1. PlasticfrogCG
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    PlasticfrogCG New Member

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    No-so-foreign Accents

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PlasticfrogCG, Jan 23, 2010.

    Ok, brief run down: I'm trying to make a web comic. But the dialogue is just as important as what is visually happening in the frame. That's why I'm here.

    So here is my first situation, and I hope you all can expand on it:

    I am American. The main character in my comic has an Australian accent. Her best friend has a Scottish brogue. I don't really know how to portray these accents without going way overboard on slang (researched from the internet) and/or phonetic spellings.

    Here is the easy part! The story takes place in an alternate universe on a planet that's not Earth! So I can get by just fine with something very general, as long as the reader gets the idea that one character has an Australian influenced dialect and the other Scottish.

    More dialects are to come, but these two are the main characters.

    And could you please post examples of your suggestions?

    Doh! Only here 20 minutes and I may have posted this in the wrong forum. If it is, feel free to move it. I'll make sure to double just the forum type next time.
     
  2. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just as a point of order ... Did you know Americans have accents? I don't just mean folks from the Carolinas or Georgia sounding different from people in NYC or Philly and those folks sounding different from people on the Left Coast or Wisconsin.

    Just as much as there are about half a dozen distinctly different accents in England (which is about the size of Colorado or Idaho in sq. miles) and people in Northern Ireland (Belfast/Ulster) speak differently from those in the Irish Republic. Anywhere else in the world people will tell you they can tell an American by his accent (as well as his boorish behavior!)

    I point this out because you say your mc is an Aussie and has an Australian accent. My first question is ... Which one? Which is to say, you have more than one from which to choose. If you start stereotyping your characters, you run the risk of alienating readers. If you do not have a clear concept of the voice you are looking for - and don't have the wherewithal to take a trip to Queensland and Perth and Sydney and over to New Zealand, maybe, to chat up the Kiwis - then don't stress over trying to affect an accent for your character(s). Just allude to the fact that this one is an Aussie and that one a Scot. Let your audience take it from there.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your best bet is to refer to books, films, and television programs from the regions in question. Don't focus on the subtleties of pronunciation - phonetic rendering of the wording is usually not the best choice. Concentrate instead on dialect - local idioms, characteristic word choices and sentence structuring.

    The problem with phonetic rendering is that it slows the reader dow, unless it is such a commonly used rendering that the reader recognizes it on sight. We don't read letter by letter. We read by recognizing patterns; words, even entire phrases. If we have to stop to sound out a spelling, it's like stepping into a patch of ankle deep soft clay during a brisk walk.

    So try to collect samples of regional conversations, and study the wording. Sites like youtube can help, except regional information may be lacking. The best choices are conversations between locals, and written by locals in the case of scripted/fictional conversations. If you've ever seen a low budget American portrayal of a scene containing someone from England, you'll know what I mean.
     
  4. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Brogue? That is Irish.

    As for Scottish dialect, or language (Doric is often mutually unintelligible with English, and Lallans is similar - the dialects of the northeast and the south, respectively), then you'll probably not be able to make anything realistic if you rely on films. I suggest you get a phrasebook, something like Teach Yourself Doric, as nothing else is true. There is a book for every Scottish dialect and language, except Shetlandic, which is only spoken by the older generation there, anyway.
     
  5. PlasticfrogCG
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    PlasticfrogCG New Member

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    Thanks a bunch!

    Yes I am well aware of different American dialects. Despite growing up in the south my family is originally from Pennsylvania and I've been told I have a very distinct northern accent. Some of the local color has rubbed off, but I still pronounce a lot of local words differently (Nor-folk instead Nah-fick for example).
    But to the untrained ear all foreign dialects tend to sound the same.

    I'll definitely try to hunt some more videos. But I have tried that before and didn't have much luck. Could you suggest some books that might help? I'm not familiar with a lot of Australian authors.

    As per alienating the readers? I've gone waaaaaay past that! :D
    The characters aren't even human, they just speak like them. But I will pay more attention to the dialects because the language was one of the devices I wanted to use to keep the reader interested...that and lots of gun play and explosions. (only half-kidding there)

    @Gallowglass: See? That's what I mean! I can't even get the proper terms right! Thanks for the input! I will definitely look for that book!
     
  6. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just the point I was trying to make. I assumed you were aware of the variety of "home grown" regional accents but many people (Americans, particularly), seem to be globally ignorant and don't seem to realize how many different regional accents there are in other, oftentimes smaller, countries. I have even heard some say silly things like, "I don't have an accent", as though the way they speak is THE way to speak simply because they don't have an educated ear!

    http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/lit.html
    Check out the above link; scroll down to the fiction authors and do a little research their work. As for film - checkout anything by Baz Luhrman ("Australia" w/Aussies Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles). He's an Australian filmmaker who does everything Australian. He has an incredible passion for his country and his films reflect that. You might even want to check out the trailers for the film "Australia" with interviews with Kidman, Jackman, and Luhrman. You might also want to check into Heath Ledger's earlier film work prior to his American debut. These are more available in the states since his death last January.

    (Oooh, explosions! I love to make things go BOOM!)
    Your readers will readily accept the nature of your cartooning, including the 'space' aliens who speak like 'earthlings' concept. They may even willingly accept characters who affect artificial accents, so, even bad representations may work. Most people just hate to be treated like fools or to have their intelligence insulted (assuming they are smart enough to know they have been insulted! (Oh! Bad me.)) The point I was trying to make, badly, apparently, was that, if you can't readily portray a particular accent with confidence utilizing a few well-placed peculiarities of speech peppered into their dialog, readers are likely to read a bit, think you don't know what you're talking about, and toss your hard work into the trash with a, "This guy's an idiot!" kind of response!

    Gallowglass made an excellent suggestion as to the phrasebook, which reminded me that their are audio tapes/CDs available, primarily for theatrical training purposes, that you can use to study particular dialects and accents. Your best bet would be to go to the nearest university or college library.

    Good luck.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do what cog said...
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes. I think anything else is going to read like cliched stereotypes. The Dick Van Dyke school of English accents. The Finnegan's Rainbow school of Irish accents. You might get away with dropping in the occasional regional word; a Scot may use "bonny" or "outwith" when speaking to a non-Scot, but is unlikely to say "braw" or "drecht". Really, it's a minefield.
     
  9. thecommabandit
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    thecommabandit Member

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    Quick tip: Scottish accents in text often have "did not" and "can not" (and their contractions) as "didnae" and "cannae", respectively. I think those will go a long way to just establish that the character has a Scottish accent.
     

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