Actor’s Guide: How to Speak with an Arabic Accent

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Many of the most well-known actors in the world can turn accents on and off at the drop of a hat. This helps them land role-after-role. Developing a well-formed accent is a terrific way to extend your acting resume and showcase your talents. Not only does it show your versatility, but accents can help broaden the opportunities afforded to you. And what actor doesn’t want to land more gigs?

Arabic is spoken in a wide array of countries and regions all over the world, making it one of the most common languages in the world. It is commonly seen in films, TV, and theatre. If you’re wondering how to speak with an Arabic accent, look no further. We’ve compiled a list of the best tips and tricks to help you learn how to speak with an Arabic accent in no-time.

1. Don’t Believe there’s Only One Arabic Accent

There are more than 25 countries that speak the Arabic language and naturally, that provides a wide array of regional dialects/accents. An Egyptian who speaks Arabic will sound different from a Lebanese speaking Arabic. In addition, there may be variations in “slang,” tonal pronunciations, and key phrases. It is important to try your best not to blend dialects together, so learning how to speak with an Arabic accent sounds as natural as possible.

Find one particular dialect, stick with it, and do your research accordingly to find the differences. Most people study and learn from the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) dialect; the most-generalized dialect and also the dialect that will sound the most natural in any Arabic country.

2. Learn the Proper Letter Pronunciations

As you would imagine, the Arabic alphabet is a tad different from the English language’s. Natural Arabic-speaking citizens pronounce letters differently, especially while speaking the English language, as Arabic does not have many of the same sounds as the English language. For instance, there is no “p” in the Arabic alphabet, so it is often pronounced as a “b.” “Papa” becomes “Baba,” for example.

The “th” sound should sound much like a “s” or “z,” where “birthday” would become something similar to “birzday.” An “r” is a little more difficult. The “r” exists in the Arabic language, but it is pronounced harder than in English. In fact, the “r” tends to be slightly rolled.

3. Understand How to Use the Correct Emphasis

When learning how to speak with an Arabic accent, it is important to understand that both pronunciation and emphasis will be different. In English, the accent can be mumbled or words can run together, and the meaning still remains the same. The Arabic language however, takes pronunciation very seriously.

Each syllable must be distinctly and intentionally stated. In addition, an English-speaking Arabic may blend words together differently because of their language’s grammatical structure. You may hear a natural-Arabic speaking person say “the boy American” instead of “the boy is American,” due to the common exclusion of verbs in the Arabic language.

4. Familiarize Yourself with Key Words and Phrases

As in English, the Arabic language contains many key words and phrases. Though you may not be learning the entire language, it is important to understand these key phrases, as they are often carried over while speaking in English. Even English-speaking Arabs tend to add-in certain words or word-changes, unknowingly.

For instance, English-speakers make frequent use of the word “um” when trying to think of the correct word or in the presence of verbal clutter. In the Arabic language, “yanni” is used in the same fashion. While you should not spend too much time learning specific words, it is helpful to learn basic phrases like “hello,” “goodbye,” etc. Those with accents tend to blend in common-language words with their English sentences.

5. Practice Your Speed and Tone

Many people learning how to speak with an Arabic accent make the mistake of sounding too high-pitched or melodic when they speak. When this happens, your accent can sound more like an Indian or South-Asian accent. Those types of accents sound much like an English accent in that we use “song-like” tones to provide definition to our sentences, so it is natural to start-off on this mistake.

In fact, the English language has a ton of variations in tone and pitch. Those who speak English provide various pitches and emphasis to drive the meaning of a sentence. The Arabic accent tends to have a flatter pitch, in which there are not as many “ups” and “downs.” Instead of relying on variation in tone, the language relies more-heavily on variation in word-emphasis.

6. Start Slow and Break It Down

Do not give yourself too much to learn at one time. Once you fully understand the basics of tone and pronunciation, you can begin breaking it all down step-by-step. In order to learn how to speak with an Arabic accent, you’ll need to take it slow and master each step before moving on. Do not try an entire script or passage at first.

You may find it easiest to start off with perfecting your accent on single words and short phrases. Master common phrases and words first, since those are also the most natural for you to speak in your own language. Words that you use every day are easiest to translate into an accent, since they come the most-naturally. Once you have mastered a word or phrase, move on to learn some more.

7. Make Use of Available Resources

With today’s technology, there is nearly-unlimited resources at your disposal. Especially with the presence of the internet, you can find everything you need to help you learn how to speak with an Arabic accent. You can try reading material, listening to podcasts or recordings, or watching videos. Each type of resource offers its own advantage.

You may also consider finding inspiration from your favorite actors or celebrities. Omar SharifHiam Abbass, and Maz Jobrani are all well-known celebrities of Arabic-descent. It is important to make use of all the resources available to you and do not limit yourself. Each method provides different advantages and using all of them increases your chances of speaking with an accent naturally.

8. Practice Your Accent with Children’s Books

It could be years since you’ve last read a kid’s book, so this idea may sound silly. However, a children’s book offers you an ideal resource to help you learn how to speak with an Arabic accent. Kid’s books are easy to read and are composed of simple sentences. Not only that, they also contain small, basic words that are easy to pronounce.

Try reading through a children’s book one page at a time. Master your accent on each page until you can read through the entire book without breaking your accent. This helps you learn without pressure, on easy material. You can also try recording yourself as you read, to help pinpoint any particular areas you need to work on. After mastering your small book, start moving on to harder scripts and readings until you become a master at it all.

9. Choose a Persona

When it comes to acting, it’s all about the character and the role you play. Each role you play represents a different character, with a different personality. When learning how to speak with an Arabic accent, try treating it like you would any other role. Giving yourself a role or character to play can provide you with focus and a discipline of what you would like to sound like.

Watch movies or TV shows to help you pick out a “character type.” Give yourself a name, background, personality flaws, and even wardrobe. Getting into character can help you hone in on an accent and stick to it. It can also help you represent your character when you’re ready to show-off your accent on stage. Though you can focus on any type of character, it may be easiest to begin with a character that is not too-complex.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like everything else in life, you will not learn how to speak with an Arabic accent if you do not practice. Even the most talented actors claim that it can take years to master an accent, and it takes some pretty-strong discipline. Start slow, use multiple resources, and practice repetitively.

For additional practice, considering recording yourself or speaking with a natural Arabic-speaking friend, family member, or acquaintance. Learning from someone who has a natural accent is great practice, because they can provide you with the constructive criticism you need. In addition, you could consider hiring a dialect coach, who is specially trained to help you learn to develop an accent.

Final Thoughts

When learning how to speak with an Arabic accent, the most important thing to remember is that it will take time, practice, and discipline. Your audience and acting-community are sure to be impressed once you master your craft, and many doors may begin to open. Give our tips and tricks a try and let us know: which is your favorite way to learn an accent?

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