Learning a Russian Accent
WHAT WILL YOU DOWNLOAD?
The download contains sixty-five (65) 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 resonance (placement), inflection/rhythm, and pronunciation of several degrees of intensity of the Russian accent. Here’s a brief summary of the training.
- Lesson 1 teaches you mouth movements and postures that create the resonance or voice placement of the Russian accent.
- The 2nd Lesson deals with those target pronunciations closely extending from or embedding into that muscularity/resonance trait.
- Lesson 3 deals with the Russian accent’s pitch and stress/rhythm characteristics.
- The 4th Lesson teaches the pronunciations of the Russian R and the accent’s other characteristic consonants.
- 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 RUSSIAN ACCENT
The Russian accent requires more aggressive movement of the rear tongue than is typical for most English speakers. This trait not only contributes to its resonance, or voice focus, but also helps actors produce its unique vowel pronunciations.
Exaggerated Russian accents have been used to reinforce cold-war Soviet stereotypes. (Think the animated Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale from Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show.) Though these are perhaps not as common as German stereotypes, actors must take care to avoid one-dimensional characters. You must keep available a full range of personality and behavioral options for characters’ given circumstances regardless of language origins.
RUSSIAN ACCENT FOR TODAY’S ACTORS
- When should you use a Russian accent? You shouldn’t assume that every character whose native language is Russian should embody its accent on stage. What about characters who would be speaking Russian in “the real world,” such as those in Chekov’s The Three Sisters? Many would consider English with a Russian accent a bad artistic representation of the Russian language “without a foreign accent.” So, what brand of English would better represent Russian with “no foreign accent”?
- In these situations, directors often prefer “no accent,” i.e., the Standard English of the performance country. Others might choose light accents to create a flavor of characters’ real-world Russian while maintaining the impression of fluency. The same artistic choice applies to using French accents for Molière, Spanish for Lorca, and Norwegian accents for Ibsen, etc.
- A more overt accent is more often wanted when, in the script, native Russian speakers are conversing in English. Examples would be Boris Kolenkhov and The Grand Duchess Olga Katrina in Kaufman & Hart’s You Can’t Take It With You. Here, directors would likely want accents to differentiate these characters as non-native English speakers.