Learning Chicago & Great Lakes Accent
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains fifty-eight (58) minutes of systematic instruction in MP3 sound files. You’ll also get a printable PDF of the instruction manual. It contains summaries of the audio lessons and full transcripts of the drill words, phrases, and passages.
WHAT WILL YOU LEARN?
You will begin by learning the general Chicago accent. You’ll then go on to explore several varieties and intensities of the speech pattern. This accent is also very similar to speech patterns heard in Detroit, Buffalo, and other Great Lakes regions. Here’s a brief summary of the training.
- Lesson 1 teaches you the resonance or voice placement of the Chicago accent. In other words, it shows you how to move and shape your mouth to create the accent’s sound focus.
- Lesson 2 shows you how to produce Chicago’s characteristic vowels. Many of them grow directly out of the muscularity and resonance you learned in Lesson 1. It continues with drills that combine several of the target vowels in short phrases.
- Lesson 3 puts it all together with several drill passages. Firstly, it reminds you about the voice placement. Further, it walks you through the pronunciation phrase by phrase before leading you into a normal speaking pace. After that, you’ll learn ways to create lighter and harsher versions of the speech pattern.
MORE ABOUT THE CHICAGO ACCENT
Chicago speech is not as readily recognized by other English-language speakers as the accents of NYC and the American South. But this accent has come more into the public eye (or ear) in recent decades. Perhaps the popularity of SNL’s “Bill Swerski’s Super Fans” skits in the 1990s aided this awareness. This very heavy, ethnic, and easily stereotyped version of the accent no longer characterizes most Chicago speakers. But less intense versions of its voice placement and characteristic vowels still exist widely in Chicago and other Great Lakes areas.
CHICAGO ACCENT FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
- There are many contemporary plays (TV shows as well) set in Chicago and vicinity. Among them are Sam Shepard’s Buried Child, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, and others. Another Chicago playwright frequently setting plays in his home city is David Ives. My favorite for the harsh, old-style accent is the one-act Lives of the Saints. Other widely known Chicago scripts are The Front Page, the musical Chicago, and Bleacher Bums.
- To do or not to do this accent? New York and American Southern accents are easily identified by most Americans (and some other English speakers). Far fewer people readily recognize the Chicago sound. As such, directors must make artistic decisions about whether to have Chicago characters embody the accent. Here are the questions to consider: Will the accents, if done well, help develop the setting and give useful dimension to the character(s)? Will the harshness of some of the vowels (especially in heavier versions) bother viewers not familiar with the pattern?