Using British accent in screencasts


We're going to put some screencasts and we are based on London. However our market is not only local and I'm a bit worried about our potential customers from America and from other parts of the world.

I'm just curious, for people who are from America or more familiar with American English how do you feel when you watch a screencast with British English? Does it irritate you, or put you off by any chance?

Or maybe you think saying "bottle" with some British accent is so cute, so you decide to buy the product right away :)

I'm not talking about some heavy northern, Scottish or Irish accents. More like BBC/Oxford accent or light cockney accent (as in Cal from Lie to Me )

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asked Nov 9 '09 at 09:51
The Dictator
2,305 points
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15 Answers


If we're talking an British accent that is clear and understandable by most English speakers, then I'd think it would add a aura of sofistication and intelligence to your presentation. However, if the accents are like the characters in the Guy Ritchie movies then yes I'd be concerned.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 10:23
Joe A
1,196 points


I would run it by a few Americans to make sure that they can understand what is being said.
Other than that, I think it's perfectly fine to do demo in a British accent especially since you are London-based. If you were an American company doing demos with a British accent it may come off a bit pretentious.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 10:32
Oleg Barshay
2,091 points


My company creates demo screencasts for start-ups - our US clients were very happy with our UK voices (apparently they go down well with users). Just make sure you work with someone who has a clear voice and avoid colloquialisms.

For your screencasts if you want advice feel free to join the Google Group for The Screencasting Handbook and ask away (I'm the author).

Ian (ProCasts)

answered Nov 10 '09 at 08:32
Ian Ozsvald
171 points


A light accent is fine if you avoid using colloquialisms. Truly 'international' English is quite easily understood by many.

The only time I have seen issues with Americans understanding a British accent was when introducing people over 50 to Skype. The call test service as well as voice mail greeting / menu threw more than a few people.

Getting to the bottom of that, it was more confusion on why they were hearing a British accent, not an inability to understand.

If your screen casts are based on London, I would think that a British accent would be naturally received.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 12:35
Tim Post
633 points


I am an American. Personally, I find it annoying when US based companies use british accents in videos as a ploy to sound more eloquent. That being said, a light accent from a foreign speaker actually working at the company is totally acceptable. Its only the overdone voice actor types that bug me.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 15:28
71 points


I don't think a British accent will be a problem. Most educated Americans are very adaptable. Be very careful with slang and colloquialisms. Some innocuous terms in British English come across very differently in American English.

If you have any doubts, have some Americans watch the demo.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 15:31
Dave Ambrose
51 points


I don't think that your accent can put you down at all! In fact, you can use it as an advantage. People get tired listening to the same accent. I personally think it's an upside rather than a downside. :)

answered Nov 9 '09 at 23:31
Emil Hajric
161 points


Apparently, Apple uses a mild form of the German accent from the area around Stuttgart in German radio and TV spots to leverage the image of that region (Schwaben) of being innovative and great in engineering (it's the origin of Mercedes and Porsche, among others).

As a German, I must say this is very likely to work for me - as long as I don't think about it. The moment I notice that this company isn't even on the same continent as Stuttgart, and trying to pull a clever marketing stunt, I'm slightly annoyed, even though I greatly respect the care with which some PR people seem to polish these little details.

So from a customer perspective, I'd always recommend to be authentic. I doubt that unless your accent is really strong or has a very common negative connotation, it's going to have a strong effect anyway.

answered Nov 11 '09 at 01:42
Hanno Fietz
280 points


There are enough people with moderate English accents that it probably won't cause any problem, but, as you start to get orders you may want to consider using a different voice just because there are parts of the US that will have problems with it, such as in the South-eastern part of the US, as they tend to be very conservative and anti-foreign.

answered Nov 9 '09 at 10:30
James Black
2,642 points


I would tailor the accent to your different markets.

answered Nov 10 '09 at 05:45
11 points


Shouldn't be a probelm

answered Nov 10 '09 at 02:57
649 points


You could aim for mid atlantic english...

answered Oct 5 '11 at 21:52
101 points


I think you should tailor the accent to the target market. Yes, US marketers targeting a specific demographic use British accents to signify status (A radio commercial for a Jaguar Dealership targeting affluent suburban commuters, broadcast on a business centric news radio channel comes to mind), but being 'different' isn't always distinctive. It can be distracting, pretentious, etc. etc. - It can backfire on you.

Any offshore company has to communicate trustworthiness and accessibility - while you may get some mileage out of colour, flavour, and other britglish words, as well as from the potential marketing power of the accent, if keeping the accent doesn't strengthen some key message of your brand, then it just makes you different and foreign - you'll trigger the provincial response of any local audience toward your product at your own peril.

In short, if the accent and its connotation strengthens your selling power, use it. But if you can't answer a definite yes, don't.

answered Oct 6 '11 at 00:00
840 points


Use the British to American translator if needed.

answered Nov 11 '09 at 04:57
448 points


One of America's very large insurance companies uses a spokesman with a slightly Cockney British accent. He's a lizard, but nobody seems to mind that he speaks with a Brit accent.

Having lived in the UK my impression is that UK folks are more sensitive to nuances of accent than Americans.

If you are a British company then a British accent won't cause you problems.

answered Nov 11 '09 at 05:51
Jim In Texas
228 points

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