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The sample text has been specifically chosen by Professor Weinberger to help differentiate different regional accents. It contains almost every sound in the English language. Some of the text can be difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce. It is this difficulty that helps define and bring out the regional accent. Even for native English speakers, the text can cause people to pause. Try saying it out loud.

“Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.”

Visitors to the website can search the database by several parameters, including region, gender and age. You can also browse by the native language of the speaker. For example, suppose you wanted to trace the region of origin of an ancestor from Germany. The database contains sample English recordings from 25 different regions in and around Germany. You simply match up the voice recording of your ancestor to the closest voice recording in the database. This will provide a strong clue to help you determine the region of origin of your ancestor.

If you are not convinced by the power of this technique, try searching for speakers from your country. Listen to several of the recordings. You will be amazed at how quickly you will be able to distinguish regional differences in accents even within your own country. Listening to the recordings is also fun and highly addictive.

This new technique of tracing your ancestors by their accent is obviously an indirect approach. It will not enable you to trace your ancestors to a specific village in the old country and it will not always be right. But like DNA testing that is so popular with some genealogists, it will help point you in the right direction. This is because a regional accent essentially serves as a type of fingerprint. It can be particularly useful for ancestors from Eastern Europe and other regions where traditional genealogical records are not available.

The Speech Accent Archive is free to use. Give it a try.

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