How Do Actors Speak New Accents in Movies Like They’re Native Speakers?

learning new accents for films

Exceptional plot, cinematography, lines, and special effects? An actor’s accent can still make or break a film. Do it so well and you’ll get an Oscar. Fail at it and you’ll be well remembered throughout history—in a bad way. For some actors, a poor attempt at an accent can follow them the rest of their career.

Mastering an accent is a huge task to accomplish, but once you speak one like a native, you become more marketable to more productions! Here’s how actors like Meryl Streep and Hugh Laurie fake their seamless accents like a pro. 

How Do Actors Learn New Accents for a Project?

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Collecting samples

Whether you were hired or are auditioning for a role that requires you to speak in an accent or you want to add a skill in your résumé, the starting point of it will still be the same. You’ll have to listen to people who speak in the accent. The internet is at the palm of your hands. Gather video and audio samples of native speakers or watch series and films spoken in this accent or with characters speaking it. Listen to interviews with the actors with this accent to hear their authentic, natural intonations. Also, as much as possible, listen to strong accents—the actual, unwatered down versions. Even if you can’t understand everything, put it on in the background when you’re doing your chores so you get used to the particular melodies and unfamiliar sounds. 

Repetitive listening

Listening is the key component to beginning the process of learning any new accent. But like Rome, learning an accent is a skill that can’t be built in a day. Rhys Ifans, otherwise known as Hugh Grant’s nutty roommate in Notting Hill, once described vocal work as “taking your mouth to the gym.” It’s a lot of work. If you’re going to get good at this, it needs to be done like anything else physical you want to become adept at: constant practice. Every day, whether you feel like it or not, dedicate hours to listen to the new accent. 

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Dialect coaches

If you’re willing to take your accent training to the professional level, hire a private dialect coach. As speaking authentic-sounding accents has become more important (some credit Meryl Streep’s iconic role in Sophie’s Choice for setting the industry standard) in the acting industry, the demand for dialect coaches has grown with it. Today, dialect coaches help actors adopt an accent that is not their own or, alternatively, conceal their native regional accent. Bob Corff, a man whom Channing Tatum calls his “voice doctor,” according to reviews on his website, is one of those tasked with helping actors perfect their vocal gymnastics. Did you enjoy Kristin Bauer Van Straten as Pam on True Blood? Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong? Emilia Clarke as the Mother of Dragons? Corff is the man behind them.

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Exposure

The only true way to learn a new accent is by speaking in that accent. Although this seems like a simple tip, there is much more to speaking in an accent than just reading a few lines. Expose yourself as much as possible to the new accent. Of course it’s easier said than done, but try to talk as often as you can with native speakers. You can also ask native speakers for input. For example, you could upload your recordings to online communities like JudgeMyAccent. Also try talking to yourself out loud in this accent for an entire day. If you are willing to invest further for this skill, consider traveling! 

Good luck!

How Do Actors Speak New Accents in Movies Like They're Native Speakers? by

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