Writing a Book on Accents

  From Tyler: I’ve been thinking lately about writing a book on accent acquisition. Which has mostly resulted in me thinking about the challenges associated with writing a book on accent acquisition. And I’ll say up front: I know other Knight-Thompson teachers are laboring away at this very same idea, most of them much further along than I am. This blog post in no way aims to undermine their efforts, but rather explore the goals and challenges associated with accent acquisition education that arise when I think of writing a book on the subject. I’d love to have current authors’ […]

Actors Be Damned! (or: What I Don’t Think)—What Is the Value of (Super) Narrow Transcription?

All actors should learn narrow transcription. And I mean super narrow, with multiple diacritics hanging off of every symbol like crazed Christmas ornaments. All teachers and coaches should employ similarly narrow transcription in all their prepared materials, and whenever taking or giving phonetic notes. They should not water down the detail even when preparing materials for or giving notes to actors who don’t know any phonetics. If these actors can’t handle it, well, that’s just too bad. They should have paid attention in speech class. No. I’m pretty sure some people think that’s what I believe. I don’t. I think […]

Time Put In

I’m looking forward to 2016 KTS Teacher Certification in June. Not only will I have the opportunity to discuss the intricacies of human communication and speech with exceptionally intelligent and good-looking people, but I’ll also get to visit New York for the first time in several years and decide which organs I will trade on the black market for a Hamilton ticket. One of the foundational concepts I’m looking forward to discussing this summer is one that I’ve had to manage frequently in my career as an accent coach in Los Angeles: time. Namely, the assumptions we make about time […]

Vocal Tract Posture and Four-Year-Olds

A version of this post was previously published in The VASTA Voice. Getting the vocal tract posture of a language or an accent right is a crucial part of successful accent acquisition. Vocal tract posture (also called oral posture), is the particular patterning of muscular engagement, release, and positioning characteristic of individuals and groups of speakers. It is, if you will, the ‘home base’ for an accent, and can be thought of as the position to which the vocal tract returns when at rest, or when preparing to speak or resume speaking. Phoneticians call it articulatory basis, or basis of […]

Accent Coach Apologizes for Offending an Entire People! Read all about it!

In 2011 I was approached by an online “how-to” site to do a series of 2-5 minute “teaser” accent videos. The sort where you learn a few key features of an accent and you’re on your way. Great for the actor who has an audition in a few hours and needs a little something to point them in the right direction. The company asked me to make a list of all the accents I could do in a one-day recording session. They said, “You know, like 30 or 40.” O.      K.   Eager to please, I made as […]

Collecting accents

I wrote a thing. Two things, I guess: two short texts for eliciting useful accent samples. Here they are: Dali’s Last Hurrah* What frosty land is this? How was its fate decided? Coal-black mountains loom; Glassy pools reflect their huge, queer forms. A bird-like woman searches slowly through the trees; Flocks of trembling sparrows cluster about blood-red barns. I feel the flashing claws of chalk-white terror rip at my breath. My courage fails. A furious, hoarse voice whispers from the inky shadows, “He knew his duty. We cannot be afraid.” Fighting a fog of sudden nightmare visions— Savage lambs, Fork-tongued […]

General American Revisited

  I want to share with you a short series of long e-mails between Erik Singer and me on the subject of how to deal with the desire of students to learn some form of “General American.” Erik began the discussion with a thoughtful and thought-provoking e-mail to Phil and me, from which he has given me permission to quote at length: I’ve been having an interesting year, and wanted to share some thoughts with you. Should either of you have the time and inclination to respond, it goes without saying that I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts […]