Join Voice Over Expert Pat Fraley as he guides you through “Accents and Dialects”. Discover what it means to truly adopt an accent that is consistent as well as researched and internalize key elements that create believable interpretations and characterizations.
Pat Fraley, Pat Fraley Teaches, PatFraley.com, Audiobooks, Audio Books, Accents, Dialects, Voice Overs, Voice Acting
Transcript of Accents and Dialects
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
This week, Voices.com is pleased to present Pat Fraley.
Leslie Howard: How do you do?
Bette Davis: You seem to be in a great hurry.
Leslie Howard: I say, will you dine with me sometime?
Bette Davis: I don’t mind. I’m off Thursdays. I’ll meet you at Victoria in the second-class waiting room.
Pat Fraley: That was Leslie Howard and Bette Davis doing a pretty passable cockney accent in Of Human Bondage. Movies are a great source for studying dialects. Hi, I’m Pat Fraley. First of all forgive the sound quality here. I’m out in the bunkhouse in Studio City. There are birds outside, dogs barking but I want to get this information to you now. Hey, if you want slick, get Michael Buble.
Anyway, this is about dialect. I’m on a mission, I always have a mission and that is to encourage you to study dialects. I was talking to my friend (Ginny McSwain), the goddess of Director for Interactive Gaming and Animation in North America and she wrote this, “As I work more and more on these games, Pat I can’t tell you how important learning dialects properly has become. Studying should be a requirement for voiceover in this 21st century, (Ginny).”
Couple of reasons why dialects are so important, interactive games and audio books. First interactive games, the tracks are recorded in English for the world. The foreign market is huge. The trend is for creating international cast of characters, requiring dialects of all sorts and with few exceptions, these games are not recorded in other languages. European and Asian gamers hear the performances and relay on subtitles to navigate through the games. Producers don’t want to hear American or Canada accents for their tracks as non-English speaking gamers do not want to hear the tail, tail lilts and sounds of North American accents during the umpteenth hour of play.
By the way the default accent on many of these games is Mid-Atlantic which sounds like generic UK to the American and Canadianers. Do you hear I’m softening my R’s and I’m making a little bit more rounded tones? Another reason for the importance of accents and dialects is audio books. Right now, about 4,000 books a year are recorded for the audio book market. My friend Craig Black, the President of Blackstone Audio, told me recently that in the next four years this figure of recorded books will jump up to 24,000. Why? Because the success of downloadable audio books. This means virtual inventory for the publishers.
So, here’s the problem. In the voiceover arena, we have to work rapidly. Most dialect and accent books are packed with all sorts of different sound changes for every dialect and include nuances and a lot of material that we just can’t absorb quickly. So what’s the solution? Here’s what I suggest you do. You go through these chapters and you pull out the essential sounds required to create a real simple generic dialect. I’ve done this on all the major dialects and I put them on in essential accent worksheet. For example British, I probably have about a dozen changes that have to happen to take you from a standard American dialect to a British dialect.
So, how does it sound? If I were to talk to you like this, you can see that I’m only making a few changes. I’m not doing a lot. I soften my R’s. I make sure that I say, “Oh” instead of “Ah”. I say, “love” instead of “love”. That’s about it. Then of course you need a couple key lilts. This is the music underneath and absolutely essential to be able to even start with the dialect. I like to use this one, ta-ta-ta-ta and I also like to use ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. It’s really none of your affair. When you have a script, you immediately have to trap one of those lilts out underneath the words. You can always get nuance later but don’t overwhelm yourself when you’re approaching a new dialect.
I like to look at it as like remodeling your kitchen, Okay, you’re going to have to have a sink, you’re going to have to have cupboards and you’re going to have counter space. That’s like the essentials in dialect but you’re going to have like tile floor? Are you going to have butcher block or are you’re going to have a double sink? Those things you can add on after you get the essentials. Give an example. All right, now I’m doing my generic British. What I like to do is add a little London chop to it. That gives it the specificity. Also I like to put a little cockney underneath as if it’s lurking, as if the character came from being a cockney but now they’re trying to change classes a little bit and so then that actually smacks of authenticity.
Now, let’s talk about authenticity. We see this a lot. We want an authentic dialect. So what is it an authentic dialect? It’s not doing everything in the chapter of a book. What an authentic dialect really means is that people come from different places. Their parents might come from different places. They might – as my example was, be from one class moved into another. Larry Moss, my friend a dialect coach to the stars has his concept called an idiolect, where he points out that a dialect not only talks about originality or a country but it also reveals character and ideology or psychology. One of the examples he gives is this concept of the stereotypical Mexican, who is often portrayed as lazy and slow. Where do we get that notion? Think of it this way. Here is a foreigner in a foreign land who doesn’t speak the language very well and he is perhaps here illegally and he’s entering our society at the lowest class possible.
So, when you get this kind of thing of not being able to look someone in the eye and being hesitant to talk to someone. We’ll, hey doesn’t that make sense? Not about a stupid and lazy, it’s about being illegal, low in class and not knowing the language. Just for a moment imagine the same Mexican is back in Mexico and he’s speaking English to someone in his own country. Perhaps you’ll hear some more confidence in what he says because he’s not working with Gringo. He knows the language pretty well. You get more of a sound Ricardo Montalban than you do Pancho and these kind of stereotypical dialects, interesting concept from Larry Moss.
Another tip for authenticity is to think about who trained your character to speak English. If I’m doing Russian and he learned American English over here, you’re going to hear hard R. You’re going to get this sound like this. Now, if you are trained by British you’ll have a softer R, you’ll also have him saying, “master” and “command” and modeling more of the British way of speaking. Also for research I suggest two things. Yes go on the internet. You can find sites where you can hear authentic dialect. This is always good especially if you’re picking up more lilts and some nuance.
But major resource brings me to movies. We have such total access. What do you listen too? Americans doing dialects. See they’re up against the same thing we are and I’m not suggesting you just watch Meryl Streep movies. I mean she is so good that after 30 seconds, I forget that I’m trying to listen to her dialect or can I get sucked in. No, you want to see the good, the bad and the ugly. Watch Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. Find out where he’s going wrong. You see you’re called upon not to just model excellent but to be able to discern. So, if I can be a helpful in anyway, if you have any questions just e-mail me at patfraley [at] aol.com or go to my website Patfraley.com and you can get me through there. Thanks for your time.
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Voice Over Expert Pat Fraley
Patrick Fraley has created voices for over 4,000 characters, placing him among the top ten performers of all time to be cast in animation. He has produced dozens of award-winning audiobooks, such as, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Very Easy Death, and The Light in The Piazza. Pat produced and performed all 100 voices on the award winning audiobook, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which People Magazine hailed as, “The best yet of this evergreen.” Patrick teaches events, workshops, and seminars on various aspects of voice over across the country, and has created a variety of instructional books and CDs, all available at PatFraley.com. He is a member of The Voice and Speech Trainers of America, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Professional Acting from Cornell University.