Learning an accent?

Does your cockney accent sound like Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins?  Does your Welsh sound more like Punjabi? Is your Deep South more like Deep Throat?  Well there’s an app for that.  No really, there is! In fact there are a gaggle of gizmos that can help you get to grips with hundreds, nay thousands of different accents.

When the team at hjHQ clapped eyes on these little beauties this week we knew they’d be worth looking into (or should I say, listening into). After much excited giggling (the Ministry of Silly Talks is alive and well here on a Monday morning – just calm down everyone please!) and some pretty impressed ‘OMG’-ing, we’ve picked out a couple that we thought would be the most helpful to show you here.

So what are they?

Well the first is an app called ‘The Accent Kit’ that you can download to your phone. There’s an android version HERE and an apple version HERE.

accent kit phone

The blurb describes this as ‘an invaluable tool and resource for actors, and anyone wanting to learn an accent’ which has been put together by ‘three of the UKs leading accent coaches’.

The download is free and you get one free accent to begin with. Then ‘you can start your user experience by familiarizing yourself with the essential FIVE ELEMENTS needed to learn an accent:

  1. Free speech – a 2/3 minute story of personal interest
  2. Foundations – the facial SETTING, the focal ZONE and the TONE of an accent
  3. Vowels: words and sentences – the vowels sounds that give shape to your accent
  4. Consonants – the key six consonant sounds that can make or break your accent
  5. Practice text – the speaking reading, a set of text combining all the speech sounds of the accent for you to practice.’

You can choose either a male or female speaker and all of the accent samples are ‘genuine speakers of the accent, appropriate for actors, and validated by experienced professional dialect coaches’.

The Accent Kit includes access to The Accent Store, where you can browse the shelves and listen to a five second audio sample of each speaker.  Then all you do is select the accent you want to learn and get started. As far as we can see, each accent will cost you 99p to download (over and above the free one you get with the app).

There’s audio to listen to and a recording feature so you can record and save your practice attempts, listen to how you’re doing and what you’re getting right or wrong.

Accent Kit_2   accent kit 4

Our verdict: The usual routine of downloading apps and getting the hang of them applies here. If you’re savvy then it’ll be no problem.  Although it’s free to download you have to pay for your chosen accent but at 99p a pop, unless you need to learn more than one or two accents, this shouldn’t hold you back too much.  Lots of fun to play with and really useful once you’ve got the hang of it. We reckon it could become an invaluable part of any actor’s tool kit.

The second gizmo is actually a couple of websites, the first is called ‘Map Your Voice’ which is HERE

map your voice pic

This interactive website is a much more simple idea. Where ‘The Accent Kit’ is a slick, multi-faceted super tool, this is a slightly clunkier poorer cousin but useful nonetheless.

All you do is click on a point on the map and you’ll hear a natural voice with its local accent which you can then practice for yourself.  The fun part is that sometimes you get someone from the Bronx speaking from (supposedly) Stowmarket!  So be warned, the map is not all that reliable. But on the plus side, if you click around on the festively coloured red and green dots, you can soon find what you’re looking for.  The other fun part (which is what caused such hilarity this morning here at hjHQ) is that you get three minutes of someone reciting ‘Mr Tickle’. This may sound silly, and it is pretty weird to start with but once you get past the facial twitching you realise that it’s a genius idea.  Everything you need to master that particular accent is there in those three minutes of children’s story.

The ‘Map Your Voice’ project was put together by The British Library who recorded amateur volunteers over many years. Their aim was to compile a ‘map’ of voices from all around the world for anthropological, linguistic and educational purposes. The upshot is that you have, literally at the click of a mouse, examples of hundreds of authentic accents to copy and master to your heart’s content.

The second website is the ‘BBC Voices’ archive where you can listen to voices from around the UK, the Commonwealth and beyond. There are even some voices from World War One so if you’re rehearsing a play to commemorate that centenary, have a root round and a listen HERE

bbc voices 2Our verdict: As we said before, the ‘Map Your Voice’ website is a much more basic idea and prone to glitches but if you prefer the simplicity of a click and copy process, this should suit you. Plus you get to hear ‘Mr Tickle’ as many times as you can stand!  Lots of fun, really useful for those who prefer easy computing and can’t be doing with apps and phones and all that malarkey.

The ‘BBC Voices’ site gives you access to countless accents but as with the ‘Map Your Voice’ website, you’ll have to simply listen and recreate the sounds for yourself; there are no structured learning tools like you have with ‘The Accent Kit’ app. Tons of material though and for the actors among us, a wonderful resource. And the best part about both of these – they’re completely free!

So, now there’s no excuse for that cod-Glaswegian or mid-Atlantic drawl.

Have fun!


NEXT UP: Swindon’s New College: Devised Performances


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If you have a story you’d like us to include here in our blog, or if there’s something you’d like us to write about, let us know at hj1act@gmail.com  So long as it’s festival/drama/local theatre centred, we’ll definitely give it a look!

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Posted in 2015, Stagecraft

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