Sunday, February 27, 2011

Random comments on accents

My theater training never included Italian accents. My son, however, likes asking me to "talk like Luigi." So I've spent a lot of time lately working on an accent I've never studied. At first my attempts sounded like most pretty pitiful versions of an Italian accent with which you're probably familiar - stick an -a at the enda of randoma words anda see what happens.

While shoveling the snow today, I realized I had learned something about the accent from trying it. The -a doesn't go after random words, but serves to separate two words that would otherwise be joined by consonants. In my example above, the -a between "end of" doesn't help the words flow, but "anda see" does, as would an -a between "what happens." Now because I'm making this up, I don't really know if it's "correct" but it feels sensible. It could also be a matter of rise and flow, or only going after certain consonants because those letters don't end words in Italian, or some other possibility.

One of the ways Hyrum is mildly entertaining is that he thinks all English dialects are "Mary Poppins." He really doesn't care if I sound like Bert or Monty Python or Hermione or Ringo, they're all Mary.

And on the subject, I'll just mention that I have a terrible time doing a German accent. This is funny since I speak German and taught English to Germans, so I've heard a lot of it. The first problem is that the harsh-sounding stereotypical German accent doesn't sound like the attempt of anyone I knew in Germany to speak English. The second problem is that to do it right, I have to think in German and then translate it back into English and it gets mighty complicated to keep up. The best I can do these days is imitate Pres. Uchtdorf, but he speaks with a much clearer English than most Germans would so his voice doesn't scream "Kraut" the way someone on Hogan's Heroes would. Thankfully, Hyrum doesn't want to play act anyone German yet, so I don't have to worry about it.

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