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, 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 U.S. 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.
Continue reading on Beyond Bylines for some guidelines to consider for each, as well as tips on how to either learn the neutral accent or maintain your regional accent.