People in all parts of the world speak differently and accents can reveal where they are from. For example, Americans in northern states have a very different accent from those who live in the southern areas. If you want to increase your chances of getting hired, being able to do acting with accents is a must.
Your accent refers to how you sound when you speak. This way of speaking is deeply rooted in culture. When you learn an accent, you can change the way you communicate with people around you. Knowing how to do acting with accents the right way is essential since an ill-fitting accent can create a gap between the listener and speaker. Audiences also respond positively if you can speak an accent in tune.
Since diverse characters are needed in the voice acting industry, learning common accents will be incredibly useful. Accents are also important in characterization. However, there is a fine line between imitating an accent and butchering it. If you are auditioning for a role with a foreign accent and want to improve your skill, you’re on the right page.
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What Are Accents?
There are two types of accents. First is the foreign accent in which a person speaks a language using the rules of another language. Here, an individual may have trouble getting some of the words of the second language right.
The second kind of accent is the way a group speaks their native language. This characteristic may be due to their location or social group. For example, people who live in closer proximity to each other may share their accent and manner of speaking.
Everybody has an accent. Naturally, it will be challenging for you to produce and perceive sounds different from the accent you’re used to. Most people start learning their accent at a young age so, by the time they are old, they have already ignored the distinctions among other sounds that are not used in their locality. As you get older, it will become even harder for you to learn accents aside from your native one.
German Vs. English
For instance, you may notice that German people learning English will most likely have trouble pronouncing sounds in several words such as “this,” or “wish.” This problem develops because these sounds do not exist in their language. So they might pronounce it as “z” or “v,” consistent with their native language. The same is also true for English speakers learning German. Words such as “schöne” are hard to pronounce because it contains sounds that are not used in English. Japanese people also have a hard time pronouncing “r” and “l” because their language does not distinguish the sounds of these letters. And the list goes on.
A key element voice talents need to master is sound pattern. For instance, the ending syllables in English words such as “strength” usually end with a group of consonant letters. On the other hand, some languages such as Japanese end in consonants and vowels only.
When practicing acting with accents, some words will be harder to pronounce than others. The more you have mastered the sounds of your native language, the harder it will be for you to study a different accent.
The accents that are hard to learn depends on where you are from and how much the second accent has in common with the accent you already have. For example, Spanish and Portuguese descended from Latin, so their accents are quite similar. A Chinese accent, on the other hand, will be quite difficult to master for a native English speaker since the pitch and tone of vowels and consonants is entirely different from theirs.
Tips for Acting with Accents
Before you start acting with accents, keep these tips below in mind.
Going beyond pronunciation
Mastering a new accent goes beyond switching the pronunciation of words from your native dialect. If you make this mistake, you’ll end up with a lifeless accent filled with mistakes. You wouldn’t want to be on the same pedestal as the celebrities who murdered an accent, right? Go past beyond pronunciation and study other aspects of the accent such as tempo, musicality, and physicality.
You may even study the dialect itself, and the unique grammatical rules and words present in it. Through finding out the slang used in their everyday language, you can crack the accent and sound more believable.
You can’t expect to get better at a certain accent two days after you started practicing it. Consistent practice involves many diverse methods. One of the most effective techniques you can try is active listening. This tip will help the accent become stuck in your head. It will also help you distinguish distinct sounds. Take note of how a native speaker delivers his or her speech.
Also, don’t let yourself rest – practice while you’re exercising, showering, and doing menial tasks. Before you can speak an accent like a native, you have to break it down to its simplest elements. The first time you hear a foreign accent, it may sound completely off. But once you get exposed to it more, you’ll start hearing words, unique pronunciation, and syllables.
You may also try reverse mimicry. This acting technique involves speaking your native language in your target language’s accent. For example, if you’re a voice actor who lives in Maine, you may practice speaking English with a Russian accent. This method will make it easier for you to get the accent perfectly.
Get an instructor
Perhaps one of the best options, when you practice acting with accents, is to hire a coach. While it may be expensive, it will be worth it. Even celebrities get a dedicated coach to help them nail their accents in films. Working with a coach will save you from making major mistakes that may become hard to correct in the future. If your small quirks are not remedied, it will noticeably bleed into your performance.
Everyone has personal accent blocks that need to be eliminated when learning a new accent. Since your coach will be committed to helping you improve, they can aid you to find out what those are. You can also ask all your burning questions about the language, get more microphone time, and get feedback instantly.
An instructor will also help you learn how to take care of your voice. Even if you’re the best accent impersonator in the world, your talent would be useless if you don’t have good vocal health. It is a must to keep your voice supple or else you’d quickly get tired of working as a voice actor. An instructor will also focus on you so you can build a connection with the accent you want to learn.
If you’ve ever watched House, you probably would never believe Hugh Laurie is British. Many people think he pulled off one of the best spot-on American accents. However, part of the reason why he nailed his accent was because he tailored it to his character – a conceited, unsociable, yet caring physician.
When you do acting with accents, it is important to read your script beforehand to see what your character is like. What’s their class, attitude, age, and upbringing? These factors can dramatically influence their manner of speaking.
Right tongue and mouth movement
Once you’ve gotten yourself familiar with the basic elements of the language, such as its phonemes, you can start teaching yourself how to move your tongue and mouth correctly to produce the right sound.
You may get a dictionary to learn phonetic notation. This aspect is crucial since every accent has different sound characters which can be found in the International Phonetic Alphabet charts and mobile apps. This ability grants you a closer look at lip and mouth movements so you can both hear the sound and see how it is made. Practice doing the movement in front of a mirror and be conscious of every letter.
If you’re practicing acting with accents alone, you’ll probably miss both major and minor mistakes that can ruin your audition. To remedy this, ask the people around you for feedback. This way is best to improve your accent since you’ll receive constant correction. When you know what to improve, you’ll stay on the right track and in time, the accent will sound more natural.
Checking the sound
After you’ve studied lip and mouth movements, it’s time to put all the individual sounds together and pronounce words. Be sure to put in lots of practice with words and combinations that differ from the ones in your native language. Also, focusing on your articulation.
If you really want to sound authentic when acting with accents, examine how you pronounce vowels since most consonants are the same in many languages. Getting these sounds correctly will improve your accent.
To go that extra mile, practice tongue twisters since they focus on particular phonemes in words across a sentence. Since these sentences and phrases are difficult to say, you can get used to challenging sounds more easily.
Another effective way to check your sound is to read out loud and record yourself. Remember, both speaking and listening is a skill you should have in acting with accents. This step will also let you track your progress.
Listen to songs
Every accent follows a unique melody, and this is more evident in songs. If you are hired to do a French accent for a job, build a music library with French songs so you can adapt its melody. This tip will also help you learn sentence structures and new words quickly. Songs have an awesome quality of loosening you up so you can easily nail the accent of your wanted language.
Look for songs in your favorite genre and don’t be afraid of singing them even if you get most of the lyrics wrong. If you already love the rhythm, you can identify with it more and build an emotional connection with the songs. Once you have this, your accent practice will be more interesting and enjoyable. Soon, you’ll be mumbling the lyrics with the right accent.
Aside from songs, study podcasts and films by native speakers. If you’re learning how to do a Spanish accent, try to watch some Spanish telenovelas or if money is not a problem, head straight to Spain. Pay close attention to the people around you – how do they order food, speak to a friend, or shop? Observation is effective at figuring out the right rhythm native speakers use.
Embracing the language
Everyone acting with accents has a role to fulfill. The best advice we can give you is to fully accept the accent and commit to your character. Find out the cultural factors affecting his or her accent. If you want to get acting with accents right, you also have to be familiar with body language, gestures, and expressions that are part of its unspoken communication. This ability is the best way to speak like a native.
Even if you remember all the small inflections, undertones, and the voice and lip movements, the accent won’t sound authentic if you don’t fully embrace it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Exploring Accents
More films, commercials, and audiobooks require accents beyond American, and a truly competitive professional is not contented sitting on the sidelines armed with his native accent only. To have a convincing and realistic accent, consistent effort and critical examination are needed. After all, it’s not easy to break down a foreign accent and replace the one you’ve been speaking since you were a child.
So practice the tips above and you will surely be able to pull off acting with accents whenever you need to down the road.