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Languages and Accents

soumya ravindranath
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Joined: Jan 26, 2001
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I just remembered as we were talking about languages and differences and similarities in the other thread.

I sometimes come across bewildered faces when i say something in German (among native German speakers). Obviously I cannot imitate their accent perfectly. But I expect them to understand because they know the language so well and any slightly different way of saying words shouldn't be so shocking for them. I am wrong ! If we say "Berlin" the way any English speaker would say, most of the Germans don't get it. We have to say something like "bE....RRRleen", only then it evokes a "Oh! bE...RRRleen!" expression from them

The other day, I went looking for the stick with a hook for the Lanterns as it was Lantern festival time. I repeated "Latern" several times and the girl at the store was lost. And finally i explained in many words what i was looking for and she exclaimed "Oh! lA...tE...RRRRn!" What i said sounded something like "Laturn"

Just one more, please. My German colleague would not understand if i said "path" (just like it's spelt) and he would say after a long time "PA...TH!" like the Americans do.

Coming from India (where English is mostly spoken rather clearly - Cow is a Cow and not Caa..w), I tend to think that if you know a language you would understand some variation of it, as long as it is grammatically correct and the words resemble the original because you know the spelling
Jeroen Wenting
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some variation is fine, but pronouncing a word using the pronunciation of a completely different language is not.

If you pronounce the German word Laterne (not Latern) the same as the English word lantern you shouldn't expect recognition from people who may not know English.

If the German person is not well travelled and deals mainly with people from the immediate area (most of whom will speak the local dialect) the situation gets more confusing as the local pronunciation may well differ...


42
Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
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What is odd is when the accent goes a bit extreme and pronounces words completely differently e.g. "lieutenant" can be pronounced "leftenant" or "lootenant" depending upon which side of the Atlantic you are on. Another example is the word "cricket". In non-Commonwealth countries it is sometimes pronounced "boring"
Jayesh Lalwani
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Joined: Nov 05, 2004
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Originally posted by soumya ravindranath:
I just remembered as we were talking about languages and differences and similarities in the other thread.

Just one more, please. My German colleague would not understand if i said "path" (just like it's spelt) and he would say after a long time "PA...TH!" like the Americans do.

Coming from India (where English is mostly spoken rather clearly - Cow is a Cow and not Caa..w), I tend to think that if you know a language you would understand some variation of it, as long as it is grammatically correct and the words resemble the original because you know the spelling



But, But, English is not written as it's spoken.. well it is, but you have to follow some rules that Phonics is based on. And, they dont teach us Phonics in India. "Cow" is not pronounced like "Row", because differrent letter combinations create differrent sounds in English
peter wooster
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Joined: Jun 13, 2004
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Originally posted by Jayesh Lalwani:
But, But, English is not written as it's spoken.. well it is, but you have to follow some rules that Phonics is based on. And, they dont teach us Phonics in India. "Cow" is not pronounced like "Row", because differrent letter combinations create differrent sounds in English


Like "cough, plough, through, dough, and enough"
soumya ravindranath
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Joined: Jan 26, 2001
Posts: 300
Originally posted by Jayesh Lalwani:



But, But, English is not written as it's spoken.. well it is, but you have to follow some rules that Phonics is based on. And, they dont teach us Phonics in India. "Cow" is not pronounced like "Row", because differrent letter combinations create differrent sounds in English


Oh well ! I wouldn't mean that we Indians really pronounce every English word as it is spelt, would I!
What I tried to say was that even if someone were to pronounce a word as it is spelt (which may be the wrong way to pronounce), I would be able to figure out what he/she is saying. And it surprises me that many others cannot. It's just my theory that Indians are exposed to so many languages and people from birth that it comes more naturally to them to understand their fellowbeings.
soumya ravindranath
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Posts: 300
Originally posted by Jesse Torres:


How long did it take you to learn German? Was it difficult? I thought that German has some similarities to English since both languages are derived from Anglo-Saxon language(s).


I learnt German alongside my college curriculum as a hobby for 3 years (about 2-3 hours a week). It is not that difficult to learn the basics of the language, but do not compare it to English It's more like non-english languages, I would say, more like the regional languages in India!

What I find interesting and like about this language is the seemingly complicated long words they have, which if you dissect, are nothing but concatenation of two or more words which make very good sense unlike English sometimes (the simplest i can think of is the word for 'Sequence' - they say 'Reihenfolge' which is nothing but Reihen+folge = Alignment + order, of course one of the many many meanings of each of the words). I have been living in Germany for 4 years now and am still learning

I am sure there are many German speakers in this forum who can give you correct info on their language
[ November 12, 2004: Message edited by: soumya ravindranath ]
Jayesh Lalwani
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Joined: Nov 05, 2004
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Originally posted by soumya ravindranath:
[QB]

What I tried to say was that even if someone were to pronounce a word as it is spelt (which may be the wrong way to pronounce), I would be able to figure out what he/she is saying. And it surprises me that many others cannot. /QB]


Regardless, please do not try to pronounce "How" as you pronounce "Row", because if you do, somone might think you are referring to them as a prostitute
soumya ravindranath
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Joined: Jan 26, 2001
Posts: 300
Reminds me of the Irish CORBA instructor of ours who kept saying 'but' (like put), 'cut' (almost like put again) and many more which i cannot remember anymore.
Jim Yingst
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[Jayesh ]: please do not try to pronounce "How" as you pronounce "Row", because if you do, somone might think you are referring to them as a prostitute

Unless of course you're pronouncing both to rhyme with "now", which is perfectly correct. Provided the "row" you refer to is a boisterous disturbance of some sort.


"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Marcus Green
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I was delighted to see that the Holiday company Hoseasons is still in business see
http://www.hoseasons.co.uk/


SCWCD: Online Course, 50,000+ words and 200+ questions
http://www.examulator.com/moodle/course/view.php?id=5&topic=all
Warren Dew
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soumya ravindranath:

I sometimes come across bewildered faces when i say something in German (among native German speakers). Obviously I cannot imitate their accent perfectly. But I expect them to understand because they know the language so well and any slightly different way of saying words shouldn't be so shocking for them.

I was on the opposite end of this a few weeks ago. In a dance context, a nonnative english speaker kept asking me, "how's my diming?" I kept asking him what he meant, and he repeated himself several times. I finally thought about what problems he generally had with dancing, and figured out he was talking about "timing".

In retrospect, he was probably using something in between a 't' and a 'd'. In English, 't' is aspirated and unvoiced, and 'd' is unaspirated and voiced; the other two combinations don't exist in English, though they do in other languages. I think he was actually using an unaspirated unvoiced consonant, and my mental machinery just happened to sort it into the 'd' category instead of the 't' category, even though it was half way in between.

I actually suspect native speakers may be more susceptible to this kind of lack of understanding, because the mental processes that convert sounds into words are so automatic that they are difficult to surface and adjust.
soumya ravindranath
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Joined: Jan 26, 2001
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'diming' for 'timing' is a little too much for me too

I guess you are right with the native speakers' slowness in understanding variations in their language. I also find it very interesting that when one is exposed to different peoples & languages, one becomes more open to the possibility of hearing one's own language in a different way
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
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When my daughter was two, my wife's parents (who were living in France at the time) brought her a picture book about a little puppy. They thought it was hysterically funny when I would read it to her using English phonetics (I don't speak French). (For example, I pronounced `eaux' as 'oyks').

I think Dave Barry provides good insight about social differences, such as language. For example, he notes that the letter 'R' in most European languages is mispronounced by virtually all native speakers.

Peter Rooke
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Joined: Oct 21, 2004
Posts: 802

Having grown up in Newcastle in the north east of England, I speak two languages English and 'Geordie'.

Its funny how many good english speakers arrive in the center of Newcastle, and realise that they cannot understand the native accent

For example: English to Geordie translator.


Regards Pete
Joe King
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Joined: Sep 02, 2003
Posts: 820
Originally posted by Peter Rooke:

Its funny how many good english speakers arrive in the center of Newcastle, and realise that they cannot understand the native accent


I was walking home last night when I noticed a lorry parked on the side of the road. The driver came over and spoke a short phrase of something foreign sounding to me. After a couple of "Sorry? What?" etc I realised that he was asking, in Geordie, which road it was, and how to get to the post office. He then completely failed to understand my reply. It was all very amusing. Eventually I think we managed to understand each other, but it was quite hard.

I'm not surprised that I couldn't understand him (its been years since I used to watch Byker Grove, so I'm out of practice with the Geordie accent), but my accent is fairly common sounth-england-londonish (like a lot of people on the telly) so I was surprised that he couldn't understand me. I suppose we often (arrogantly?) assume that our own accent is perfectly legible.
Alan Wanwierd
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Joined: Jun 30, 2004
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Originally posted by Jesse Torres:
Is Geordie a language or an English accent? Also, how can one differentiate between an Australian and British accent?


Geordie - is a term used to describe anyone from the Newcastle area in NE England. The accent in that area can be so strong that together with local phraseology the effect in utterly incomprehensible to those not used to hearing it (I remember on one occassion sharing a lift [a.k.a. elevator] with a bunch of locals in Newcastle and when they got out someone in the lift (obviously on holiday from South of England) asked "What language was that?". However, most people can uderstand what is being said and it is considered to be English.

As far as Australian and British differences are concerned you have to consider that Australians really only have 2 accents (an educated urban accent and a rougher rural). The British however have loads... you get better at identifying them with practice but I can easily distinguish and identify at least 12 different and quite distinctinve regional British accents (London, Home Counties, South West, Wales, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Cumbria, Glasgow, Highland Scotland and Northern Ireland).

In general the Australian accents are more nasal than British counterparts, with the distinctive qualities more evident in the rural variant. The biggest difference is in the vowels... "Australia" in a Queens English accent has 4 syllables "oss- trey - lee - a". However in rural outback its more likely to be reduced to more like 2 = "'stra(ryhmes with star)-ya". Of course this is extreme... and most Australians sound closer to the first example! - more like "oss-trai-lya" - somewhere inbetween!

Another more subtle difference is that modern urban Australian can sometimes have very accuratly pronouced consonants to a degree that seems unusual in most British or North American accents. i.e. the word "accurately" might be pronounced "accurate - lt" with a distictive end to the 't' sound before the 'lee', whereas in most other places in the world the 't' is an almost silent stop "accura'-ly"..

I have no idea if any of that makes any sense!! The differences are hard to describe - but very noticable (to those from either UK or Australia, and particularly those like me who have moved from one to another and now sound probably like a weird accent-hybrid)!
Peter Rooke
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Yes, as described above, "Geordie" is just an accent not a language. However it does use some non-English words. The accent does have a Scandinavian ring to it � not sure how that has happened � Vikings maybe!

Arhh � �Byker Grove� � I hate that TV programme, even the pub they use (my local) is nowhere near Byker, it�s on the other side of the river. �Auf Wiedersehen, Pet�, that�s the one to watch.

Yes, I think there are so many accents in the UK � it would be difficult to count them. As well as the accents from each region � there are a few �public school� (English for private school!) variations. As for difficult to understand � try cockney rhyming slang.

It would be no fun if everyone spoke the Queens English.
Joe King
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Originally posted by Adrian Wallace:

Another more subtle difference is that modern urban Australian can sometimes have very accuratly pronouced consonants to a degree that seems unusual in most British or North American accents.


The other strange habit that the Australians have (and it seems many Americans) is to make the last syllable in every sentence slightly higher in pitch, making everything sound like a questions:


You know? Its a bit like this? When an Australian is talking to you? Even when they aren't asking a question? Its a bit odd?
Joe King
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Originally posted by Peter Rooke:

Yes, I think there are so many accents in the UK � it would be difficult to count them.


I think its fantastic that its possible to drive 15 mins out of a town and encounter a completely different accent. The real fun accents are the northern accents (in the south the accents don't seem to vary as much) - once into the midlands its almost possible to narrow down where a person comes from to within a few miles, from their accent.

Some accents in the UK are just plain annoying though. For some reason I just can't stand the Brummy accent. Worse than that is the horrible mixture of a normal English accent of some variety with random American words and pronunciations thrown in (its a really bad mix), a bit like "Why don't y'all come to my place for dinner". Incidentally, IMHO, "Y'all" has got to be the single ugliest sound possible for a human being to make
[ November 18, 2004: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Peter Rooke
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Geordie Windows 2000 (Windaz Too Thoosand)
Does contain some swearing
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: Languages and Accents