Regarding Accents and Dialects
DialectCoaches.com on Pinterest – Need to hear an accent? DialectCoaches.com has pinned over 3,000 links to accent and language samples, as well as articles about voice, voiceover acting, linguistics, speech pathology and the craft of acting. It takes a minute or two to sign up for Pinterest but it’s free, and there are no pop up ads or anything. Actors: Describing accents can be tricky, so pinning accent samples is a great way to share your accent ideas with your dialect coach or director. This way, you’ll make sure you are on the same page together when you start acquiring a new accent.
IDEA — The International Dialects of English Archive at the University of Kansas offers hundreds of dialect samples arranged by country of origin. Not all recordings are of high quality, but this is a great free resource for actors.
The Speech Accent Archive at George Mason University also has audio samples, though the recordings are more limited in nature.
The British Library offers a handy map of England covered in tiny red dots, each one representing an archival recording of a British resident. Fascinating dialect samples, as well as historical information. (Most of these recordings are from the 1950’s.)
Shetland ForWirds is a wonderful website dedicated to the Shetland Dialect. There are recordings, dictionaries, literature links, and articles. I have to thank @shetlandmylove on Twitter for introducing me to this marvelous resource. See also the blog Shetland My Love for a personal account of living in the Shetland Islands.
FORVO is a project that bills itself as the largest pronunciation guide in the world. Users may contribute their own pronunciations, and listen to those of contributors around the world.
An opinion piece about New Zealand accents can be found here.
Ever wonder how many dialects of Spoken English there might be? This list will give you a good idea.
An article highlighting dialect differences among German speakers as it pertains to greetings.
At University of Milwaukee, participants in a study were asked about their pronunciation of over 100 different words. The results can be seen here, mapped out state by state.
A brief discussion of the dialects of American English can be found here.
An article in Canada’s National Post on accents and discrimination
A brief article about the fate of the ‘New Yawk’ accent
Great interview about New York Accents on the Leonard Lopate Show 05/26/10. Interesting discussion plus sound samples from New Jersey, Long Island, Brooklyn, and Queens.
More discussion of ‘New Yawk’ can be found here.
And here’s an article and video regarding New Jersey dialects. (Thanks to actor Ben Blair for this one.)
Here’s a New York Times opinion piece about dialect work on stage.Be sure to read the comments section. It’s very telling.
Here’s an article about the increase in dialect use in film projects today.
An opinion piece that clearly shows that the actor will always be the one to take the rap for poor accent work.
NYC dialect coach Amy Stoller of Stollersystem.com recently reminded me of this adorable animated gem which features a 1960’s recording of a Dublin school child explaining what became of John the Baptist. ‘Give Up Yer Aul Sins’ by Brown Bag Films.
For a list of the languages of the world, arranged according to the current number of speakers. Go Here. (Please note that each language has a host of associated dialects.)
Rosetta Stone offers a free online demo of most of their languages. This can be a good resource for an actor who needs to quickly get the feel of a foreign language. Using your computer’s microphone, you even get feedback on your pronunciation. Go Here
My favorite language acquisition materials are made by Pimsleur . They are available through Amazon, major bookstores, and even via public libraries. You must monitor your own pronunciation, but the method of learning is very natural.
Digital Dialects offers simple vocabulary games in 59 different languages. Many contain audio samples. If you speak one of the languages that digital dialects currently does not have sound samples for, you might do a good deed and contact the creator and volunteer to donate your voice to this project!
An article that touches on language discrimination in Wales.
Here’s an article that highlights how languages and dialects go in and out of fashion.
Here’s an article about creating a new language such as Avatar’s Na’vi.
Here’s an introductory article about the Spanish language
Regarding Phonetics and Phonetic Transcription
The International Phonetic Association is the oldest representative organization for phoneticians, having been established in 1886 in Paris. It promotes the scientific study of phonetics and the practical applications of that science. This organization is responsible for providing and updating the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet. You can see the full chart, last updated in 2005 here.
Dialect coaches Paul Meier and Eric Armstrong teamed up to create this Flash animation version of the International Phonetic Alphabet chart, complete with audio. Click on a section of the chart to be taken to a separate page where you can use Mr. Armstrong’s program to hear Mr. Meier pronounce each sound.
You can find a handy IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) keyboard here. Just click on the IPA symbol you want, then cut and paste your transcription into practically any document. Very handy. (Thank you, Weston Ruter!)
Here are a few more online IPA transcription websites to try, too: Richard Ishida’s Site Paolo Mairano’s Site and Tomasz P. Szynalski’s TypeIt Site (Thank you to Stan Carey and Lauren Hall-Lew for these links!)
The Speech Internet Dictionary provides concise definitions of technical terms used in phonetics, phonology, speech and hearing science and allied disciplines.
The Phonetics Flash Animation Project at the University of Iowa contains animated libraries of the phonetic sounds of English, German and Spanish. Available for each consonant and vowel is an simple animation showing the placement of the articulators, a step by step description, and a video-audio of the sound spoken in context. The site isn’t perfect (my main contention being that not every phoneme is adequately isolated), but it does provide excellent visual information regarding the formation of each sound.
Regarding Anatomy, Physiology and Cognition
Speech and Hearing Science: Anatomy and Physiology by Willard R. Zemlin is a required text for many Speech and Hearing Science programs.
Anatomy of the Vocal Tract via University of Manitoba Watch the articulators in action as this woman speaks the Swedish word ‘pion’ (Peony). These images were captured by an X-ray camera.
Here’s a 3-D animation of the diaphragm in action.
Foreign Language Syndrome: Croatian girl wakes from coma speaking German.
Dictionaries and Other Fine Resources:
Slang phrase guide for Mandarin Niubi! by Eveline Chao
The Oxford English Dictionary– lists not only current definitions, but historical ones as well.
If you are looking for serviceable, low-cost editing software to edit dialect samples, try Audacity. It’s free.
American English Pronunciation Dictionaries
A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English by John S. Kenyon and Thomas A. Knott. (Merriam-Webster): As the title suggests, this book focuses on American pronunciation. Note: The first example given will usually be typical of a General American accent, with the ‘Standard American’ accent (aka: Transatlantic / Eastern Standard) following. This dictionary assumes that you are proficient in accurately reading from IPA transcription, and therefore is vastly more accurate than many dictionaries whose pronunciation keys assume you already speak with a General (or Standard) American accent. (You might be asking…Hmmmm, if I already speak with the ‘target’ accent, why do I need the book?!?!) This book contains pronunciation only—no definitions.
NBC Handbook of Pronunciation,Ehrlich and Hand, Jr.:This dictionary utilizes a spelling approximation (rather that the more accurate IPA) pronunciation guide which means that you must possess a complete understanding of General American pronunciation in order to benefit much from the contents. One nice feature however, is that by using two sizes of bolded typeface the authors provide the user with a lovely visual cue for syllable stress.
Longman Dictionary of American English, Addison Wesley Longman Ltd.:This dictionary provides General American English Pronunciation alongside definitions of each word. Assumes that you are proficient in reading from IPA transcription. In the case of foreign words, the General American pronunciation is given in this book, rather than an actual foreign pronunciation. (Dialect Coach’s note: Your final pronunciation choice for foreign words should be firmly rooted in the background of the character speaking the foreign word. Use your text analysis and research skills to come up with a suitable decision!)
British English Pronunciation Dictionaries
English Pronouncing Dictionary, (Everyman Reference) by Daniel Jones: This book provides British English pronunciation. It assumes that you are proficient in accurately reading from IPA transcription. This book contains pronunciation only—no definitions.
BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names, Edited and Transcribed by G. M. Miller: Provides Standard British English Pronunciation. Assumes that you are proficient in reading from IPA transcription. This book contains pronunciation only—no definitions.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Oxford University Press: This dictionary provides Standard British English Pronunciation alongside definitions of each word. Assumes that you are proficient in reading from IPA transcription. Also provides a few US pronunciations, many of which are hotly debated. (Be judicious.)
Vasta.org The Voice and Speech Trainers Association. The International Phonetic Association. The aim of the Association is to promote the scientific study of phonetics and the various practical applications of that science.
Voice and Dialect Coach Links and Articles
Article about Tim Monich one of Hollywood’s most respected dialect coaches.
The New Yorker also ran a lovely article in November 2009, but you’ll need a subscription to view the entire article. You’ll find an extract here.
An interview with Avatar dialect coach Carla Meyer. (Backstage April 2010)
Voice and Dialect coach Eric Armstrong’s ‘The Voice Guy’ blog offers downloadable vocal warm-ups.
A Comprehensive article about how to use a Vocal Coach (dialect coaching is a subset of vocal coaching.)