Learning Norwegian & Swedish Accents
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains fifty-nine (59) 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 English with various styles and intensities of Norwegian and Swedish accents.
- Lesson 1 contains drills for producing this accent’s characteristic inflections (pitch glides). You’ll practice using this trait effectively for emphasis without slipping into an “up-down” stereotype of Scandinavian speech.
- The 2nd Lesson teaches you how to shape and move your mouth to generate the resonance or voice placement of Norwegian/Swedish accents.
- Lesson 3 shows you how to embed target Scandinavian vowels into the voice placement and inflections you learned earlier.
- The 4th Lesson teaches the accent’s target consonant pronunciations, beginning with the R sound.
- Lesson 5 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 NORWEGIAN / SWEDISH ACCENT
Accents of these two languages often contain a characteristic inflection or gliding pitch. This is particularly true in northern Norway, but it can also be heard in other regions. This up-and-then-down-again glide is very similar to that of the English in North Dakota and Minnesota—influenced by Norwegian settlers. It also slightly resembles the up-down lilt in much of American Southern speech. The lilt occurs on stressed syllables; it’s usually most noticeable on words speakers are emphasizing.
Accents with significant lilts are susceptible to stereotyping when actors overly “play the lilt” in a repetitive pattern. (Think the Swedish Chef character in The Muppet Show.) That can readily dominate your character’s speech and distract from a sense of real interaction. Performers must avoid this problem by using the glides (and changing their duration) to emphasize words and ideas rather than to proclaim the presence of the accent.
NORWEGIAN / SWEDISH FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
- When should you use a Norwegian or Swedish accent? Many might think that every character who speaks a Scandinavian language should have its accent when speaking English. But that’s not always the case. There are times that require artistic choices about this. For example, what about plays in which the characters would be speaking Norwegian (Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler or A Doll’s House) or Swedish (Strindberg’s The Father or Miss Julie) in the real world? In those case, what brand of English would best represent one of these languages with “no foreign accent”?
- Many directors recommend that English with “no foreign accent,” i.e., the standard English of the performance location, would be best. But a few might still want some flavor of the characters’ real-world Norwegian or Swedish, albeit probably not heavy enough to reflect a lack of fluency. The same artistic choice applies to using French accents for Molière, Spanish for Lorca, German for Schiller, etc.
- The accent is more often wanted/needed when, in the script, a first-language Norwegian or Swedish speaker is conversing in English. An example would be the older characters (Papa, Mama, Aunt Jenny, and others) in John Van Druten’s I Remember Mama. In such cases, most directors request accents to identify these characters as non-native English speakers.