Texas Tech University

Speaking to Listen

Thomas Laney

April 1, 2020

Have you ever thought about that weird person with the strange accent and wonder how someone talks like that? Or why we have stereotypes related to certain accents or speech patterns?

Well, good news!

You Talk Funny, a sociolinguistic podcast from Texas Tech faculty and students Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston, Seth Warren-Crow, and Randall Rapstine, tackles these questions with science, humor, and a bit of heart.


Rachel Hirshorn-Johnston, Assistant Professor of Voice and Speech at Texas Tech, leads the discussion with Randall Rapstine and Seth Warren-Crow as co-hosts. Warren-Crow also works as Sound Designer. They each bring expertise not only from their professional training but also from their personal experiences. Rachel discusses how her experience growing up with a Minnesotan accent has affected her working life, how the natural lift at the end of her sentences can make her sound unsure, and how that can help her become more accomplished as a woman in the workplace. Warren-Crow's background in music highlights some amazing comparisons when referring to different regions. Some of the same influences that change a person's accent depending on where they live can also be heard in their musical language as well.

Hirshorn-Johnson looks at where stereotypes originate and what we can do as artists to bring something new to the table. As the team began detailing their sessions with experts from various different fields, it became clear that they had a wealth of information to share.

"The first step to a lot of things is being aware that it's even happening," says Warren-Crow. "You Talk Funny is designed to make us aware of those hidden signals in our voices that we often can't control."

randallWith thousands of hours of audio already recorded, the wait for episodes is tantalizingly short. The tone of the show is still being created with the help of Texas Tech students Leah Johnson and Michael Yarick, and the podcast will have an official release later this year. In the meantime, audiences can still get involved with the podcast by going to YouTalkFunnyPodcast.com and submitting a recording of their voice to be dissected on a future show.

Beyond all concepts of what an accent means or understanding the science of sociolinguistics, the team wants to start a dialogue, a conversation that uncovers the quirky way we talk without shame or embarrassment.

Sometimes the best way to speak is to listen.