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Doug Honorof on Dialect Coaching

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We talked to linguist and dialect coach Doug Honorof about the use of accents and dialects in film. Honorof coaches actors and performers for film and television, commercials, voiceovers, and broadcast journalism.

Illusionists Extraordinaire
When it comes to the use of foreign language in an American film, Honorof says, “Actors do not need a language teacher at all. They are not learning a foreign language; they are just creating the illusion that they have learned one. What they need is an illusionist. Dialect coaches are illusionists extraordinaire.”

He goes on to say, “With accents of English, when time permits, I try to get the actor speaking as the character in accent improvisationally, before working the dialogue and getting off book.” When coaching an actor to act in a language unknown to the actor, Honorof says, “… obviously, we can’t approach the problem that way. The actor would not even know how to use the melody of the voice to express an emotion the way a native-speaker would. In such cases, we have to work phonetically.

“I have all sorts of tricks for writing up the dialogue in eye dialect or phonetic transcription, for preparing recordings for the actor to practice with, for helping the actor remember the sounds, and for prompting via earwig or nearby on set and, ultimately, for ‘fixing it in post’.

“But ultimately, I am not teaching the actor a language. They don’t have to speak the language. They just have to look like they do. It is all smoke and mirrors with foreign language work.”

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Doug Honorof on Dialect Coaching Republished by Bob Gillen


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Sep 6, 2012 at 10:36:59 am



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