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Thread: What (American) English sounds like to non-English speaking people

  1. #46
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    I read an article a few years ago in The New Yorker about a guy who coached Hollywood actors on dialects. The guy, Tim Monich, had been studying and recording accents for years. He had such a good ear for accents that he could distinguish between someone from, say, Raleigh and someone from Durham, North Carolina. Anyway, it was a fascinating article - November, 9, 2009 issue.

    I grew up in the South, but my folks were from the Midwest, so I'm bi-lingual. I gotta tell, though, there are regions in the south still where I really have to listen to understand what people are saying. My wife is from California. When she first came to the south, I had to translate for her. I think she assumed everybody down here was going to sound like Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler. (I'm not sure, but I think Vivien Leigh was British. She got a little closer with Blanche Dubois than she did with Scarlet, in my humble opinion.)

    Anyway, my wife swears she doesn't have an accent. "I'm from California. I don't have an accent." Says she. "P'Tooey," says I, "I can spot a California accent a mile away." She, her mother, and her sister all sound alike. And to me they sound like Grace Slick:

    One pill makes you larger
    And one pill makes you small
    And the ones that mother gives you
    Don't do anything at all
    Go ask Alice
    When she's ten feet tall


    They sort of round their vowels in small, at all, and tall.

    Ah well, at least they don't call a Coca-Cola a Pop.
    Some people call me Maurice
    'Cos I speak of the pompatus of love

  2. #47
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sancho View Post
    Anyway, my wife swears she doesn't have an accent. "I'm from California. I don't have an accent." Says she. "P'Tooey," says I, "I can spot a California accent a mile away." She, her mother, and her sister all sound alike. And to me they sound like Grace Slick:

    One pill makes you larger
    And one pill makes you small
    And the ones that mother gives you
    Don't do anything at all
    Go ask Alice
    When she's ten feet tall


    They sort of round their vowels in small, at all, and tall.

    Ah well, at least they don't call a Coca-Cola a Pop.
    Grace Slick has essentially no accent, so your wife, S-i-L, and M-i-L may not have accents. It's probably just that they speak differently from your Midwestern accent.
    Last edited by PeterL; 05-11-2013 at 01:39 PM.

  3. #48
    running amok Sancho's Avatar
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    "P'tooey," sez I. "I can spot a California accent a mile away."

    I think I know what you're saying, though, Peter. There is a standard American accent, and out in California they've got it. It's a sort of broadcast journalism accent. I once heard that the standard American accent was from Nebraska, and that the most standard of Americans, accent wise, was Johnny Carson. At any rate, if the accent is standard in the middle, then I suppose it migrated out to California during the dust bowl, and Hollywood has been propagating it ever since.

    And yet there are a few California-isms I've tuned into, you know, being married to one of 'em. They use a subtle inflection at the end of some sentences were a regular American wouldn't. There's a certain flattening of the vowel sound in words like Ron and John - Rahn and Jahn. And of course there are the many uses of the word, dude:

    http://youtu.be/77v_Q0mhbZU

    By the way, El Sancho most definitely does not have a mid-western accent. Mine is a Southern American accent, which I earned the hard way - by growing up in this godforsaken place. One of my buddies in the Air Force told me I sounded like Foghorn Leghorn - a sort of Southern American Barnyard Drawl:

    "Yer built too low, son. The fast ones - they go right over yer head. I keep a pitchin' 'em and you keep a duckin' 'em."
    Some people call me Maurice
    'Cos I speak of the pompatus of love

  4. #49
    Registered User hannah_arendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    The regional differences in pronunciation are from differing vowel sounds, which is meaningless if one does not speak a language regularly. You can be sure that your Polish vowels are different from American vowels, but there probably are slightly different vowels in other parts of Poland.
    Yes, there are differences in polis dialects. However there arent`t many. The most difficult is Kashubian (north of Poland) which sometimes is called a language, and a dialect from Silesia.

  5. #50
    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    Quote Originally Posted by hannah_arendt View Post
    Yes, there are differences in polis dialects. However there arent`t many. The most difficult is Kashubian (north of Poland) which sometimes is called a language, and a dialect from Silesia.
    The Kashubis like to think of themselves as other than Poles, and a thousand years ago they were. I've never known any Silesians, but I believe that Silesia was not part od Poland more than it was.

  6. #51
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    I sent my father the link to that article on how Americans lost the English accent, and he sent back this page with TONS of info on American dialects:

    http://aschmann.net/AmEng/
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

  7. #52
    Left 4evr Adolescent09's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melanie View Post
    I clicked on your link but it said "not found". Americans have a lot of different accents and some have no accent.
    I'm an American and took a quiz that determined I have no accent which they said is "good for TV and radio"...ha, I don't know about that.
    http://www.gotoquiz.com/what_america...nt_do_you_have
    Southern accents sound closest to British accents as compared to other regions in America I read.
    An Aussie once told me I have an "intelligent accent"...I think that was his complimentary way of saying, you have no accent.
    It's interesting to read about How and When Americans lost their British accent.
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/29761...ritish-accents
    I took the quiz and it says I sound 93% Boston. I was born and raised in the deep south of the United States (Florida). I have no idea how the algorithm was written to make pronunciational assessments especially based on such broad/vague questions... but it came to that conclusion. In light of the recent tragedy, it seems ominous, quite frankly.
    My hide hides the heart inside

  8. #53
    Registered User hannah_arendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    The Kashubis like to think of themselves as other than Poles, and a thousand years ago they were. I've never known any Silesians, but I believe that Silesia was not part od Poland more than it was.
    Silesia was a part of Germany. There are many people who have their relatives in Germany.

    Polish PM is Kashubian

  9. #54
    Registered User hannah_arendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    I sent my father the link to that article on how Americans lost the English accent, and he sent back this page with TONS of info on American dialects:

    http://aschmann.net/AmEng/
    Very interesting. Thanks

  10. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calidore View Post
    I sent my father the link to that article on how Americans lost the English accent, and he sent back this page with TONS of info on American dialects:

    http://aschmann.net/AmEng/
    I thank you for posting the link. It is interesting, but it is not completely accurate, as one should expect.

  11. #56
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    You can recognize your own accent when you've been away long enough. Everybody has an accent. Some are easier for more people to understand. Some are tough, and I guess more so for people who don't speak English as their first language.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jajdude View Post
    You can recognize your own accent when you've been away long enough. Everybody has an accent. Some are easier for more people to understand. Some are tough, and I guess more so for people who don't speak English as their first language.
    You are mistaken; not everyone has an accent. I do not, and that is why I can understands such a broad swath of the pecularities of accents.

    REgardless of where in the Englich speaking world I go, I hear people abusing the language.

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