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How to Transform Your Regional Accent Like Eliza Doolittle


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

July 29, 2010

Comments (11)

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair LadyCan you be coached to lose a regional accent like Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion?

What does it take to shake off ingrained regionalisms and project a more "national" sound?

Many of the voices you have heard over the years have undergone training to help give them a more polished sound.

Just as actors in film are coached on set to help them get more into character, such training is available on an individual basis for voice over professionals.

Find out how some coaching can help and get links to some neat resources here in today's VOX Daily.

The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

Did you know that you can learn how to change the way you speak?

Let's take George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion which is based upon the ancient Greek legend of Pygmalion and Galatea. You might know this story better in the context of the Broadway musical My Fair Lady or the 1964 film of the same name starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.

The plot revolves around a Cockney flower girl called Eliza Doolittle and a phoneticist named Professor Henry Higgins. Higgins' task is to transform Doolittle from her humble origins to that of a fair lady of distinction, success is primarily achieved through phonetic instruction.

What Does This Have to Do With You?

Just as Eliza was able to overcome her accent and became a grand lady, you can also increase your opportunities voicing spots for national campaigns, narrating documentaries, audiobooks and more through voice and speech training.

As a professional voice talent, you need the facility to perform a number of accents and dialects for various roles... even if you feel you don't need any help losing an accent, the following resources are also designed to help you gain accents and more phonetic versatility.

Some Resources to Consider:

Take this Quiz to identify your regional accent (USA)
The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA)
IDEA Dialect Map
Tips on Modifying your Regional Accent
How to Learn a Dialect
Accents and Dialects: Accuracy VS Authenticity (podcast)
Accents and Dialects (podcast)
Helping Hispanic Voice Talent Speak Unaccented English (podcast)
Sounding Clean While Speaking Naturally (podcast)
Interview with 21 Accents Star Amy Walker (Article and Video)

Want Your Own Henry Higgins?

If you are looking for a private tutor or dialect coach, there are many people you can study with, some of whom are members of the Voice Over Experts faculty. A great resource to find coaches of these kinds is the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA).

Do you know of any wonderful accent and dialect coaches? How about a coach who specializes in accent reduction? Your comments are welcome and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,


Related Topics: Accent, accents, acting, dialects, education, how to, phonetic instruction, training, voice overs


    I have worked extensively with Douglas Honorof (verberations.com) - Doug teaches phonetics at Yale and Tisch - I could not recommend him more highly. He's worked with many Broadway and Hollywood stars and the students at Voice One love him. He wrote 'Comma Gets a Cure' which is all over the IDEA site.

    Also worked with Lisa Wentz of the San Francisco Voice Center - she's an Alexander Technique teacher, too. She is helping me to lose my pesky British accent. Not really :-) But she is helping me to add General American to my repertoire.

    Posted by:
    • Dave Menashe
    • July 29, 2010 3:16 PM

      My accent coach is Susan Sankin of New York Speech, in Manhattan. She is TERRIFIC! Anybody who needs an accent coach should contact Susan's office at 212-242-8435. You'll be glad you did.

      Posted by:
      • Larry Culley
      • July 29, 2010 5:05 PM

        Regional accents are fascinating! I find it amazing that you will encounter similar styles of speech through wide swaths of the USA ... but a native New Yorker can tell you the differences among the five boroughs and Long Island. (My parents grew up approximately five miles apart from each other -- but my dad was from Harlem and my mom from the Bronx, and their accents were not at all alike.)

        Posted by:
        • Anita Bonita
        • July 29, 2010 5:06 PM

          From what I've heard (from actors and talent) my Aussie accent seems to be very hard to nail. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard a faultless (or even close) accent. In the reverse, I'm wondering if Aussie's can do it? Rachel Griffiths? Nicole Kidman? Toni Collette? Russell Crowe?

          Posted by:
          • Karly Nimmo
          • July 29, 2010 6:53 PM

            I also give accolades to Douglas Honorof. As well as to Pamela Vanderway in Los Angeles (http://dialect411.com/) Her dialect fittings are an amazing experience -- so insightful. Check out her great blog as well.

            Posted by:
            • Hélène Janover
            • July 29, 2010 10:19 PM

              I have been coaching this for years. Many people can't hear their own accent. Contact me for modification.

              Posted by:
              • Jill Tarnoff
              • July 29, 2010 11:29 PM

                I LOVE my accent/dialect coach, BettyAnn Leeseberg-Lange, and HIGHLY recommend her to anyone looking to acquire a regional accent or soften their current accent. She has worked for many of the major theater companies in the DC/Baltimore area and also for TV. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/21/AR2009042103583.html

                Posted by:

                  Thought I'd add another great source for those of us who like to see how it works (as well as hear)

                  Posted by:

                    What a great list of resources! Thanks for compiling them. Here are a few others you might find helpful. They show how speech sounds are made.

                    The Sounds of English and Spanish - from the University of Iowa (http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/)

                    Interactive Sagittal Section by Daniel Currie Hall, "displays mid-sagittal sections and IPA transcriptions for user-specified articulations." Can be used to demonstrate place of articulation. (http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~danhall/phonetics/sammy.html)

                    Bonnie Engel Lee, Ph.D, Speech/Language Pathologist

                    Posted by:
                    • Bonnie Engel Lee
                    • July 30, 2010 5:28 PM

                      Hi Stephanie,

                      I thought this was a great article! I took the quiz to identify my regional US accent and got "midlands", which says my voice is perfect for TV and radio! Which I knew, of course, lol!

                      Not bad for a Filipino Canadian, eh? :)


                      Posted by:
                      • Sandee Johnston
                      • July 30, 2010 8:50 PM

                        Thanks to Larry Culley for his recommendation. I just wanted to update my phone number...917.733.3534. I am a Speech Pathologist/Dialect Coach with 19+ years experience teaching dialects and helping clients reduce foreign and regional accents. I work out of my office in NYC but also offer Skype sessions to clients throughout the world. Terrific article!

                        Posted by:

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