your accent in other languages

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by jess oh seven, Jul 4, 2005.

  1. solregn Senior Member

    Lille, France
    I've been living in France for two years now (started learning French at the age of 10) and French native speakers more or less always notice quite quickly that I'm "foreign" - I think it has something to do with the way I look as well, but my "petit accent" definitely is an important factor! :) I don't have the impression that it sounds funny or incomprehensible when I speak though, it seems more like it makes people curious about my origin. Usually, French people ask me if I'm English. When I was an exchange student in Montpellier four years ago, some people thought I was German, which I found absolutely horrible (because most of my German student friends had the most terrible accents when speaking French!)... So there has been some improvement, I guess! ;)

    When speaking English with native speakers, they usually can't place my accent but they know that I'm of foreign origin. I think it's partly because my English is some kind of mix of several accents, I can't manage to keep it "clean"! I spent one year working in Dublin and the first couple of months after coming back, every Irish person I bumped into (in France) asked me "how come you have such an Irish accent?!" It feels like it has all "worn off" now, though :( I don't think I sound very Swedish when speaking English, but I probably do - since I myself can, in 9 cases out of 10, recognize a Swedish person speaking English within 10 seconds, I won't be so full of myself as to think that there isn't any local flavour whatsoever to my accent... :)
  2. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    It's hard for me to diagnose my accent in languages since few people comment on it in Spanish or French.

    In English, people tell me I don't have the accent they would expect me to have. It's not the accent on Friends. My American accent is too south to be northern but not southern at all, and too eastern to be western for sure, and it's probably been affected by speaking slowly and over articulating. Originally I didn't pronounce many T's so now I overcompensate by pronouncing many of them hard. I once met a Texan couple in Italy who asked me what country I came from, and a Scotsman asked me if I were Dutch. In America people generally guess I'm from a region I've never lived in. Boston in San Francisco, and a few Wisconsiners said I sounded like I was from the South. Once in a while someone said they heard some Spanish influence. My consonants are soft they said. I'm always surprised since impressions are always different.

    In Spanish, I remember a Malloran said to me. "Oh my God, you have such a Madrid accent". Some Latin Americans have said that too. I know I have all the bad traits from that city, but I did live there. Some northerners say I sound like I'm from the south which is where I originally lived. Some peole have at times tried to force proper Salamanca Spanish on me but it never worked. Besides, I can't fool experts though. I still have foreign elements probably intonation. I hate hearing myself talk. I'm sure there is French in my Spanish now. More vocab-syntax than accent.

    In French I definitely have an accent but at least they guess places where people speak well! Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Canada, Luxembourg. I have trouble eating my e's. When I say "je ne sais pas où ça se trouve" you clearly here the e's, not j'sais pas ou ça's trouv', which doesn't come out naturally. Ending a sentence with a consonant I find hard. U was the last vowel sound I acquired but it's okay but maybe not exactly what it should be. My r is great though. :)

    My native language as I say is Yankee Spainglish with a French touch, which is peculiar. I'll end up speaking none of them properly. By the way, some people who are used to me in one language are taken aback to hear me in another. An argentinian student of mine in English once said, your accent in French is cute and colloquial, your accent in English is classy and formal, but I absolutely hate the way you speak Spanish!

    The other languages I can't say I speak them well enough to have an accent. Trying out German once, I was told I spoke like a ridiculous mixture of Speedy González and Pepé le Pew.
  3. Stbn_fcr

    Stbn_fcr Senior Member

    español - España & català
    I have a mixtured accent, let's say anglo-american. I think that the problem is I learnt English with teachers who were born in the UK or have lived in there for a season. Whereas, I have watched/seen too many American movies to stupidly improve my accent. So, British people... make, please, better films so that Spaniards can have a proper accent!!!!!!!!!!! : )

    Pour ce qui est de l'accent français. J'ai un bon accent. Mon accent espagnol est très faible. On disait que je n'avais pas d'accent reconnaissable, évidemment, j'en avais un petit peu mais n'était pas du tout marqué. J'ai habité à Paris pour six mois en 2008, donc, théoriquement j'ai l'accent parisien, pourtant, Paris est multiculturel, c'est difficile de trouver ceux qui parlent le vrai parisien. En plus, mon meilleur ami à Paris était d'Avignon. Je prononçais comme lui "du pain" "le coin" comme ceux d'Avignon "du pèng", "le coèng" et ça ne fait pas du tout parisien. On se marrait.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2010
  4. voidinchains

    voidinchains Senior Member

    Genova, Italia
    I've always been told I got an American accent. I don't know why, a teacher said it's natural. Last year I was in Rome and an American man thought I was from the US haha :D Maybe it's because I watch movies and listen to music that is 90% from the US. I went to London twice and I had some difficulties in understanding how they talked there, I find it harder than American English. I wish I could improve my English by having conversations both with people from the UK and from the US!
  5. Kumpel Senior Member

    British English
    Um, you've got one in writing, as well. ;)
  6. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Films are a great way to keep accents up. The only thing I'd say is - just remember that by definition they are not necessarily indicative of real life. I hear a lot of foreign speakers whose English is absolutely excellent but they pepper their speech with way too much swearing and goddams etc. Not everyone speaks like a spy who is charged with 1 hour to save humanity from nuclear war.:D
  7. bondia

    bondia Senior Member

    Illes Balears
    VERY true. So much swearing (particularly in US made movies) leads people learning English to believe that every other word begins with an "F":(
  8. Juan Nadie Senior Member

    Castellano s. XX - Spain
    Are you *censured* serious? How the *censured* *censured* am I going to *censured* write a 250 *censured* word essay if I shouldn't *censured* fill it with swearing? :D
  9. voidinchains

    voidinchains Senior Member

    Genova, Italia
    Yes, I noticed that! Glad you don't speak like that in real life :D
    Too much swearing, slang and.. too many phrasal verbs! I would understand more if you used less! Just joking :D
  10. fitter.happier

    fitter.happier Senior Member

    London, UK
    Interesting thread.

    I was lucky enough to start learning English at a very young age and have always had great teachers (some were native speakers). I generally have no trouble picking up accents and can reproduce sounds, rhythm and stress of foreign languages with relative ease. I've been to the UK a few times and have mostly talked to British people over the last few years, which is why my accent is somewhat British-sounding. It definitely pays off when you're talking to someone and they don't notice you're actually a foreigner.

    Chinese is a completely different story. I started studying it last year and I can get the tones right when enunciating words one by one. However, uttering sentences and getting the right intonation is a nightmare.
  11. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    Native speakers can always detect your ''foreign''-sounding accent if they really want to do so. There are always subtle details that can give you away.
  12. fitter.happier

    fitter.happier Senior Member

    London, UK
    I beg to differ.

    A very dear friend of mine who is Norwegian and studied law in Italy for two years has acquired a full operational command of the language (granted, he had studied Italian before).

    His accent is so flawless I would have never guessed he was a foreigner if he hadn't told me. I consider him an Italian, not only because his pronunciation is perfect, but also because I've never heard him make a mistake in any situation, be it a casual chat or a formal conversation.

    This is just to say that if you have a natural penchant for languages, you can achieve anything.

    I agree that reaching such expertise is not something everybody can do, but it's definitely not impossible, and this holds true for any language.
  13. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I agree. I know a girl who is Finnish, and hasn't even lived here that long, but her accent is so authentic that it even has those little "errors" that only natives have. She used to live in the US and she tells me that when there people also thought she was a native (although then with an American accent of course!) so I think that some, a few, lucky people have minds that can just mimic accents naturally.
  14. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I am astounded every time when the Americans use the word 'accent', but mean pronunciation. I know that this is an established use, but I still have problems with it. It's confusing and highly imprecise. Accent originally meant stress+prosody, not the way of pronouncing vowels and consonnants.
  15. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Brits too; more even - they tend do call dialects "accents". Took me some getting used to too.

    Concerning accents, I wanted to add - as I've previously posted something about British Accent (no, I didn't change mine - I still hope to have a British one :D): I've noticed lately (motivated by threads like this one I listened more closely than I used to) that American accents definitely are gaining here, that is while, say, 20 years ago I hardly remember anybody here using an American accent I do know quite some who do.
  16. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Erm, it's just English full-stop. It's a normal usage of the word in English, not an error.

    It's not confusing and highly imprecise in English - in fact I can't think what else you would say - he has a French pronunciation when speaking Spanish, for example, would sound odd.
  17. rolmich Senior Member

    french (France)
    The same goes for the French :
    Il a un accent français lorsqu'il parle l'espagnol. (et pas 'une prononciation').
    Les espagnols ont du mal à prononcer le 'J' en français. (dans 'le jazz' par exemple).
  18. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    In most languages accent can mean many things. In Portuguese acento is just a orthographic signal (é à ú), English accent or Spanish acento is said sotaque [so'taki or su'taki in Brazil; su'tak in Portugal].
  19. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Well, native speakers are so used to their own language that they do not perceive the lack of precision in it. Using 'accent' only it is not possible to differentiate between a person that pronounces all the sounds in a language correctly, but the intonation (and sometimes the stress) is wrong.
    English, despite having more than a million words, lacks a lot of nuances that are available in other languages.

    I tip that this use of 'accent' is copied from French, so they are the source of the confusion.
  20. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Yes, it is. But it is actually a short form of 'accent mark' (stress mark).
  21. Stbn_fcr

    Stbn_fcr Senior Member

    español - España & català

    Quand je suis arrivé à Paris, j'usais des mots appropriés comme ça "oui, oh là là! Tu as vu? Je m'en vais!", pourtant, quand j'ai abandonné la France, je disais des trucs comme ça "ouaii! ouhlààà! T'as vu? Je me claque, quoi!"... lol... D'ailleurs, le français que j'avais appris à l'école ne servait à rien pour comprendre certains accents africains et antillais. En plus, certains parisiens n'articulaient pas beaucoup.

    L'accent que tu apprends à l'école est évidemment le standard qui va te permettre t'adapter au vrai accent sur le terrain.


    When I arrived to Paris I used properly French words as "oui, oh là là!, Tu as vu? Je m'en vais!", however, when I left France, I spoke some slang as follows "ouaiii! ouhlààà! T'as vu? Je me claque, quoi!"... lol..

    Besides, the French I had learnt in the school wasn't sufficient to understand some Antillian and African accents. What's more, some French people in Paris don't articulate so much.

    The accent you learn in the school is obviously a standard which will let you get the real accent on the ground.
  22. Guillo1 Senior Member

    Spanish - Argentina
    Accents are a funny thing. I find it curious how people who speak your own accent don't really seem to have an accent until you are abroad... and then someone from your own little part of the words stands out like a screaming baby while speaking in a foreign crowd.
    I've spent some time in the states, and people often had a bit of a hard time placing my accent. The Argentinian way of speaking spanish is highly influenced not only in vocabulary but also phonetically by Italian, and while speaking English our accent does sound a little bit Italian. Most Americans would take me for an Italian, unless I started exaggerating a little bit and my south american came right through.
    People also assumed I was a long time immigrant. I speak with native fluency, but my accent gives my latin origins away. Which is fine by me.
  23. indigofire1230 Member

    English - Canada (CaE)
    My natural accent would be more Central Canadian English. Meaning it's rather similar to Standard American English, with some differences. Travelling to America, I have had people ask me if I am from Canada. Apparently my occasional "eh's" is my biggest give away (not every sentence mind you :) ) and I do tend toward other Canadian pronunciation differences, like pronouncing about closer to something like "aboat" (not "aboot" lol), pronouncing the "h" in herb and pronouncing roof more like "r-ooh-f" rather than rhyming with "woof" as I've heard before. And Canadian raising, to an extent I do do that. That's all I'm aware of however, I'm unsure of any more details on my accent in English :)

    In French, as far as I've heard it's decent. It is also situation dependent however. When speaking with instructors and in more formal situations I tend to put a lot more emphasis on how I sound, so I tend to attempt much more of a French accent (I always I'm sure sound somewhat English at least but I have no idea how bad it may be in French). With friends, I admit, I allow a lot of more my Canadian English accent will slip in. Plus, when I first started speaking French, I used to have a problem pronouncing two r's in the same word if they were to close together. For example, saying the word "regarder". It used to come out more like "regalder", I sounded ridiculous :) fortunately I've largely eliminated that issue so I sound a little less ridiculous now :)

    Apparently in Korean my English accent is pretty strong, but I haven't had much practice with Korean at all.
  24. Tina.Irun

    Tina.Irun Senior Member

    Je suis espagnole mais j'ai vecu longtemps en France où j'ai réalisé toutes mes études. Pour les Français du Pays Basque, j'ai l'accent "pointu" des gens du nord de...Bordeaux.

    Je conserve encore un peu mon "héritage" français en espagnol (mots utilisés et construction des phrases) et parle français sans accent (j'ai droit aux "comme j'aimerais parler espagnol comme vous parlez français..." et doit donc répondre "aucun mérite, après plus de 20 ans en France, etc.".)

    Mon problème est quand je voyage au Royaume-Uni car je parle l'anglais avec un fort accent français et, comme je suis espagnole, je suis obligée de raconter à chaque fois ma vie.:eek:

    A cela s'ajoute que je voyage parfois avec ma soeur qui, elle, est française et on s'amuse fort quand on présente les cartes d'identité espagnole et française aux autorités.:D
  25. rolmich Senior Member

    french (France)
    Tout d'abord, mes félicitations à Tina Iglesias pour son 10.001ème message (ça n'arrive pas tous les jours).
    Nouvelle immigrante de France, ma soeur a conservé un accent épouvantable.
    La première fois qu'elle a voulu téléphoner en Israël en hébreu, la personne à l'autre bout du fil lui a directement répondu en français, alors que le seul mot qu'elle avait eu le temps de prononcer était : allo !
    Dotée d'un bon sens de l'auto-dérision, ma soeur en a beaucoup ri et continue à en rire jusqu'à ce jour.
  26. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    What is always difficult is understanding the meaning of "we" in languages that have only one word for it. "We (inclusive)" includes both the speaker and the listener; "we (exclusive) refers to the the speaker and others, but excludes the listener. (Languages that make the distinction between the two forms include Indonesian, Tamil, Quechua, an Mandarin, to name a few.)

    I tend to be a little leery when someone says "we" to me in cases whether it is unclear if I am included or excluded in the speaker's intention.
  27. krloszz Senior Member

    Mexican Spanish-Centro del Pais
    ...A long thread until here :). I only speak properly, apart from Spanish, my native language, English.

    My English accent is pretty american, obviously due to geographic proximity, media influence, etc, etc. Canadians and people from USA have told me that I speak like 'white', in opposition to traditional mexican or 'chicano' accent. I love British accent, but I haven't been exposed enough to imitate properly.

    Apart from English, I know a little of various languages: Portuguese (Eu falou com um sotaque um pouco carioca, but, is frankly portunhol), French (I have only notions, but natives says that I do sound rather good), German (My cousins from Germany told me that I speak not like a foreigner, but like a robot :( ), Catalan (I pronounce it like a barceloní, but when I do it effortlessly I start to speak like mexican... and I don't like that) and Nahuatl (That's the worst, Nahua-speakers-mostly from mexican country-only laugh at me, saying that I sound really unnatural and osh).

    Anyway, I have a really good hability to imitate other languages (I'm just starting to study linguistics, and my best area is phonetics) and also other spanish accents (deshde el athento de madrith, pasando pol el acento boricua y el besho acento arhentinoo)... but, in tonal languages of Mexico (from oto-mangue family) I just can't distinguish between tones (there's a language in pacific coast, chatino, that have 17 tones!), and I haven't try with chinese but I expect more or less the same.

    I think hability depends a lot in individual habilities, but also in the age of learning other foreign language (children that learn english in Mexico speak rather good, but people that learn after have 'dat meksikan aksen')... and the number or types of phonemes of your own language (I pronounce fine the difference between sheep and ship, but a lot spanish-speakers simply can't find the differences).

    I'm sorry for my redaction, is awful :(. Greetings to all of you from Mexico.
  28. mundosnuevos Senior Member

    Estados Unidos
    Inglés - EEUU
    This is funny, because in my case it's actually much easier!
    I've been told more times that I can count (in Spain) that I speak just like a Spaniard. But I'm American and can't fake a good British accent either! I always slip into a "Steve Irwin" after a few words and realize I just switched continents... :)
  29. rolmich Senior Member

    french (France)
    Strange, very strange :
    I was born and educated in France and always thought I had a french accent in foreign languages. Lately though I am told I have a german accent. True, my parents mothertongue was german but they only used the language between themselves and not with us the children. Could it be that brought out by a kind of passive impregnation* the accent of my parents resurfaces in me ?
    Someone told me lately that this accent gives him a feeling of trust and reliability.
    I explained to this person that I do not manufacture cars or washing machines so that his feeling should not concern me, but to no avail. ;)
    Last edited: May 4, 2011
  30. lainyn

    lainyn Senior Member

    Canadian English
    Je pense que mon accent français est à peu près une combination de l'accent français et de l'accent franco-canadien. Je peux mettre l'accent sur mon accent canadienne si je veux. Quand j'étais au Québec, j'essayais plus fort de parler en joual. Moi, je n'aime pas beaucoup ce joual, mais c'est assez important pour communiquer avec les jeunes au Québec. Je dirais que mon accent est très bon pour une anglophone, mais tout le monde reconnait que je suis anglophone.

    (Altogether, I'm tempted to say that a strong joual accent sounds a bit like redneck English.)

    Como hablo también español, a veces es difícil distinguir entre el francés y el español, entonces, mi acento es una mezcla de los dos idiomas. Cuando estaba en Guatemala, la gente me preguntaba "¿Eres de España?". Puedo adquirir casi cualquier acento, pero la mayoría de tiempo, hablo "español internacional".

    íMi acento mejora cuando estoy borracha!
  31. English Speaker Member

    Mexican Spanish
    Hi there¡

    Well, My first language is Spanish :D.

    I can't really tell how my accent is in English, but the only thing I know, is that, when I spoke Hebrew I had an English accent jajaja, now, I'm studying Italian and it is very easy for me because as we all know it is sister of the Spanish, and well, I've got an exellenct accent almost native.

    On the other hand, I'm also studying Japanese, the pronunciation is truly easy but I conserve my Spanish accent, maybe because the pronunciation is phonetics.
  32. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Kraków, Poland
    German & AmE
    Well, my native languages are German and English, yet my English is not as good as my German is. Most probably, because I live here in Germany. But still, everybody I've talked to in English so far told me, that apart from some grammatical errors of mine, I could not be that easily distinguished from a real american. At least not in regards of pronounciation. British people, though, always tell me that I'm definitely not from the UK but can't tell that I'm from Germany.

    Spanish is another story. While reading out loud, I can keep up a very good spanish accent, as far as I heard. But when I talk, I never get it completely right. Maybe because I have no time to think about the pronounciation. I always sound like a german then. Same counts for Portuguese.

    And lastly: Polish.
    Well, let's say... I'm easily distinguishable from a polish person. I think that I get the pronounciation right at times, but more often than not fail with different consonant clusters. Especially the many "sh" and "ch" sounds make it difficult for me to speak fluently. Although I'm improving, it's still quite problematic. Furthermore, native polish speakers always seem to have some kind of undertone while speaking. That, I'm also lacking.
  33. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    My French accent is O.K., although I find a lot of the vowels hard because you have to constantly switch the position of your mouth to get them to fit, unlike in Scots where we just slur all our consonants and vowels together. That's probably why I find Indian accents so easy. Strangely however, my Italian accent is almost native, and I can do any English accent you care to name.
  34. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    It is funny, becuase Poles listening to most of German speakers speaking Polish hear a very strong "undertone" in their speech, that gives them out as non natives just after one uttered word (the same is usually true with English and French speakers). As for themselves, the Poles think they have no "undertone" at all, and the foreigners should just get rid of their undertone to sound more Polish.
    Last edited: May 9, 2011
  35. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian

    The same phenomenon occurs when a foreigner speaks Italian. (particularly English, German, French and Spanish people) Some people said above they are able to speak Italian almost like natives. I do not want to be rude but this sounds quite hilarious. I know people who have been living in Italy for more than ten years and they still can't pronounce properly double consonants, distinguish tz and dz sounds or open and closed e and o vowels, not to mention the intonation. Even though the Italian pronunciation is not that difficult, the intonation is really peculiar and just a few foreigners can reproduce it properly. I have never heard an English or an American person speaking Italian without an accent, apart from people brought up in Italy. Another Spanish speaking girl claimed she could speak Italian as a native after only fifteen days!! Probably she was able to speak Spanish with a touch of Italian. :) The Spanish language does not possess double consonants; tz and dz sounds, open and closed vowels (e and o) and the intonation is quite different, a Spanish speaking person generally tends to speak Italian with the same sounds and intonation as in their mother tongue, hence they are easily recognizable just after an uttered word, particularly if this word contains a double consonant. I am perfectly aware of the fact that one might say the same for most Italians speaking foreign languages.
  36. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I heard once that the speakers of the Rome dialect do not pronounce double consonnants.
  37. koniecswiata Senior Member

    Am English
    What Olaszinho said about Spanish-speakers and Italians was confirmed by a friend of mine--an Italian teacher in Chile. Most Chileans had an extremely hard time with Italian pronunciation--they thought they were speaking with no/or little accent, but they were not distinguishing between "ce" and "sce" or "ia" and "gia" or "s" and "z" not to mention the double consonants or long vs. short vowels--all lacking in Spanish. It's much the same story for Spanish-speakers when trying to pronounce other languages be it Portuguese or English or virtually anything else.
  38. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    Lorraine in France
    English (US Northeast)
    I heard the same think about the northern third of Italy.
  39. Giorgio Lontano

    Giorgio Lontano Senior Member

    Nova Guatemala da Assunção.
    Guatemala - Español
    De seguro pronunciás muy bien la C y la Z. ;)

    My English accent is pretty much that of my main teacher: Jerry Seinfield ("not that there's anything wrong with that"). I have the ability to tell apart certain English accents (I can tell if you're from Houston :D) so I can make not-so-good imitations of them.

    My Portuguese accent can pass for Brazilian in short conversations. I once ordered a chopp and after the other person in my table ordered theirs, I was asked by the garçom if I was Brazilian. In Niterói, I was asking directions to a lady and she asked me if I was paulista. A taxi driver also didn't realise I was a foreigner until I started speaking Spanish to my companions. :)
  40. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian
    Nowadays all Italians pronounce double consonants when they speak standard Italian, but it is true that geminate consonants do not exist in most Northern dialects, such as Venetian or Lombard. As for the Italian spoken in Rome I have to say that Romans do use double consonants but sometimes in a different way. For instance they (especially older or uneducated people) pronounce LiBBia instead of LiBia or teRa instead of teRRa.
  41. Masood

    Masood Senior Member

    Leicester, England
    British English
    My Spanish accent is very good and many a Spaniard has commented on it. The pronunciation of 't', 'd', 'j', rr, etc all spot on. Probably because my 2nd language is Punjabi and most of these sounds are identical in Spanish and Punjabi.

    What really lets me down is the opportunity to converse in Spanish - my listening skills, in particular, are very poor, unfortunately.
  42. Beninjam Senior Member

    British English
    My accent in French instantly identifies me as a Brit, and people expect me to do something Monty Pythonish. 40 years ago they used to tell me about hiding English airmen, but that generation has passed. In Dutch, however, I'm not so identifiable and many either put my down as a German native or from a neighbouring village.
  43. cipotarebelde

    cipotarebelde Senior Member

    El Salvador
    USA English
    I know I have a slight accent in my Spanish, but after 20 years in Central America, its a "foreign accent" without clear indication from where for anyone who isn't looking at me. Identity as a foreigner is hard to erase. As an immigrant, I have learned to assimilate when and how I can, but accept that to some people I will always be first "a foreigner". What annoys me most is when people act like they can't understand me because they looked at me and decided I can't speak Spanish. I call it "gringo freeze".

    I do think a lot of people from the US living in or traveling to other countries struggle with not sounding like they are from the US more for issues of not wanting to be judged by others for their country of origin than simply wanting to perfect their second language. At least that is my experience over the last 25 years of meeting and working with lots of US nationals living and traveling outside of the US.
  44. Kurtchen Senior Member

    German - Norddeutschland
    As a German speaker count your blessings they didn't put you down, period. Haha and don't mention the war :)
  45. rubidou Member

    It's really depressing ... I guess I never had any real problems with figuring out how a certain pronunciation/accent 'functions', which is why people don't really suspect me to come from Germany at first (I don't look German either, nor do I have 100% German ancestry).

    But now that I started learning Russian 1 1/2 years ago, I'm slowly but surely getting frustrated. I think I'll never learn how to distinguish soft and hard consonants, find out how vocal reduction functions or keep in mind which syllables are stressed. I have a very bad accent. It's hopeless.
  46. cipotarebelde

    cipotarebelde Senior Member

    El Salvador
    USA English
    I really do think that improvement is always possible through careful practice, but that the innate ability to mimic sounds and rhythms may be more like musical ability: some were born with a lot more than others. :(
  47. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    Most language teaching systems focus more on grammar and literature and less on pronunciation, which, in my personal experience studying languages, is rarely comprehensively taught.

    Many language teachers do not have very much speech training. I have been lucky because my first foreign language teacher, Miss Meeker at Abbott Junior High, as a quasi-native speaker of three languages emphasized pronunciation and taught it well.

    A lot of language learners do not this basic training in the sound and rhythm of the language. This is a real disservice, because if we cannot be understood we cannot communicate.

    I have had brilliant friends whose English grammar was perfect, but they were never chosen for positions that required verbal communication with the public because of the difficulty for the average unilingual American English speaker to understand them. Of course, the same average English speakers often had difficulty understanding dialects of English other than their own, again because of lack of exposure. I have a friend from the Bronx (New York City) who was turned down for teaching jobs in the arts in the Midwest because of her accent.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2011
  48. rubidou Member

    You're certainly right, but I do think - at least as far as I'm concerned - this principle seems to apply only to some languages ... :(
  49. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Early exposure to at least some foreign languages is the clue. I've heard an American guy in his mid-twenties sing an excellent Russian without any previous knowledge of the language. Even if not perfect, the accent was light and on the whole the pronunciation was clear and understandable.
    Moreover, I've heard Germans with excellent Russian pronunciation, even if I must admit they were few - but then, in Western Germany I don't that often come across Germans with knowledge of the Russian language.
  50. elianecanspeak

    elianecanspeak Senior Member

    by Lake Michigan
    English - EEUU
    One critical factor is how much the phonology and tonality of a first an second language overlap (e.g. Spanish and Indonesian v. Mandarin and French). Also, pronunciation in singing is usually much easier than in speaking, because of rhythm, repetition and association with tone.

    Some resources:

    Mora, Carmen Fonseca. "Foreign Language Acquisition and Melody Singing". in ELT Journal, Vol. 54/2, April 2000, pp. 146-152.

    Murphey, Tim. Song and Music in Language Learning. Peter Lang, 1990.

    Singing, chanting , telling tales: Arts in the language classroom. New York: Pearson Education.

    Medina, S. ( 2002), “Using Music to Enhance Second Language Acquisition: From Theory to Practice.” / also in Lalas, J. & Lee, S. (2002). Language, Literacy, and Academic Development for English language Learners. Pearson Educational Publishing.

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