Accent Reduction is not about changing who you are or where you are from, it’s a tool or resource which you can choose to use for a variety of reasons.
So, why should I change my accent?
There are many reasons that people may wish to change their accent. However, this article deals with the reasons actors, specifically, might want to change or modify their accents. Even if you are not an actor, you WILL find this article helpful as well. Keep calm and read on!
Everyone has an accent. Regardless if you speak English as your first language or not, you still have an accent. In the global world that we live in, people pick up and move from state to state, country to country, even continent to continent.We sell our things, buy new things. Gain weight, lose weight. Grow our hair, cut our hair… We start new lives. But, the one thing that we always take/bring with us is our accent.
What is an accent?
Rosina Lippi-Green, renowned author and linguist, goes on to say that: “An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside, the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity, their caste or social class, or influence from their first language.”
With that being said, there are two types of accent; a Regional Accent or a Foreign Accent. For example, somebody from New York often sounds very different than somebody from Atlanta.
Likewise, a French person, speaking English as second language, sounds very different than a Russian person speaking English as a foreign language. However, it is important to acknowledge that no accent is better or worse than another. Furthermore, accents are not to be considered as a disorder of any kind.
How does my accent affect my work as an actor?
Moreover, no matter how well you speak English you must have control over your accent and how you sound to others. Let’s say you are perfect for a part, you have the right look, chemistry, and character traits, but you don’t sound like the protagonist would. Would you cast yourself? An actor must be believable and that goes for your accent as well. So, whether you are a Brazilian native casting for a role as a New Yorker, or a New Yorker casting for a role as a Southern Belle, you must SOUND THE PART.
Can I change my accent?
Of course you can, but again, how far you want to take it and when you want to use your newfound Standard Neutral American Accent is all up to you.
Some actors and students of accent reduction choose to focus on ‘accent for acting’ meaning that they focus on ‘sounding native’ only when they go to a casting, audition, or a shoot. Others choose to immerse themselves in ‘speaking American’ an effort to fully reduce their accents in general spoken English.
Whatever it is that you decide that you may need or want, try to have some fun with it, or as Orlando Bloom said, “I think it’s sort of a rite of passage for a British actor to try and get the American accent and have a good crack at doing that.”
How do I change my accent?
How do I learn to speak with an American accent?
Now that I’ve given you some examples and reassurances that it IS possible to reduce your accent, let us help you reduce your accent.
For most actors it’s not as simple as “just copying or imitating” the American accent. Yes, there are some people who have a knack for picking up accents and imitating them, but for most of us, well it’s just not that easy!
Top Techniques for Improving Your American Accent.
Sound like an American!
Learn the differences between
your native language and American English.
There are many rules to learn and internalize when beginning to reduce your accent. However, perhaps the most important thing to learn and remember is that English is different to many languages as it is a STRESS-TIMED language, not a SYLLABLE-TIMED language.
Many languages place an equal amount of stress on each syllable. English, however, has a unique stress-timed rhythm which can be difficult for many to pick up. This is probably the most significant difference between your language and English.
However, just knowing this fact alone doesn’t help you much. You must start from the bottom and build rule upon rule upon rule until you have a full working knowledge of all of the intricacies of American English. Using your knowledge you can then work through your scripts and lines, methodically applying the rules to produce an American accent.
Practice, Record Yourself,
and Practice Some More
After you learn the rules (and also MANY exceptions) of American English you must immerse yourself fully into speaking American.
It’s like working out! You can’t just exercise once a week and expect to stay fit, right? Try practicing with scripts, monologues, news reports, dialogues, videos, and also in improvisational situations.
Â Recording yourself is also very important. However painful it may be to hear yourself this is an important step and can help you self analyze.
and Rehearse Some More!
Just because you can say it correctly once, does NOT mean that you will say it correctly when you are shooting your scene.
Changing your accent is really about training your muscles to move in ways that they have never moved before. You must practice daily in order to see results!
Take Accent Reduction Classes!
Find an accent coach or accent reduction teacher. Trust me, you can’t always hear the mistakes that you are making. Make sure that your accent coach has a good understanding of the English language and follows a program. Having you read and telling you to imitate does not make a good accent coach.
Are Accent Reduction Classes Really Necessary?
Unless you have Oral Stereognosis, also known by actors as ‘a good ear for accents’, you will need to approach the task of reducing your accent both methodically and scientifically. This means that you will need help, coaching, and guidance.
While actor training and experience does lend an advantage in the process of accent reduction, modifying one’s accent is not as easy as just listening, imitating, and reproducing, at least for most people.
Step one, meet with an Accent Reduction Coach for an accent screening and assessment. Make sure your Accent Reduction Coach understands your goals and motivations. Question your coach about the methods that they use and their experience working with actors, voice coaching, different accents.
A reputable Accent Reduction Coach will use a holistic approach and be able to explain the nuances of English and, in particular, the standard American accent. There is no governing body for Accent Reduction Coaches or teachers, but there are courses. Ask your coach or teacher what qualifications they have. Of course, results are the most important thing. If you don’t see results, move on.
What can I expect from my Accent Reduction Coach?
Your Accent Reduction Coach should follow a methodical plan with clear expected outcomes. Of course, you might deviate from the plan as problem areas arise and are exposed. Expect your coach to work with you on the following areas:
1- Standard North American Speech Patterns: This will include linking techniques and common contractions among other things.
2- Intonation Patterns: The rise and fall of pitch in American English.
3- Word Stress: You will learn the difference between content and function words and which ones native speakers stress in speech.
4- Syllable Stress: Are project (verb) and project (noun) pronounced the same way? Learning which syllable to stress is very important!
5- Consonant & Vowel Production: Your accent coach should include at least one or two sounds per week.
These are only some of the topics and techniques that an effective Accent Reduction Coach will address. One thing is true, regardless of which coach you choose, you MUST practice daily.
How’s My Accent?
As I stated at the beginning, “it is important to acknowledge that no accent is better or worse than another”. Your accent is fine! It’s part of who you are. However, if you are interested in modifying your accent for whatever reason, we are here to help.
The first step, is for us to analyze your accent in order to identify better how we can help you start sounding like a native speaker. By completing and submitting the free accent screening below we will be able to respond to you with the areas that we feel you need to address. So, let’s get started, click on the link below to start your online accent assessment~
Submit the Free Accent Screening and we will send you our feedback, suggestions, and recommendations for how you can begin modifying and reducing your accent to sound more like a native English speaker.
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Instruction for Private Accent Reduction Classes is provided by Premium Languages, the private tutorial, foreign language, and test preparation partner of Language On. Courses provided by Premium Languages are not accredited by CEA and do not qualify for F-1 (student) visas.