I was recently asked (told) to do the voiceover for the in-house CD-ROM the guys here have put together. This particular CD-ROM is Part Two of The Clown's English language program that teaches English to Japanese people.
“OK,” I agreed (succumbed). “What time, where, when and how much will I be paid?”
In typical Company fashion, the only answer I got to my questions was that I wouldn’t be paid any extra for providing my dulcet tones to their project.
“But The Clown is going to make money from this! He’s saving a fortune by not getting a professional to do it so he should at least give me a bonus,” I whined.
Everyone looked at me sympathetically and shrugged. Sometimes I love being the nail that refuses to be hammered, especially when surrounded by the smooth surface of conformity that is Japan. Off I went to confront The Clown.
He beat me down in less time than it would take for a sledgehammer to pound a nail into a coffin. No money, just the glory of knowing that I assisted in making The Clown a lot more money while he pays me minimum wage.
I arrived at the studio and was ushered into the tiny, orange sound booth. I was so nervous my throat clammed up and only a Linda Blairish, possessed-like whisper came out of my mouth. The sound engineer jumped in his seat, obviously startled, and looked at me horrified. I tried to smile at him, but as my cheek muscles had locked in my panicked state, it was a terrible grimace. He looked terrified. And it would take a lot to scare this dude. He was cool impersonated. He looked as though he should be mixing for the Foo Fighters, not the half-assed gig that we were putting together.
After a couple of hours I loosened up, as did my voice, and it sounded ok, except for the fact that they wanted me to do an American accent. I was hoping that wasting many hours of my adult life watching American television would finally pay off, but the result was something between the Queen’s English, the influence of Tumbleweed’s Scottish, my own Australian and a kind of redneck American. Actually, the accent didn’t have to be very strong, I just to tone down my Aussie drone. I like to refer to it as my 'international accent', available especially for the Japanese.
Speaking of the Japanese, I feel truly sorry that they will be subjected to my voice. Despite many revisions, and a very sympathetic sound engineer who works here, I'm still going to sound like a whiskey drinking, 100-cigarette-a-day-smoking, female impersonator.
It doesn't bode well for the future of English-language students in Japan and it may well change the way they speak irreparably.