No doubt you’re still recovering from yesterday’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations! One of the worst things about being in a pub on St. Paddy’s Day is listening to the awful, stereotypical impressions that almost everyone thinks they can do after a few pints. Unfortunately some of those people were hired to pretend to be Irish on film. There’s a LOT of examples to choose from, but I think it would be better to show examples of when people get it right.
Daniel Day Lewis in In The Name Of The Father had such a perfect Belfast accent that people thought that the London born actor was Irish. His dad actually was Irish though, so he had a head start!
Cate Blanchett as Veronica Guerin carrried off a Dublin accent very well, with a few hiccups along the way.
My personal favourite is Alan Rickman as Eamon De Valera in Michael Collins. You’ll have to look this film up, as all the videos available online have music playing loudly over the top!
The very best way to mimic an accent is to watch a native’s mouth when they talk. (Probably best with YouTube, it’s a bit creepy in real life!) This is also why I blog about film so much! The sound of each accent comes from the way we move our muscles in and around the mouth and vocal chords. I can’t say my friend’s name (Mairi) properly, for example, as she is Scottish and pronounces the first syllable a lot more softly than I am able to, and can roll her “r”s in a way I just can’t do (YET!)
Another way to learn is to listen to how a foreigner speaks your language. For example, if you want to speak German the way Germans do, just listen to how they speak English, and what they find difficult to say. You will notice that they often pronounce English in an especially “breathy” way, accentuating all the “s” and “z”.
This is a great tutorial for beginning to master any accent.