Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rant on Language

OK, let me get this out of the way right now, so that it cannot be said that I did not “admit” this from the start:

I am not a teacher. I am not a parent either.

There, I said it.

But I AM a person who speaks more than one language due to parents & teachers who felt that this was important to my development and to my education as a whole.

Given that I use two of my languages in my work every day – I am a full time bilingual voiceover artist – I can say that speaking more than one language is vital to my everyday life.

Given that I grew up multi-lingual (I use my English & my French every day, but I can also carry on a conversation in Russian, and my German & Hungarian can “get me around”) I have been interested in languages and their influence pretty much my entire life.

I think there is confusion between what is being called “bilingual education” in the press, and the teaching of a second language for its own sake in school.

When one sees “bilingual education” mentioned, it usually refers to what we used to call “remedial” education. The teaching of English to kids at school, who speak another language at home.  How can immigrant kids learn English correctly if they are not taught it in school? They can't. So it makes sense to teach them well.

I firmly believe that if you live in a country, you should be able to communicate effectively in the language of that country. BUT, that is NOT mutually exclusive with my other belief that if you have the opportunity to learn another language you should grab it.

Those who are against “bilingual education” seem to believe that no other language should be taught in school. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

How can kids who came here with their families from abroad learn English? In school.  Great. Teach them, tutor them, and immerse them.  Does that mean that they should never be in an “English Only” class room. I don’t believe so.

Should kids who come to this country and are enrolled in school be given help? Absolutely! Should they also be expected to function in U.S. society in English? Yep. Should they be expected to give up their native culture and language in the process? NO!

Should U.S. students who are behind in English (the subject) be given help? Absolutely! Should they be expected to graduate high school being able to read & write in English? Yep. Should they be required to give up an opportunity be to a part of our global society by remaining solely mono-lingual in the process? NO!

How many people had grandparents who came to this country and wanted to “assimilate” so they never spoke their native tongue to their children?  What a loss of cultural identity and opportunity to communicate and experience the world.

Kids pick up languages very quickly. Those of us who spoke a foreign language at home, but lived in the States learned how to communicate in both worlds. And I believe we’re all the better for it.

Being part of the global village means understanding each other. That means both on the level of language and culture. Language & culture are inextricably linked. The more varied your vocabulary (culture and language-wise), the better you’ll function as a citizen of the world.

So let’s help the kids whose families came here for a better life learn English well.

Let’s also give American kids the opportunity to really participate in the global village by teaching them another language.

And if you already speak another language and you have kids, speak it to them.

Merci. :-)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Community. Not Competition

When I became a full time voice talent (or actor, or “-over” or artist, or faffer…whatever you want to call it these days! ;-), one of the statements that I heard over & over again was “Oh forget it, it’s always the same 10 people that get booked for those jobs.”

Really? So how have I managed to make a full-time living at this?


1) because I didn’t listen to the naysayers (or “dream bashers” as my mentor Barbara Winter calls them)

2) because I managed to find an amazing community of voice talent who are some of the most talented & supportive people I know!

In the past 2 months I’ve booked jobs from referrals from 4 fellow female voice talent: Amy Taylor, Denise Kelly, Moe Egan, and Lili Wexu – Yep. My “competition.” I also got a job from fellow talent Paul Payton…OK, so he’s not a female, but he could’ve called anyone, and he called me. And that’s just in the past 2 months! (Click on their names to be taken to their websites, they all rock!)

The voiceover community is amazingly generous. Both on the job and off, and that’s really what it’s all about.

When I broke my leg in 3 places back in May I was surrounded both “virtually” and in real life by voice talent who sent me goodies (the VO-BB rocks!), helped me get around at VOICE2010 (Thanks Moe, Kafer, Bob, CourVo, Pam & everyone else!) and drove me to gigs in NYC (Thanks Melissa!)

When my mom passed away at the end of July, this amazing community again surrounded me both virtually and in real life with love & support, calls, emails & Bailey’s! ;-)

I am constantly struck by the generosity of spirit of this community. And I am thankful for it everyday.

We may go up for some of the same gigs, but that’s OK. If I don’t get it, I want one of my friends to book it!

That’s what it means to be in a community like ours.

If you are new to voiceover, get involved. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else is your competition and therefor to be kept at arms length. And if you've been at this a while, well, you probably already realize this!

Read the blogs, pick an online board that fits your personality and contribute, get out and meet people at voiceover and networking events. Help out a fellow talent with information, support, or even a lead!

Basically: Get out of the booth! You'll be glad you did.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Guest Blog! Voices From Home in Faraway Lands

As a bilingual voice talent, I am always interested in language, its use as well as the affect that voiceover in a certain language can have someone. 

So when I found out that my friend Stephanie Ciccarelli from had recently gone to Paris with her husband David (who took the picture at left!), I was not only jealous (it has been over 7 years since I've been back to Paris!) but I was really interested in her experience.

Thus...the blog post below! Enjoy!




Voices From Home in Faraway Lands
By Stephanie Ciccarelli

Have you ever stopped to think about the voice over industry in terms of language services?

Most of the people reading this article are likely English speakers or are fluent speakers of the language.  As a fellow English speaker, raised in a bilingual country (Canada), I recently traveled abroad and spent some time in Paris, France.   Like any tourist would, I invested in a museum pass, took in as much of the city as I could and experienced nearly a thousand years of French history through audio guides.

Let me tell you, audio guides are absolutely fantastic!  Even though I had a good understanding of French and was familiar enough with the culture to grasp my surroundings, I cannot express enough how crucial it is that tourists have access to recordings in their own languages to enrich their experiences while immersed in a language other than their mother tongue.

Audio guides were available in a number of different formats, some on personal audio players and others through recorded announcements for all to hear.   Companies that produce audio guides usually produce their guides in a handful of languages and commonly seek out narrators who are native speakers of English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean.  Those are just some of the languages available and I’m confident that other languages are in demand, too.

From personal experience, the audio guide serves as a bridge that fills the gap between feeling isolated and somewhat at home.

Whether you’re strolling through a curated exhibit at The Louvre, riding along the Seine on one of Paris’ famous Bateaux-Mouches cruising vessels or discovering more about how the great Cathedral of Notre Dame was restored, an audio guide may make the difference between having context and missing the bigger picture.

Based upon my encounters with voices from home in a faraway land, I’m sure others feel the same way about how important it is to be connected, even if only through an audio recording to a storyteller who speaks your own language and can share experiences with you.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Before I go, I want to say thank you to one of my favorite bilingual friends, Liz de Nesnera, for having me here on her blog.  I hope you have enjoyed this piece!

Warm regards,

Stephanie Ciccarelli
Co-founder of
Editor of VOX Daily

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Education of the voiceover....and of the most basic kind

There’s a lot of talk these days about voiceover coaching and education.

Voiceover Coaching has become a veritable industry unto itself with some good coaches and – as always – some charlatans. I’m not going to get into that here.

I have been lucky enough to be coached by some of the best, and I’m STILL being coached and educated. I really feel that it’s a constant process of developing my skills and taking my abilities to the next level.

It’s an education that I take seriously.

I read books, attend seminars and yes, I’ll be giving back by being as presenter at a breakout session called “Talking Telephony” at VOICE2010. I feel that it’s important to give those behind you a helping hand, just as those ahead of me have helped me on my voiceover journey.

Education is important. It seems to be a given. (Anyone else remember the Reading is Fundamental spots from the 70’s?)

So, in my continued efforts at improving my craft (and to fulfill my New Year’s resolutions put out there by my friend John Florian at VoiceOverXtra!), last week, I was on my way to a weekend Women’s Voiceover Workshop/Retreat in Santa Fe, NM, hosted by the awesome Marice Tobias. The weekend was an amazing experience, spent surrounded by a group of talented, funny and powerful women. I’m still absorbing it all. I learned so much, and am already applying what I learned.

The actual trip there, however, was, as air travel is nowadays, a bit of an ordeal. But, as my friend Barbara Winter says, when you’re traveling “DO talk to strangers.” So I did. And I’m so glad.

On the Newark to Houston leg, I was having some issues with my carry-on fitting under the narrower under-aisle-seat area. So I asked the young man (Yeah, I feel old! ;-) sitting in the middle seat whether he wouldn’t mind putting his smaller briefcase at my feet and putting my bag at his feet where it would easily fit under the seat in front of him. “No problem!” he said. Yay…thank goodness for small favors!

As we were about to start taxiing, there were some issues with the plane, so he and I started chatting. His name is Tom, he’s Canadian. He was traveling with his wife Sarah to Nicaragua to help build some more schools in poverty-stricken communities with a Canadian charity called SchoolBox. OK…how impressed was I!

I was even more impressed when I found out that he was President of this charity!

It all started about 4 years ago when Tom was in Nicaragua, traveling around and just happened to give a little girl a spiral notebook and a pencil. At which point the little girl’s father said, “OK, now that you have a notebook and a pencil, you can go to school.” Wow. Tom found his calling.

Since then they have built a bunch of schools, given away thousands of notebooks and pencils, which in turn has allowed over 6000 kids to get an education. It really is an inspiring story.

As voiceover talent I spend a lot of time recording e-learning modules and educational training scripts. Tom’s work is education at its most basic level.

You never know what will change your life, who you’ll meet on the way to somewhere else, and what you’ll learn.

I learned a lot on this last trip, about voiceover and the power of a notebook and a pencil.

If you want to check out the work that SchoolBOX is doing, check out their website:


Legal disclaimer stuff: I am not associated with SchoolBOX. I was just impressed with their work. This blog post is not a solicitation of any kind, I just wanted to share :-)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

You never know who’s listening, watching, reading.

In today’s day and age of social network-meetup-hi-look-at-me-ing you never really know who’s out there peeking in your website-blog-twitter-facebook-window.

That’s not a bad thing, in fact it can be pretty cool!

I had a wonderful experience at the NYC Voiceover Mixer hosted by Voice Talent Productions last month: a fellow voice talent, who I had never met in person, came up to me and told me how much she appreciated my posts about telephony and how much she learned, and thanked me for the help I had given…virtually. That made me feel really nice!

Earlier this month another fellow voice talent emailed me to say that she had attended NAB in Philadelphia in the fall and that the hugely talented Dan O’Day had used my Twitter feeds as an example of what to do right when using Twitter. Wow….that’s pretty cool!

And now, the latest is that a fellow west-coat Voice talent Jeffrey Kafer – a former Microsoft employee who got laid off last year – got contacted by FOX News to be a guest on the Mike Huckabee show to talk about how he went from employee to full time voice talent. All due to someone having seen one of Jeff’s blog posts.

Now these are all positive examples of putting yourself out there. And they all came about from just being online and doing what we do. Being ourselves. 

This doesn't mean you can't be opinionated and stand by your convictions. (See my friend Peter O'Connell's blog for some great posts that have started some very lively discussions!) 

But I keep in mind something my father told me back in the days before the Interwebz: "Never put in writing - in a letter or otherwise - anything you aren't ready for the whole world to read."  That's even more applicable today.

It just goes to show you that you never know who is watching you, reading what you write and taking notes. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Wouldn't you rather that impression be a good one? When online, it’s probably a good idea to keep it clean and professional this post! :-)