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ETpro's avatar

How do actors learn to adopt convincing accents other than their own?

Asked by ETpro (34552points) May 20th, 2010

I thought that Jack Nicholson got the Boston Southie accent pretty good in The Departed , and I spend enough time around Southies here to know. Leonardo DiCaprio’s did a pretty good job of sounding South African in Blood Diamond. On the other hand, Kevin Costner’s accent is less than convincing in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Do they get a coach to teach them? Or do they just immerse themselves in movies and tapes from the target area? Clearly, some actors are better at the vocal chameleon act than others.

How can an average Joe who doesn’t want to drop $10 grand on a voice coach pick up accents? And what actors and actresses really impressed or disappointed you with the job they did?

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11 Answers

SeventhSense's avatar

I think some actors and people have an ear for certain linguistic inflections naturally and others really have to try. What I find amazing is the capacity of some impersonators to almost flawlessly reproduce any voice. It seems like it’s similar to a musician who can play a tune after only hearing it.

ETpro's avatar

@SeventhSense Absolutely. It’s a bit of a task to learn a particular accent, but a whole different level of attainment to imitate other people’s voices as well as their accents and mannerisms of speech.

andrew's avatar

Most of us use a dialect coach. It helps if you have a solid understanding of the fundamental speech sounds—to train your ear.

Some people have an innate talent and ear to pick up the dialect. Others…don’t.

There are specific dialect tapes you can get that break down the differences between the target dialect and standard american english. Usually the better ones have native speakers where you can try and pick up the non-standard tics and color of the dialect.

ETpro's avatar

@andrew Thanks. That’s exactly the sort of info I was hoping to learn. So I could just search Google for this sort of tape?

ETpro's avatar

@andrew Outstanding. They are only $20 a CD and come with a guide book. I can pop for that. Thanks so much.

jeanmay's avatar

I’m pretty sure I saw actors with phonetically spelled scripts when I was training. I think they too were provided by a dialect coach.

andrew's avatar

@jeanmay Most likely notated in IPA.

ucme's avatar

I’m reminded of the infamous moment while on the set of Marathon Man.Dustin Hoffman, a renowned method actor who researched his role down to the minutest of detail, asked his co star Laurence Olivier how he performed his role so impeccably without any real research into his character. “It’s called acting dear boy” was Olivier’s succinct & brilliantly observed reply. Eliminates any pretentious bullshit, just do what they’re paid for i.e their job. Love it & in no small way answers your question.

jeanmay's avatar

@andrew That’s the one!

Strauss's avatar

I took a course in oral interpretation that covered a lot of the basic English accents (Several US, Canadian, Austrailian, Cockney, to name a few). What it taught me most is to listen and mimic.

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