How to Recognize and Reduce a Foreign Accent While Acting
Accent Reduction – Mistakes Foreign Actors Make
Here are four mistakes that foreign actors make when acting with an American accent:
1. Focusing On the Vowels
If you’re like most actors who go on auditions, you’re hoping to get the part — or at least a call back — before you leave the audition room. The problem is the people you are auditioning for , notice almost immediately your accent. They are distracted by your pronunciation and word stressing, rather than on finding out what you bring to the role your reading for them. This short-circuits the whole process of acting and creating a ‘third wall.’
So try this. Practice shifting your articulation focus into relaxation, When I say this word, I’m going to ‘work at’ saying it clearly. From this, a level of ease sets in, which allows your audience to relax and trust your performance instincts. And then they can determine if you are the for the role or not. When your focus shifts from making a word sound clear into making a placement for the proper sound acoustically, there’s a shift in energy into the right area muscularly.
Many people enjoy a well crafted performance. Moreover, as long as you’re truthful, this will be one of them.
You’re also inhabitating a character, rather than ‘representing’ someone in your imagination. This substitution of a real person, helps your potential to create in your own imagination, while drawing on your personal experiences to for m the role, which adds compassion to the part your playing.
Keep in mind that letting go of trying to for ce good pronunciation, makes you seem more natural in your character portrayal. ‘Less is more.’ Pushing for results of proper speech creates an anti effect we want to have when acting without and accent. Standard speech means being totally relaxed with the confidence that your technique will carry you through when inspiration fails you. When you have honed your accent or dialect for the role your exploring, then there is no pressure for your to perfor m, and the audience can enjoy your choices you’ve made and you can have the freedom to lose yourself in the part.
2. Introducing Ourselves First
When we start the audition, our audience wants to see who we are aside from being actors trying to get a part. This is an opportunity to show off the fact that you don’t have any identifiable accent. Know what your going to say to introduce yourself and keep it brief. The other people in the room can then feel comfortable that your not an axe murder and will be an agreeable person to work with on the production.
Most will respond without the dreaded question, ‘Where are your from?’
So instead, start your audition by focusing on the first memorized line or objective your character is likely facing. Step into the highly concentrated world of your tactile senses and muscular senses of speaking with an American accent. Allow all that you have practiced to work for you and don’t push for the targeted sound.
3. Forcing the accent into a Pre-Planned Stereotyped Accent
Here’s a hard one to avoid if we’re fans of Hollywood movies, using our favorite actors roles to execute a dialect for our own accent repertoire. When we rely on these methods, it’s usually because we just don’t know how else to ‘do’ the accent. However, when we take short cuts to authenticating an accent in this way, the audience almost always feels like they are being conned. That’s ‘representing’, not ‘being’, the character.
If we aren’t allowing ourselves to be influenced by an authentic accent, fully, in preparation for a role, then we’re using trickery and working for results. The audience feels this superficiality, even when it’s subtle. Therefor e, once again, ‘The Third Wall’ is broken.
I’m not suggesting that we don’t study and learn from our peers for our learning of accents and dialects. There are some really organic ways to begin learning accents and dialects that we’ll want to allow ourselves to be influenced by, over and over. Additionally, there are special cases of exceptional actors that have done amazing work in their portrayals for foreign accents.
What we want to avoid, however, is trying to engage in portraying a stereotypical accent or dialect when reading for a part. This almost always happens with talented young actors who haven’t sufficiently studied Phonetics and language. Potential employers sense this tension and can pick up on the accent, thus responding negatively.
The problem with over-exuberance in our acting is that the audience has to make a decision whether to accept our portrayal, or reject it. They feel the hidden tension and insincerity in the work we’re doing, and they begin to withdraw from the over pushing for clarity in our attempt to master to proper accent. This usually means not getting the part, whether now or later.
With over exuberance (which is often just an offshoot of our tension), audience members feel somewhat boxed in. They hear the inauthentic accent and they feel compelled to respond either by offering us the role or not. Most will almost always not.
Completely eliminating all authenticity in your portrayal of an accent while auditioning, will certainly invite the audience to respond much more favorably to your acting.