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Dialects For the "Foreign Market"

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 18, 2007

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Kissing a FrogWhy is the ability to perform dialects to important these days in voice over?

Accents and dialects are used in video games, storytelling, audiobooks, animation and cartoons.

Invest in some localized real estate in the Global Village by nailing some of the most common accents and dialects as well as some of the most lucrative in the audiobook biz.

I received this letter from Pat Fraley, featured Voice Over Expert this week, earlier on this month:

I was re-reading your thoughts on dialects you wrote about a year ago. You were bang-on when you wrote that dialects and accents have never before been so important.

Here are a couple of reasons: Interactive/Gaming and Audiobook work.

First, Interactive/Gaming:

The tracks are recorded in English for the world. The “foreign market” is huge. The trend is for creating international casts of characters, requiring dialects of all sorts. I auditioned for a game called, SABOTEURE, from Pandemic Studios. For my audition, I voiced for three characters: a German, a Frenchman, and an Italian.

Also, with a few exceptions, there are not game versions recorded in other languages. Europeans and Asian gamers hear the performances, and rely on subtitles to navigate through games. Producers do not want to record “Mer-Kan.” or “Kan-Ah-Day..Eh? accents for their tracks, as non-English speaking gamers do not want to hear a tell-tale lilts and sounds of Northern American accents during the umpteenth hour of play. The default dialect on many games, by the way, is “Mid-Atlantic,” which sounds “Generic UK” to American and Canadian ears.

Here’s what Ginny McSwain, the U.S. Goddess of All Animation/Gaming Directors, shared with me a couple of weeks ago.

As I work on more and more of these games, Pat, I can't tell you how important learning dialects properly has become...studying should be a requirement for Voice Over in this 21st century

~ Ginny

Pat Fraley and Craig BlackAnother reason for the necessity of dialects skills, and being able to whip them up rapidly is the Audiobook Market. There were around 4,000 books recorded last year.

My friend and president of Blackstone Audio, Craig Black, tells me that this figure will jump to 24,000 in four years.

Why?

The interest and success of downloadable audiobooks (virtual inventory for the publishers).

By the way, what’s the difference between an accent and a dialect?

Who cares? They’re synonyms to most of us.

If you really want to get academic, a dialect uses a language in such a unique way that it is not understandable by your average Joe (Hawaiian Pidgin, Street African American).

This is why I’ve on a mission (as you know, I have a few). I’ll be offering my event on dialects in Los Angeles in a few weeks.

Twelve participants will spend the day learning my method of working up and performing dialects. Born out of need, it’s the only method created for the rigors of voice over. They will be taught how to rapidly research dialects, using authentic examples, as well as watching American performers doing the dialects in movies.

Why suffer through Kevin Costner’s attempt at a British Accent in Robin Hood?

Because one of the important skills is to cultivate a discerning ear. It is important to be able differentiate between the good, the bad, AND the ugly.

It’s not enough to be awe-struck by Madam Streep’s formidable abilities.

Participants also spent time with my Essential Sound Sheets where they get the bare bones of the sound changes and lilts.

This represents the minimum to get the job done. Participants are encouraged to embellish dialects as they progress â€" not jump on the nuances. As you can see, the image I've chosen to provide is for the Russian accent.

Russian_Accent_Dialects_Guide_500.jpg


Larry Moss
Larry Moss, the Entertainment Industry’s premiere accent coach, will join up to share his positive, FUN approach to dialect work, and direct a round of participants as they ply their skills at doing Russian to scripts (we will record five rounds covering British, NY, German, Russian, and Irish).


Also, time will be spent in recognizing standard lilts, the real “narcotic of dialects.”

Vanessa Marshall
Vanessa Marshall, a voice over talent who is uncanny at her dialect abilities and one of the busiest voice over talents in the industry, will share teaching duties with me.

It’s important that female participants hear examples from a female voice, and, in many cases, females have different dialects than males.

One of the things I will be impressing upon participants is to learn dialects without performing a character. Sure, producers and casting people will want dialects linked with characters, often times rather stereotypical ones (the Big Mick, the Crafty Cockney), but the voice over talent must have a “modular” ability of applying dialects at will to various characters.

I also plan to produce a CD set/Workbook in dialects this fall, and take this event in some form or another to cities in North America. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking, NY, Chicago, and Toronto.

Thank you, Stephanie for your insightful focus on what’s critical for the Voice Over Talent, and your every so practical agenda for all of us. Also, thank you for letting me share this material.

Pat Fraley
Studio City, CA

~~

P.S. If you'd like to hear Pat talk about dialects and accents, check out his episode of Voice Over Experts!

©©©iStockphoto.com/Andreas Reh

Related Topics: Accent, animation, cartoons, Chicago, French, German, how to, industry, Los Angeles, videogames


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