your accent in other languages

arielipi

Senior Member
Hebrew
when i was still learning english officially, my north-american(usa) cousin told me that she could only tell my accent after five minutes of talking. needless to say ive [as we say in hebrew] got a good ear for the music(meaning, i differ sounds pretty easily, god with music and such]. i personally really felt the muscles develop as i was speaking for the first years. also i am good with mimicking accents if i hear them enough. i worked with russians for two months and i could chat with them a bit... its been said here - its an innate ability, some are better and some are not, just like in everything else.

a great tip i can give is to give up on subtitles,read books,hear music of the language youre learning.
 
  • Leica

    Senior Member
    German
    I definitely have an accent when I speak English, but it's not a typical German accent. People usually can tell I'm not a native, but they don't know where I'm from. They just hear something strange in my accent. Some people think I'm from a different part of the country where people speak weird.
    But due to my grammatical mistakes they figure out very soon, that I'm not a native.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    when i was still learning english officially, my north-american(usa) cousin told me that she could only tell my accent after five minutes of talking. needless to say ive [as we say in hebrew] got a good ear for the music(meaning, i differ sounds pretty easily, god with music and such]. i personally really felt the muscles develop as i was speaking for the first years. also i am good with mimicking accents if i hear them enough. i worked with russians for two months and i could chat with them a bit... its been said here - its an innate ability, some are better and some are not, just like in everything else.

    a great tip i can give is to give up on subtitles,read books,hear music of the language youre learning.
    Israelis usually speak excellent English, perhaps because of the strong links to North American Jewish communities. I have come across one or two who, despite working in positions where they dealt with English speakers daily, were very difficult to understand. This does not seem to be the norm, though.
     

    tFighterPilot

    Senior Member
    Israel - Hebrew
    Israelis usually speak excellent English, perhaps because of the strong links to North American Jewish communities. I have come across one or two who, despite working in positions where they dealt with English speakers daily, were very difficult to understand. This does not seem to be the norm, though.
    It's mainly because we have mostly American stuff on TV, and they're not dubbed (unless they're for young kids).
     

    arielipi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    Were talking about accents, and thats different than speaking, you can speak perfectly but be the german stereotype viz ze z instead of ze the and v replacing ze w.
     

    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    It probably verges on off-topic, but let me just put my two cents in since you brought up this issue.

    tFighterPilot said:
    It's mainly because we have mostly American stuff on TV, and they're not dubbed (unless they're for young kids).

    That's true, and yet not all Israelis take the full advantage of the possibilities they are offered. A friend of mine participates in the IB diploma programme- and his class took part in the exchange with some Isreali class. They've been to Isreael and later have been visited by Israeli students. I got to talk to some of them - and their grasp of English was often worse than that of Polish students - which came as a shock to me. I thought Israelis are renowned for their fair command of English - some of them, it turns out, are not - and let me remind they were IB students after all.

    As for the topic in question, I only recently started to attach importance to the quality of my pronunciation. In past, I would just make a point of pronouncing the words properly - now I strive to stress them the way the should be stressed, and make my speech flow - if you know what I mean.

    As for the accent - I think that apart from misusing the articles every now and then, it's the second thing that gives me away. Native English speakers usually identify me as a foreigner, they're unable to point the exact country, though. At least that was the case some year ago - I think that I have improved my accent since that time. (or it's only a wishful thinking...:D)
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Israeli people usually speak American English, maybe this is what confused you, Dreamlike. You may actually think that half of Brooklyn speaks very bad English. I personally think there is nothing wrong if a person speaks with a slight accent. It is better that the person speaks authentic language, as opposed to some mimicked version, with an almost native accent. I knew somebody who was Polish, a young girl who spoke with a strong New Jersey working class accent, which sounded very weird for a college student from Europe. It might sound fine for the people who belong to that group, and have a special charm, but when an outsider mimics it without realizing what it is, it sounds hilarious.
     
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    dreamlike

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I can tell the difference between AmE and BrE, but I doubt those students were using any of the variations - the English they used was simply poor and they had great difficulty expressing their thoughts accurately. It was a year ago, and they were relatively young, though (at my age) - so I guess I shouldn't excpect everyone to speak decent English at the tender age of 17... I heard countless times that Israeli people speak very good English so I made this point to show that my experience is different - there was nothing exceptional about English of Isreali I met and talked to. It is a given that those who have been living in U.S. for a long time speak perfect English but this does not necessarily hold true for Israelis living in their country.

    I agree with you, Liliana, that one is better off speaking with slight accent than trying to mimic the accent of Englishmen or Americans at all cost - unless he or she is very good at it. I've never really worked on my accent but I think I'll be able to speak with one if I put in enough effort. I'm going to study English as my major in 7 months - hopefully, I'll learn some accent during that time.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, you are right Dreamlike, a person should sound natural, which does not mean necessarily exactly like a native speaker but like himself or herself and not like a parrot. Are you going for the Philology Department. Don't go to any two year translation colleges. This is a waste of time, in my opinion. I have heard they have something like that in Europe: I even met some people and they had no clue about anything related to linguistics. Maybe they just went to the wrong place.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Were talking about accents, and thats different than speaking, you can speak perfectly but be the german stereotype viz ze z instead of ze the and v replacing ze w.
    Sure, but one picks up accents from watching foreign language television too. I've often been taken for someone from the East Coast although I've spent a maximum 3 Days of my life there. But a lot of the TV series and movies I've watched took place there. So in my dreams I must have spent enough time there to pick up their accents.
     

    bellatrix27

    Senior Member
    Russian(USSR)/English(CAN) - bilingual
    Also, most of the time I can't say the Spanish "rr". This annoys me. It's improved, but I can't maintain the sound. Every time a Spanish news reporter rolls the r in "por" I get a little more bitter.
    HEY! if you want to practice rolling your RR's, make sure you are alone, and put a finger under your tongue and move it side to side while making a DeDeDe sound (D) continuously. this is essentially what the rolled R movement is, and after a bunch of hours total doing this, it should come to you. Its what I used for my russian R's =)

    As for my accent, when I was in Central America, people thought I was a local until they heard me speaking english! it probably helps that I look a little Latina !

    I made a friend down there, who is from France. She couldn't roll her R's and had the cutest french accent in spanish, she actually sounded like she was speaking french, in spanish! Intonation and everything.
     
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    rainbow84uk

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I studied Spanish from the ages of 14 to 22 and moved to Spain at 23. I've now been here for 5 years and it's only in the last year or so that people have really started commenting on how good my Spanish is and how little accent I have...still makes me very happy! :)

    Now I'm starting to learn Georgian, and while I don't yet have the level to have developed any kind of accent, I'm already feeling the influence of Spanish on my Georgian pronunciation....not ideal, but it's quite funny to imagine myself one day being able to speak Georgian, but doing so with a thick Spanish accent!
     

    das brennende Gespenst

    Senior Member
    Australisches Englisch
    Often when I talk to Germans they think I'm German and they ask me where I'm from. I ask them where they think I'm from and I've had a few interesting answers. The only answer I've had more than once is Berlin.

    Of course, I have good accent days and bad accent days, and it tends to happen most when I'm drunk and when I don't have to switch between German and English. If I have to say even three or four words to someone else in English, it sometimes completely derails my German accent and I have to climb back on the train.

    When speaking Swedish, I was once told that I had a Stockholm accent from the 1970s. I wasn't even aware that an accent could sound like a particular decade, but there it was. I'm pretty sure my Swedish accent has changed now though, and it's probably gotten worse.
     

    AquisM

    Senior Member
    English/Cantonese
    When I speak Mandarin, it's obvious to anybody that I am from the south (of China), and perhaps a native would be able to pinpoint Hong Kong. We pronounce our words differently to northerners, who roll their tongues a lot, while we southerners reduce everything to alveolar consonants.
     

    germanbz

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain/Catalan (Val)
    Well, I should say that my accent still have a way of "eighties' english course tape". And I'm not trying to say that my English is pretty nice or academic, of course not. I mean that I think that years later, my English still sounds with the entonation of the voices in that tapes.
    Sometimes, when I say to somebody: "listen.." deep in my mind still resounds ....and repeat.
     

    Phenyx13

    Senior Member
    Français - French
    Hello !

    I know I have a french accent in english because when I say 2 or 3 words to a native, He/she always says : "Oh ! You're French ? I love Paris !" :cool:
    Some people told me I have something American in the way I speak, because I do learn English and pronouciation by mimicing what I hear, and I mostly watch american series ;) But I belong to the French community of people who pronouce "the" properly :p
    It is so funny when I hear my fellow countryman speaking english, with an accent so strong, pointing the obvious and telling that they are french:D

    One thing I want to add : never loose your foreign accent in French, it is so cute ;)
     

    LanguageUser1234

    Banned
    English U.S.
    A related issue I've always found interesting is how people react to a non-native speaker who has a completely native accent. I remember that many years ago, during the Cold War, there was a spokesman for the Soviet government who appeared regularly in the media speaking impeccable, unaccented American English. (I also seem to recall that he had enough knowledge of U.S. culture to joke that his favorite baseball team was the Cincinnati Reds.)

    I still remember that the sensation of hearing this guy (who was not only a "foreigner" but also a representative of the so-called "Evil Empire") sound so totally American was really weird and disorienting.
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    A related issue I've always found interesting is how people react to a non-native speaker who has a completely native accent. I remember that many years ago, during the Cold War, there was a spokesman for the Soviet government who appeared regularly in the media speaking impeccable, unaccented American English. (I also seem to recall that he had enough knowledge of U.S. culture to joke that his favorite baseball team was the Cincinnati Reds.)

    I still remember that the sensation of hearing this guy (who was not only a "foreigner" but also a representative of the so-called "Evil Empire") sound so totally American was really weird and disorienting.
    I couldn't agree more. And it always makes me concentrate on that 99.99% accurate accent instead of what is being said. I also find it very rare that someone with an impeccable accent manages at the same time to inject some feeling into what they are saying. They tend to sound bland. I prefer to hear authentic intonation and rhythm than authentic pronunciation.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I couldn't agree more. And it always makes me concentrate on that 99.99% accurate accent instead of what is being said. I also find it very rare that someone with an impeccable accent manages at the same time to inject some feeling into what they are saying. They tend to sound bland. I prefer to hear authentic intonation and rhythm than authentic pronunciation.
    I agree too. I was watching a documentary on Joseph Goebbles the other night, and there was a portion where he was being interviewed by American journalists. His interpreter (who was also German) had a flawless RP accent. It was very distracting, particularly as I found myself thinking, ''how on earth could someone who is obviously very intelligent be content to work for a beast like Goebbles?''.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I agree too. I was watching a documentary on Joseph Goebbles the other night, and there was a portion where he was being interviewed by American journalists. His interpreter (who was also German) had a flawless RP accent. It was very distracting, particularly as I found myself thinking, ''how on earth could someone who is obviously very intelligent be content to work for a beast like Goebbles?''.
    You make two assumptions that are not very well justified:
    1. Good accent = very intelligent person.
    2. Very intelligent person = a good person that can't be cruel.

    Moreover the assumption 1. leads directly to a prejudice: bad accent = unintelligent person. This prejudice has been documented by research in the US, where people judged persons with bad accent as less intelligent than those with a perfect native accent, even though they said exactly the same. The same prejudice is of course widespread all over the word.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I couldn't agree more. And it always makes me concentrate on that 99.99% accurate accent instead of what is being said. I also find it very rare that someone with an impeccable accent manages at the same time to inject some feeling into what they are saying. They tend to sound bland. I prefer to hear authentic intonation and rhythm than authentic pronunciation.
    There is a bit of a paradox here. I think a good working definition of "standard language" is "the variety foreigners learn". Native speakers rarely follow the standard meticulously. Keeping to English English, even someone considered to have cultivated speech will articulate some "t's" as glottal stops and drop "h's" in certain contexts. If you have learned a language otherwise than by immersion you are always going to pronounce any given word in the same way and with its correct (i.e. dictionary recommended) articulation whatever the context - exceptions will be words like "of" which have stressed and unstressed pronunciations. You are going to pronounce "it" as /ɪt/ and "he" as /hiː/ wherever they occur. These small phonological differences will be picked up, probably unconsciously, by native speakers giving them a vague feeling that something is not quite right and accordingly leading to the paradox that 100% correct pronunciation is perceived as non-native.

    The feeling that someone speaking impeccably is unemotional also applies to native speakers. Apparently, RP speakers come across as distant, but reliable. That is of course due to social conditioning and not to any intrinsic quality of RP.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    A related issue I've always found interesting is how people react to a non-native speaker who has a completely native accent.
    Here is another aspect of this situation:
    I read a book by George Mikes "Land of the rising yen". He reported that if the Japanese met a foreigner who spoke perfect Japanes they denied the fact that the person was foreign. They asked him (a blond guy) "why have you dyed your hair blond?".
     

    elirlandes

    Senior Member
    Ireland English
    A related issue I've always found interesting is how people react to a non-native speaker who has a completely native accent.
    I regularly have to explain that I am not in fact Spanish - only when conversation has been on regular topics only etc and I am not easily spotted, or when not tired...

    Sometimes I get a reaction to this which is that there is an assumption that I actually have become Spanish and have happily left my Irish identity behind... (nothing could be further from the truth!) and there is a further assumption that I have a preference for all things Spanish and that this is the reason I have "switched sides"... It is really frustrating.

    I had an interesting one yesterday where I was chatting to two Catalan guys about their elections, putting forward an Irish point of view on them in Castillian Spanish - they were really confused because they assumed that with my level in the language, I would proffer a Spanish point of view, not that of a foreigner.
     

    Brimstone

    Senior Member
    México Spanish
    I worked very hard in college to imitate my French professor... who was German. I didn't know any better. Of course, I ended up with a German accent in French that still pops up from time to time. :) I've actually had people ask me what part of Germany I come from when I'm speaking French.

    I've worked hard to standardize my accent a little more over the years but I know I'll never sound like a native. I'm fine with that. I just don't want to ever sound like the ugly American saying "parr-lay vooz Ann-glaze". It hurts my ears. :)

    If I won the lottery I think one of the first things I would do would be to move to France and enter an immersion program for at least three months. It sounds like heaven to me.
    When I was taking my writing class at the Phoenix Community College, I had a lot of classmates from diffrent countrys around the world: Japanese, Serbs, Ethiopians, Mexicans...and I remember that the Etiopians ones were used to asking our teacher, Miss Rogers, why I didn´t have an accent (being myself a Mexican). They really wanted to know why. The real reason why I don´t have an accent, a strong one I mean, is because I started learning English as a child. But let me tell you this: I do have an accent, a slight one, but I do have it. And I remember me listening to another English teacher telling me that my accent was a slight one. The funny thing is that many of my classmates wanted to know why I didn´t sound like them. Anyway, let me share with you guys what Miss Rogers told her class about their question about my accent: "But it is really nice to have an accent". And they were really very pleased with that response.
     

    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    I guess my French accent is rather bad because of the problems I have with the nasal vowels.
    I lived for 6 years in Brussels, and I remember that at the beginning, when I spoke French, people asked me if I was from Germany. I guess that's because I started with French in school in Germany (at 14, a bit too late I think) so I got a German accent.

    My English accent seems to be from "nowhere". I have the impression that most of the time I'm classified as a native, (well, according to my Cambridge diploma my level is supposed to be "near native"), but a native from nowhere. I suppose this happens to a lot of people who have a good command of a foreign language if they have learned a "neutral" standard.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Native from nowhere is the whole trick about seeming to be a native speaker when you aren't one. I don't know of any other language where you can pull that off.

    If the note some kind of accent they seem think it is just from somewhere else. You can't imagine how often I was taken for an American from somewhere other than my present location at the moment, when I travelled in the US or in Canada. Normally I speak BE (more influenced by single role models than a certain region), but in America I let them believe that I am a native somewhere over there. There is several good reasons for doing that. One of them is security.
     

    Nimbrethil

    Senior Member
    Spanish Spain
    I love languages, especially English. I practice as much as I can but I hadn’t been to any English speaking country myself. Last year I went to London. I have an accent, but people could not say where I came from based on it, so I think that is good

    I’m learning French now. I find the “r” sound is quite difficult. When there is a “g” before, as in “grotte”, it is a nightmare :(.

    A couple times, other Spanish people asked me from which country I came ... Apparently my Spanish accent was not convincing enough :eek::eek::eek:!
     
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    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I love languages, especially English. I practice as much as I can but I hadn’t been to any English speaking country myself. Last year I went to London. I have an accent, but people could not say where I came from based on it, so I think that is good

    I’m learning French now. I find the “r” sound is quite difficult. When there is a “g” before, as in “grotte”, it is a nightmare :(.
    Most Englishmen won't recognise a Spanish speaker unless he pronounces the R in "right" like in "corrida" and the H in "have" as in "Javier". The French R was also difficult for me, and I practiced at least one hour a day in weeks. You can begin with pronouncing the French R as Spanish "J" and then slowly moving the articulation point forwards in the mouth until you come to the French sound.
     

    Nawaq

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    I’m learning French now. I find the “r” sound is quite difficult. When there is a “g” before, as in “grotte”, it is a nightmare :(.
    Hi!

    I don't think you should worry too much about the way you say your Rs. There is at least 3 ways of saying it, and people are fine with that. The U is IMHO the letter people should most concentrate on, but maybe you already have a good command of this one. :)

    AFAICT, people seem to overly focus on it/overdo it, or stress it too much, which gives a weird-funny R :p. But really, any R is fine, it's not like in Spanish I think, where you have to make/there is a difference between a single R and a double one for example (correct me if I'm wrong).

    Try saying Richard and serrurerie. :) In Richard, the first R is a little more audible than the last (when I say it at least), it's good for practice I think (sorry if you already knew that). Depending on where it is placed, the R is going to be more or less marked (like in your word grotte), I never knew why this wasn't specified in IPA (or is it ?), I'm sure it could help people*.

    *but again, as I said above, any R could work, so it's probably not that good of an idea/necessary to make the distinction...
     

    rolmich

    Senior Member
    french (France)
    I remember learning German in school in France. Not only the emphasis was not on a proper accent, but it was considered snobbish and pretentious to try having a proper accent : for instance the word "fogel" (bird) was pronounced
    "vos gueules". So you should not be astonished that so many Frenchmen speak with a terrible accent foreign languages.
    Note : this was many years ago and I would assume that things changed in French schools teaching foreign languages today.
     

    WyomingSue

    Senior Member
    English--USA
    I am excited to say that since my post #45 in 2010 I had the experience of speaking Spanish to a Puerto Rican, and she asked me if I was from Colombia! As a previous poster commented, the native from nowhere. Yay for progress!
    A few days ago I was flying on a Taiwanese flight from Taipei to Seattle. The staff made the usual announcements in Japanese and Chinese, and then one of the pilots welcomed us to the flight in English. I commented to my husband that he sounded like he was a German! So either a German speaking English and flying for a Taiwanese
    carrier, or a Taiwanese who learned his English in Germany ... in any case not the expected Chinese accent.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    I am excited to say that since my post #45 in 2010 I had the experience of speaking Spanish to a Puerto Rican, and she asked me if I was from Colombia! As a previous poster commented, the native from nowhere. Yay for progress!.
    Congratulations. Did you live in Colombia or have any connections to that country?
     
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