Have you got a dialect question?
Ask me here in the comments section!
As I mentioned on Twitter, I am looking into research on how to do Sarah Palin’s accent for a possible project. I think the project will have a more relaxed tone than her debates–possibly a little more like her interviews. Where would I start my research? I always tend to have a harder time with ‘midwestern’ accents, even though I’m from the midwest (Chicago). :)
As I mentioned on Twitter, there are plenty of clips of Ms. Palin to choose from online if you Google. Choosing a usable clip (around 2 minutes in length) would be the place to start. Look for a clip that is natural sounding, without a lot of background noise or interruption. You may wish to select a clip where she’s not talking directly about politics if you are hoping to find the most natural sample of her speech.
How have you gone about learning dialects in the past? What are the steps you have typically undertaken?
Thank you so much for responding!
I have never learned a dialect before. Usually, when I am playing with a dialect, I’m doing just that–playing with it in an improv. I’ve never set about learning or researching any dialect. I’m a total novice and open to suggestion! It’s one area of my acting that I have never worked on, and I’d love to start!
A clean slate is a great place to start.
(No bad habits to undo!)
Make sure you check out my May 25th post concerning the steps to learning a dialect, so you’ll know what the task involves at it’s core level. As my blogging continues, I will be discussing the technical aspects of learning a dialect–at least those that translate well to this written medium, so stay tuned for that.
Learning a dialect is akin to learning to walk a tightrope. You can read about it all you want, but without a tightrope under your feet and a coach by your side, you’re not really going to be able to learn what you need to know to succeed.
That said, there are many ways to go about actually learning a dialect. In the case of wishing to duplicate the speech patterns of a particular person (Sarah Palin), you will do well to start by spending a few days online listening, watching, and cataloging the various audio and video clips available in which she appears. Then, using whatever criterion you deem important, you select a short passage (1-3 mins) and find a way (legally) to download it, copy it and listen to it—– Over and over and over again. There’s a way to go about listening, though, and honestly a good coach will be your best choice to train you how to become successful at this. This is the ‘rope under the feet’ part of it.
While listening to the 2 min sample, you want to be constantly thinking ‘How is this person saying what they are saying?’ ‘How did they make that sound? and not paying attention very much to which word comes next. Avoid trying to memorize the ‘lines.’
Also, be prepared to listen to Sarah for several hours a day, every day for many…and to be patient while doing so. Subtle, convincing work takes time. Take your time in attempting to duplicate any of her words. With all of your heart, mind and soul resist the urge to approximate or lampoon what she’s doing speech-wise, or you’ll never get the results you are seeking.
I know that this isn’t a complete answer, HalofiveOO, but I want you to have a successful experience. Part of that will be to meet with a professional that can show you the ropes. If you need help finding one, I can assist you with that!
Joy to you,
Thank you so much for such a thorough answer! I will check out the post you mentioned. :) I started looking at clips last night–will continue to do some research as soon as I can.
When a client requests a “British Accent” (with no geographic cues in the breakdown), which dialect gives an actor the best opportunity to book?
That’s a great question, Scott! Sometimes clients have not honed in on exactly what they are looking for and are using the ‘We’ll know it when we see it’ approach. They also may simply not be aware that they are omitting important actor information in the breakdown. My advice in cases such as this is to first look at the sides carefully for clues. Can you tell what the function of your character is from the text you have been provided? Does the character seem to be sympathetic? Unsympathetic? Truthful? Deceitful? Educated? Uneducated? Affluent? Destitute? Aggressive? Passive? (etc.) Any of these tiny clues can help steer you in the right direction dialect-wise. A second layer to this process is to take into account your own personal brand (some call it ‘essence’ or your ‘it factor’ etc.) If you take a good look at the body of work you have done, as well as the auditions you’ve been called in for you will begin to see patterns pertaining to specific character types and traits. For instance, if you happen to be an actor who is most often called in to play rural, deceitful, uneducated characters and the sides / breakdown for your current audition seem to be in line with those traits, you will most likely want to make sure that your accent blends well with these other components.
Joy to you,
Scott, In a case like this the best thing to do is to look at the sides for subtle clues within the language used or the via the function of the character. For instance, does the character seem working class? That rules out sounding like Prince Charles… I have to be candid and say that this level of script analysis requires a high level of interpretive skill as well as extensive experience with the expectations of the Entertainment Industry. This is the kind of situation that a skilled dialect consultant can really be of help with. You can either pay them to analyze the sides / breakdown and/or to teach you to find these clues yourself. Depending on the length of the sides, you will be looking at a project that will take between 30 and 60 minutes of time for the consultant to complete. That said, many coaches/consultants have minimum session time requirements for new clients. You can save on fees over time by building an ongoing relationship with a consultant. Despite the potential ‘sticker shock’ I highly recommend this approach. (It is what the actors with shiny golden statues do…) Establishing a professional relationship with a coach / consultant averages around $2,000 and depending upon your willingness to work diligently outside of class sessions, includes mastering the first dialect. (Additional dialects can be learned much more quickly because you will have developed a system of working during the mastering of your first dialect. Figure that you’ll pay around $2,300 your first year with a coach (This includes learning an initial dialect, having them help you with subsequent audition prep throughout the year, and dialect tune-ups). If you add a second dialect the following year, budget around $1,200-$1,500 for the same services (and if you don’t add a new dialect, budget $400. You may not use it all, but you can always apply it to learning a new dialect down the road). — Joy to you, — Pamela Vanderway firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been asked to do a Swedish accent, and have been unsuccessfully scouring the internet looking for an I.P.A translation of Swedish sounds into English. Do you have any suggestions?
This Wikipedia Swedish Phonology article should give you the IPA info you are seeking.
Thanks very much! I was looking for more of an easy solution, along the lines of what Jerry Blunt does in his old dialects for te stage books. More clear substitutions for common sounds, with a breakdown of vowels and consonants
To my knowledge there is not a complete commercial product available for this particular dialect. This dialect is mentioned in Robert Blumenfeld’s book ‘Accents a Manual for Actors’ but it’s only briefly covered. Your best course of action may be to hire a coach to perform the research for you and to follow through with the coaching you’ll require.
Great site, thank you!
I’m an English actress living in New York and I would like to train actors in standard English and standard American accents.
I have had a lot of dialect training myself. I grew up in South Africa, moved to Liverpool, high school age and then moved to London to go to drama school where I had to learn standard English RP.
Having worked professionally in London for 10 years I moved to New York and have studied standard American in order to work here too.
Every coach I’ve worked with says I have a good ear – probably due to moving to England when I was young. Every job I’ve ever done has been in an accent that isn’t my own.
I feel I could coach an English actor in standard American and an American actor in standard English here in New York.
We learnt a lot about placement and phonetics in drama school. I’ve dug out my old books and started going over everything. Your site will be incredibly useful too!
Was thinking of practicing on several friends for a few months before charging anyone but now feel I ought to have some formal training to really do it justice.
Are there options besides going to university and doing a full time 2/3 year course? – I’m a working actor and Mum of one and one on the way…!
Perhaps assisting a dialect coach in NYC?
Any ideas would really help. I’d like to do this properly!
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