What English sounds like to people who don't speak it

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This seems to be a classic, but I saw it for the first time today so I'm sharing it. It's a song by an Italian singer that was made to sound like English but is just gibberish. Well, aside from the odd part that sounds like "all right". Pretty impressive, and the song's not too bad either. Actually, the most impressive part is that for an English it really does feel like one should understand it, but not a single word can be made out. It feels almost like what it feels like to see an optical illusion - you know it doesn't make sense but your brain still tells you that it should and keeps working at figuring it out.

5 comments:

Matt said...

Very interesting. I've always been curious how English sounds like to the billions of people who don't speak it.

I don't know if you've already seen these, but here's a video on the topic:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C5EZmyJ9ik

...the video responses feature people with varying abilities of English (from not speaking it at all to speaking it well as a non-native language) pretending they're speaking English. It's interesting how English seems to sound different to people of different linguistic backgrounds (i.e., the Japanese speaker attempting English sounds very different from the French speaker, who sounds different from the German speaker, even though they're all attempting to fake the same language).

Then again, it might just be their accents, and have nothing to do with how they actually *hear* English.

David Freiberg said...

I don't think I'm the only one, but I, though a native English speaker, have briefly experienced moments in which I totally lost comprehension of what people around me were saying, though I could hear them perfectly. They have sounded much like this, and have been enlightening experiences.

Antonielly said...

It is also interesting that some knowledge of Linguistics can improve language faking skills.

Besides accent, one of the most important things for credibly faking a language is to obey its phonotactic constraints.

Once someone gets acquainted with the phonotactic constraints of the target language and tries to develop gibberish on that base, s/he is in a much better position to fake it well.

David Freiberg said...

I don't think I'm the only one, but I, though a native English speaker, have briefly experienced moments in which I totally lost comprehension of what people around me were saying, though I could hear them perfectly. They have sounded much like this, and have been enlightening experiences.

Antonielly said...

It is also interesting that some knowledge of Linguistics can improve language faking skills.

Besides accent, one of the most important things for credibly faking a language is to obey its phonotactic constraints.

Once someone gets acquainted with the phonotactic constraints of the target language and tries to develop gibberish on that base, s/he is in a much better position to fake it well.

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