Should I (Could I) Lose My Accent?
Written by Ginny Kopf
January 4, 2017
If you have an accent, should you consider losing it?
1. Maybe no.
The answer is “no” if you are getting roles. Maybe your Southern drawl or Brooklyn accent is what adds to your marketable style. Or maybe your foreign accent attracts attention because it sounds charming or exotic.
2. But probably yes.
The answer is “yes” if you or your agent feels you’re losing out on roles because of your speech. Your foreign accent or American regionalism may be limiting you in the kinds of roles you can play. True, you could possibly have a long and wonderful career playing only Southern roles, only Latino roles, only Russian characters. But most actors want to have as much range as possible.
3. Can the audience understand you?
Another reason to reduce an accent is if clarity is an issue. An unusual accent may even hinder communication when people stop to wonder, “Where are you from?” instead of really listening to what you’re saying.
4. What would it take to lose your accent?
To “lose an accent” really means to LEARN what is called a Neutral American dialect, which is the kind of speech a national news anchor has, where you can’t tell what U.S. state the person is from. Neutral American is a dialect you would learn, just like picking up a British or French accent. You’d learn how to do the melody and flow of speech that may be different than how you speak, and how to shape the vowels and consonants. So…since it’s just another dialect, you could learn to flip back into your own accent when you need to.
5. Maybe just soften it.
If you decide just to lighten up your accent, then you’d work on articulation and pronunciation. Do tongue twisters, read aloud, really opening the mouth and moving that tongue and lips more than you want to. Finish ends of words, especially tip of the tongue consonants like ‘t’s, ‘d’s, ‘L’s, ‘n’s. Pop those consonants. You may need a diction coach to help you figure out which sounds are most important to clean up, and how exactly to work on it every day.
6. How long will it take?
It’s like learning to play the piano or taking tennis lessons—it depends on your aptitude and discipline. You’ll hear changes in 6 weeks if you work on it every day for at least a half an hour. To “lose” your accent will take longer: maybe several months if your accent is thick.
7. Can you train yourself?
You can achieve it if:
- you are highly motivated (you’re tired of losing those roles!),
- have an extraordinary ear for listening and comparing your sounds to your target sounds,
- and you have good discipline to practice on your own.
You probably need a diction/dialect coach, at least to get you started. A coach can help keep you motivated and focused, but you have to discipline yourself to do the daily homework.
Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.
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