Speaking in Tongues
February 24, 2010 6:28 PM   Subscribe

I want to expand my collection of accents. What movies should I watch? I'm especially interested in regional American, UK and Irish accents, but hearing non-native English speakers is helpful as well.
posted by freshwater_pr0n to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For some good Baltimore accents, check out John Waters. For a great Baltimore accent, rent Season 4 of The Wire and listen to Assistant Principal Donnelly.
posted by sallybrown at 6:40 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rusty Dewees does a sort of over-the-top rural Vermonter accent in his Logger stand-up routine. Fun fact: he drives my house in the first one of these [1, 2, 3, intro has his version of a French-Canadian accent, I can't speak to that one at all.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: For a lowland Scots accent (and an incredible cinematic experience) you could do a lot worse than Bill Douglas's acclaimed trilogy of films about his childhood in a small mining town.
For a Merseyside (Liverpool and environs) accent there's the now defunct long-running soap Brookside. Not all the characters were supposed to be Scousers but most were and you'll soon spot the difference. Old clip here and that Youtube user has plenty.
posted by Abiezer at 7:04 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Mike Leigh's "Life is Sweet" may be helpful for its Cockney UK dialects. (I think it's also a really good movie with a bleak and yet hopeful charm. It has yet to be released on U.S. dvd, but can be viewed in parts on youtube if you have the patience.)
posted by applemeat at 7:07 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Not a movie, but I personally really enjoy the Boston and other New England accents found on the PBS television show This Old House.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Warrior Queen has an amazing jamaican accent, and really hams up the patois. Spaceape is more jamaica via london.

Mike Skinner aka The Streets is from a Birmingham suburb, but raps in strange exaggerated and hybridized accent that's mostly cockney. Michael Caine is my go-to example for londoner/cockney.

Ozzy has a great Birmingham (and generally west midlands) accent.

This is a pretty representative Dutch accent, from someone who clearly grew up in the netherlands (rather than belgium).
posted by phrontist at 7:21 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Fargo (North Central American accent)
Withnail & I (British accent, particularly Ralph Brown as Danny the drug dealer)
The Commitments (Irish accent)
Trainspotting (Scottish accent)
Also, it's not a movie but the Speech Accent Archive is a great resource.
posted by mia_farrow at 7:22 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Two for the price of one. English East Midlands and RP:This is England
posted by Dr.Pill at 7:27 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: For Southern US, see the previous thread on the subject, or the PBS series about Appalachia narrated by Sissy Spacek. At the very least, you'll learn the proper way to pronounce "Appalachian" (no, it's not like the term used to describe wine-growing regions).
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:40 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: mia_farrow beat me to the Fargo punch.
check out There Will Be Blood
The Big Lebowski has an eclectic variety of accents(LA Slacker, nihlist, southern drawl, hispanic)
posted by neilkod at 7:40 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: See if you can get your hands on "American Tongues". It's a documentary specifically about the variation of American dialect from coast to coast, as well as a light exploration of the associated baggage of each accent. Please ignore the 80's production quality, it's a really great movie.
posted by Think_Long at 7:55 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For Boston, watch Good Will Hunting, specifically the scenes between Matt Damon and Robin Williams; when you can tell that Damon's is right and Williams' is wrong, you've got the accent.
posted by staggernation at 7:59 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: For a variety of the Irish, you must watch some Father Ted.
posted by arishaun at 8:08 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Scarfies for the New Zealand accent. You'll also hear the Southland Burr, a hard 'r' descended from Scottish settlers and spoken by many southern New Zealanders.

Angst for the contemporary urban Australian accent. I have yet to hear an American get this accent right - they always seem to sound like a Cockney Steve Irwin.

Singapore Dreaming for Singlish, the Chinese- and Malay-influenced colloquial English spoken by some Singaporeans.
posted by embrangled at 8:09 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: The "Seven Up" documentary series deliberately recruited British kids from the upper, middle and lower classes all over the UK (or maybe just England; not 100% sure). There's a great variety of accents in there.
posted by Clambone at 8:11 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Adventure in English is a rich source for origins and variations on spoken English
Cal is a heartbreaking film in its own right, but listen for the contrast between the Northern Irish Protestant and Catholic accents.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:30 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: The Newfoundland accent is hot. Check out The Divine Ryans.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:35 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: most people do awful boston accents in movies. damon in good will hunting is good, but i think casey affleck and amy ryan in gone baby gone is pretty spot on as well.
posted by mattsweaters at 8:42 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: I second the Newfoundland accent. Check out Rick Mercer, who appears to have plenty of his rants on YouTube.

For Halifax, try watching some episodes of The Trailer Park Boys.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:56 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Variations on a Glaswegian accent from BBC Scotland:

Rab C. Nesbitt

Takin' Over the Asylum
posted by colfax at 11:19 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Just spotted this documentary from 1996: An English Accent, "the British accent Received Pronunciation (RP). Although spoken by relatively few people, they are people who occupy powerful positions in English life and in the rest of the world. Looks at the pronunciation features that characterise RP, at how people react to the RP accent and its speakers, and at how RP is changing." By the OU so should be quality.
It's floating about on torrent sites, which is of course not where I saw it.
posted by Abiezer at 2:42 AM on February 25, 2010

Best answer: The Chicago accents in The Blues Brothers. Dan Ackroyd/Elwood's is more exaggerated than John Belushi/Jake's, no doubt because Ackroyd's is Canadian and is thus putting on a fake one, while Belushi is actually from Chicagoland. Plus, you know, anyone who has never seen this movie, should.
posted by drlith at 4:13 AM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: CSPAN House coverage is a great place to pick up accents on a continuing basis. The members' district cities are displayed with their name.
posted by jgirl at 5:59 AM on February 25, 2010

Response by poster: These are all fantastic!!! Thank you, everyone.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:45 AM on February 25, 2010

Kes, directed by Ken Loach, for some proper (South) Yorkshire accents. Also Looks and Smiles and The Navigators.
posted by ComfySofa at 6:53 AM on February 25, 2010

My Name is Joe by Ken Loach for a Glaswegian accent. The print I saw had subtitles for an American audience.

Similiarly, The Harder They Come for A Jamaican accent.

At both these movies I held up my hand to cover the subtitles and found myself absolutely lost.
posted by readery at 7:55 AM on February 25, 2010

I always like the Scottish accents in Gregory's Girl.
posted by plinth at 8:49 AM on February 25, 2010

The Departed has a good range of Boston accents and is a great movie.

Vernon, Florida has some very interesting backwoods Florida accents, which you don't hear in media. In fact, Errol Morris has picked a good many characters with interesting accents for his various films and First Person.
posted by cmoj at 8:53 AM on February 25, 2010

Best answer: I found this good post on regional accents in movies on Linguist List.

I just saw Michael Caine in "Alfie" again last night doing his best Cockney. Not sure how authentic the accent is, but I'd imagine it's pretty close. His role in "Mona Lisa" also has a great Cockney accent.

The most impenetrable (to this US-ian) British (Mancunian?) and Scottish accents I've ever heard were in Mike Leigh's "Naked."
posted by blucevalo at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2010

Yeah, there's a "British" accent in the same way that there's an American accent. Practically no-one outside small areas of North London and a few towns in south east England speaks like Hugh Grant.

Gavin and Stacey has pretty good Welsh accents. It's set in a (real) medium-sized town in south Wales, where people might speak some Welsh but almost universally have English as their first language. Most of the accents are spot-on for that area, with a couple of accents from other areas thrown into the mix.

It's a long time since I saw The Englishman who walked up a hil but came down a mountain, but I remember most of the accents being pretty convincing for south-mid Wales valleys. These characters are people who are fluent in Welsh and English, probably defaulting to Welsh when no outsiders are around. (To hear modern [southern] Welsh spoken, check out Pobol Y Cwm, "people of the valley").

The accent from North Wales is wildly different (and, IMO, much nicer) but I can't think of a decent source online.

Coronation Street, one of the UK's most popular and longest-running soap operas, is good for accents from near Manchester, at the north end of the English midlands. Still in the Midlands, Craig Charles (Dave Lister in Red Dwarf) has a good, but not very strong, Liverpool accent. If you can find Chris Barrie (Rimmer) imitating Lister, the accent is much more pronounced. Moving further north (although still well within England) Emmerdale, another long-running soap, is great for accents from south-mid Yorkshire.

If you can get it, the Parliament Channel (probably on bbc.co.uk/iplayer) will let your hear a range of accents, particularly Gordon Brown (anglicised scottish) and David Cameron (Posh, south-east english, although he seems to be working on his accent to eliminate the "posh"). The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly also publish video of their sessions which, if you can access them, are a great tour of Scottish and Welsh (e.g.) accents. Similarly, the regional news services (the BBC has regional variants for various parts of the UK) tend to employ newsreaders with local accents.
posted by metaBugs at 10:20 AM on February 25, 2010

Best answer: Back when my wife wanted a Scottish accent, I went to the Samuel French store and picked up a handbook and a couple of cassettes. She'd practice during her commute. Why did she want to develop a Scottish accent?

A dinna ken!

Couldn't find that particular product*, but I did find Accents: A Manual for Actors which seems to fit the bill, here.

*Oh wait, I did.
posted by notyou at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2010

I was going to suggest The Full Monty, and when Googling to find out if those accents were accurate, came across this page, which seems to have more examples (Kes and Little Voice, neither of which I've seen).

I believe Billy Elliot also features an accent from Northern England.
posted by cider at 2:08 PM on February 25, 2010

According to imdb.com, Gregory's Girl was, "Dubbed with milder Scottish accents for the original American release."
Vermont accents in The Spitfire Grill - I don't know how authentic they are.
Rick Mercer was mentioned upthread because of his Newfoundland accent - here is Rick Mercer's official site at the CBC.
Gwynne Dyer comes from Newfoundland, but I think his accent has changed while studying and teaching in London. Check out Gwynne Dyer's podcasts.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:23 PM on February 25, 2010

Have you seen O Brother, Where Art Thou?

It sounds awful "southron" to me, speaking as a Kentuckian (although I reckon my folks speak with more "Appalachian" (appa-latch-un!) than "southern" accents). I heard recently that Clooney had some relatives in Kentucky, to whom he sent the script so they could record themselves reading it.

I also heard the recording he received back had all them vulgar "cuss words" removed. :)
posted by edguardo at 8:54 AM on February 28, 2010

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