Accent: Help or Hindrance?

Is having an accent while speaking another language ever positive?  I always used to think so, but then I came across Sofia Vergara, an actress from Columbia.  Although she may be known for previous roles, I recently discovered her on the TV show Modern Family where she plays a Columbian and speaks English with a strong accent.  In fact, her mispronunciations of certain words are often used to provide humor.  So it dawned on me that perhaps her accent contributed to her professional success.  After all, would she have been cast on the show if she didn’t have an accent?

In a recent article she spoke about how difficult it has been to get rid of her accent, stating, “I’ve been here for 16 years but I can’t get rid of my accent.”  She attributed the problem to being too old and said her accent is getting “worse and worse” the longer she stays.

According to her IMDB trivia page, Vergara is also a natural blonde who dyed her hair darker to look like a stereotypical Latin so she would get more roles.  Based on her success, this seems to be working for her professionally which goes to show that having a strong accent may not always be a bad thing.

Other actors who are known for strong accents include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz. It seems their accent has been worked into their image and losing might be detrimental to their career.

So are there certain situations where having an accent can actually help?  Would you encourage these actors to try to lose their accents?  Why or why not?


2 Responses to Accent: Help or Hindrance?

  1. Jeff M says:

    I find that Hollywood plays to people’s expected stereotypes when it comes to accents. So it’s a double-edged sword. Their accent may give them success, but they may be cast in roles that stereotype people, such as Antoino Banderaze playing Zorro or Sofia Vergara playing a cleaning lady. Perhaps it’s just me but don’t the bad guys usually have a Russian Eastern European accent in Hollywood movies?

    • JMS says:

      I agree, it can definitely be a double-edged sword depending on the roles they’re playing. But at the same time it seems like having an accent and/or being stereotyped isn’t hurting their success, whereas in other professions it might. And yes, the villains usually are Russian or Eastern European but the actors aren’t always of that nationality. A lot of villains in American movies are also British too, so there’s a bit of a stereotype that people with accents can’t be trusted. I’m planning a post on the portrayal of Russian in film though so thanks for the comment!

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