matter, rather delivery does.  It needs to be clear and precise.

As for radio, voice-over talent and former journalist Armando Plata adds that when he was a news anchor at CNN Radio Noticias, his show was broadcast across the US and Latin America and he did not need to alter his accent at all.

“My natural accent was one of my strengths,” Plata said.

In fact, tune into Spanish-language radio, and you’ll notice a variety of accents. You can expect to catch the neutral accent as well as regional accents and even the occasional subdialect.

“Since my debut in radio, I learned to do a neutral accent, which at that time was an indispensable requirement for a greater chance of landing a contract with a major broadcast company,” says voice-over talent and radio host Raul Escalante.

Both Plata and Escalante believe that due to the enormous competition in the market, a broadcast journalist should consider learning the neutral accent.

Whether or not you keep your natural/regional accent or learn a neutral accent is a career choice that you must make for yourself. Here are some guidelines to consider for each:

Infographic: Tips for broadcast journalists on maintaining regional and neutral accents

HOW TO LEARN THE NEUTRAL ACCENT

Admit to having an accent. You might not even notice that you have an accent, but everyone has one. “Be conscious that you have an accent and whenever you speak you need to remember that you want to eliminate it,” says Plata.

Train your voice. “Diction, intonation, and vocalization exercises should be done daily,” Escalante says. Plata also recommends taking acting lessons.

Speak aloud and record yourself. Listen objectively to your pronunciation. “It helps to speak monotonous and flat, without inflections; this allows you to re-educate your way of speaking,” Plata says.

Listen to neutral accents. We all know that accents are contagious. After living in a certain area or having a significant other from another country, you may start sounding like them. The neutral accent is also contagious. “Listen and repeat neutral voices,” Plata says. “This helps a lot.”

HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR REGIONAL ACCENT

Avoid the subdialect. Even after deciding to keep your accent, don’t use a subdialect that is typical to one particular region of a specific country. You may be misunderstood. “Make sure to get rid of slang words,” Caro says.

Be true to the Spanish language. A regional accent may lend itself to the use of Spanish idioms and typical words, but if you see yourself resorting to Anglicism to make a point, you’ve committed a faux pas. You are reporting in Spanish, not Spanglish. “At all costs avoid the Anglicisms that run rampant in US Hispanic media,” says Gutierrez Olguín.

Expand your vocabulary. A regional accent may lead your audience to believe that you have limited knowledge of the Spanish language. “Every narrator can proudly wave the flag of his or her country and nationality through his accent. The only thing that I would require is that he or she maintain an extensive vocabulary and not lose the quality of their lexicon,” Gutierrez Olguín says.

Are you a broadcaster, journalist, or blogger who would like to connect with Hispanic brands?  Email Jessica.Alas@prnewswire.com to be added to the Hispanic PR Wire press list.

Jessica Alas is Media Relations Director, Multicultural Markets and Hispanic PR Wire at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter at @alasjessica.

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