Voice-acting tips from
"The Art of Voice Acting Workshop"

Accent Reduction

I often receive questions about how to change or minimize a foreign accent. The following is in response to a recent e-mail from India:

Thanks for writing. Your accent is the result of habits you've developed as you've grown which determine how you use your vocal instrument when you speak. Your vocal instrument consists of your diaphragm, your lungs, your vocal cords, your tongue, your lips, your cheeks, your mouth, and your sinus passages. All of these parts work together when you speak. Your habits for pronunciation and articulation (your accent)resulted from imitating or mimicking the way you heard other people speak. As you learned to speak, you became comfortable with the way you spoke words and the placement of your voice in your body. By the time you were 6 or 7 years old, your speaking habits were pretty well established.

So, the question is: "can I change my accent, and if so . .. how?" The answer to that question will be a bit different for each person. Changing your accent is very much like learning a new language. You'll need to learn and practice new waysform words. people are usually more flexible in learning new languages, and will also be quicker in picking up changes in their accent. Adults, especially those over 35 will have a more difficult time both with learning a new language and changing, or reducing, an accent. For some, it may be little more than a minor challenge, while others may find the challenge nearly impossible.

Most countries have slight (to major) changes in dialect or accent in different parts of the country. For example, in the US, people in Texas speak with a different accent from those in California or New York. It's all American English, but the way each region forms the words is slightly different. If you've ever stayed for any length of time in a different part ofcountry, or traveled to another country that speaks your language, you probably noticed that you began to "pick up" the inflections, phrasing, and "quirks" of that region or country's version of the language. This is a very simple form of accent modification.

The best way to modify, change or reduce your accent will be to find a voice coach who specializes in "accent reduction".will work with you to adapt the way you use your mouth, tongue and facial muscles as you speak. The process can take some time. Alternatively, there are lots of other resources that can help. Here's a brief list of Internet resources I found from a simple search for "accent reduction."

http://www.amenglish.com/products/Pronunciation.cfm- CD Rom training program for correct American English pronunciation.

http://www.clearspeech.com/- Los Angeles based accent reduction training course for individuals and groups

http://www.altalang.com/training/AccentReduction/AccentReduction.htm- accent reduction training based on your primary language

http://www.accent-reduction.com/- East CoastUS(Boston) accent reduction course

http://www.dialectaccentspecialists.com/- audio programs for accent reduction

http://www.multilingualbooks.com/tlstore/eslpron.html- CD Rom courses for English as a Second Language

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