Re: Looking stupid

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Fake it 'til you make it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:47 AM
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I suppose that would have been shorter.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:50 AM
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Way to make HG look stupid, teo.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:50 AM
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My guess as to why American students are determined to sound like dolts when they are trying out Spanish (in the classroom) is because it's embarrassing to shed your Americana, and it's hilarious to exaggerate your Americana.

Or, more charitably, that in taking on what at first feels like an exaggerated accent, you're somehow making fun of the language / people. An article in a language pedagogy journal several years ago that claimed this as a problem for American students learning Chinese: to properly speak a sentence in Chinese, you have to get way closer to 'irreverently imitating that guy in a kung fu movie' than students were comfortable with.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:57 AM
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Or, more charitably, that in taking on what at first feels like an exaggerated accent, you're somehow making fun of the language / people.

I was just coming in to say this. Some guidebook for European travel I read once suggested just this as a technique for making whatever scraps of the local language you've got stretch -- delivering them with your best outrageous comedy version of the local accent. And I did it, and it really did facilitate communication with the very few Italians I met who didn't speak perfect English, but I felt as if I was being an ass.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:01 AM
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Well, that is more charitable for the failure to put on the stereotyped accent. But there really is that thing where kids find it hilarious to sound as flatly American drawly as possible.

I have kids chatting with each other around me, and they love the mangling spanish joke. Ie "Grassy Ass! " "Aaa-dios!" etc.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:02 AM
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ˆit feels likeˆ you're somehow making fun of


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:03 AM
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But feeling like you're mocking native speakers doesn't apply to adopting ready position when playing a sport. (Not that that invalidates it as it applies to learning a language.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:06 AM
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Um, maybe adopting the ready position when playing a sport doesn't apply to language learning?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:07 AM
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Um, that wasn't a very charitable reading of the parenthetical comment in 8?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:10 AM
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5: This is completely true. My French accent materially improves if I talk like I'm making fun of a French accent. I once tried to convince a Spanish speaker who was complaining about how bad his English accent was that he should try talking like he was making fun of me. He was unconvinced.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:11 AM
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I'll back you up Heebie. The ready position thing does to translate to foreign language learning. I want to say partly it's a fear of failure thing -- if I get in ready position or go all out with my accent, then clearly I am genuinely trying so I'm clearly a huge loser if I get it wrong. Whereas if I kind of stand around sullenly and use a pathetic mostly-American accent, then it's obvious the only reason I failed was because "I don't even care, man."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:13 AM
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Note: this does not work for different varieties of the same language. Nothing sounds less British than an American doing a comedy British accent (Jon Stewart take note). I know several French people who sound more British. I'm sure this applies the other way round, too. I can't do a decent American accent to save my life, and my parents are American!


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:16 AM
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8: As a non-athlete, I think you're dead right about the ready position thing -- I find acting as if I were an athlete embarrassing and presumptuous, as if people would laugh at me for pretending I know what I'm doing when I really don't. I find it's a big problem for throwing properly -- you have to do all this stuff with your body to throw something properly, and doing the whole shifting my weight onto my front foot and getting my torso into it, and then still having the ball going around fifteen feet is much more embarrassing than getting about the same distance by flipping the ball awkwardly with my forearm and wrist.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:19 AM
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I barely know a word of French, but think I can pronounce it much better than a lot of Anglophones who do know French.

A lot of it is I suppose that they "analalyze" sounds wrong, they don't hear how wrong they sound. Why else put diphtongs where they don't belong?


Posted by: David | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:19 AM
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13: I used to really piss off a London-born boyfriend in college with my attempts at a "British" accent -- "We don't all speak fucking Cockney!" My attempts to imitate an Irish brogue tend to sound like Apu on the Simpsons.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:20 AM
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I know several French people who sound more British.

They probably learned British English?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:21 AM
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To some extent- if you try exaggerating your accent, but you still break rules such as pronouncing the H in Spanish or some final letters in French, it sounds doubly dumb. I bet it's also fun to try exaggerating the lisp of Catalan Spanish.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:22 AM
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"Catalan Spanish?"


Posted by: David | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:23 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:23 AM
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I mean Castillian, not Catalan


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:23 AM
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Also, some people just don't have good ear for distinguishing unfamiliar sounds, and/or are very bad at telling whether they are making the same sound they just heard.

Another common problem seems to be that some people have a very strong connection in their brain between a letter or combination of letters and the way it is generally pronounced in their parent tongue. They find it very difficult to break that connection and pronounce that same letter or combination of letters differently in a foreign tongue. Others seems to be able move between the two systems with much more ease.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:23 AM
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Or maybe even Castilian.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:24 AM
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22: Yeah, there's really a lot of individual variation in aptitude not just for language-learning in general but for specific linguistic subsystems. Some people are very good at hearing and mimicking unfamiliar sounds but terrible at grammar, while others are the other way around, and yet others have a very difficult time with the whole thing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:27 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:27 AM
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Sort of pwnd by 15. I need to refresh more often.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:27 AM
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my son, best athlete in the history of the bill family (did I mention that we adopted him), assumes the ready position naturally in about every sport he's tried - soccer, hockey, lacrosse, baseball, football, golf. ms bill and I laugh about it - why didn't we do that when we were younger? He and I ran an 8K race in DC last week (his first) and there he was at the start, up on the balls of his feet, bent knees, and generally ready to spring. He beat me handily.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:27 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:28 AM
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22: You see that in a language classroom when you're teaching new phrases (not vocab or structures, but common things you'll use as whole sentences: good morning, how are you, etc.). You can introduce them orally and go back and forth with students quite successfully for awhile, and then as soon as you write them on the board, a significant number of students will start pronouncing them much more poorly and will only say them while looking at the words on the board or in their notebooks. Yet students want to see the words immediately; they have to be trained to trust their ears.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:28 AM
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13: That's actually completely odd. Why would it work for a foreign language, but not your own? Is there an Uncanny Valley of accents?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:31 AM
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I think actual ability to produce/recognize language sounds is not related to inclination to feel silly trying to do something you're not used to. The first one is specific to language learning, and the second one also applies to ready position.

There!

New signers have a really hard time moving their faces right. They feel silly, and they don't want to look dumb, so they don't move their faces at all and no one understands them. Then they get to a point where they understand the system, sort of, but exaggerate all the movements in an irritating* way. Some people get past that point, but most don't.

*only some aspects are irritating, and not very much. Not that I blame anyone for doing it. But I do judge them secretly from inside, so they probably should have just given up long ago. I'm an excellent teacher, I swear.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:32 AM
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My 5 year old is learning Spanish daily and Chinese weekly in school, and his ability to make the proper sounds without even thinking about it is amazing. I'm hesitant to try speaking Spanish to him at home because I'm afraid I'll mess up his good accent.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:34 AM
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30- I'm actually not very sure that it does. If we want to get nit-picky, the original claim is that you sound more spanish *to other native English speakers* when you try to do a caricatured accent. Would actual Mexicans think you were doing a great job? I do not know.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:35 AM
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33: as long as he has plenty of other native-speaker input, you won't. Little kids are very good filters.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:37 AM
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Would actual Mexicans think you were doing a great job? I do not know.

They'd presumably think you were doing a better job than if you stuck with a heavy Anglophone accent. Which is a rather different baseline from the one involved in conversations between speakers of English who have different accents.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:39 AM
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A side issue from the post is something that struck me funny about visiting New Mexico a couple of years ago. I know a whole bunch of native Spanish speakers, living where I do, but very few of them are Mexican. The "Speedy Gonzalez lilt" is not something I run into on the street -- Domincans and Puerto Ricans speaking English don't sound anything like Speedy Gonzalez, and so I always thought of that accent as purely fictional, with no real relationship to how actual Hispanophones sound when speaking English.

Then I went to New Mexico, where Hispanophones are Mexican or whatever the term is for people who speak Spanish at home but whose families have lived in the same place since the US acquired the territory in the Mexican War, and realized that the accent that sounds like Speedy Gonzalez to me is real, you just don't hear it much in my neighborhood.

(Although it's funny, I can think of two NY Mexican immigrants I know pretty well, and while both are heavily accented, neither has that accent. I have no explanation for this.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:39 AM
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*to other native English speakers*

Is that the claim? I thought the claim was that consciously adopting an exaggerated accent does make your language better (or can, anyway). Hence the greater understanding when LB was talking to Italians, etc.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:40 AM
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whatever the term is for people who speak Spanish at home but whose families have lived in the same place since the US acquired the territory in the Mexican War

"Hispanic."

(Although it's funny, I can think of two NY Mexican immigrants I know pretty well, and while both are heavily accented, neither has that accent. I have no explanation for this.)

Mexico is a large, diverse country with many regional dialects. That would be my best guess at an explanation, anyway.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:42 AM
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I barely know a word of French, but think I can pronounce it much better than a lot of Anglophones who do know French.

IIRC (it's been a while since I read about foreign language acquisition), it's a recognized phenomenon that the accent of beginning language students can get worse after they learn basic phonology and move on to studying grammar: pronunciation not having become automatic, it suffers when attentional resources are diverted to other aspects of speaking. Your experience might have a similar explanation, in that you're primarily trying to replicate heard sounds, while those who've studied the language but haven't mastered it are trying to juggle multiple cognitive tasks.


Posted by: bizzah | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:44 AM
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Also, some people just don't have good ear for distinguishing unfamiliar sounds, and/or are very bad at telling whether they are making the same sound they just heard.

I don't think I'm great at accents, but when I took German classes there I was surprised by the people who after a year were pronouncing "Ich habe ..." as "Ick hah-bay...", and didn't seem to be aware that they weren't even in the right neighborhood. It struck me as showing a real lack of attention or effort. But for some reason I'm more forgiving of non-native English speakers who after decades of living in the US still don't produce good approximations of our vowel sounds.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:44 AM
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I knew a guy with a very thick Quebecois accent who could make it disappear by intentionally mocking American English. He didn't do this as a rule: it's unclear whether this was because it was too much work or if he felt self-conscious, though.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:44 AM
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38: There's no more specific term? Dominican-Americans are Hispanic, Puerto Ricans are Hispanic... it seems there's got to be some word describing "Yes, my family are historically Spanish speakers. No, we're not immigrants no matter how far back you go -- we didn't come to the US, the US annexed the place where we were living," more specifically than just Hispanic.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:45 AM
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A friend of mine once had to call his girlfriend who was doing a semester abroad in Germany with a family that didn't speak English and he didn't speak German. The girlfriend had told him what to say which was something like "Hello my name is X. I am sorry I don't speak German is Y there." He had it written down, but didn't really know the pronunciation. So he basically called up and talked like he imagined Sgt Schultz from Hogan's Heroes would talk. The person on the phone burst out laughing because he somehow managed to hit the regional accent dead on while saying he had no idea how to speak German.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:46 AM
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37- I guess I thought the claim was that they sounded better to Heebie, and then everyone agreed that it sounded better to them too. But not for other dialects of English.

I certainly think it makes you look like you're trying hard to communicate, which endears you to other people and makes them try hard too. I just don't know how close to target pronunciation it gets you.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:49 AM
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42: Nope, "Hispanic" is the standard term in NM. Sometimes you hear "Hispano," which is the equivalent Spanish term. Before these terms became widespread (which I think was in the sixties or seventies) the usual term in English was "Spanish."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:49 AM
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29: I had sort of the reverse experience with Samoan -- it's spelled phonetically, and there aren't any individual sounds that are hard for an American. But just repeating what I heard, I'd screw up the vowel sounds; my pronunciation was much better when I thought "Maota. That's mm-ah--oh--tah. Now say it fast enough to sound reasonable," than when I mimicked native speakers.

But I think that was a memory issue -- I'd forget the sound faster than I forgot the spelling, and so reconstructing sound from spelling worked better than just recalling the sound.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:50 AM
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I was surprised by the people who after a year were pronouncing "Ich habe ..." as "Ick hah-bay...", and didn't seem to be aware that they weren't even in the right neighborhood."

I was mortified by my kid brother's unbelievably bad German accent -- until I visited Munich and discovered that he actually had an unbelievably good Bavarian accent.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:56 AM
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The pdf I linked in the other thread is very interesting on NM specifically.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 8:58 AM
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42: Apparently there are some variations on Tejano that might convey what you're talking about. Valid in Texas only, not subject to doubling.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:00 AM
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That's what I do for math, HG. I just get up there and start throwing around equals signs and square roots and tangents until the blackboard looks like a math person came by.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:05 AM
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Reassuring words from an engineer.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:08 AM
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So he basically called up and talked like he imagined Sgt Schultz from Hogan's Heroes would talk.

So what you're saying is that he knew nothing, right?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:09 AM
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33: My experience is that if I do a caricatured French accent, I am more comprehensible to native French speakers.

I once heard a voice impersonation comic say that sometimes you can get closer to imitating someone's voice by imitating another comedians imitating that person.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:13 AM
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Hm. Like caricaturists have to be good at identifying what pieces of your face make you look like you.

This sounds like a very fun study to do. All your test subjects could be primed by watching cartoons: Do attempts at imitation of Speedy Gonzales result in more accurate reproduction of Spanish phonemes by nonspeakers?

I'm on it.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:17 AM
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And for French, Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:19 AM
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my pronunciation was much better when I thought "Maota. That's mm-ah--oh--tah. Now say it fast enough to sound reasonable," than when I mimicked native speakers.

Students, especially really smart ones, are often used to starting with the written word and working from there. Really fast ones can perform that little translation in their heads the way you describe, but part of my task as a language teacher is to get them to also work in the modalities they're less comfortable with (i.e., working from sound rather from the written word).

Which meets with a lot of resistance! It can be a tough sell to counter "this is my preferred language learning style, it has always worked for me" with "no really, you'll learn different things if you approach it from this direction sometimes."


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:23 AM
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And for Minnesotan, Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:23 AM
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56: And of course it worked at all because all the individual sounds in Samoan are really easy starting from English. And it didn't work well -- I never got to conversational fluency, or even terribly close.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:26 AM
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"Why would it work for a foreign language, but not your own? Is there an Uncanny Valley of accents?"

Well, it doesn't help that 90% of Americans doing an exaggerated British accent seem to be basing it on Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins, which is itself an atrocious accent. The other 10% tend to base it on an imagined upper class accent, which suffers from lack of contact with actual members of the British upper class.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:27 AM
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My Saarlaendisch has been known to paralyze with laughter.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:27 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:28 AM
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59: There's something particularly difficult about English accents, at least for me. I used to be able to do a very reasonable Irish brogue -- I'd visited a couple of times as a kid, and my grandmother and great aunt were pretty accented, so I had a bunch of models. You get the rhythm down, and the pronunciation falls right into place.

English, on the other hand -- I've heard a lot of English accents here and there, but they've never clicked in my head enough that I could catch the tune of them. When I try to imitate one, I can hear it going way off, instantly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:31 AM
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59: I watch a fair amount of British television, and there's a standard "Brit actor trying to sound American" accent that I find pretty damn funny. The main thing is they turn the nasal up to 11.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:32 AM
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63: Yeah, it's hyper-nasal evangelical preacher/Texan.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:37 AM
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Indeed, which I think supports my hypothesis. It's not as if British actors (or Brits in general) have a shortage of American voices to base their imitation on. We watch a lot more American TV than vice versa. Yet we're still terrible at American accents (with a few obvious exceptions, who very much avoid exaggerated drawls).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:39 AM
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My experience of people not trying with Spanish specifically is that they are either afraid of doing badly (as Di describes in 12), or they have active contempt for the culture and are loudly and purposely disassociating themselves from the stigma of appearing to be "on the Mexicans' side."

There's a strain of American thought that is proudly monolingual, sort of a "The world should adapt to us; why should we bother learning another language?" I didn't encounter it until I was an adult, and it still startles me how personally offended some people feel by being asked to overhear (much less learn) another language.

I can think of two NY Mexican immigrants I know pretty well, and while both are heavily accented, neither has that accent.

What teo said. Also, it's entirely possible that their first language is an indigenous one, and Spanish is their second language.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:39 AM
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45: This article might have some interesting data on the subject, teo.
"The functions of ethnic identity: A New Mexico Hispanic example".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:42 AM
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But then there are the British actors who do American accents well enough that I don't notice they aren't American. Maybe this just means I'm not very perceptive. I wouldn't have guessed Anna Friel was English from Pushing Daisies, but in interviews you can hear her very entertaining northern English accent. And of course Hugh Laurie does a nice job on House.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:45 AM
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67: Thanks. From skimming it, there's some interesting stuff, but nothing very surprising.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:49 AM
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I didn't encounter it until I was an adult, and it still startles me how personally offended some people feel by being asked to overhear (much less learn) another language.

I will confess that I get annoyed sometimes at people talking loudly on the train -- and even more annoyed if they are speaking a foreign language that I can't understand. Consciously, I know that's crap. But viscerally... Maybe it's the frustration of, if you are going to annoy me, I should at least be able to eavesdrop.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:51 AM
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68: I didn't know Jamie Bamber (Lee Adama, whatever) was English until I heard him on a talk show. But I think he grew up in the States. Hugh Laurie's accent sounded super weird to me for the longest time, yet that might have been just because it was coming from Hugh Laurie. The most successful American accent done by a British person that I have heard, and I say "most successful" because she nailed not just sounds, etc., but rather the intonations and cadence of a very particular type of American, was by Kate Beckinsale in Last Days of Disco.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:51 AM
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Hugh Laurie's accent sounded super weird to me for the longest time, yet that might have been just because it was coming from Hugh Laurie.

You know, I've praised Laurie's House accent before, but you're right that he sounds weird. I think I react to him on that show as sounding like a weirdo, because the character's supposed to be a weirdo -- the oddness doesn't come off as failure at the accent, so much as character development.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:54 AM
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There's a strain of American thought that is proudly monolingual, sort of a "The world should adapt to us; why should we bother learning another language?"

The world-adapting-to-us part is pretty gross, but I can understand the why-should-I-bother part. For a large portion of Americans, especially those not living in large cities, there will be very little chance to use a foreign language. This is (/has been for a long time) changing with Spanish, but is still far from being something people could use on a daily basis.

I didn't encounter it until I was an adult, and it still startles me how personally offended some people feel by being asked to overhear (much less learn) another language.

This part I agree with 100%. A bunch of people I know from high school recently joined some FB group about not wanting to press 1 for English, because this is America goddammit. Really? You're offended by that? (Also: considering that it's often businesses where you're encountering it, um, hello, free enterprise? Catering to the market?)


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:56 AM
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I will confess that I get annoyed sometimes at people talking loudly on the train -- and even more annoyed if they are speaking a foreign language that I can't understand.

It seems to me that people sometimes talk more loudly if speaking a foreign language, just because they think other people can't understand them.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:00 AM
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For a large portion of Americans, especially those not living in large cities, there will be very little chance to use a foreign language.

Yeah, I've always (defensively) wanted to see statistics on likeliness to learn a second language in terms of distance from the nearest country where another language is spoken. I'd have to go thousands of miles to get someplace where English isn't an official language (Quebec isn't that far, but it's not monolingual Francophone either.) So I'm embarrassed about my monolingualism, but on the other hand another language wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to my life.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:00 AM
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I've probably told the story of a Spanish roommate of mine whose accent in English was so thick that he wasn't even allowed to TA computer-science courses at a large state university. It turned out that he could do a hilarious mimicry of an American accent that made him much more comprehensible to Americans, but he refused to use that accent in everyday communication because he didn't like how it sounded.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:01 AM
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Irish brogue-related


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:04 AM
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This is (/has been for a long time) changing with Spanish, but is still far from being something people could use on a daily basis.

They could use it on a daily basis if they wanted by reading books. That's why I learned foreign languages.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:05 AM
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Actually I always think it sounds funny when I hear Hugh Laurie speak with an English accent.

And there's Rachel Griffiths who I had no idea was Australian.

And then there's me -- for years I thought I had the accent of a native speaker in Hebrew, until some typically blunt Israelis informed me that I had a strong American accent.

Maybe I just don't have a good ear.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:06 AM
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I have a pretty good ear (so far as I can tell), which means I hear everything I say wrong in other languages. It makes me acutely self-conscious, although native Russian speakers told me my accent was very clean. One guy said I had a slight Jewish accent in Russian; my Russian phonetics prof was indeed Jewish.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:09 AM
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There are a couple of scenes in foreign-language films where characters attempt an American accent that I find illuminating in how the accent sounds.

People who don't like pressing 1 for English should be stabbed to death in the street.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:10 AM
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I didn't encounter it until I was an adult, and it still startles me how personally offended some people feel by being asked to overhear (much less learn) another language.

Obviously I am not offended by it, but it is interesting to me, brain-wise, that I can have real trouble carrying on a conversation in English if I can easily overhear a conversation in another language that I can understand. It seems like a part of my brain devotes itself to trying to understand the French people sitting next to me, which puts a noticeable drag on the part of my brain that is being used to talk in English to my friend. (This isn't true in France, presumably because my brain gets used to overhearing French -- in the sense both that it's not novel and that it gets speedier at translating.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:14 AM
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I have a cousin (of my grandfather's generation, his first cousin) who is married to an italian man and has lived in rome and siena for the past 50 years. she speaks gramatically flawless italian with her patrician new york accent and exactly zero attempt to pronounce the words like an italian. it is hilarious to listen to, especially when she properly uses the subjunctive for some past hypothetical or whatever.

I think the "afraid of making fun of people's accents" thing is a huge barrier for US students. in singapore I speak singlish-accented english to, say, taxi drivers, because they understand me better that way. they invariably think I'm "eurasian" (the singapore term for people of mixed ancestry). yet I feel very silly doing it with a singaporean friend in the car.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:16 AM
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look I'm in america! on US time! my italian accent doesn't sound like that of a native speaker, but doesn't sound american at all either (many people have commented on it in italy). the consensus seems to be that I sound albanian.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:20 AM
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They could use it on a daily basis if they wanted by reading books.

This takes real discipline. Also, you have to get to a pretty high level of proficiency in a language to be able to just sit down and read a book for pleasure.

Reading newspapers online might be different: you can skim headlines and dip in and out of articles at will. But the language you encounter is often more compact, and therefore more difficult. (And in German, you have to deal with a lot more Subjunctive I (indirect speech).)

That's why I learned foreign languages.

Me too, but I'm an academic. It just seems like an awful lot to ask of someone for the purposes of leisure.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:22 AM
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Also, you have to get to a pretty high level of proficiency in a language to be able to just sit down and read a book for pleasure.

Mmm. That's my daydream with Spanish, to get to the point where I could read fiction for pleasure. Unfortunately, even reading translated Beverly Cleary (in my desk at this moment: El ratoncito de la moto), I'm still at the level where I can mostly figure out sort of what's happening, but I can't actually translate a single sentence.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:24 AM
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The first novel I ever read for pleasure in German says on the first page that the couple brennt durch. Burns through, burns out? Eh, whatever, figurative language. About halfway through a novel that wasn't making very much sense, I looked up the word. Turns out durchbrennen is also a separable prefix verb meaning 'to elope'. Go back and start the novel again...


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:29 AM
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It just seems like an awful lot to ask of someone for the purposes of leisure

Well, sure, it's not for everyone. But my point was that just because you're in the sticks or never leave the country doesn't mean you can't use a foreign language. I haven't been to Germany (other than the airports) for over 10 years, but I still use my (rather poor) German on a weekly basis. Similarly I've got far more leisure use out of my Russian than I have conversational use. French is about the only language I speak more often than I read.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:31 AM
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84: That reminds me of meeting a very elderly woman in Ukraine in about 1994. She'd lived there since the late '30s -- married a Soviet Army officer who'd been stationed at the Washington embassy or something, moved back with him before the war broke out, and never left. She was widowed in the war, IIRC, but already had a couple of babies. Anyway, she spoke absolutely perfect Russian, very rapidly and fluently, but with a full American accent. I loved listening to her talk.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:33 AM
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And then of course there's Latin and ancient Greek, which are pretty much only learned for reading purposes, and well worth the effort.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:36 AM
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doesn't mean you can't use a foreign language

Oh, I certainly don't mean to say you can't. Rather that I don't think it's something we can expect of anyone, or that we can use to disparage 'ugly Americans'.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:37 AM
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A related problem with language learning and feeling like a jerk: I'm socially acquainted with a fair number of people for whom Spanish is a first language, and there are dozens of stores where I shop staffed by Spanish speakers. They all speak English as well. I feel like a condescending twerp dragging out my smattering of Spanish to use on them, when actual communication is going to be much easier and more efficient in English -- none of these people volunteered to tutor me in Spanish. So mostly I don't, barring the occasional "Gracias."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:39 AM
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I was in Lisbon for a while, and found I got fewer "you foreigner" looks if I slurred my (very basic) Portuguese as much as I heard those around me do. To the extent that if *I* had heard myself e.g. asking for my destination on the bus, I wouldn't have known where I meant. (Because I never knew where anyone else on the bus was going either.)

And re the hearing/reading aspect: we have a Welsh book and tape set. If I listened to the tape and read the book at the same time, I would completely mangle the words, but then I started listening to it in the car and could repeat the words much more accurately.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:45 AM
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Of course, "learning" another language means different things to different people. I didn't grow up in a setting where I needed to know anything but English, and if I wanted to, I could still live like that. Other than learning Signed Exact English (and a little bit of understanding of ASL) in high school, I didn't learn another language until college.

So yes, it's ambitious to think that people would thoroughly learn a language if there aren't a lot of other people around to practice with.

On the other hand, it's extremely common now for high school and college students to have some kind of study-abroad or travel experience, even if it's just a week-long trip through Rotary Club. You don't have to "learn" a language in the sense of being able to sit down and read a Harry Potter book to understand that it might make your week in Barcelona a lot more fun if you know some key phrases.

I had a friend who took a vacation to France in her 30s. Her husband was in his 40s. Both of them had exposure to another language in high school, but nothing since (and nobody to practice with). She bought "French for Dummies," learned a few phrases, cheerfully experimented, and had a great time. He made no effort, blundered around, and got annoyed that people didn't understand him.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:50 AM
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I will confess that I get annoyed sometimes at people talking loudly on the train -- and even more annoyed if they are speaking a foreign language that I can't understand. ... Maybe it's the frustration of, if you are going to annoy me, I should at least be able to eavesdrop.

I'm the opposite. I am far more likely to be annoyed by the conversation of a stranger than interested. But you can't help overhearing, can you? And then you want to interrupt the Glenn Beck-quoting fuckers and tell them how stupid they are. By contrast, if the conversation is in a language you don't understand, you can be blissfully unaware.

I used to listen to Italian pop music for approximately the same reason, but after a while my comprehension became too good and I was forced back into consciousness of how sappy and banal it all is.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 11:08 AM
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The person on the phone burst out laughing because he somehow managed to hit the regional accent dead on while saying he had no idea how to speak German.

Fleur used to have this problem a lot. She has an uncanny capacity for mimicry, so her French accent was almost too convincing; people didn't believe when she said she didn't understand them.

I've found that a good way to improve your conversational fluency is to converse with other non-native speakers whose mother tongue is something other than English. The pace and difficulty of following the conversation are attenuated, but you have neither the danger of reinforcing each other's faulty accents nor the temptation to revert to English.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 11:22 AM
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96: My mother, as well. Forty years of flying to Europe as a flight attendant, she never learned a foreign language properly, but picked up enough to be polite, shop, and order in restaurants in a bunch of languages, and apparently developed a very good accent in most. This led to occasional confusing interactions where the people she was talking to didn't understand how little of the language she spoke or understood, like the time in Italy when she saw an attractive looking cake in a restaurant and attempted to order "il gato chocolati." The waiter got very upset and wouldn't serve her, so she eventually gave up and just had an espresso. Halfway home over the Atlantic she remembered that while "gateau" is French for cake, "gato" is Italian for cat.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 11:31 AM
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It seems to me that people sometimes talk more loudly if speaking a foreign language, just because they think other people can't understand them.

Maybe it seems to you that people talk more loudly in foreign languages, because the foreignness of it obtrudes on your consciousness to a greater degree.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 11:44 AM
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Has this been linked here yet?

What Americans Sound Like.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 11:51 AM
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"Hispanic."

Not that teo's likely unaware of it, but "Hispanic" is a problematic term for a lot of Spanish speakers. This kind of gets at it. I remember a psychology professor in Chile making a joke along the lines of "People from the USA want to call us hispánico; they always inspire pánico!"


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 12:37 PM
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She bought "French for Dummies," learned a few phrases, cheerfully experimented, and had a great time.

Yeah, trying even a little goes a long ways. I hadn't spoken any Spanish since high school (my god, was that really 15 years ago?), and now patrol out of the west side precinct which is heavily Hispanic (mostly Mexican, and a lot of street level drug dealers are Honduran). Getting a basic Spanish textbook and the "Law Enforcement Spanish for Dummies" helped tremendously. I'm not fluent the like the guys who did Mormon missions in Spanish speaking countries, but I can get through most calls with a pretty solid understanding of what's going on.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 12:48 PM
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Yeah, that's something the article JP linked in 67 mentions. It's one of the notable peculiarities of NM specifically that "Hispanic" is the generally preferred term for most people, despite its more controversial status elsewhere. Similarly, "Mexican" is strongly disfavored in northern New Mexico, and "Chicano" even more so. This seems to be a bit more muted in southern New Mexico, which has more recent immigrants from Mexico, so the article, which is based on interviews with students at NMSU in Las Cruces (in southern NM), has rather mixed results on that. Some of the students (presumably the ones of recent Mexican ancestry) seem to like "Mexican" or "Mexican-American" okay, although no one seems to like "Chicano." The term "Spanish-American" also seems to be popular, presumably for the old New Mexican families, which I find interesting since my impression is that it's not at all common in northern NM. And, of course, there's a bunch of weird racial stuff behind all these distinctions and preferences.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 12:51 PM
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Interesting, i had wondered why other people in my french class sounded like they were.

re:overcorrectino: people trying to pronoounce american style Rs. It ends up this weird sound. should just do the nonrhotic thing and not bothr pronouncing it at all.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 12:59 PM
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and i think some of the hardest sounds to distinguish are ones in english, like the recently mentioned wine/whine.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:01 PM
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actually, what this makes feel good about is that my accent wasn't as bad at peolple who speak english with a realy thick accent. like who seems to have a pretty good vocablary, and yet are still almost incomprehensible, and wondering if my (nonenglish language) accent was even worse than that


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:10 PM
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i wonder if, because i've reached the point where my british accents are subdivided into estruary, posh, and antipodian, theyre better, or the division has reduced average quality


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:15 PM
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"il gato chocolati."

If this isn't Heebie's next drink-and-babble video I'll be sorely disappointed. Sorely.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:17 PM
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101: Let me recommend Rosetta Stone. I haven't used my copy in forever because my old laptop stopped working and I'm having trouble getting them to transfer my license, but it got me from zero to a significant smattering pretty fast in Spanish.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:26 PM
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I could see why people might be pissed about other people speaking a different language - not beingable to understand what's said really cuts you out from the conversation. its like when you first join an organization, can't follow the jargon and rules, and get set up for lots of pranks.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:27 PM
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Thinking about the Speedy Gonzales thing, I'm reminded that a common trope on Latin American comedy shows has been to have The Gringo as Frankenstein's Monster, speaking El Ess-Pan-Yole all labored and clumsy.

Are there other instances of this sort of representation in other countries? That is, not just how people from the US are joked about, but, say, how the French depict Germans or something?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:36 PM
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i wonder if, because i've reached the point where my british accents are subdivided into estruary, posh, and antipodian, theyre better, or the division has reduced average quality

What's an antipodean British accent? I was listening to a podcast the other day which featured a British born person who had lived in Darwin for all his adult life. Consequently it was hard tell if he sounded British or Australian. Particular vowels were very clearly one or the other, which created a very strange effect when they were combined into one word. Is that what you're talking about, or do you just mean Australian/Kiwi/Saffer?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:44 PM
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God I love Peggy Hill's attempts at Spanish on King of the Hill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1Wt_LmPwI4


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 1:45 PM
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111: First you people tell me the Channel Islands aren't British, now you tell yoyo that Australia isn't. When will it end?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:10 PM
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I don't want to alarm you, essear, but you should probably be informed that, despite its name, British Columbia is not in fact British either.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:12 PM
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Nor, for that matter, is New Britain. Or New Ireland.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:13 PM
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Disturbing. I'm taking a vacation in British Honduras before it changes its name.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:14 PM
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115: But New Jersey is part of the Duchy of Normandy, right?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:15 PM
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Too late! And don't even think about trying British Guyana, either.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:15 PM
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117: Only symbolically. In practice it's divided between the Scots and the Swedes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:16 PM
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116: The Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras, are English speaking and largely populated by folks of African descent. The British held them until 1860, apparently. Ahaha, and I had forgotten that the main town is called Coxen Hole.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:17 PM
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99: I love that video! with subtitles.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:23 PM
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120: True, but they are currently both claimed and administered by the government of Honduras and are therefore not British in any sense. British Honduras, meanwhile, is now independent and known as Belize.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:24 PM
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I've been to Roatan (the largest of the Bay Islands). Nice place.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:24 PM
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122: Yes, I was being goofy! I've been to Roatan too -- but was too lazy to go with friends to Utila. Good thing, too, since those folks came home with dengue fever.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:27 PM
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99, 122: more different subtitles


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:30 PM
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124: I figured you must know that, but it is a legitimately confusing set of circumstances, and I wanted to be sure to forestall any distress among the various and sundry potential readers of this thread.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 2:31 PM
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I suppose Pitcairn is genuinely antipodean British (for colloquial definitions of antipodean). And those various overseas territories near Antarctica.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:08 PM
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There are quite a few Australlian actors on US television these days, and they mostly do a decent job of sounding American, but they almost always have a word or two that is a significant tell.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:17 PM
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for colloquial definitions of antipodean

But for recondite definitions of British. This was about accents - have you ever heard Pitcairn/Norfolk?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:28 PM
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Good thing, too, since those folks came home with dengue fever.

And what's so bad about that?


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:29 PM
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This was about accents - have you ever heard Pitcairn/Norfolk?

Norfolk yes, Pitcairn no. Are they similar?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:34 PM
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Australlian

Is that one of the tells?


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:36 PM
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On the non-US actors on US TV thing, I never noticed Dominic West's accent slips on The Wire until someone here linked to him on some British TV show. After that, I started listening for it and heard it all the time. So distracting!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:38 PM
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I recently learned about the Pitcairn underage sex trial, which is fascinating, as is, more generally, the amount of murder and craziness packed onto that tiny island's history is pretty amazing. Lesson: Don't mutiny.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:38 PM
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128 - the bloke who played Lincoln Burrows (Michael's brother) in Prison Break is Australian iirc (and god I hope I do as I spent far too many hours of my life googling him during series 2 when he always had his shirt undone) and said that he got fed up with switching between his real accent at home and his American one for work and just decided to 'speak American' all the time. Which I thought was extremely weird.

We have a Doctor Who story CD, read by David Tennant, and it entertains me no end that he reads it in his normal Scottish voice and then puts on his English Doctor voice for when the Doctor is talking in the story.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:39 PM
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Pitcairn/Norfolk.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:45 PM
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Ah, that Norfollk.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 3:51 PM
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128 - Anthony LaPaglia claims that he started introducing himself as a guy from Brooklyn because he couldn't get cast if he showed up with his native accent, no matter how good his American accents were; subsequently, he lost his native accent altogether. (I think he said he had to use a dialect coach to play an Australian in a film a few years ago.)

Generally, I think Australians have the American accent down, but if I didn't know Damian Lewis was British, I ... wouldn't know Damian Lewis was British.

72 - I've heard numerous British people do the accent Hugh Laurie does, but he does it much better than most. It's, in a way, my native accent, though I've softened it as a result of living first in California and then Illinois for a long time. Basically the New England version of the sort of American accent that makes people say "you don't have an accent." Go listen to Matt Damon giving an interview - I think Laurie's basically doing that, cranked up a few notches. It's probably quite accessible for him because the vowel sounds of that accent exaggerate, to my ear, the general differences between American and British dialects. (Which brings it back to the top of the thread, I guess.) As you move away from New England, vowels seem to get a little flattened; I believe it's the last place in the US where you can reliably find people for whom Mary, marry, and merry are three distinct vowel sounds.


Posted by: Medrawt | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 5:59 PM
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As you move away from New England, vowels seem to get a little flattened; I believe it's the last place in the US where you can reliably find people for whom Mary, marry, and merry are three distinct vowel sounds.

We in the greater NYC metropolitan area, would, uh, like to take issue with that. [slaps bat suggestively in open palm]


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 6:10 PM
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You know, if you have a union jack* on your flag and queen who lives in england, you shouldn't mind getting lumped in with the rest of them


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 6:44 PM
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133 -- The McNulty accent "slips" may be West's attempts at doing a kinda sorta Baltimore accent. I read something posted by a real Baltimorean that suggested that McNulty actually does sound like the speech of someone who has lost most, but not all, of their Baltimore accent.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:39 PM
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Charlie Hunnam on Sons of Anarchy has, to my ear, a spectacularly convincing American accent.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:45 PM
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We have a Doctor Who story CD, read by David Tennant, and it entertains me no end that he reads it in his normal Scottish voice and then puts on his English Doctor voice for when the Doctor is talking in the story.

Would you like to rip this and share it with me, by any chance?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:47 PM
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143: Me toooo!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 7:50 PM
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we didn't come to the US, the US annexed the place where we were living," more specifically than just Hispanic.

In California, I think the term was "Californios". Mexico's rule in the territory that became part of the US did not have the effect of producing a common identity for the whole territory, and the US didn't administer it as one place, so I don't think there was a common name for everyone in it.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:26 PM
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Continuing to catch up with the thread...

One thing that's annoyed me - mildly, but still - while abroad is when my poor [foreign language] is slightly better than the poor English of the person I'm talking to, but they insist on using English even when it's clear it's not going to work, and that it might be better to just deal with my poor [foreign language] because I had a chance of understanding the answer even if I couldn't repeat it.

My favorite language negotiation was at a train station in Barcelona where I asked if the ticket agent spoke English, he said, no but do you speak French, I said enough, and we worked it out that way.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:46 PM
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146.last: I've probably told the story before, but when in Argentina I and another student who spoke both English and Spanish ended up on a small bus tour of Buenos Aires with (1) a Brazilian couple who spoke only Portuguese and (2) a USian couple who spoke only English.

The whole thing worked out hilariously well, with the Brazilians and USians picking up the details of what was going on alternately from the Spanish, Portuguese, and English being tossed around.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:51 PM
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Fake it til you make it also applies to just ignoring the fact that you're going to be speaking a mistake ridden broken mess with very limited vocabulary at first. Assuming there isn't a better option, they won't mind, yes that's true even of the French. Plus, don't be afraid of slipping in words from a related language that you know better, I do it whenever I speak Russian, and the only people who've ever minded were my Russian teachers. I've even done that with French to Italian somewhat successfully, in spite of my knowledge of Italian being limited to guidebook phrases and the benefit of growing up in Switzerland with compulsive reader syndrome.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 9:57 PM
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148: Being drunk really helps, and I mean that sincerely.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 10:05 PM
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In my bumpkin ways I shall so savour the day when NPR announcers domesticate Spanish as well as the people of the great state of Missourah have done for their native French.


Posted by: Econolicious DeMarco | Link to this comment | 03-18-10 11:07 PM
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146. French is usually a good bet in the bits of Northern Spain where Spanish is a minority language anyway.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 2:05 AM
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143, 144 - sure. Just as soon as I get C or a child to do that for me.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 5:00 AM
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152: Just fake it, asilon.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 11:47 AM
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I've been trying my hand at a Noel Coward song, but despite long acquaintance with him and a decent understanding of English accents, when I play myself back it sounds like a very conventional, poor American imitation of an Englishman. Probably because Coward is an exemplar of the kind of accent Americans think all English have.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 12:11 PM
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You know what's a fucking awesome song? "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," that's what. (Not a response to 154; it just happened to come on.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 12:35 PM
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Help! I'm supposed to 1) rewrite the help files of a software program 2) make a instruction video for said program. I think I'm well qualified to do that, despite no prior experience, but I've no idea what would be a reasonable compensation (per hour).

Anyone here who can advise me?


Posted by: Per Albin Hansson | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 12:39 PM
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In looking at covers of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" on wikipedia I just learned that Jerry Garcia was named for Jerome Kern.

You're welcome.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 12:40 PM
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Probably because Coward is an exemplar of the kind of accent Americans think all English have

It was more common among people born in 1900. Not so many of those around now.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 1:00 PM
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Also, 'Smoke' is indeed awesome.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 1:05 PM
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158: Yes, there certainly is a lot less masturbation allowed these days for people born in 1900.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 1:08 PM
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I blame the hyper-judgmental and hypersensitive atmosphere prevailing in North American culture .


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 1:10 PM
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Max Raabe sang "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" when I saw him in concert two weeks ago. It was marvelous.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 1:58 PM
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Hey Blümchen, did you get the email I sent to you and Sifu?


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 2:34 PM
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I think McNulty's accent was genuinely spotty, even enough so to be distracting. Also, when I saw Avatar, at first I thought the star character was the actor who played McNulty -- but no, he was just another Brit with an imperfect American accent.

On the other hand, Hugh Laurie hasn't dropped a single false phoneme in any of the episodes of House that I've seen.


Posted by: neil | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 2:36 PM
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I saw him screw up "strawberries" IIRC -- did the English stro-bries rather than the American straw-ber-ries. And there's something odd about the volume at which he speaks: he sort of brays/honks when he's being obnoxious in a way that's kind of off. But mostly he is very good.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-19-10 2:42 PM
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