I found this web site earlier this week. (Thanks to Jill Walker) The site has recordings of over 500 people from different language backgrounds reading the same paragraph in English. If you ever wanted to hear what different accents sounded like this is the site for you. I think that because of TV most people around the work hear English with at least British, American, Australian, French, German and Italian accents. But there are so many more.
Once upon a time this project would have involved tape recordings and each tape would have had to be loaded by hand or else one would have had to listen to all of them sequentially to get to the one you wanted to hear. You would not have been able to see the different language features highlighted as you can in this web site. In short one would have had to have had time and training to get any value at all from this sort of data. One would clearly not have been able to listen to it on a whim or merely to satisfy ones curiosity.
But today because of computers this data becomes instantly and easily available to anyone with an Internet connection. It’s really pretty amazing I think. The future is going to be interesting as more and more applications make it possible for people to easily do things that were difficult if not impossible to do in the past or present. Who knows what applications today’s students will develop?