My family was (and still is) fantastic at accents of all types. All together, 15 various national accents can be mimicked, English and Scottish the most prominent among several others. Even the accents of stars or famous people can be copied.
I personally am gifted with a New York accent, Irish, and very slight British. I’m in the process of picking up a Scottish one.
But what makes it so hard for others to learn accents? And most importantly, how can you learn them?
Well, let’s start at the top: What’s an accent, exactly?
“Oh,” you may say, “It’s a way of speaking” or “It’s…um, lemme come back to you on that.” The first, however decent an answer you may think it is, is pretty vague.
In the grand scheme of things, and accent is indeed a “way of speaking,” but it’s so, so much more! You may notice, for example, that a…oh, I don’t know, Scottish accent includes specific phrasing. Anyone you know who’s Scottish may say “o’er” and other apostrified phrases, but they will use a specific sort of vocabulary!
That is one of the most basic things you need to know about an accent. Another is the actual “accent”, that way of speaking. Everyone in every country around the world, and even in every city says all the letters and all the combinations in a certain way. “Ah,” may be said differently in Scotland and Africa. This is the characteristic that you’ll use to identify an accent when you hear it. That’s another key to learning a new accent: knowing the way that words and phrases are said.
Now, in my family, every large nation has a sort of “catchphrase” that everyone thinks of when they hear “Canadian” or “England” or “China” or “Ireland” or anything else like that, or music from any of those countries. What I’d do start is to find the catchphrase, what you personally think personifies that country, be it stereotypically or uniquely, and work out how to say it in your chosen accent.
I feel that the best way to learn an accent is to listen to copious recordings of whatever person or dialect you wish to copy. Listen to it everywhere; on your iPod, iPhone, or stereo; at dinner, in the car, while reading, falling to sleep, or taking a shower. Watch TV from that country, repeat little phrases until you can barely think of what they mean anymore, think it in your head, and lodge it there like your head’s a motel. You will eventually find it coming naturally to you.
When it does, speak in it! Talk to yourself in as many places as you listened to it, and keep doing both! Repeat little sentences, words, and slowly begin making up your own phrases. Practice makes perfect, so do plenty of that until you’ve got it down…and keep doing it.
Unless you practice every day, your Scottish or whatever accent’ll get rusty. But if you do practice every five minutes, you’ll find yourself sounding just like Barack Obama, or like a Scotsman, or whatever! When you do, try talking for a whole day in your accent. And…you’ll sound more real than the real deal!
I’m very sorry for the severe gap in bloggy blog posts, but (unfortunately), I have been on a long vacation with no computer access. Soooooooooooo here’s this post on ACCENTS! I really do hope you enjoy it!
Note: I do indeed have more poetry; how’d you guess? Keep tuned in for the neeeeeew poem next week! “)