There are a variety of American accents and dialects. Ranging from the Northern states to the East Coast, the Mid-West, and Southern states, all are different and very specific. The neutral Californian accent and dialect spoken by most characters in film and on TV, is called ‘standard American’. This is the most important one. For actors moving to Hollywood it is vital to perfect flawless standard American.
Accent vs. Dialect
What’s the difference between an accent and dialect?
- An accent is the way that a particular person or group of people sound. It is the way somebody pronounces words. You could say it is the musicality of their speech.
- A dialect describes both a person’s accent and the grammatical features of the way that person talks.
Someone from Alabama may have a “Southern Accent”, meaning that they pronounce words differently than somebody from the Northern US. However, “accent” would not refer to a Southerner’s use of the word “y’all.” That would fall under the category of Southern dialects.
Why ‘Standard American’?
One in three hundred US roles might require a foreign accent or regional US dialect—and that’s probably being generous. Producers are not going to change an entire storyline to explain why the cop with two lines in CSI has a South African accent. Therefore, if you cannot do ‘standard American’, it is unlikely you will book work. In fact, it is more important for securing work in the US than acting classes. So make sure your standard American is flawless. This may require coaching from a reputable teacher, like the ones at The Performing Arts Conservatory. They will help you understand the fundamental sounds and mouth movements needed to acquire the accent. Standard American is hard to perfect. But once you have it, you will have much more confidence when auditioning in, or for, Hollywood.
Live the American Dream
Learning standard American is not exactly easy. However, just like learning anything in life, it can be done. With consistent study and dedication, it shouldn’t take more than a year to acquire a fluent and neutral American accent. Even if you already have some training, you may still need to brush up on your skills. Learning standard American will also show you how to keep pushing your dialect skills further. Then you can build a repertoire of accents ready for that next role. You will never get anything done if you don’t take that crucial first step. So start—or resume—your accent and dialect training right now.
You can find hundreds of tips and tricks on YouTube. Many of these are excellent. But learning tips and tricks in isolation will not make you a better speaker. In order to make significant, noticeable progress to the way you speak, you will need to enrol in a program. Make this the year that you acquire your American Accent and Dialect.