Love watching Downton Abbey on PBS? What if the Crawley family were Americans? Here's a look at Downton Abbey, American style.
How do you master the American Accent? According to Emma Watson, the key is having a good coach. And, apparently, watching plenty of TV. If you aren't on the movie set with a coach handy, consider online accent training, either with individual coaching sessions or our self-study program.
Changing your speech patterns takes a lot of practice, but you can have fun while you are doing it. Many people use American movies and TV shows to listen to the American accent. Repeating and imitating what you hear on TV can be a good way to develop your ear and try on the American style. Even non-American actors who use their American accent professionally use this technique. In a recent interview with Conan O'Brien, Australian actor Rebel Wilson talks about using reality TV shows to perfect her American accent. You can hear her in action in the video below.
Watch these Irish people trying out different regional North American accents. How did they do?
Buzz Feed frequently plays with language and culture, from people trying international junk foods to trying out different accents. Here's a fun clip of people around the world showing off their best attempts at the American accent.
Much of our focus when changing our speech is on pronunciation, or how we say the sounds in words. This is important for being understood, but it is not the only element of an accent. It might not even be the most important element when trying to make yourself understood in English. The musical patterns of our speech, or intonation, might just be more important than how we say the words. Intonation is complex and conveys meaning. There are some rules and distinct American patterns.
For an entertaining look at how much we use intonation to convey meaning, check out this video. If you can't understand quite what they are saying, it's probably because they aren't actually speaking English. But despite this, you can almost get the message.
When you watch a movie from the 1930's or 40's, you might think that Americans used to have a very different way of speaking. Not quite British, but definitely not what you hear in American media today. The real story, however, is that actors were taught a stylized way of speaking, called the Mid-Atlantic Accent, because it was considered sophisticated. It was a hybrid of the British Received Pronunciation and the modern American accent. You can read more about this phenomenon and see movie clips in this article by Trey Taylor in the Atlantic.
In the new film Gone Girl, Rosamund Pike adopts an American accent to play an American character with authenticity. How did she do it? She used an accent coach to help her learn the sounds and patterns she needed to change. In addition, she very likely spent a great deal of time practicing her new speech sounds. Did she lose her native accent? No, she still speaks British English, as you can see on her recent Today Show interview, but she can switch to speaking as an American if she desires. Check her out in the trailer for what is sure to be a popular new movie.
Image credit: splatter.com, HBO
An impressive range of British regional accents can be heard in the television series Game of Thrones. Many characters are portrayed with an accent that matches their upbringing and heritage. For those in the know, this adds an element of authenticity to the character and allows the viewer to make associations about them based on the way they speak. But just how accurately are accents being used? Gawker writer’s Max Read’s take? It’s a mixed bag. Read the details here.
Linguist Justyna Kozyra-Bober recently investigated the likelihood that the main characters in the FX hit “The Americans,” Russian-born spies living a 1980’s suburban American life, would speak with no trace of a Russian accent. (Read her article in Language Magazine.) While her conclusion was that the show’s realism is flawed by the fact that as adult emigrants, the Russians would not be capable of native proficiency in their pronunciation, we should not be discouraged by this information. Instead, it is a good reminder that the goal of accent training is not to lose one’s accent entirely, but rather to improve pronunciation for clear communication.
Interestingly, the male lead, Matthew Rhys, is a Welsh actor, who was educated in Welsh-medium schools and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. His ability to speak with a near-perfect American accent is a testament to what one would have to presume was a great dedication on his part to his American accent training.
TV and movies teach us a lot when learning a new language. But did you know, not only can listening to native speakers on TV and in films help your American Accent, but using subtitles in English can also boost your pronunciation? A recent study shows that by following along with written text in the language that is being spoken, your brain absorbs more of the patterning required for correct pronunciation. Finally, a fun and easy way to improve your accent while you relax and enjoy the show!
Many non-native English speakers ask the question, what is the "typical" American accent? Some regional dialects sound more standard than others, but the speakers who are most easily understood are those who sound like they are from nowhere in particular. People from different parts of the US would say that television news anchors sound like them, because they speak in a style which is easily understood by all. You might be surprised to know that TV broadcasters speak more slowly than the average American, and use pronunciation techniques taught in accent training, such as pronouncing all consonants in a word. Read more about the typical American sound you hear in broadcasting here.
Americans speak with a wide variety of regional accents. American accent training will help you have a Standard American Accent, but there's no reason not to enjoy hearing the different accents people speak across the United States. Here's an audio clip from Robert Blumenfeld's "Accents, A Manual for Actors," where he demonstrates regional differences in the pronunciation of the words "pork chop."
photo from porkbeinspired.com
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