4 “Fs” of Accent Work: Find, Figure, Focus, and Freedom

Ok let’s admit it ... as actors we absolutely LOVE to make fun of bad film accents, but then get nervous when we have to do an accent ourselves! Accents can be a tricky line between being understood by your audience and offending someone in the audience. Nothing can take us into a story more than a good accent, and nothing can take us out faster than a bad accent. I would suggest your first port of call to be seeking out an accent coach. However, I know that not every project or every actor has that budget. So some tips for going it alone:

1.     Find an authentic recording of the accent that you are trying to learn! I don’t know how many times an accent coach meets with the cast and realizes they have been using a very out of date or incorrect recording. Look through the following resources, but do your own research. And feel free to try to find and record your own sample.
              IDEA International Dialects of English Archive
              BBC Voices for UK accents
              The ACCENT Kit

2.     Figure out what is different from your own accent. There is no reason to learn the entire phonetic lexicon with IPA lettering. That last sentence alone makes my brain hurt. Identify the biggest differences and go from there.

3.     Focus on FIVE features maximum. You can get very wrapped up in minute details, but go in focused on the major sound changes. The minor details tend to fill in once you have the biggest features down pat.

4.     Freedom is found through constant practice. You need to be so confident with the accent that in performance you can allow muscle memory to take over and put your energy into actually performing. At that point you know that you’ve officially conquered the accent game!

Now for a good bout of accent bashing to tide you over:
The 12 Worst Accents Ever Onscreen