Learning a German Accent
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains sixty-one (61) 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 first learn the resonance (placement), inflection/rhythm, and pronunciation of a general German accent. You’ll go on to learn different styles and intensities of the sound. Here’s a brief summary of the training.
- The 1st Lesson teaches you mouth movements and postures that create the low-front resonance or voice placement of the German accent.
- Lesson 2 shows you how to embed the German accent’s target vowels into the tone placement learned in the first lesson.
- The 3rd Lesson teaches the accent’s stress and rhythm.
- Lesson 4 deals with the unique pronunciation of the German R.
- the 5th Lesson focuses on the other unique consonant pronunciations of the German accent.
- Lesson 6 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.
MORE ABOUT THE GERMAN ACCENT
Many actors mistakenly believe that the German language and accent are very guttural, or throaty. This is a false perception that often interferes with the process of learning this speech pattern. True, the German R is produced between the rear tongue and soft palate—much closer to the throat than the R’s of English and Romance languages other than French. The German H sometimes has this placement as well. But the general resonance, or voice focus, of most German speech is actually frontal. The beginning of the audio program focuses on this element.
Over the years, many actors and comedians have used exaggerated versions of the German accent to generate aggressive militaristic stereotypes. (Think the German characters in the TV series Hogan’s Heroes.) Such stereotyping is no doubt rooted in sad elements of the country’s political and military history. But you should typically not use the kinds of accents that limit character choices and intentions. A full range of personality and behavioral options must be available for characters’ given circumstances regardless of language origins.
GERMAN ACCENT FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
- When should you use a German accent? Shouldn’t every real-world German character have that accent when speaking English? Not necessarily. What about characters who would be speaking German in “the real world”? Some examples would be characters in Schiller’s William Tell or both the play and musical Spring Awakening. Many would consider English with a German accent to be a bad representation of German “without a foreign accent.” As such, what brand of English would best represent German with “no foreign accent”?
- In such cases, directors often prefer “English with no accent,” i.e., the Standard English of the performance country. Some might still want light accents to maintain a flavor of characters’ real-world German without losing the impression of fluency. The same artistic choice applies to using French accents for Molière, Spanish for Lorca, Norwegian for Ibsen, etc.
- A full German accent is more often desired when, in the script, first-language German speakers are conversing in English. An example would be Kurt Mueller in Helman’s Watch on the Rhine. Here, most directors use accents to identify those characters as non-native English speakers.