How should I use MEDEA to acquire a new dialect?

How you embody an accent depends on your individual learning style. Some actors  learn completely aurally by listening to samples and replicating or mimic-ing the sounds they hear. Others may find a basic knowledge of phonetics a useful tool in helping them to identify which version of an ‘l’  or ‘r’ (for example) is being spoken.

Others will prefer a visual stimulus ‘watching’ rather than just ‘hearing’ new sounds being made. But for most people, acquisition begins with understanding your own dialect, how and where in the mouth you create speech sounds and identifying which variant of consonants and vowels are being articulated.  The Links section recommends a number of excellent books, sites and resources that you should find helpful.

Dialects and Accents recording samples

Each recording comprises four segments:

  • A snapshot analysis by an experienced dialect coach that highlights particular details to listen out for
  • A set of sentences that repeat specific vowels and consonants which you can practise in order to acquire the new sounds (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 and which will help you analyse the tune and rhythm in more detail

Every recording begins by using a sequence of sentences that recount the legend of Medea. Each of these sentences contains repetition of a consonant or vowel sound so you can hear whether it shifts from a Standard English pronunciation. (the consonant or vowel is identified in bold type on the accompanying text). Not every sentence will contain an obvious shift, but once you’ve played these recordings over a few times, the differences from your own way of speaking should be obvious. Once you have identified the key shifts, you may find it helpful to re-play the sentences and monologue from each recording, verbally copying what you hear to help you secure the placement, rhythm and tune of the new dialect.

Don’t forget to access the ‘Dialects in Performance’ section which is also designed to help you embody an accent- the written monologues are attached to the recordings so you can try the accent for yourself.  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 quick – 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 recorded sample, consider adjusting your speed to help you find the flow of the dialect.