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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Why do fake Russian accents always sound the same in movies/games/shows, but never sound authentic?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23285 points ) September 20th, 2011

When someone, or the voice of someone is being used, with a fake Russian accent it always sounds awful to me. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard it done well, but it always sounds like the same accent.
I suspect it may be more noticeable to me, because I come from a family of people with thick Ukrainian accents (which are also poorly done in the media, sounds exactly like the “Russian” accent) and I don’t notice it as much with other accents being portrayed.
Have you noticed something similar with any accent portrayed by actors? Is it a language or accent that you are extremely familiar with? Can you give me an example of someone that you think does an excellent accent, whatever it may be? If you can find me someone that does a great Russian or Ukrainian accent (that isn’t authentic) I’d be thrilled.

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13 Answers

chewhorse's avatar

You’re really looking in the wrong place for authentication.. Their actors (in all the formats).. It’s their job to act and an accent is part of the act thereby all accents are clones (as if they all attended the same accent college).. The reason it probably irks you is the fact that the majority of accents are spoken in the English language. If you caught an actor speaking either Russian or Ukrainian then you would most likely accept the accent. I too have a (slight) problem when actors/ actresses or even regular people speak English with a French, Spanish, Russian or any other accent.. It’s very easy to recognize authentic accents of those who (try) to speak the English language because they screw up certain words or phrases that an English speaking people (not knowing other languages) would never make, so yes.. there is a distinctive difference and it can rub the wrong way. Nice catch.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@chewhorse good point.
Though, I notice lots of actors who speak with an American accent, and I usually don’t even know that they aren’t American (unless I’m already aware of the fact.)
That is part of what made me wonder if it was just me, or if it was just that Russian accents are usually poorly impersonated. :)

chewhorse's avatar

Ah, you caught me just before I was about to log out.. The reason you can’t distinguish whether it is an American that’s speaking English (even though they may not be) is the fact that American English (in it’s perfected state) has no accent.. Don’t believe me? Listen next time to network commercials (not local). It will be almost impossible to pick up an accent and for that reason, it too is fake. Oh, and the poorly impersonated accents are a result of the accentuated drawls of the language their representing.

ucme's avatar

Because they always go for the standardised generic accents. I don’t know one single Irishman who says “Begorra, begorra to be sure, oi’ve got de luck ov de oirish so oi ave!”
Unless they happen to be mortally drunk or tick as two short planks.

JLeslie's avatar

@chewhorse You sound like so many of the people I met while living in MI. If you think there is not an American accent you have not travelled much. Everyone has an accent.

@ANef_is_Enuf I think they try to mimic the accent as best they can, and the American audienxe generally cannot distinguish the difference. My husband and I laugh at Spanish in movies, sometimes it is an American actor who might be Hispanoc, but obviously rarely uses or speaks Spanish, but brushes up for a part, and their Spanish accent soeaking Spanish is way off. Maybe the movie is supposed to have Cubans, and they sound like Mexicans for instance. Bit the average American has no idea, it doesn’t have to be a perfect accent to sell the idea to the audience.

What I don’t get is when they have Russians who would obviously be speaking Russian to each other speak English, because it is an American movie, and to avoid subtitles, with a Russian accent. It’s kind of funny in a way. The actors are not speaking what would actually be spoken in the situation, why even bother with an accent in that circumstance?

Blueroses's avatar

I’ve noticed it too @ANef_is_Enuf. They all sound like Boris and Natasha saying “moose and squirrel”. They also rely more on odd grammatical sentence structure than authenticity of accent to sell the image.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JLeslie I agree, completely. I have never understood the whole speaking with an accent instead of in the “native” language. Just put the subtitles in.
@Blueroses YES. That is exactly what I mean. It makes me cringe.

chewhorse's avatar

@JLeslie ..“English (in it’s perfected state) has no accent.. Don’t believe me? Listen next time to network commercials (not local). It will be almost impossible to pick up an accent and for that reason, it too is fake”.
Does that state that English has no accent? Read again. I said (rather meant) that English’s accent is generic in that most people from other Countries get their information from our media (news, weather, commercials) and for that reason has no accent (listen again).. In reality most all States have their particular accents but the way others hear us (through media) is the same as a New Yorker assuming anyone from Texas wears a cowboy hat and owns an oil well.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@chewhorse I understand what you’re saying. I live in an area of the country that is supposed to have a “neutral” accent. They actually train people for national news and similar media to speak the way that we do here.
Now, if I talk to someone from NY, they think I have an accent. There are always going to be regional differences in the way people speak, which we call an accent.. but for what it’s worth my accent is considered to be “neutral” or very close to that which you hear on TV.

chewhorse's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf .. Well, I live in Utah but was born and raised in Texas.. You don’t want to hear my accent. I get laughs that I can’t quite understand but in the back of my brain pan, I know. Been here in Utah for nearly five years and still have the drawl of an oil derrick. On the other hand, I can’t distinguish Utah’s accents from Mike Wallace (if you remember him on tv) I’m not saying they don’t have one, it’s probably just so minute that only they could distinguish which section of the State their from.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@chewhorse isn’t that what you were getting at, though? The “American” accent on TV is fake. Just like the standard “Russian” accent?

JLeslie's avatar

Neutral accent for America does not equate to no accent. The neutral accent here, is an American accent to someone from Australia, England, you pick. Can we really tell someone British that Americans are the one with no accent, when the language originated over there? Charlize Theron spoke of learning English, that English speakers enunciate each word, that the language sounds rather choppy. That is how she perfected her American accent. She did not learn a lack of accent, she learned our accent.

chewhorse's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf .. Yes, as the accent is taught instead of natural (like yours).. probably in the same manner as all the other accents that are spoken in English on tv and such. In real life you can determine accents as real because there’s no script.

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