Making the most of MEDEA

How you embody an accent depends on your individual learning style. Many actors like to listen and copy. Others use phonetics as a tool to understand the detail of new sounds. For some, watching the mouth shape can be useful in determining physical placement but whatever your preference, acquisition begins with understanding your own dialect ~ what sounds already belong to you (e:g dark L versus clear L? bunched r?) and transfer automatically to the new dialect and identifying which sounds might need ‘re-placing’ – perhaps substituting an f / v for a ‘th’. Then there’s the energy of accents and dialects to consider- how pitch, intonation and rhythm shape the signature tune. The Links section on the homepage recommends a number of excellent books, sites and resources that will help explain this in more detail.

Most of the dialect/accent samples comprise four segments:

  • A snapshot analysis by an experienced dialect coach  highlighting particular sound shifts to listen out for
  • ‘Test sentences’ to help you identify differences in pronunciation (click here for test sentences)
  • A short monologue from the play ‘Medea’ by Liz Lochhead (click here for monologue text)
  • @2-3 minutes of free flow speech where the speaker talks about the roots of their dialect allowing you to hear rhythm and tune more detail.

The ‘test sentences’ recount the Greek legend of MEDEA and each is focused on the repetition of a particular consonant or vowel (highlighted in bold in the accompanying text).

Once you’ve played these recordings several times, differences in pronunciation from your own speech should become obvious. You may find it helpful to verbally copy what you hear to secure placement, rhythm and tune of the new dialect. Note how your mouth feels – is the point of tension shifting? Does your mouth feel wider/ the jaw longer?

Dialects in Performance’ section is also designed to help you embody an accent – the text is attached to the recording so you can try the monologues for yourself. Observe the mouth shape of each actor – how might it differ from your own? and note the time each monologue takes (timings are visible on each clip for reference). Every dialect and accent has its own innate energy and speed – Scouse, for example, can be really fast – so consider recording the monologue in your own dialect first and then comparing it with the original. If you are slower or faster than the sample, consider adjusting your speed to find the flow and energy of the new accent.

Variants of Standard English

RP or not RP – that is the Question …

Actors are often asked to speak using RP or Standard English. There is fierce debate about what the spoken (as opposed to written) Standard English actually is and this section offers samples of Standard English speech which may also be useful to speakers of English as a second language (ESL).