American Spanish? U.S. Network Coaches Performers From Latin America to Speak With "Neutral" Accents
Thread poster: Aurora Humarán
Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 14:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
Feb 7, 2005

An interesting article on US Spanish. 400.000 Spanish speakers in the world: 40 million live in Spain, approximately 35 million in the US.

I would like to point out something my Spanish Professor (from Academia Argentina de Letras) always says: «Neutral Spanish is not a correct expression. We should speak of «general Spanish or international Spanish." A language can NEVER be neutral.»



American Spanish? U.S. Network Coaches Performers From Latin America to Speak With "Neutral" Accents
Source: Associated Press


NEW YORK--Actor Michel Brown has won over a growing number of telenovela viewers in the United States with his portrayal of the tenderhearted renegade Pablo, a leading role on a prime-time soap opera on the Telemundo network.

While fan clubs pay tribute to his blue eyes and teen-idol looks, network executives praise a more subtle aspect of Brown's appeal: an even-paced Spanish delivery, carefully coached to conceal the singsong cadence that marked him as a native Argentine.

"I had to learn to shorten my vowels and keep my voice from going up and down," Brown said in an interview from Colombia, where the telenovela "Te Voy a Enseñar a Querer," or "Learning to Love," is filmed. "They wanted a universal, completely plain Spanish."

On-set dialogue coaches aim to have all performers speaking with the same flattened accent before long. The network, which implemented
the policy 18 months ago, wants to eliminate any trace of off-putting idiosyncrasies for a Latino audience in the United States with as many accents as there are Spanish-speaking countries.

"We're trying to be television neutral _ I am fanatical about it personally," said Telemundo President James McNamara, who likened the campaign to making it easier for an American to watch a movie from Scotland. "I want to make sure that when we put effort into our production, we don't create obstacles."

The challenge, he said, is to bring out the same even patter among all actors, whether they speak off-camera with clipped South American accents or more languid Caribbean varieties.

"It doesn't matter if you're in Peru, Venezuela, or Mexico, they pronounce vowels the same way. It's the way you put words together, the speed, and the rhythm that tend to vary," said McNamara, who was born and raised in Panama. "All that you see in television is that there is a speed of diction that is neutral."

The neutral Spanish has no real-world equivalent, though observers say it resembles a combination of highbrow accents from Mexico and Cuba, two countries with large immigrant populations in the United States. The lead dialogue coach, actress Adriana Barraza, is a native of Mexico.

At stake are for the enormous Spanish-language audience in the United States, one of the largest outside Mexico. The 40 million U.S. Hispanics, 13.5 percent of the country's population, are coveted by advertisers as the world's wealthiest Spanish speakers.

The language policy plays into a strategy by the No. 2 network to gain on Univision Communications Inc., which has long dominated U.S. Spanish-language television by importing content from Mexican colossus Televisa and other foreign networks. Where Telemundo once dubbed novelas from Brazil into Spanish, it now produces many of its own with "aspirational" themes meant to appeal to the U.S. Hispanic audience, McNamara said.

Telemundo attributes some recent success to the makeover. While Univision still dominates the Hispanic television market, Miami-based Telemundo, backed by its parent network, NBC, has gained ratings in small increments over the last year.

One viewer, Luis Pichardo, said he and his family preferred Telemundo, even though some of its programs lack big-budget polish. While neither network offers the lilting tones of his native Dominican Republic, he said the Mexican accents on Univision can become tiresome.

"When it's all Mexican, I don't like it, and my kids don't always understand it," said Pichardo, 35, a clothing store owner in New York.

The emergence of neutral Spanish on U.S. airwaves suggests to some a moment of arrival for U.S. Hispanics _ the rise of a national ethnic identity no longer tied to individual countries of origin.

"It is a widespread trend that is quite significant because it says much about how Latinos in the U.S. are consolidating their own identity," said Ilan Stavans, a professor of Spanish at Amherst College in Massachusetts. "Television is a lightning rod for other aspects of the pan-Latino individual."

The universal Spanish, which dilutes recognizable elements of national accents, also involves sacrifices. Words that vary in meaning from one region to another are often dropped, and some actors even have to change their sentence structure _ no small imposition for actors who might see their country's Spanish as the purest form.

But Brown, for one, said he doesn't take it personally.

"The culture and language, every actor has that. It's something you carry inside," the 28-year-old Argentine said in an interview conducted in Spanish. The rewards, he added, are worth the effort.

"You can have a Cuban actor and an Argentine playing brothers, set in any location. It lets you pull off something marvelous."

Telemundo is hardly alone in pushing a neutral accent. Spanish spoken by television news anchors _ both here and in parts of Latin America _ has been evolving similar to the plain English spoken by U.S. national news anchors such as Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw.

According to telenovela scholar Tomas Lopez-Pumarejo, the network's policy reflects a standardization that emerged over the last 15 years at journalism and communication schools, particularly in Puerto Rico and Mexico. "There is more or less a coherent way of speaking Spanish, a consensus on a way people should talk," said Lopez-Pumarejo, a professor at Brooklyn College.

Many cultural critics, however, argue that more is lost than gained by the neutral Spanish. Some say it threatens cultural diversity by reducing the array of Spanish voices on the air.

Most Telemundo and Univision programs are made abroad with Latin American actors, and New York University professor Arlene Davila said the neutral accent represents a "reverse cultural imperialism" by upholding a linguistic ideal from outside the United States, while making no effort to capture the way the language is spoken inside the country.

"U.S. Hispanics are a second-tier audience twice over, both among the major U.S. networks and the Spanish networks, which go back to Latin America," said Davila, author of the book "Latinos, Inc.: The Marketing and Making of a People."

Others, however, say a baseline Spanish is thoroughly American.

Jorge Ramos, a news anchor for Univision, said he learned early in his U.S. career to neutralize his Mexican accent so he could appeal to an audience of immigrants from different regions. But Ramos _ perhaps the best-known Spanish-language journalist in the country _ said no amount of practice will ever fully conceal his origins.

"As hard as I try, there is always a sentence, a word, that would immediately let them know I'm Mexican," he said.

SOURCE: http://www.migente.com/Members/?LAUNCH_PAGE=/Members/News/article.html?id=123012


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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Why It Works: It's All About Place Feb 7, 2005

In the schema..source - channel - message - target, the concern of this supposed neutral Spanish focuses on the source [actor's accents] to improve, supposedly, understanding by the target audience.

But here's the thing: where are these stories taking place? Where is the channel? Are they stories experienced by Spanish speakers [underline] living [underline]in the US? Or some imaginary Mexico?

The BBC - to provide a similar and perhaps comparable problem - used to make all its news readers have the same accent. But now this is no longer a requirement. They have news readers with a variety of English accents..all they require is that the English have no grammatical errors..though in some very specific cases, the reporters do make a few errors because they are reporting in areas where there are no full-time BBC reporters.

The problem with Telemundo and Television is that they want to create an imaginary audience that does not exist. All these professors and network executives want to create an identity that does not exist. US network programs take place in a real place. By the I mean, a particular city or region of the US.

The use of the ''nuestro" in TV commercials, to designate "things Spanish'' is a case in point.

So, I think if these TV programs want to reflect a [caps] real [caps] world, they should be taking place in the US in real settings rather than some imaginary U.S. Macondo. And if they are set outside the U.S., that's cool too but then the actors should speak like they do in the setting being referred to.

Also, the actor's accent is one thing and the character in the story is another. I believe that by being true to place, a lot of this would be a non-issue: mnaking settings real places, or at least, imaginary cities in a real geographical place.

But of course, this probably does not suit the flattening effect these executives want in order to make more money.

Think of the current ABC hit LOST. The characters come from Australia, the US and the UK, Corea and France - so far. We still haven't heard from all the characters they might roll out. There are various accents and local accents used. And they have no trouble communicating with one another. Indeed, had there been a lack of accents would the show have been as good? By the way, the setting in this program is imaginary but beleivable.

So please, all these professors and executives clapping merrily along with this creation of a flattened down Spanish gives me the heebee jeebies. A lot more could be said about this but I think I have said enough for now.

Cheers to all.

[Edited at 2005-02-07 13:32]


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Jose Arnoldo Rodriguez-Carrington  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 12:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
They should speak better Spanish, not make it "neutral" Feb 7, 2005

I agree completely with Jane. They want to improve understanding of Spanish by people of different countries, but I think that is not the problem. It is more a matter of acceptance. I find that I am completely alienated when I hear an advertisement in some accent that is completely foreign to me. A supposedly neutral accent might be more acceptable, not more understandable, but I think that it simply does not exist. There is always SOME kind of accent.
Telemundo should first try to improve the Spanish spoken by their announcers and newscasters. In the Telemundo channel which can be seen by cable in Mexico, they bombard us with horrendous contaminated Spanish, more like "Spanglish", with a typical "United States Spanish" and for instance, they insist in using miles, feet and inches instead of adapting to how we all think outside the United States, by using the decimal system.
Still it would be infinitely more acceptable for a Mexican like me to hear a speaker using Argentinian Spanish, or whatever, than some kind of artificial, stiff, and non-existent Spanish, no matter how alienated by the speaker's natural accent I might initially feel.


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:20
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
universal Spanish Feb 7, 2005

see the following link where I provided links to articles on the topic of universal vs local/regional languages (including ones concerning Spanish):
universal/global versions of local languages
http://www.proz.com/post/195156#195156

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:20
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
No flavor, nothing to relate to. Feb 8, 2005

Jane, I congratulate you on your opinion and totally agree with it. The whole thing is absurd. In the end, they are putting themselves at risk of many people disliking the product for being so artificial (no flavor, no variety, nothing to relate to, so unlike real life where we all mingle and work together, and get married, and have conversations and communicate perfectly with each other). One thing is to be an anchorperson reading the news which must be understood by everyone (so no local expressions allowed), and a very different one is to portray characters from all walks of life and all countries of this big and beautiful Latin America we all love, that should be done truthfully.

[Edited at 2005-02-08 03:07]


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Jane Lamb-Ruiz  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
American accents Feb 11, 2005

Luisabel and José

Thanx for you kind comments. We should all three get together and write a rebuttal to this idiocy...

I just remembered one feature of this whole TV Spanish business and also heard on some automated telephone systems: increasingly, one hears Spanish where not only the semantics are fooled with or right out wrong, [/caps for emphasis] but [caps/], the announcers actually have an Americanized Spanish accent..what I mean is, the announcers speak Spanish with an American accent..this is heard in some commercials..it's awful...which is not the same as an American speaking Spanish with an American accent....really really bad...

Hip hip hooray for all the Spanishes!

And by the way, not this last world cup but the one before it, there were these two guys from Argentina..one was an intellectual and didn't know much about the technical side of football and the other was a pro futebol [Brazilian spelling] sports announcer who always said smart sportsy things..the second one..is still on Spanish TV here in the US..it was a real hoot to see these two guys working together because the first would say something completely intellectual about football and the second would look really pained and get a look in his eyes like he was really suffering and then respond with a remark that was completely related to the game..it was a real tour de force of sports' announcing..i got so carried away by these two guys I was forgetting to pay attention to the game! Had they not had their typical Argentinian accents it would have been not believable..un-believable...

cheers


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 14:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Agree! Feb 12, 2005

Jane Lamb-Ruiz wrote:

Hip hip hooray for all the Spanishes!



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mystymy
Local time: 13:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's called "Broadcast Spanish" Feb 16, 2005

I hope I am not too late to weigh in on the discussion. I have worked in the advertising/voice-over/broadcasting area for a number of years.

When seeking talent we refer to "broadcast Spanish" if we are attempting to hit a large target demo. Many times we do focus on specific accents (Mexican, PR, etc.) when we are narrowing the target demo. It is just to costly (to the networks or ad clients) to make super specific advertisements. This not only affects the spoken word but sometimes the written as well, when you want to include regional words into copy.

However I do agree that speaking Spanish or any language well is necessary. Also if you speak well and clearly anyone should be able to understand, however this is not always the case. So when looking for talent or when talent is looking for work "broadcast" refers to how the news anchors usually sound.


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:20
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
differences in French across Francophony Mar 16, 2005

Jeff Allen wrote:
see the following link where I provided links to articles on the topic of universal vs local/regional languages (including ones concerning Spanish):
universal/global versions of local languages
http://www.proz.com/post/195156#195156


and also:
What Are the Differences between French Spoken in France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, and Africa?
http://news.bowneglobal.com/cgi-bin1/DM/y/hmvz0IfIXl0Fw40F13P0Et


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Tsu Dho Nimh
Local time: 11:20
English
What a pity! I like accents. May 2, 2005

"On-set dialogue coaches aim to have all performers speaking with the same flattened accent before long. The network, which implemented the policy 18 months ago, wants to eliminate any trace of off-putting idiosyncrasies for a Latino audience in the United States with as many accents as there are Spanish-speaking countries."

I have always liked the strongly Mexican accents of their telenovelas, as well as whatever accent was used in those they imported. I even taped them to use in Spanish classes as examples of regional accents: some outstanding examples were the strong Chilango accent of Veronica Castro in one of her rags to riches roles (Rosa Salvaje?), and one hilarious argument from an Argentine telenovela that started out quite understandable and ended up totally incomprehensible except for the body language - the madder they got, the stronger their accent became.

It sounds like they want to tell generic stories about generic Hispanics, not the story of any one in particular, with a cultural identity and experiences. Can there be a "one size fits all" ethnicity?


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American Spanish? U.S. Network Coaches Performers From Latin America to Speak With "Neutral" Accents

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