Recently, a local language instruction company sent a notice to the Embassy requesting two native English speakers – a man and a woman – to record dialogues for its English language course. Abby and I signed up, and today we went to make the recordings. We arrived at the studio and received the scripts; and as we flipped through the pages, we immediately realized that these truly were English scripts in that they included lines like “How do you like London?”, “Crikey, was anyone hurt?” and “I’m leaving tomorrow from the nearest tube station.” Moreover, despite the fact that the company had advertised for one male speaker and one female speaker only, some of the dialogues included three or more speakers, sometimes all of a single gender.
After exchanging a few worried glances with one another, we asked the project team how they wanted to handle these issues, and they told us to just go ahead; so, being good actors, we took their direction and read all of our parts. (Abby was quite good at changing her voice to fit the different characters, whereas the best I could do was make it sound like my trousers were tighter or looser depending on the role.) Our delivery was stilted since we had to speak so slowly and carefully, and the dialogues themselves were pretty useless – chatting about whether we liked roller coasters instead of presenting situations in which students of English might actually find themselves – but none of this was for us to decide; we just did our best, and Berlitz has nothing to fear from us.