Accents, Voice Coaching and the BBC World Service

The BBC World Service contacted me this morning, regarding accents and voice coaching, for an interview about a wonderful new film opening on March 1st.

Everyone has heard of Chiwetel Ejiofor and will be aware of his universally acknowledged acting ability – remember 12 Years A Slave?

That’s him – a stunning actor…

Well he has made the most amazing writing and directorial debut, with a marvellous and true story, about a little boy from a village in Malawi, saving hundreds of people from starvation.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.

Some people have criticised Chiwetel’s accent in his portrayal of the clever little boy’s father.

They don’t like his portrayal of a Malawian village accent.

A Truly Authentic Malawian Accent

William Kamkwamba – the little boy who has grown up and who wrote the story that inspired the film,  has an authentic, of course, regional Malawian accent.

My first language is English and I listen to a variety of accents everyday but I still did not catch everything William says in  William’s short video   even though he is talking in a very self consciously and careful manner.



When you – the business person or the actor, or the barrister or the surgeon, are speaking to a global audience – you have to make allowances or concessions or adjustments for your audiences’ varying accessibility needs.

Just like your mobile phone does. on your phone you have choices: you can inverse the colours, make the fonts bigger etc all modifications for your easy access.

So it is with film making for global market but the producer and director have to preset the choices.

For example, if the film’s dialogue had been written in the sentence structure or syntax of how  the locals would have spoken English  – it would have been incredibly difficult to to keep up with what they were saying as they do not speak English with the same grammatical adherence that we do.

We wouldn’t have understood what they were saying in whatever accent.

Likewise, an accent must be accessible. If you cannot understand fully what a character or a person is saying, you can’t help it but emotionally you switch off.

An authentic regionally correct Malawian accent would be very hard for a global audience to understand

And if we didn’t understand what was being expressed by the characters this would make it incredibly difficult for us to identify, empathise and so enjoy the movie.


Accent Accessibility is Essential for Successful Communication

Russia, China, USA etc rely, as we do, on interpreters and diplomats to try to understand each other.

Actors, films and their directors need shortcuts.

If people cannot  understand the actors, the message of the film will be lost.

If the film doesn’t sell to a global market the production company makes huge losses, the actors lose exposure and sometimes their careers and the world loses a great movie.

We all work in a global market place – we all need to have an accessible accent.

Trust good voice coaching to get the best from your accent, to help you go further and wider in life – by helping you communicate effectively so successfully, with a global audience – be like a film star!