Learning the New York City Accent
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains seventy-nine (79) 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 learn the general New York City accent, recognizable by most North American English speakers. This accent comes in many styles and intensities (including Brooklyn and Bronx styles). But there are strong similarities throughout NYC and surrounding parts of New York State, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Here’s a brief summary of the training.
- Lesson 1 teaches you the resonance or voice placement of the New York 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 NYC’s characteristic rounded and half-rounded vowels. These sounds are easier to learn as extensions of the tongue and lip movements taught earlier. In this lesson, and the next two, you’ll also learn to avoid slipping into overtly Boston pronunciations of several important New York sounds.
- Lesson 3 presents the unique New York pronunciations of other isolated vowel sounds.
- Lesson 4 shows you how to drop R sounds that come after New York vowels. But it also teaches when and how R-drops don’t happen and when R’s sometimes intrude when the letter isn’t even there.
- Lesson 5 takes you through other consonant pronunciations that are distinctly New York in nature. Further, you’ll consider the dangers of becoming hard to understand if you take some of these NYC sounds too far.
- Lesson 6 reviews the “Boston Warnings” for one final dose of avoiding NYC/Boston accent confusion.
- Lesson 7 puts it all together with several drill passages. Firstly, it reminds you about the voice placement. Further, it walks you through the pronunciations phrase by phrase before leading you into a normal speaking pace. The lesson ends by taking you through more and less intense versions of the accent. These include characteristics historically associated with Brooklyn and Bronx speech.
MORE ABOUT THE NYC ACCENT
Many people erroneously describe heavy New York accents as having sloppy diction or being under-articulated. Actually, the opposite of that is true: this accent is over-articulated. The lower lip and jaw work and push harder than required for most other American accents. New York’s characteristic low-front voice placement also comes from these mouth movements and postures. You’ll hear this speech style not only in the five boroughs of NYC, but also farther out on Long Island and in Westchester County, NY. It also crosses state lines and occurs in and around Jersey City and Newark and in southwestern Connecticut.
NEW YORK ACCENT FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
- Thousands of characters in hundreds of plays and film scripts could legitimately speak with degrees of the New York accent.
- Too many actors make aggressive-personality and low-IQ choices for characters with New York accents. This is often an overreaction to the accent’s aggressive articulation style and low-front resonance. As an actor, you must not be forced into these choices by the accent’s physicalization and voice placement. Make these choices based on a character’s dialogue and given circumstances. New York characters, even those with the heaviest accents, can have sweet personalities and play loving actions.
- The characters in many of Neil Simon’s comedies are New Yorkers. The same is true of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and Death of a Salesman. There are also many famous musicals set in and around NYC. Among them are Hello, Dolly!, Fiorello!, Guys and Dolls, and Funny Girl. Of course, directors appropriately make artistic decisions about whether and to what degree given characters will have this speech style.