dialect coach

Alicia Ernand is a highly respected Spanish dialect coach. Her degree in Psychology from Florida International University, coupled with her degree in Interpretation and Translation from UCLA, are instrumental to her success when coaching actors. Although Spanish is spoken in at least 23 countries, there are significant differences in terms of the nuances of meaning in words, accents, cadences, and idiomatic expressions pertinent to a given region. Ernand’s bi-cultural expertise is key to her ability to inspire actors to excel linguistically.

In her private practice, she coaches a wide variety of actors who cross over from the Latin to the Anglo market. Whether they are character actors, series regulars, academy award winners, telenovela stars, or commercial and voice-over actors, their common goals are to increase their Spanish Dialect Repertoire, to become more marketable, and to improve their accent expertise.

Her TV Dialect Coaching career started 15 years ago teaching the late John Spencer to speak Spanish with a Cuban accent in his role as White House Chief of Staff on the The West Wing. On True Blood, she coached Kevin Alejandro, the late Nelsan Ellis, Fiona Shaw, and Paola Turbay. Some of the roles called for a Spanish accent with the infamous lisp used in Spain. In May of 2019, Ernand joined Mayans MC for Season 2. The setting takes place in Baja California, which is a melting pot for a rich variety of Mexican accents due to the proximity to the border. Working with a predominantly international Hispanic cast, her services included pre-production and on-location coaching. What made this such a unique project was the variety of language issues ranging from accent neutralization, to accent acquisition, to accent omission. She looks forward to Season 3!

In an ideal situation, Ernand prefers to discuss language issues with directors, writers, and script translators at the pre-production stage. She has a keen eye for spotting false cognates, syntax irregularities, and idiomatic equivalents that fall short of cultural nuances. However, once on the set, when there are last minute re-writes, she is very skilled at proposing creative problem solving techniques when actors are struggling with pronunciation issues. Sometimes code switching from Spanish to English is the solution, while in some instances the use of Spanglish can be very effective. In many cases, a simple synonym adjustment is all that is needed.

For commercials airing on Telemundo and Univision, the two main Spanish networks, the big demand is for a neutral Spanish. Even in productions where lip-synching is planned for the finished product, Ernand has to coach the actor to use his articulators correctly. One such project was a very popular L’oreal campaign. She coached Beyonce, Elizabeth Banks, and Eva Longoria Parker. The actresses had to perfectly pronounce the words in Spanish so that the lip-sync looked flawless.

In projects where the character speaks English with a Spanish accent, directors often request that actors be able to produce different degrees of an accent ranging from a very thick one, to just a trace of an accent. Often times, both versions are filmed and the final decision is made in the editing room. Ernand works with many actors who start the training process of accent acquisition way before the audition comes in, so that when it does, they have more acting choices.

To date, her most rewarding linguistic challenge was coaching Japanese Academy Award Winner, Kaori Momoi, in a role requiring her to speak Spanish. Through a Japanese interpreter, Momoi and Ernand worked in perfect harmony.

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