If you are an aspiring actor or actress, you may be asked to speak in an accent for a specific role. Being unable to adapt to the part can ruin your chances of getting it. One popular accent that may be called for is an Italian accent.
You may not speak Italian as a native or have not really paid attention to the nuances in its speech patterns. In this case, you may feel overwhelmed with having to learn how to imitate it. Not to mention you will be learning your lines and focusing on your acting. This article will give you some helpful tips so that you can nail your audition.
11 TIPS ON HOW TO SPEAK IN A BELIEVABLE ITALIAN ACCENT
ADJUST YOUR VOWELS
The Italian accent has two more vowels than US English speech. The letters e and o each have two different sounds.
- If you listen to the letter U, it will sound like the double o sound you hear in the word blue.
- A letter A sounds like a more rounded sound similar to how its sound is pronounced in the word father.
- The sound of the letter I will sound like a double e like in the word feet.
- As mentioned before, the letter E carries two different sounds. There is an open sound that has a short sound like what you hear in the word get. It also has a more closed sound that you will hear which is similar to what you hear in the word play.
- The letter O has two different sounds as well. Its open sound will sound like the o used in the word dot. Its closed sound will sound like roast.
Remember that when there is more than one vowel in a row within a word, a speaker with an Italian accent will utter each of them separately. It is a good idea to practice saying words you regularly say. Meanwhile, pay attention to how they would be adjusted if you said them in an Italian accent.
ROLL YOUR RS
When speaking in an Italian accent, you need to make sure you do not speak your r sounds guttural like a French or German accent. Instead you will need to keep your tongue against the roof of your mouth as you press air through so that you will get a rolling r more like a Spanish accent.
You may have heard someone say that Italians speak with their hands. In general, Italians are very expressive with their gesturing while they speak. Thus, to help you become even more believable in your role, include large, open gestures.
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LISTEN TO NATIVE SPEAKERS
One great way to familiarize yourself with a new accent is to listen to people who speak the language natively. You can find interviews and podcasts where native speakers are candidly being spoken to. Films and radio are also great resources.
You can even find films where the accents were done poorly. This will give you a new angle to research. Figure out what about their performance makes their Italian accent unbelievable? Then you can use what you see to avoid pitfalls as you learn to imitate the accent yourself. Pay close attention to repeated speech patterns and sounds.
LISTEN TO YOURSELF
So you have taken the time to listen to the speech patterns of a native Italian speaker. Now, the next step should be for you to repeat what you hear. Use a small recorder to tape yourself repeating lines in the video or podcast. Then play back each line and see how close your accent reflects that of the speaker.
From there you can adjust your own accent in order to get it to be more accurate.
WATCH YOUR MOUTH
While watching films and videos of people who speak with an Italian accent, you should pay attention to the shapes their mouths form while they speak. Notice if they open their mouth wider in some instances but narrow it during others. Keep an eye on the shapes formed during vowel sounds. Then you can use a handheld mirror to mouth along.
Imitate the shapes and sounds without actually forming words. You can even take it one step further and create a sort of mouth workout where you repetitively form those shapes with your mouth. This can help get your mouth used to positioning itself in positions it is not used to during normal speech.
GET A SECOND OPINION
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Once you feel comfortable in your new accent, ask someone you know for their opinion. Read a passage from a book or a newspaper story aloud to them. See if they can point out any unnatural sounding words.
You can even practice your lines with them and get some practice in for both aspects of your impending audition. Again, you can adjust your vocalization to improve your Italian accent based on the individual’s opinion.
TAKE IT ON THE TOWN
The next plausible step should be to take your accent on the road, so to speak. After all, you will be using it in front of people during your audition and you will really need to be comfortable with it in order for it to sound believable. You do not want to be so focused on getting your accent right that it actually hurts your acting performance.
To do this, stop at a restaurant, café, or store that you usually do not patronize. Order your food or ask for information on something using your accent. If the employee looks at you strangely, it may be because your accent is not accurate enough and they are suspicious. On the other hand, you know you are being successful if they comment on your accent or ask where you are from. At that point, you can choose to let them in on the experiment and see if they have any constructive criticism that may help you improve. That way you not only get invaluable practice, but you also get a great unbiased critique.
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Many find it easiest to learn a new accent the same way you can learn a new dialect. This is by immersing yourself in the culture and language. If you have the time and funding, traveling to Italy to gain perspective on cultural differences. You will also hear the language first hand can really force you to learn the accent.
Even if this is not an option for many, there are plenty of other ways to get to know the country.
Take a walk through the streets of Rome, Italy! Who knows who you might meet?
TAKE A CLASS
If time allows you to, it may be a good idea to take a class to learn the Italian language itself. Learning the language can help you hear and learn what it should sound like. But you will have someone who knows what the accent should sound like at your disposal to help you adjust accordingly.
A teacher can help you get used to and use inflections, patterns, and diphthongs common in the accents, properly.
FIND A COACH
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There is no shame in looking for outside professional help. A dialect coach has extensive experience with accents and has already done the research needed to apply to it. They can give you feedback and can instruct you on areas you need to improve upon. They can also give you helpful voice exercises and warm-ups to get your voice ready for the change.
In fact, since the dialect coach has already done all the research and has extensive knowledge of the accent already, your accent learning process can be streamlined to be a much shorter process than doing it on your own. Then you can focus more on memorizing your lines, remembering your marks, and letting your acting abilities shine through.
A role that asks for an accent you are not used to speaking in can open doors to other parts. This is because a director will know that you can already execute the accent properly. However, it can also break your audition if it is done poorly. A terrible Italian accent will detract from your performance so much that even if your acting is exceptional, it may not be noticed. Thus, it is a good idea to really research and practice the accent until it almost feels like second nature instead of just winging it.
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If you have really gotten to a good point in your accent, you will be able to turn it off and on at your discretion, slipping into and out of it fluidly. A believable accent can be a key component that gets your name to the top picks for a role. Do not underestimate the benefits of a dialect coach that can really get you going on the right path.
Have you ever used the services of a dialect coach to learn a new accent? What other tips and suggestions can you offer a new actor that finds themselves trying to get ready for a role that calls for an accent? Please leave any useful tips and comments below.
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