Mimicking accents

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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jan 25, 2010 10:50 pm UTC

Rizzo wrote:From asking multiple people, I don't have a heavy accent.

No, what you don't have is an accent most Americans can use to identify the region you're from. But if they can't tell where you're from, then I guarantee you the majority of people in *other* English-speaking countries could at least localize you to North America, if not the US.

Whelan wrote:If a sound isn't present in your native language it becomes almost impossible to form that sound when speaking other languages in later life.

Tell that to all the English-speakers who can trill their r's. (Okay, I know that this is still a sound most of them probably learned to make before they were 2, but not because it's in their native language.)
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Whelan » Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:11 pm UTC

Yeah you have a point, but really mine stands. If you don't learn to distinguish and recognise sounds at a young age it becomes significantly harder to learn. I can roll my rs, and I know that I do it because I was taught Welsh in that sensitive period. I also know that people whom I've tried to teach to do it fail miserably, and nothing you can explain helps. It's different to rolling your tongue but trying to explain how to someone who can't gives the same effect.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby poxic » Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:11 am UTC

The article I quoted from didn't saying that you can't change an accent or learn new ones. It did say that your accent will not be taken for a native speaker's accent (by native speakers) if you start too late. "Too late" is 15 to 16, though other parts of the article mentioned 5 to 6 as being an important cutoff as well:

"Already from the age of 5-6, there can be pronunciation features in the new language that one never acquires."

(If people are interested, the article has a lot more detail than a couple of quips can give you.)
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Monika » Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:52 pm UTC

I had always learnt hat the "language window" closes at age 10 - the age when one can learn foreign languages and pronounce them like a native speaker. It applies for me, I started learning English in 5th grade and can't do "th" (when speaking full sentences without thinking about every sound) or the distinction between "w" and "v". On the other hand I could not distinguish final hard (unvoiced) and soft (voiced) consonants in English (as they are not distinguished in German) for the first seven years of learning English, but I picked this up when I stayed in the US for a year, when I was already 17. But I have met kids in Germany who got here after their 10th birthday and can speak German without any accent whatsoever.

It might be an individual thing to a certain degree. I also cannot speak the dialect of the area I grew up in (the state of Saxony), because my parents (and teachers) spoke standard German. I cannot mimic any dialects (also not Saxon). So I guess that fits in with not being able to pronounce English properly. Other German kids who went to the US for a year also at the age of about 16, 17 even came back with an English accent to their German.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby MildlyUpsetGrizzlyBear » Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:55 pm UTC

Many kids who travel from place to place end up with an interesting, and often wonderful, amalgamation of all the accents in which they were immersed.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby animeHrmIne » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:41 pm UTC

As I said before, when I hear an accent, I pick it up unintentionally. However, this is a fairly recent development, starting at about age 13. Before then, I always had a very strong Arkansas/Tennessee accent. I was born in Michigan, and for the first two years of my life I heard only General American and Northern Accents, and yet I had a strong southern accent. When I moved to Kansas, where everyone had a Midwestern accent, I had a strong southern accent. When I moved to the Bootheel of Missouri, I was actually in a place where that accent was spoken, and fit right in. Now that I live in the Ozarks, I have a neutral Ozarkian accent (besides whatever make them have the words Pull and Pool homophones), but I still sound Southern when I'm tired or angry.

Which is another reason I'm afraid of going anywhere. I'd have the accent, and then I'd mix the two, and something like Geordie/Southern would just sound awful.

It's almost like I'm dong the accent thing backwards. When I was past the set age, I could pick up accents. Before the age, I couldn't, even with immersion.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby -.Mateo.- » Sat Feb 27, 2010 2:39 am UTC

When Im around people who talk with a different accent I, like many other people, start talking like that accidentally...Once I realized I was talking with Spanish accent (oh, I'm from Argentina) and got mixed up in middle of the sentence, with a very funny result...

Something very common is picking up the "accent" of a book Im reading: the "style" of the wrting transfers into my thoughts. When I was eleven (that's 2000/1) I read the first Harry Potter...One time, I finished saying what I had to say and almost said "He said" at the end (' "Hello, he said" He said') but I managed to turn it into a cough...
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There's this Argentinian province called "Cordoba"...this province has a very peculiar accent, known as "Cordobés"...it's peculiar because it's very simple, and anyone can mimic it with little effort after listening to a few conversations...it's also considered be some (me and friends) the sexiest accent ever.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Rilian » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:49 am UTC

When I was a kid, I involuntarily talked like whoever had last spoken to me.

It's not completely illogical, since language only works when we all do it the same. But it is weird that it would be that extreme. When I was about 13, I realized this could be viewed as insulting and now I think I have completely broken myself of that habit.

When my brother was little, he could "speak" any language he had heard. In other words, he made baby talk that sounded french, sounded spanish, sounded chinese.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby eSOANEM » Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:53 am UTC

Whelan wrote:It had been shown fairly conclusively [citation needed] That you can only learn sounds until the age of about 18 months. If a sound isn't present in your native language it becomes almost impossible to form that sound when speaking other languages in later life. Hence the Japanese stereotype of l/r and b/v confusion. One isn't present in their language so they can't distinguish them.


Citation no longer needed. Counterexample provided below:

I grew up speaking British English.

At my primary school at about the age of nine, I started learning French (not very well) and picked up uvular trills with relative ease.

At eleven, I started learning Spanish and picked up alveolar flaps and trills.

Lastly, at sixteen I started learning a conlang with a bilabial, alveolar and velar ejective and a syllabic l, again I picked it up relatively easily (the syllabic l is a bit easier as the velarized form is in English of course).

I've also managed to learn a lateral fricative, bilabial fricatives and affricates (as opposed to the labiodontal fricatives in English).

Conclusively shown eh? :P
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:16 pm UTC

Well to be fair, there was the "almost impossible" weaseling in there, so your anecdote doesn't actually disprove the claim.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby eSOANEM » Sun Mar 14, 2010 6:00 pm UTC

Fair point, serves me right for skim reading.

Certainly though, it is not "almost impossible" for all people but I can see it being true for the majority. My mum can't roll her rs (despite my best explanations about how to) and one of my friends can't pronounce a "th" despite the sound occurring frequently in English and despite him knowing enough about the way the mouth produces sound to put his tongue in the right place and make a fricative.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby keeneal » Mon Apr 12, 2010 6:01 am UTC

As counter-argument, I present any American who has managed to learn German well enough to be understood when he/she says anything at all. The sounds represented by ä, ö, and ü don't crop up in English very often (if at all - no examples spring to mind), and if an average American child is exposed to German, it's usually in something like a WWII movie - meaning the speaker is almost certainly shouting, so the sound is probably lost.


On topic... I can't mimic to save my life. I spent 1.5 years outside of London when I was small, and had since an early age a speech impediment that required seven years of speech therapy to make intelligible (r, l, d, s, t, th, sh, ch, w - I still have trouble with things like "world"). I'm Eastern American, generally (born in New England, live in Chicago until 3rd grade, and am now in central PA). If I spend too much time with someone with a London accent (the other English accents have no effect on me, it seems), I seem to revert a bit - especially if I've had a couple drinks. This makes sense, as many of my old problem sounds are what are immediately different between the two accents. Interestingly, if other Americans have been drinking, I suddenly possess a clear London accent, regardless of my intoxication, which is sure to disappear as they sober up. Several of the freshman at my school now believe that I fake a British accent when they're drinking to mess with them.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Monika » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:40 pm UTC

keeneal wrote:As counter-argument, I present any American who has managed to learn German well enough to be understood when he/she says anything at all. The sounds represented by ä, ö, and ü don't crop up in English very often

ä is extremely common in English, e.g. apple.
ö occassionally, e.g. heard.
ü does not exist, indeed.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Lazar » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:57 pm UTC

Monika wrote:ä is extremely common in English, e.g. apple.
ö occassionally, e.g. heard.

Eh, not really. ä is pronounced as [ɛ] or [ɛ:] (although I don't know about all the regional dialects), whereas "apple" uses a short open vowel [æ]. I think a better equivalent for long ä in English would be the British vowel /ɛə/ as in "air", pronounced either as [ɛə] or (increasingly) as [ɛ:].

Likewise, the English sound in "heard" isn't the same thing as German ö - this letter in German is pronounced as [œ] or [ø:], whereas the English vowel in "heard" is pronounced as [ɜ:] or [ɝ:] - central, unrounded, and in many dialects, rhoticized. The closest approximation would probably be in an extreme Australian or New Zealand accent, where "heard" would be pronounced with something like [ɘ:].
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Monika » Mon Apr 12, 2010 10:10 pm UTC

Lazar wrote:
Monika wrote:ä is extremely common in English, e.g. apple.
ö occassionally, e.g. heard.

Eh, not really. ä is pronounced as [ɛ] or [ɛ:] (although I don't know about all the regional dialects), whereas "apple" uses a short open vowel [æ]. I think a better equivalent for long ä in English would be the British vowel /ɛə/ as in "air", pronounced either as [ɛə] or as [ɛ:].

Okay. But ɛ / ɛ: is also common. Egg, spell, led and so on ... long ones are harder to find, just air, fair, lair and depending on how people say the r.

Likewise, the English sound in "heard" isn't the same thing as German ö - this letter in German is pronounced as [œ] or [ø:], whereas the English vowel in "heard" is pronounced as [ɜ:] or [ɝ:] - central, unrounded, and in many dialects, rhoticized. The closest approximation would probably be in an extreme Australian or New Zealand accent, where "heard" would be pronounced with something like [ɘ:].

I had borrowed a German phrase book for English-speaking people once and they described ö to sound like the ea in heard (and then used ear to write the sound as a kind of transliteration). It's not the same, "higher", but I find it's still pretty close.

What could one use to describe ü to an English speaker?
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Apr 13, 2010 1:21 am UTC

Monika wrote:What could one use to describe ü to an English speaker?

It's not in English, so... nothing? There are a number of sounds that, when English guides are given for the IPA characters, they have to throw in a foreign word or name.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby SlyReaper » Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:49 am UTC

Müller? As in the yoghurt?
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Monika » Tue Apr 13, 2010 11:13 am UTC

Don't English people pronounce the ü in Müller as [juː] instead of [y]?

What's a typical word with ü sound Americans or British people would know (and also pronounce with [y])? Côte d'Azur maybe?
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Grop » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:00 am UTC

Most native English speakers can't pronounce a [y], unless they are trained to.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Rilian » Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:38 am UTC

Grop wrote:Most native English speakers can't pronounce a [y], unless they are trained to.

What all counts as training?
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Bobber » Thu Apr 15, 2010 12:56 pm UTC

Rilian wrote:
Grop wrote:Most native English speakers can't pronounce a [y], unless they are trained to.

What all counts as training?
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Jauss » Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:55 am UTC

It means "What things (plural) count as training?"

Ex:
Where all are you going? Winnipeg, Tokyo, Kingston, and Istanbul (not Constantinople!)
Who all punched you in the face? Jim, Greg, and Sue.
What all are we doing today? Mailing some packages and assembling these desks.
What all did you eat there? Oh, just pizza.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Bobber » Mon Apr 26, 2010 10:27 am UTC

Oh, wow. Never noticed that before.
I don't twist the truth, I just make it complex.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby SlyReaper » Mon Apr 26, 2010 11:37 am UTC

I have never encountered such barmy sentence construction in my life. Except Texans saying "y'all".
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Grop » Mon Apr 26, 2010 12:00 pm UTC

Me neither. I don't know about all, but I suppose learning a language where this vowel is present would count.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby keeneal » Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:09 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I have never encountered such barmy sentence construction in my life. Except Texans saying "y'all".
Barmy? That's not barmy. Here in PA we have the epitome of barmy "all" uses:

A: Did you finish vacuuming in the living room?
B: Yeah, it's all.

A: Can I take that plate from you or are you still working on it?
B: No, it's all (implying A can take the plate away)
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Bobber » Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:28 pm UTC

keeneal wrote:A: Can I take that plate from you or are you still working on it?
B: No, it's all (implying A can take the plate away)
That's not too bad man, that's just an implied "done" (e.g. "Did you finish the plate?" "Yeah, it's all [done].")
But that sentence there, "What all counts as training?" To mean "What counts as training?", that is the devil! The devil I say! :evil:
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Jauss » Mon Apr 26, 2010 9:12 pm UTC

Bobber wrote:Oh, wow. Never noticed that before.
SlyReaper wrote:I have never encountered such barmy sentence construction in my life. Except Texans saying "y'all".
Grop wrote:Me neither.
That's because it's regional/informal, as youse guys probably figured out. ;) (Adj 7)
Bobber wrote:But that sentence there, "What all counts as training?" To mean "What counts as training?", that is the devil! The devil I say! :evil:
*Laughs* This says it's a Midwestern (US) thing, but I've also heard Southerners and other people say it. Seems like an AAVE thing too. I say "who all" sometimes. Generally, "Who all's going?" or "Who all was there?" in regards to some event or other. Occasionally, I'll say stuff like "What all they got?" Depends on who I'm talking to and/or what mood I'm in. I tend to adopt at least some of the speech patterns of people around me.

I love accents, but I'm not good at mimicking them. Not even the Jamaican accents that several of my family members, including my mom, have. I do, however, have some kind of weird accent of my own, which I can hear when listening to recordings of myself.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Slavaa » Thu Apr 29, 2010 11:14 pm UTC

I actually had a quite good English accent going after a two-seasons-in-two-days Doctor Who marathon, but after I returned to reality and Canada it went away pretty quick.

Interestingly, I can only do accents for the specific words I've heard spoken in that accent. I don't seem to have any linguistic extrapolation ability.

For Southern US, I can easily pull something like "We dun like yer kind 'round here." or "Yer pregnet ageen?", but something like "Well I find mapleto be the best ice cream flavour," that I've never heard someone say with that accent (which is too bad, maple is excellent) is entirely beyond my ken.

For British English I can do pretty well, just from the technobabble, but there's still no way I could carry on a conversation with it.

I'm so bad at Scottish/Irish I can't even tell them apart, except for being able to say "I HATE ICELAND!"
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Visk » Sat May 01, 2010 9:07 pm UTC

I have a fair amount of mimicry ability, though I couldn't tell you any specific dialects or accents that I'm using. I mostly just pick up something after listening to it for a while. Most of the time this refers to the TF2 characters, Lily Allen, my southern grandparents and my Minnesotan grandparents. I've been wanting to do voice work or something with it, but I don't have the best recording equipment nor do I know where to advertise.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby SlyReaper » Sun May 02, 2010 1:27 pm UTC

Slavaa wrote:I'm so bad at Scottish/Irish I can't even tell them apart, except for being able to say "I HATE ICELAND!"


Go on then, was "I HATE ICELAND" said in an Irish or Scottish accent? :P
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby tesseraktik » Sun May 02, 2010 3:24 pm UTC

I can't really "do accents", but I tend to pick up the language patterns of the people around me. For instance, I normally can't do a good Scottish accent to save my life, but after spending a few days in Glasgow and Edinburgh people started thinking I was a local. Once I got back to Stockholm, however, I immediately lost the ability to sound Scottish (or, to put it another way, my inability not to sound Scottish).
I spent ages 7-10 in the United States, and so my standard way of speaking English easily leads people to think that I'm from there. However, if I've recently heard a lot of other Swedes speaking English, I begin to pick up their mannerisms ("I-think we-should go-that way!"), and I find that my English has started to deteriorate since I started working with international students.
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Re: Mimicking accents

Postby Thousand » Sun May 02, 2010 3:39 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Slavaa wrote:I'm so bad at Scottish/Irish I can't even tell them apart, except for being able to say "I HATE ICELAND!"


Go on then, was "I HATE ICELAND" said in an Irish or Scottish accent? :P


AH HEHT ICELAAND! :D
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