Russian accent

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by Parola0, Jan 20, 2014.

  1. Parola0 New Member


    I have a question about Russian accent. My parents are originally Polish but now speak English same as me but in this case English is my first language. Moreover, when I try to speak Polish I always get a Russian accent which may be because I've been learning Russian language for some time already. As I heard it's not normal to have a foreign accent in another language which is your parents native language.
    To me it seems like I hear the difference, but I can't seem to be able to use it in my own speech so as a polish speaker what would you say is the difference between these two accents and what exactly am I saying wrong?
    Also, how would I be able to get rid of it, if not make it less strong?

    Thank you everyone :)
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  2. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Hi Parola0.

    Did you have a lot of exposure to Polish as you grew up? You need to bear in mind that language acquisition is a complicated process and just because your parents' L1 is Polish doesn't mean that your Polish won't be heavily accented.

    It would be useful to hear you speak Polish, could you possibly supply us with some recording? We would then be able to tell you what sounds off in your speech and give you some advice. :)

    There are quite a few differences between Polish phonetics and Russian phonetics, it can't be answered in one post.
  3. Parola0 New Member

    Well I never finished primary school but I can still speak it to some extent. I will see if I'll be able to record me speaking Polish but if not as far as I know what my parents tell me is that I really put a lot of stress on my words and often I do miss the "w" sound and say "l" but outside of that I am not sure how to describe it.
  4. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    I asked about exposure because you wrote 'As I heard it's not normal to have an foreign accent in another language which is your parents native language.', which is not a valid statement. If English is your first language and your parents didn't talk much to you in Polish, thus making it difficult for you to learn how to correctly produce Polish sounds, you can't be expected to speak Polish without a foreign accent. That's perfectly normal. :)

    As far as stress is concerned, Polish, unlike English and Russian, is not a stress-timed language, so the only thing you can do to improve it is to listen a lot to good Polish and then try to incorporate the way words are stressed in Polish into your own speech. Perhaps someone else on this forum will be of more help in this regard. I can give you some links to very fine recordings of very fine artists speaking proper Polish.

    As for the replacement of [w] for [l], I don't quite understand why that should happen. These sounds are produced in markedly different ways. I take it that it happens only when you speak too quickly? Then I'd suggest that you take it easy and slow down a bit.

    Anyway, a recording of you speaking Polish would really be useful. I know that the above doesn't seem very helpful, I'm sorry, but it's really difficult to answer such a broad question.

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  5. jasio Senior Member


    I find it pretty difficult to explain what you may be pronouncing wrong, if I have not heard your pronunciation. Perhaps if you could record a few paragraphs of a Polish text and make it available to the group or as a private message, I (and perhaps others) could be much more helpful.

    Russian pronunciation, albait much different than Polish, is much closer to the latter than any of them to English. Hence, for me it's pretty natural that if you try to avoid sounding English, you fall to sounding Russian. I experienced a similar phenomenon with vocabulary: I was learning Russian for many years at school, and when I later tried to get a grasp of Ukrainian or Slovak and I didn't know right words, I instinctively prefered to use Russian words rather than Polish to avoid speaking Polish. The funny thing was that quite often the respective words in these languages resembled their Polish counterparts more closely than Russian. ;)

    Unfortunately, I didn't participate in the training myself, so I only have 2nd hand information, but my colleagues had had a foreign accent reduction training in English. A part of the training was reading aloud poetry - probably because it naturely preserves the right rythm and melody of the spoken language. Of course, it would be the best if you have access to the same texts recorded by native speakers, preferably professional actors or lectors. I tried this trick in Russian and Ukrainian, and indeed it was easier for me to identify proper accents than just by looking at the text (as you know, the Russian accent is movable and not quite obvious for a foreigner). Another trick I'm trying with Italian is to read simultanously with a native lector: with italian musical accent it's easier for me to mimic the melody of the language this way, just as if I was learning to sing a new song. It's too early though to say if it really helped me. :)

    Indeed, Russian accent is much stronger than Polish, is very characteristic (for me it sounds very emphatic) and gives a language very specific melody.

    Polish 'ł' consonant, although sounds like English 'w' nowadays, developed from a hard 'l' (probably similar to a 'dark l' in English). The difference between hard and soft 'l' is still retained in Russian, and in many words in which there is 'soft l' ('ль') in Russian, in Polish 'l' ('light l') is used, and in many words with Russian 'л' in Polish we use 'ł' (English 'w'). So if the words in both languages are similar, it may be easier for you to fall back to a pronunciation you already know. Actually, albeit a bit amusing, it's not a mistake: speakers of former Eastern dialects of Polish (now extinct in majority) do the same thing, and in fact this pronunciation is sometimes called 'actor-type ł' (Ł_aktorskie), as it used to be taught in theatre schools, because it makes the speach is more clear and understandable (with common 'w' pronunciation it's easy and not uncommon to even miss the sound entirely and f.e. pronounce 'główny' as 'gówny').
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  6. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    It's strange to me that you call the "ł" sound "hard" and "l" soft. In Slavic linguistics it has been just the opposite: "ł" used to be called hard, and "l" soft (i.e. palatalized).
  7. jasio Senior Member

    Hi Ben Jamin,

    Would you be so kind to clarify? I've checked it dozen times, and it still looks to me as if you criticized me for calling white white.
  8. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    It does hold water for me, though, whatever the official stance at this issue is. I'm with Jasio on that, who yet again makes a fine point. :thumbsup:
  9. vianie Senior Member

    From my central Slavic point of view :)rolleyes:), there are just two Slavic languages with a stronger accent: Czech and Polish. So however much may Parola's Scottish accent in Polish resemble Russian, I believe it is still more Polish in the end.

    You guys, keep on doing good job with English. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2014
  10. marco_2 Senior Member

    I'm sorry but I can't agree - we're not talking here about stress but about accent, so, as jasio mentioned, Russian accent is really very characteristic and very difficult to get rid of by Russian native-speakers.
  11. jasio Senior Member

    Hi, Vianie,

    That's an interesting point of view, but you mean stronger than what?

    Parola has never given us a chance to actually check it. :(
    Anyway, considering the purpose of this group, I believe that we all appreciate foreigners learning Polish. Regardles of their accent. :)
  12. Wildfire-KRR New Member

    Krasnodar, Russia
    Russian - Russia
    It seems like there was a confusion between Polish "l" which is soft and "l" used in some other Slavic languages (like transliterated Russian "л") which is hard.
    So he probably meant that Polish "ł" was originally pronounced like Russian "л" (hard consonant) and then transformed to [w] sound.
  13. vianie Senior Member

    For me, the most characteristic and authentic definition of accent is point 2. as all of the rest is easily (sooner or later, depending on the subject) learnable.

    I mean stronger in itself when compared more globally.

    Publication of audio and video files is against the rules of this forum. There are exceptions, but this is not the case.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2014
  14. jasio Senior Member

    The word 'accent' is not very specific, indeed. However, when someone is said to have a Russian accent (or English, German or any else), it usually refers to the point 3.

    Good point, I have forgotten about it. Although there are always legal ways to circumvent it, such as sending the link as a private message, aren't they? ;)

    It's interesting though that the point about audio files and links is listed under "Respect intellectual property". In this case it would not be the case either, so I see no reason why moderator should prohibit it, provided that the proper procedure is observed.

    There was a confusion indeed, probably caused by me (in post #5) refering to "hard 'l'" with an intended meaning 'a hard variant of l' rather then 'l is a hard consonant'.

    BTW - unlike Russian 'ль', Polish 'l' is nowadays pronounced hard (not palatalised, so almost only the tip of the tongue touches the palate), but is still functionally soft - meaning the way it interacts with other phones.

    This is indeed almost exactly what I meant.

    "Almost", because in fact we do not know, how these phones, in both langages, were actually pronounced centuries ago, when they might have been similar or even identical, since there was noone to take the effort and record them. We can only make an educated guess based on pronunciation in modern dialects, in neighboring languages, interactions with other phones, and a mere fact that the Polish 'ł' character is in fact a modified 'l' despite its modern pronunciation. On the other hand, in some positions a respective phone in modern Byelorussian is pronounced in a similar way as in modern Polish ('Ў'), and in Ukrainian even as 'в' ('v') making decrypting possible interactions pretty difficult.
  15. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    The definition you quote is not one definition but actually eleven different definitions, which makes the word accent really a mess of meaning. I actually dislike the word, especially in English, as you never know what the interlocutor means with the word. By the way, most popular meaning, especially in US English is a pronunciation of English differing from your own. In linguistic discussion it is better to use more precise terms like "pronunciation", "dialect", "dialectal pronunciation", "non standard pronunciation", "stress", "prosody", and so on.

    I have to admit that i don't know what actually is the meaning of "Russian has a strong acent". For Polish ears Russian has a stronger prosody and pitch accent than Polish, but it is probably vice versa for Russians listening to Polish, because the two languages have a diferent prosody. If you however say, that many Russians speaking foreign languages maintain their chatacteristic mother tongue prosody while speaking other languages then I agree, but the same is true of all other nations, like the French, Italians, Poles, Serbs, Spanish, Arabs, etc., etc. I take often part in international meetings with English as a mother tongue, and I can hear just after a couple of words what the mother tongue of the speaker is.

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