Neutral Accents for Voiceover Localization

Neutral Accents for Voiceover Localization

Using Neutral Accents for Voiceover Localization seems counter-intuitive, but it can be very effective if done with the right strategy in mind. As discussed in the first part of this series, What is Voiceover Localization? “Voiceover localization is the process of adapting voiceovers to make them more appealing and understandable to a target audience in a specific country or region.” If your target audience is very regional, then a non-neutral accent in a certain dialect can be effective.

For example, if your voiceover is for a certain metropolitan area, speaking in a manner more like the locals do can be more effective, depending on the marketing strategy. This includes saying words as the locals do. When I record radio commercials for my local market in Atlanta, the “T” in Atlanta is dropped, even though my accent is not Southern. However, there are lots of Southern accents, not just one predominant one. In Georgia, the L is suppressed, and closer to a W or Polish Ł. In Tennessee, the U and short O vowels are very dark, while in Virginia those vowels are closer to their British counterparts! 

Choosing the Right Accent for Voiceover Localization


Now, if your target audience is for a greater region or for a national market, neutral accents for voiceover localization in that national dialect is much more effective. If I’m listening to the radio in Atlanta, I don’t want to hear a Chicago or New York accent in an ad, unless, hey, it’s an ad for pizza! Know what I mean? A neutral American accent for an ad running in the Southeast works better than one with a New Orleans accent.  

I recorded several voiceovers for Ontario Health. I asked the producer if they were okay with an American talent. She told me that I sound like a Neutral Accent Canadian. Notice how so many “Secretly Canadian” Canadians are successful in Hollywood? Because they naturally have that North American Neutral Accent voice, once they drop the long O sound.  

Guidelines for Writing Voiceover Scripts for Localization


If you are writing scripts for Neutral Accents for Voiceover Localization, there are guidelines to follow, especially considering recent Developments in Voiceover Localization: 

  • Avoid using colloquialisms and regional slang. Neutral accents are typically used in formal and professional settings, so it is important to avoid using informal language. 
  • Be aware of cultural differences. When localizing your voiceover, it is important to be aware of the cultural differences between your target audience and your source audience. This will help you to ensure that your voiceover is culturally appropriate. 
  • Get feedback from native speakers. After recording your voiceover, get feedback from native speakers of the target language. This will help you to identify issues with the pronunciation or delivery.

Voiceover Localization makes your voiceovers more specific to a certain regional or national dialect. However, it still needs to be neutral within that dialect to have greater impact. If your script is in a language spoken by hundreds of millions of people like English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, or Hindi, you must step back and think about your real target audience. Are you going after a few cities in a certain country, or all speakers globally? Or are you only targeting a few whole countries in a general way? Often, Neutral Accents for Voiceover Localization is the answer, as counter intuitive as that may seem.  


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