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message 1: by Louise (last edited Aug 10, 2015 12:44AM) (new)

Louise | 48 comments Right, I've often come across translated fiction on Audible, where the audiobook in English is read by a someone with a Spanish/Russian etc. accent (if the book was originally in Spanish/Russian etc. or takes place in eg. medieval Japan).

While I can see that it might add some flavour to the story, I find it quite irritating in the cases where the English is so heavily accented, that it's hard to understand. Maybe it's because English is my second language? How do you native English/American speakers experience this?

I've recently chosen to buy regular books instead of audiobooks of 3 books, because the narrators were very hard to understand (and one of them even had a lisp!) or whose only merit as a narrator seemed to be their accents.


message 2: by Natalie (new)

Natalie (haveah) | 106 comments I generally will only tolerate accents, if the main character is supposed to have that accent. Even then- don't make it so heavy that I need a translator.


message 3: by Briar Rose (new)

Briar Rose | 152 comments It's very frustrating to listen to an audiobook where the narrator is hard to understand. I haven't come across that problem in a professionally produced audiobook. Can you provide some examples?

It may be that it's not so much an accent issue as an issue of poor diction or incorrect emphasis. Everyone speaks English with an accent, including native speakers. There is no 'neutral' accent in English. As an Australian, I find some American accents difficult to understand. I have no problem with someone of any accent reading an audiobook, as long as their diction and their reading comprehension is good.

Personally, I would like to hear a greater diversity of accents in my audiobooks. The vast majority are read by American or English narrators. It feels a bit homogeneous after a while.


message 4: by Louise (last edited Aug 10, 2015 06:21AM) (new)

Louise | 48 comments I agree Briar Rose :-) In some cases it works great. I just bought The Moor's Account - where the Spanish/African(?) accent of the narrator works fine for me.

The ones I had trouble with are the audible versions of Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter, The Fishermen and a Russian book I can't remember the title of right now.

I like a variety in narrators and accents (but my favourites are brits like Alex Jennings & Steven Pacey) but it's annoying when you have to keep going back because you didn't get what they read the first time. (Hooray for the sample feature :-)


message 5: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 6 comments English is not my mother tongue as well. When I start listening to new books, it takes me a while to warm up to narrators' accent.

I find that the Whispersync feature is very useful. Apart from the bargain price, you can switch from listening to text when you don't understand something.


message 6: by Penelope (new)

Penelope | 77 comments I am always looking for books with a male reader with an authentic Russian accent. If anyone knows of one i would appreciate it.


message 7: by Marilee (new)

Marilee (hatchling) | 97 comments I also like variety in accents… .but I smiled reading Briar Rose's comment that there are no neutral English accents. I may take a bit of exception to this, as in America at least, it's often considered desirable to have what is called a "neutral" American accent in order to read on TV or narrate books or be successful in business … meaning the person reading, giving presentations or acting is not noticeably from any particular region. Some call it a TV accent, with most traces of regional or ethnic uniqueness banished while speaking. People are actually tutored to erase their accents and sound more homogeneous, or like everyone else and unidentifiable. What a pity. I love accents, which are so interesting.

And another thing… why is it that Australian and British actors can mimic an American accent so well, but Americans can't mimic in reverse? There's a question to ponder.


message 8: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 420 comments Marilee, in Kage Baker's Company series, they use a language called Cinema Standard. That's the term I like to use for the neutral American accent you just described.


message 9: by Nikki (new)

Nikki | 75 comments Similar to having to get a licence to drive a car, I think narrators should be required to obtain a licence to allow them to put on particular accents. Some sort of International Accent Bureau, where natives of that province judge from recordings whether that narrator can portray a Yorkshire or Boston accent etc. As a British born Australian I am probably more critical than most when people try Enlish and Aussie accents, but oh, its like nails on a blackboard.

Like Marilee said its mainly Americans brutalising British accents but no nationality is innocent of this crime.


message 10: by Louise (new)

Louise | 48 comments Marilee wrote: "I also like variety in accents… .but I smiled reading Briar Rose's comment that there are no neutral English accents. I may take a bit of exception to this, as in America at least, it's often consi..."

I just got the free "Summer Farmer" sample from audible, narrated by Matthew McConaughey, he has a very charming accent :-)


message 11: by Marilee (last edited Aug 11, 2015 06:21AM) (new)

Marilee (hatchling) | 97 comments One of my favorite actors who narrate is Will Patton. He has a slight southern accent and it's delightful and easy to understand.

Louise, I also picked up the free sample with Matt McConaughey, he of the Texan accent, narrating, but haven't listened yet.

Sandi… "Cinema Standard"… that's definitely a more upscale sobriquet than "TV accent". But of course, it's still a sad indicator of what's happening to American English.

Nikki, I agree… while in general Brits and Aussies can mimic American English pretty well, all nationalities have those who should be charged with a crime against accent purity.

Is this homogenizing of regional dialects happening elsewhere in the English speaking world?


message 12: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 420 comments Marilee, one of my favorite classes in college was linguistics. One of the things I learned is that the accents from the East Coast of the US are closer to the English spoken in England in the 17th century than the English spoken in the UK today. Weird, huh?

Also, immigration and migration led to a blending of accents as people moved west. Since the movie industry was based in Los Angeles, it makes sense that the California accent became the default accent in the media. I think the reason people from other English speaking countries can do the American accent so well is that they've been exposed to more of our media than we to theirs.

I really don't think changing accents is bad. Language and dialect is always changing and evolving. It's happening faster now due to mass media and globalization. What is sad is when languages die out, but that's a whole different thing.


message 13: by Barb (new)

Barb (barbjohnston) | 5 comments Marilee wrote: "One of my favorite actors who narrate is Will Patton. He has a slight southern accent and it's delightful and easy to understand.

Louise, I also picked up the free sample with Matt McConaughey, h..."

Agree with you about Will Patton - he is fabulous reading "Mr. Mercedes".


message 14: by Kimberly (last edited Aug 11, 2015 01:27PM) (new)

Kimberly (mountainclimber) | 47 comments I love it when a Brit narrates a book set in England, a Scot narrates a setting in Scotland and an Aussie narrates a setting in Australia. I love it even more when one narrator can perform in the various nationalities that the author calls for. A great example of this is John Lee narrating Ken Follett's Century Trilogy. Mr Lee can handle Russian, German, British English, American English, Bostonian American and deep south American accents with what sounds like ease! The accents add so very much to the audio experience.

If a book is set in Australia or London with locals, you want the narrator to speak with the correct accent. If it is difficult for a person with American English as a second language to understand British English, don't blame the narrator. I am certain an audio publishing company is not the least bit interested in hiring a narrator/performer with a too-strong-to-be-understood accent.

Furthermore, if you don't enjoy the narrator's repeated performances, steer clear of him/her. Many audio book listeners make mental notes of their favorites and their won't-listen-to-if-you-paid-them narrators.


message 15: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 1 comments I have yet to get to the end of a book read by an American narrator (sorry!) ...English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Australian, South African, all fine. But American narration really puts me off. Can you search Audible by accent do you know?


message 16: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 3605 comments Nope, can't sort by accent... not a bad idea though.

I get preferring some accents over others or even finding some accents unpleasant, but do you still prefer non-American accents even for books set in the US? I noticed you have a Dresden Files book in your list of favorites... how was that? It was the first one which even we fanatical Dresden fans have to like despite some narration issues--breaths, mispronunciations, etc.--and that the stories don't truly gel until after the third one. We adore James Marsters as the only possible voice for Dresden though.


message 17: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (quiltsrme) | 143 comments No can't search by accent, but you can return the book within 1 year. I've returned a couple of books in the last 6 months, but it is due to my hearing loss rather than the accent used. I have a tough time with very baritone voices.


message 18: by Craig (new)

Craig Meggy | 1 comments I narrated my recent novel as the characters speak with Scottish accents and I had received feedback that some had found that difficult to read.
As I am Scottish I decided to narrate as I had intended the book to be 'read'
The Key-Stone of the Bridge


Audiblelovers.com | 76 comments In my opinion it depends...
Recently I listened to “Permafrost“ from Alastair Reynolds. A time travel novel with Russian main characters in Russia.
The audiobook was narrated by Natasha Soudek. Her parents are English professors. Her other audiobooks are narrated in proper English.
But this audiobook is narrated in a Russian-like dialect.
Not only the spoken words but every description.
My English is very good and I understand at least 95-99.9% listening to English audiobooks...

This book was horror for me. Understandable but not a pleasure...

And why did she narrate plain descriptions with a Russian dislect?


message 20: by Specs (new)

Specs Bunny (specsbunny) | 389 comments Craig wrote: "I narrated my recent novel as the characters speak with Scottish accents and I had received feedback that some had found that difficult to read.
As I am Scottish I decided to narrate as I had inte..."


I listened to the sample on audible and it sounds fine to me, no problem. I'm dutch and foreigners tend to have an easier time with accents because it all is foreign ;) to their ears.

But I confess I love Irish, Scottish etc. accents.

And "difficult" does not have to be negative. I really struggled with "the help" but I do love those narrators and their accent, wouldn't have them any other way. Just have to listen harder and learn and get used to it!


message 21: by Kandice (new)

Kandice | 43 comments I enjoy when a book is read in the accent of the place in which it is set. Seems a bit silly on my part to prefer someone with an obvious Spanish accent when the book is being read in English, but I do.

Like Specs, I love books read in a Southern (North American) accent. Johanna Parker is one of my favorite readers of Southern literature.

I love Moira Quirk for books set in England, Scotland, etc.

The narrator can make or break a book for me, for sure.


message 22: by Specs (new)

Specs Bunny (specsbunny) | 389 comments Rita wrote: "I enjoy books narrated in the accent of the country they are set in. I have no problem understanding the Narration."

Yes, or at least as close as possible have good pronunciation of the important names and places... gosh, the number of times I'm correcting the narrators of scandinavian books... Why o why can't they at least take a little time to learn just the important bits. Especially if the narration is done well, these flaws bug me (a bad narrator is, well, a bad narrator).


message 23: by Nicola (new)

Nicola MacCameron | 2 comments I am a narrator with a blended accent. I have lived on three continents and have picked up tones and colours of all three. I hope this makes my narration acceptable to more ears!
When people dislike an accent, or complain that it is not "pure," I would hope that they remember that it is possible for people to move around and be "blended."


message 24: by Specs (new)

Specs Bunny (specsbunny) | 389 comments Good point Nicola!


message 25: by IvanOpinion (last edited Jun 20, 2020 10:31AM) (new)

IvanOpinion | 63 comments There seems to be general agreement that the accent should match where the book is set. But what if the book is set in the past and the accent was different then?

I started pondering this when audio-reading Voss, which is set in Australia. The narrator is Australian and narrates in an Aussie accent, except when doing dialogue. On the face of it, an Aussie accent has got to be appropriate, right?

But then I noticed that he had not given any of the characters Aussie accents, which at first seemed strange. After some thought I decided this was probably because the book is set in the early 19th century, only a few decades after colonisation started, so perhaps the accent had not yet developed, even for people who had been born there. But in that case, isn't it illogical to do the rest of the narration in an accent that did not yet exist?

Although it did seem illogical, I still think it would be weird to hear a book set in Australia narrated in, say, a British accent. After all, I don't expect Wolf Hall to be narrated in an Elizabethan English accent, which must have been very different from now.


message 26: by Barbara K (new)

Barbara K | 24 comments I just finished Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Beats Pozniak’s narration in a pronounced Polish accent added immeasurably to my enjoyment. I don’t think the book would have been nearly as affecting if the narrator had had an American or English accent.


message 27: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Bruno (anthonyvincentbruno) Narrators, whenever possible, have to set the accent to the geographical site - think about it? The problem is, a forced accent, an impersonation/adaption is tough to hold for 7-10 hours. Regarding dialogue, this has to be relative to the character. If you cannot improv, hire people.
I write this as I fear books are ruined by lazy narration or folk who cringe through work at speed. As for different sex accents, soften or the reverse, as required. So many audio books are presently being ruined by chaotic and indifferent so-called narrators who are after a quick buck. Rant over, forgive me.


message 28: by Robin P (last edited Feb 10, 2020 09:42PM) (new)

Robin P | 1012 comments IvanOpinion wrote: "There seems to be general agreement that the accent should match where the book is set. But what if the book is set in the past and the accent was different then?

I started pondering this when aud..."


I wonder about that a lot. In historical novels, they give George Washington an "American" accent and sometimes Jefferson a southern American accent. But they weren't far removed in time from Britain, so I'm sure they sounded more British. But I guess it's kind of a convention. It's not as bad as old movies where they have foreign characters speaking English with a German or French accent when they are speaking to each other.

I can see how different accents could be really challenging when the language isn't your native one. I have listened to some books in French, which isn't my native language. Although there are dialects and regionalisms in France, books tend to be narrated in standard French. And I think that French does have a standard more than English does. On the other hand, I worked 11 years in a company where I was on the phone with people in Quebec almost daily and even at the end I sometimes had trouble understanding everything they were saying.


message 29: by IvanOpinion (last edited Feb 17, 2020 09:08AM) (new)

IvanOpinion | 63 comments Robin wrote: "I wonder about that a lot. In historical novels, they give George Washington an "American" accent and sometimes Jefferson a southern American accent. But they weren't far removed in time from Britain, so I'm sure they sounded more British. But I guess it's kind of a convention."

I think I have heard it said that current American accents are closer to the common root than current British Eng.

At least this is true of some US vocabulary, such as gotten, which many Brits consider to be 'impure' English, not realising that it used to be good English in Britain.


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