In Praise of Dialect Coaches (and other experts)

John Wayne acting
“How’s my accent, hot stuff?” – “Shite, John Wayne.”

So, you want to be an actor?! You want to act? Think fame and fortune are just around the corner because you look pretty and can string a sentence together?! Think again, loser! If you want to hit the big time, you’ve got to get those goddamn accents right, as talking in your normal, stupid voice just won’t cut it!

That’s especially true if you want to act it up as someone else. For instance, and randomly, Angelina Jolie. How would you go about getting that right, especially if you’re a man? Luckily, there’s expert help on hand! Recently, we came across Wired‘s excellent, quick-fire videos featuring Erik Singer. He’s a dialect coach for actors, who passes his judgement on a bunch of thespians doing their thing. Let’s have a gander.

Movie Accent Breakdown

Singer is a Master Teacher of Knight Thompson Speechwork (whatever that is) and knows way more about this than we ever will. He’s been in the world of showbiz for, like, a decade now and instructs actors how to talk good in big motion pictures, films, and for theatre.

As an actor, surely one of the most unnerving prospects must be talking consistently in a voice that isn’t yours? If you’re from England (like us) and you need to talk in an American accent for an entire film, or TV series (think Hugh Laurie in House, or Andrew Lincoln in the Walking Dead) you’ve got to get it right. The pressure is on to deliver and time isn’t always on your side. Some actors really pull it off – a performance can be so exceptional you don’t even think they’re hamming it up.

As Singer highlights, this stuff isn’t easy to do. Seriously, try speaking in something other than your normal voice for long periods of time. Then have tens of millions of people judge you for it on and offline. Only the decent wage could make up for a tidal wave of negativity, but if you get praised for your performance then it’s all rather belting, we should think.

The best actors make it look easy, which is why so many are tempted to head into the world of acting in the belief they’ll land a big gig and get rich. Just bear in mind, Jack Nicholson endured 350 audition failures before he landed his big break. And he rarely ever speaks beyond his American accent. But with a little help from a dialect coach, you might well be waxing lyrical in Swahili before you know it.

Other Experts

Whilst we’re experts in being moronic, other people have useful skills. There’s Annie Onishi, for example, who does surgical things. We’ve picked this final clip to nudge you towards subscribing to the Wired YouTube channel, as you all may well have wondered how accurate those medical film and TV shows (remember ER, everyone?) are.

Can you, for instance, just scream “Get me 20CCs of morphine, stat!” whilst brandishing a defibrillator in the air? That’s our concept of being a successful doctor. Apparently it doesn’t work like that, you have to apply yourself through study and then become more of an expert over time. That takes effort, so full credit to all the experts out there!


  1. That accent thing is a killer really, unless you’re Hugh Laurie. I must admit my own acting career ground to a screeching halt about 32 milliseconds after it started, so I never did get the chance to demonstrate my command of !Kung glottal stops in some appropriate Oscar-winning performance, or imitate Chris Barrie imitating Reagan from ‘Two Tribes’. Probably fortunate really, considering there are amoeba on Saturn who can do both voices with far greater aptitude than I can…

    Liked by 1 person

    • A lot of Americans thought (and some no doubt still think) Hugh Laurie is American, so convincing was his House accent. I always think of him as Prince George, of course. I can do a half decent American accent, but that’s about the range of my talent.

      Chris Barrie is incredibly gifted with voices, I’ve seen his Spitting Image skits. He wanted to move away from that, though, so ended up in Red Dwarf. Where he’s my favourite character.

      I’d be a terrible actor, so I think I’d be well positioned for a soap opera somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You mean… you mean Hugh Laurie isn’t an American? Next thing you’ll be telling me he was a Cambridge rowing champion, plays piano and sings, AND is a multi-talented actor. 🙂 (That aside, I always think of him as Prince George too, or sometimes Wooster, and I couldn’t get to the concert he gave here in NZ when he toured with his ‘Copper Bottom’ band a few years ago, but hopefully he’ll be back).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The crew and I endured 30 minutes of this one day on set…..
    “Chick- en”
    “Cheek – en”
    “Chih – ken”
    “Cheh- kan”
    “Ch – ick – en”
    “Ch – eek – in”
    I’ll spare you the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

Dispense with some gibberish!

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