Author Topic: Her Accent  (Read 31660 times)

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Offline Sarushka

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2011, 08:59:07 AM »
Then I heard that when we are infants, about 9 mos. old, our brain begins to pare out the parts that aren't being used, maybe a bit like opening up space on your hard drive.  So if you haven't heard that particular sound or anything like it, it gets harder and harder to imprint it on your brain later to allow you to reproduce the sound.  

This is most certainly true. There are linguistic studies to back it up.

Of course some people who are talented at mimicry can speak flawlessly in another language -- however, that doesn't mean their brain has stopped recognizing certain sounds as distinct from one another.

For example, in English we don't recognize any difference in meaning between an aspirated P (as in pit) and a non-aspirated P (as in spit). If you can't hear the difference, put your hand in front of your lips so you can feel the puff of air that accompanies the P in pit. In English, aspirated P and non-aspirated P are allophones, which means that if you mix them up your pronunciation might sound slightly off to someone with a keen ear, but everybody will still understand what you mean. You may also be able to speak beautiful French or Russian without mastering the pronunciation of aspirated/non-aspirated consonants. In languages like Thai, Icelandic, and ancient Greek, however, getting aspiration correct is crucial -- that little puff of air can mean the only difference between one word and another.

That's the kind of fine-tuning that the brain begins filtering out in infancy. Some people can indeed retrain themselves to recognize the subtle features of other languages in order to speak without an accent, but for the majority of learners it does take more time and effort with age, and success is limited.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2011, 09:02:16 AM by Sarushka »
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Offline Naslednik

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2011, 05:14:10 PM »
Sarushka,
Very interesting about the fine tuning and your pit/spit example.  Do you know Russian?  Can you explain why I can't "hear" the y sound in a word like Myshkin?  Is the the infancy pruning thing, or is there hope that I might get it some day if I persevered...
I do like the character of Prince Myshkin so much I hate to call him Prince Bear or Prince Mouse, which is what I sound like in Russian!
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Offline Naslednik

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2011, 05:25:33 PM »
Quote
This isn't actually accurate.  For example, I can speak French with virtually no accent, and I can also speak England accented English (Home Counties actually) well enough to fool native Brits, yet I am an American, born and raised in California.

Actually, Forum Admin, I think that your example lines up exactly with what I am saying.  French and English county accents are so similar in sonority to American sounds that we can learn, even as adults to find some connection (perhaps subconsciously) between our 'new' language to sounds we know from childhood.  I, too, have a great French accent and can do various Brit accents.  But really unusual sounds (like that Russian "y" in Myshkin) are hard to hear cognitively, at least to English speakers  I sure would like to fix that! Thankfully, most Russians are quite forgiving.

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Offline bestfriendsgirl

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2011, 06:15:13 PM »
Accents are strange, humbling things, especially when you come from one of the less progressive areas of the United States, as I do. All you have to do is let loose with a "y'all" or drop a "g" off the end of a word, and you're automatically marked down as ignorant, backward and married to one of your cousins (with apologies to all the European royalty we discuss here who actually are, or were ;)) But when I leave the urban areas of West Virgina, I open my mouth and people are like "You're not from West Virginia, are you?" and are immediately suspicious. It's frustrating!

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #19 on: July 21, 2011, 07:32:29 PM »
This talk about accents is interesting. I speak French a la Quebecois, Russian with an English accent, English with an Irish slant,  and in England, I just seem to pick up whomever I am with.  Yorkshire to Essex. With a definite Home Counties  influence.. I gave up on Devon & Cornwall.....
 Arabic is Iraqi, considered classical, and Japanese, well, just wherever my teacher was from.
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Offline bestfriendsgirl

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #20 on: July 21, 2011, 08:00:43 PM »
I agree - I should have majored in linguistics instead of journalism, with a master's degree in sociology.

Offline Sarushka

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #21 on: July 21, 2011, 08:40:39 PM »
Can you explain why I can't "hear" the y sound in a word like Myshkin?  Is the the infancy pruning thing, or is there hope that I might get it some day if I persevered...

That's my best guess.
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Offline Sunny

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2011, 12:44:22 AM »
Can you explain why I can't "hear" the y sound in a word like Myshkin?  Is the the infancy pruning thing, or is there hope that I might get it some day if I persevered...

I use a different spelling for cyrillic, but i guess "y" for you is the guttural "i" also used for plurals?
If i'm right, you can try to pronounce a i while saying a u. It's not easy, i know, but this is the way my teacher used. It is a i not pronounced in your mouth but in your throat.
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #23 on: July 22, 2011, 05:14:02 AM »
'Accents are strange, humbling things, especially when you come from one of the less progressive areas of the United States, as I do. All you have to do is let loose with a "y'all" or drop a "g" off the end of a word, and you're automatically marked down as ignorant, backward and married to one of your cousins (with apologies to all the European royalty we discuss here who actually are, or were ) But when I leave the urban areas of West Virgina, I open my mouth and people are like "You're not from West Virginia, are you?" and are immediately suspicious. It's frustrating!'

In England, strong regional accents are associated with lack of education and lack of class. Some accents are considered more undesirable than others - upper crust Scots can speak with a West Highland or Edinburgh accent, but Glaswegian is beyond the pale. For English English as she should be spoke, listen to the announcers on the BBC World Service.

Personally, I am not entirely convinced that Alexandra spoke English as an English person. If we take her cousin the Kaiser as a parallel, he grew up with an English mother and lots English servants, made regular visits to England. However, he could never get English slang quite right, and a recording made in the 1930s shows a slight but definite German accent - in particular, he couldn't manage the 'th' sound. Are there any extant recordings of Alexandra speaking in any language?

Interestingly, the Kaiser's great-grandson, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (son of Louis Ferdinand) when interviewed on TV a few years ago spoke English like an Englishman (could have been a BBC announcer!)

Ann

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #24 on: July 22, 2011, 08:58:39 AM »
All accounts from English people who met Alexandra, from Ambassador Buchannon, his daughter Muriel, and others were all clear that her English accent was "perfect" and Alexandra was very particular about it for her children as well. Her mother Alice raised her to speak flawless English and she spent much time with her Grandmother in England.  She was truly more "English" than "German" in upbringing.

Offline Talya

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #25 on: July 22, 2011, 09:00:04 AM »
Could you post the quotes said by the ambassador and his daughter?
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #26 on: July 22, 2011, 12:02:48 PM »
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'All accounts from English people who met Alexandra, from Ambassador Buchannon, his daughter Muriel, and others were all clear that her English accent was "perfect" and Alexandra was very particular about it for her children as well. Her mother Alice raised her to speak flawless English and she spent much time with her Grandmother in England.  She was truly more "English" than "German" in upbringing.'

WE have to remember that Princess Alice died when Alexandra was only six years old - that doesn't give her al lot of time to influence her daughter's speech. Further, there is a propagandist element to a lot of descriptions of her - commentators such as Buchanan would tend to emphasise her 'Englishness'.

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Offline matushka

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #27 on: July 22, 2011, 12:41:52 PM »
That's true, Ann. And descriptions made in wartime are espacially suspiscious: people tried to emphasize the "English" part of Alexandra's personnality for politicals reasons. Did not Alexandra consider Hesse as her first motherland, not England? And was she so often in England? A chronology would be required, but I had not this impression. Which language did she mostly use with her differents seablings? Does anyone know for sure? In Helen'a excellent book, we read her letters to "Ernie" in english, but with a plethore of german words.

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #28 on: July 22, 2011, 01:30:29 PM »
Alexandra and her siblings all spoke English amongst themselves.  By all accounts her English was perfect. I don't understand why so many people don't want to accept the fact that she was as much English as German, moreso because her relationship with Victoria.

Here is what Lili Dehn said of the Court : English was the medium of conversation in Society at Petrograd; it was invariably spoken at Court,   during the war "Everyone was suspicious of her, and, when she spoke English at the hospitals to her daughters and her ladies-in-waiting, the soldiers declared she was speaking German, and this report once started was magnified exceedingly. "


Offline carkuczyn

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Re: Her Accent
« Reply #29 on: July 22, 2011, 07:22:22 PM »
I recently spent some time in Europe and the middle East.  I was amazed at how a lot of the people that I met very easily went from one language to another.  For instance, our tour guides would speak to us in very easily understood English and then speak to the bus driver or fellow tour guides in another language without even thinking twice about it.  I have always had an interest in being multilingual.  I can understand some French and a smattering of Russian.  I took 3 years of French in highschool and I have been trying to teach myself Russian for about 5 years.  I am nowhere near fluent in either of those foreign languages yet.  What is the most helpful method at becoming even partially fluent in a foreign language, short of going there to live for a while?