The Art of Acting in Accents
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In the last few decades an increasing number of Dutch actors were featured in English-language films. This phenomenon appears to go hand in hand with an increase in how native-like these actors sound speaking English. This study investigates whether the level of success at producing a native-like English accent by the Dutch actors influences their success in the English-language American film world. Literary research suggests that natives have negative attitudes towards foreign-accented English. The correlation between the success in the English-language film world and the attainment of a native-like English has been calculated for seven Dutch actors with varying levels of success in the English-language film world and varying degrees of attainment of an English target accent. To do so a survey was sent to 49 American respondents, who were requested to evaluate the accents of nine speakers. Seven of these were the Dutch actors and two were native speakers of a non-standard variety, added as a control group. The survey contained audio clips of each actor and a question about if he sounded native and if not, the respondent had to indicate on a 8-point-Likert scale how obvious and how annoying that was to him. Two hierarchies were made of the results and a comparison between the two showed a slight similarity in the order of which actors were the most successful in the English-language film world and in producing a native-like accent, with clusters at the top, middle and bottom of both hierarchies, pointing out that accent might influence success.