Accents and Dialects
Every language has a multitude of accents. English has one of the richest varieties, ranging from British to American, Irish to Australian, New Zealandic to South African – and all of these dialects can still be divided into smaller groups, including Scottish, Welsh, Northern English, Cockney, Estuary, Italo-American, Southern American, Texan or African-American.
Dialects are of great importance in many movies, since they’re obviously an indicator that a character does not have the same cultural background. If those are dubbed into a foreign language, accents can often not be taken into consideration, so the result is a group of characters where everyone speaks with the same accent, thus the purpose of the plot is lost. A good example is Audrey Hepburn’s famous role in My Fair Lady. The film is about a British upper class linguistic professor who runs into a Cockney flower girl on the market place, and makes a wager that he can turn her into a proper lady. Most of the movie consists of him giving her pronunciation lessons, trying to get rid of her Cockney accent.
Another brilliant example is Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, which practically lives off its many languages. There is a very distinctive scene in which an English spy speaks nearly flawless German, but with an ever so slight, barely noticeable English accent – of course the Nazis notice this sooner or later. This may not be a good example for English speakers, but it shows perfectly how important an accent or a dialect can be for the plot of a movie. Another example is the scene in which Brad Pitt playing a southern American helplessly tries to pronounce Italian. This doesn’t work, and even though the enemy plays the game, the consequences are nigh… :
Accents often come with great acting performances. Hugh Laurie is in fact from England, while his alter ego Gregory House speaks with a flawless American accent.