So, you sent in your self-test and the feedback was great. The director loved your choices, the casting people thought you looked just like the character, BUT… they’ve asked your agent to let you know ‘You just need to work on your American’.
Here are 3 easy steps you can take to make your next American self-test more convincing:
1. Oral Posture
Every accent or dialect has its own mouth shape, inside and out. What you do with the setting of your speech muscles has an impact on the way the sounds are created. Think about how your tongue, jaw, cheeks and lips are held normally, then spend some time looking at how American speakers hold their mouths, it’s probably a little different to yours. Awareness of those subtle differences, and then implementing them, can assist you to create a more nuanced dialect.
The rhythm of your accent is defined by the way you use vowels and consonants, and the words you choose to emphasise in a sentence. The syllables you stress in your accent may be different to those stressed in American, checking the pronunciation of everyday words can be helpful when thinking about changing your rhythm. Understanding that Americans have a different hierarchy of word stress also assists in rhythm shifts. Try placing emphasis on the nouns rather than verbs. A little bit of grammar goes a long way when you’re working on your accent.
One of the most noticeable elements that we hear when we listen to another accent is the musicality, the way the speaker uses their pitch or intonation to communicate. Some accents and dialects use a lot of pitch range in their speech, some don’t. Record yourself speaking and listen for your own intonation, then spend some time listening to ‘non-regional’ American speakers. How do they use pitch at the end of a sentence? Do they go up or down? How do they use pitch on the stress word? How is it different from how you use pitch? Try using a lower pitch on the last word in a phrase, make a statement a statement!
Applying these 3 simple points to your dialect work can open up a world of possibilities for your acting. Remember, it’s often the simple changes that make the biggest impact.