The cockney accent is one of the most recognized accents belonging to England. It is usually associated with London’s East End. Even if you are not familiar with other regional accents, more than likely when you hear the cockney accent, you will recognize it. Thus, as an actor or actress, it is quite likely that at some point you will come across auditions for roles that need to use the accent. It is a good accent to have “on deck” and ready to use for casting directors. However, it is also an accent that can be brutally butchered and stick out like a sore thumb if done incorrectly. Thus, it is important to actually take the time to learn how to do a cockney accent instead of showing up and just winging it.
This article will give you some tips to follow while you learn how to do a cockney accent. Following these tips will help you gain a truly authentic sounding Cockney accent that will wow your audience.
9 Tips to Teach You How to Do a Cockney Accent
Tip 1: Take in Examples
One of the best ways to begin to learn any accent is to expose yourself to it. Since traveling to a destination that has the accent you want to learn is sometimes out of the question, using recordings to familiarize yourself with different aspects of a dialect to learn how to do a cockney accent can be extremely useful. Watching films, listening to recordings, television interviews, and other recorded material can not only show you good examples but bad examples that can teach you what not to do. Familiarize yourself with nuances in the dialect as well as gesturing, pitch, and speed used while speaking. Pay close attention to the speaker’s mouth as well. How far does it open? What shapes does it make? Being aware of these things can make your journey to a new accent happen faster and be more authentic sounding.
Tip 2: Practice
Of course, nothing beats the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” This situation is no different. Once you have familiarized yourself with the accent, use a recorder to tape yourself repeating back what you hear. Compare your accent to that of the native and see how accurate you are and what you need to improve in order to match their dialect.
Use your accent throughout the day. This is a good way to teach your mouth and tongue how to properly form words and gets them used to the new shapes and muscle use needed to form words in the new accent.
Read aloud using the accent. See if you can properly use the new accent without any coaching from a video. Recording during this exercise can also be useful so that you can hear yourself and correct what needs to be corrected.
Tip 3: Enlist Some Help
Once you think you have your accent down or are close to it, use it on family and friends and ask for honest constructive feedback. See if you can carry on a casual conversation with them without losing the cockney accent in your voice. Use any feedback they give you to make improvements in your speech and persona. This will also get you used to perform the accent in front in a comfortable setting.
Tip 4: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Your family knows you are learning how to do a cockney accent and are likely willing to help. Though they know you need criticism, often it is hard for someone who cares about you to really dole out some truly honest criticism. Since you do not want to sound foolish at an audition, it is important to get that criticism. A good way to do that is to practice your accent with another actor. They are more familiar with the need for criticism and will be more direct. It will also help you get more comfortable using a non-native accent in a less familiar and comfortable situation. After all, your family and friends will not be the people sitting at the audition to give you a role. Thus, you need to be comfortable performing the accent in front of strangers in an uncomfortable setting.
Tip 5: A Little Further
Since getting out of your comfort zone is important, this next tip on how to do a cockney accent can get you out there even more. Take a walk to a café or store you do not frequent. On the way there greet people who pass you on the street using your accent. Once you arrive, place your order using the cockney accent. Watch the waiter’s reaction to it. Did they look suspicious? Maybe your accent needs some work. Did they smile or even ask where you were from? Then you are seriously workin’ that accent! Later, if you choose to, you can let the waiter in on the reason you really have the accent. This is a great way to get honest, real-time feedback. If you do not want to tell them, then you can continue to play your role and get some extra practice in.
Tip 6: “Fink” about These Consonant Sounds
A common sound change found when using a cockney accent is illustrated in the title of this section. The soft “th” sound found in many English words such as, “think” will be replaced by a soft “f” sound. Thus, this will change the word “think” to “fink.” Other “th” words such as, “the,” “Northern,” or ”this” may instead be voiced with a “v” sound instead. These words will become, “vah,” “Norvern,” and “vis,” respectively.
Another consonant to watch is “h.” In a cockney accent you will notice they are not pronounced at all. The word “hospital” becomes “ospital” and “horror” will sound like “orror.” This happens in the middle of words too. For example, “who” now sounds like “ooh.”
When an “l” is found at the ends of words, swap them out for a “w” sound. For example, “stable” will become “stay-bow.” Another letter that is found at the end of words you need to keep an eye out for is the letter “g.” These too will simply just be dropped. Thus, “singing” will become “singin.’”
Tip 7: Let the Vowels Come to Play
The most common vowel change to implement is the front open vowel. Instead, you should use a mid-open vowel. For example, the short sound of an “a” in words like “cat” or “path” should be replaced with an “ah” and sound like “caht,” and “pahf.”
Tip 8: Practice Your Glottal Stops
A very recognized aspect to the cockney accent that you will notice as you learn how to do a cockney accent is the glottal stops. A glottal stop is a sort of break in a word where your throat will actually close and create an audible sound as you break the word. These stops can be found when a word has a letter “t” before a weak vowel. For example, the word “water” will lose the hard “t” sound and replace it with a glottal stop so that it sounds like “wa-er.” Glottal stops are a very important feature of a cockney accent because it is a big reason why it is so recognized.
Tip 9: Find a Coach
Vocal coaches can be an extremely wonderful asset to your learning curve if you have the funds to hire one. They are educated in the differences in dialects and can eliminate the need for you to gather and research information. This frees you up to focus solely on practicing. A coach can suggest vocal exercises, show you what to pay attention to, and give you real time feedback to help you avoid or correct any bad habits and streamline your success. Thus, if you are experiencing a time crunch and that audition is coming much too fast for you to feel confident in your ability, a coach may be the answer. They are also a good solution if you are finding it difficult to find someone who will give you honest feedback or if you are finding learning how to do a cockney accent a difficult task to conquer.
A cockney accent is likely something you will come across during your acting career. It is a popularly used and recognized accent. Thus, it is good to have a good handle on how to sound authentic while using it. Doing a cockney accent incorrectly can be extremely noticeable and distracting during an audition and can distract instead of accent your performance. Avoid this by taking the time to prepare the accent and actually learn how to do a cockney accent. That way you will have another skill under your belt to impress the casting directors and add to your resume.
Have you ever tackled the task of learning how to do a cockney accent for an audition? How difficult was it to master? Do you have any tips to add? Use the comment section below to help other actors out.
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