How English Sounds to Non-English Speakers

Reblogging a fun post from “linguaphile and translator” Rachel over at the Happy Linguist…I love the fact that in the first video especially, there are actual English words sprinkled throughout the fake conversation. This is basically how I feel every single day…catching a word here or there and then missing huge swaths of language in between.

In the same vein, check out this video of another talented language-impersonator, running through various world languages (UK and American English both admirably represented), mimicking the sounds, but basically speaking gibberish.

Happy Linguist

This post could also be titled, “How a language sounds when you barely know it.” If you’ve never spent time in a place where your native language isn’t spoken, try watching that video and imagining that everyone around you is talking like that.

This video reminds me of how German sounded to me when I was first learning it … or even how it sometimes sounds to me now. (Sigh.) I’ve spent my entire life learning languages, and I’ve lived abroad before, but I never had so much empathy for non-native English speakers in the US as I did after moving here. It’s so hard to move to a new country and start learning a new language from scratch. Especially when you don’t particularly love that language. You study and listen and catch a familiar word here or there, but the rest just jumbles together incoherently.

It’s also interesting how languages…

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3 thoughts on “How English Sounds to Non-English Speakers

  1. Ooh, I love the video of that language impersonator! Very fun. 🙂

    Also, kudos and best of luck with your Icelandic adventure. I have enough trouble just pronouncing my Icelandic coworker’s name — learning the language seems like quite a challenge!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel, and for the fun post on your blog, too. It looks like you have a pretty broad language knowledge—has there been a language which has given you particular trouble while learning it? Any unexpected tips for langugae learners?

      • The biggest challenge for me has been my current effort to learn Farsi. I’m learning it for personal reasons, but I don’t have much of a learning community right now — no fellow language-learners in my area, classes to attend, immersion opportunities (aside from trying to cajole my husband into speaking with me, which isn’t quite the same and really doesn’t work for more than a few minutes). And it has nothing to do with the language itself; the challenge is really the learning environment. My biggest tip for language learners is to surround yourself with learning opportunities and resources. (I’m sure you can relate!)

        When I was studying Japanese in college, I was forced to continually work on it (classes five days a week). I had the habit of spending a little time every day practicing. And I made friends with my classmates, so we encouraged each other and made mistakes together. Even though Japanese was more challenging in its grammar and writing, it was much easier because of the support system and good habits I had at the time! The same happened when I was learning German — with its similarities to English, a full immersion experience, and lots of hours in class, it was by far one of my fastest learning experiences. 🙂

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