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Engrish

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violetriga
77709.  Fri Jun 30, 2006 4:47 pm Reply with quote

I watched a baby programme several months back and it talking about the reason behind Engrish.

It said that, for example, chinese babies don't hear the pronunciation of particular word sounds that are outside of their native language and eventually the brain filters those sounds out. By the time they have grown up they cannot hear those sounds.

No references, yet.

 
Hans Mof
77715.  Fri Jun 30, 2006 4:56 pm Reply with quote

Zat's ze very reason why Germans have trouble wiz ze English 'th' and don't hear ze difference between sags, sacks and sex.

 
suze
77727.  Fri Jun 30, 2006 6:00 pm Reply with quote

The basic principle stated by violetriga and by Hans is of course correct - when learning another language, the sounds which do not exist in your own language are the hardest to master. The main reason for this is that the production of a novel sound requires one to place the articulators (tongue, lips etc.) in unfamiliar positions, and this inevitably takes some practice.

Academics have studied second language acquisition in much detail, and always come to the same two unsurprising conclusions:

1. Learning a new language as a child is easier than learning one as an adult
2. Those who learn a new language as a child have better "accents"

On the oft-quoted "l" and "r" thing. Standard Chinese does have an /r/ sound, but it's rather different from the normal English one. Without getting technical, it's most similar to the final "r" which North Americans and Scots pronounce in a word like "war". A Chinese does not identify this as the same sound as the English /r/, and hence is prone to using /l/ instead - the Chinese /l/ is much like the English one.

Japanese does not have /l/, so the Japanese find it tricky. The Japanese /r/ is also very different from the English one, but the Japanese do perceive it as the same sound. A Japanese /r/ sounds a bit like the "d" used by North Americans in the middle of a word like "butter". As you make that sound, twist the tongue against the roof of the mouth and you will hear a sound somewhere between a /d/ and an /r/. That's a Japanese /r/.

 
Jenny
77747.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 4:37 am Reply with quote

Fascinating article here, from which this quote seems relevant:

Quote:
In a recent article, Patricia Kuhl and coworkers (2003) explored the plasticity of human infants to acquire foreign sounds. Research in infant speech perception has shown that, at birth, infants can distinguish all speech sounds, even if they are not produced in their environment and if as adults they will be unable to do so. For instance, Spanish adults have lots of trouble perceiving the Catalan contrast /e-/, but at four months, Spanish babies can easily discriminate the two sounds (Bosch & Sebastián-Gallés, 2003). Parallel results have been reported comparing infant and adult data with a wide variety of foreign contrasts (like the /r-l/ contrast, which Japanese adults have great difficulty perceiving. However, during the first months of their lives, Japanese infants have no trouble telling them apart). This ability to perceive foreign contrasts declines between the ages of six and twelve months. That is, in the first year of their lives, infants modify their brains to start to become highly competent listeners and speakers of their maternal language. So, the acquisition of the speech sound repertoire of the maternal language is characterized not by adding new sounds, but by “forgetting” those that are not used


http://www.oecd.org/document/57/0,2340,en_2649_14935397_33625337_1_1_1_1,00.html

 
QI Individual
77749.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 5:35 am Reply with quote

Which would suggest that people whose language contains many different sounds would generally be able to learn foreign languages more easily, even at adult age, than people whose language contains few different sounds.

Is there any evidence that this is indeed the case?

 
Celebaelin
77750.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 5:42 am Reply with quote

http://www.engrish.com/

Check out the Menus section in particular.

 
gerontius grumpus
77821.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 6:00 pm Reply with quote

When T. E. Lawrence was living with the Arabs,they called him "Horrence" because they had difficulty with the L.
We know that the L exists in Arabic because it's in Alla, can it not occur at the start of a word?

 
suze
77824.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 6:53 pm Reply with quote

Yes it can e.g. in the names of countries Libiya and Lubnan (Libya and Lebanon).

So it's not immediately clear to me why the /l/ should present a difficulty - but I present a possible explanation below.

What I do know is that the /l/ sound in the word "Allah" is unique - it's pronounced in a different way to every other /l/ in an Arabic word. The "Allah l" is velarised - in English this is called a "dark l" and occurs in RP of words such as "wall", while in all other words they pronounce a "clear l" - which RP English uses in words such as "light".

Some varieties of English use "dark l" all the time - notably, many Scots do this. Some other varieties use only "clear l" - this is common in Ireland.

IF - and this is complete hypothesis - Lawrence's personal pronunciation of his name used a "dark l", then Arabs might have avoided it because that sound is in effect sacred to them. I know that he had Scottish ancestry, so this is possible. Otherwise, I cannot offer an explanation.

 
gerontius grumpus
77825.  Sat Jul 01, 2006 7:27 pm Reply with quote

I think I understand what you mean.
When we moved to the North East of England from the Westcountry, my daughter's schoolfriends thought she pronounced her L sounds very strangely, they said she almost wasn't pronoucing the L at all.

 
barbados
77826.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 1:18 am Reply with quote

So am I right in assuming that a Chinaman has difficulty getting his toungue round his r's?
Well that got that out of the way early in the thread

How then does it affect English people where the sounds are familiar? I'm thinking Jonathon Ross as an example

 
Andrew
77827.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 2:49 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
So am I right in assuming that a Chinaman has difficulty getting his toungue round his r's?

Oh dear oh dear - only you could have come up with that one :-D
barbados wrote:
How then does it affect English people where the sounds are familiar? I'm thinking Jonathon Ross as an example

Surely you mean Woss?

 
violetriga
77828.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 3:01 am Reply with quote

Thanks Jenny - that was what I was talking about

So there seem to be two distinct things here:
1) People not able to move their tongue in the correct way to pronounce words
2) People not able to hear sounds that they didn't grow up with because the brain filters them out

I find the latter fascinating - it's amazing how the brain develops, and I never realised that it would filter things out that it thinks are not needed.

 
mckeonj
77841.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 6:12 am Reply with quote

Gladys Aylward, the English missionary who went to China, was a Londoner. The Chinese called her "Ai Wah", which has been translated as "Small Woman". I met her once, when she came to our school in about 1948/49. I remember her as small, dark, intense, wearing Chinese clothes and looking like a Romany. She told us her story, and showed the bullet holes in her jacket. She also sang the song "Nick Nack Paddywhack" which she taught the Chinese children to sing - of course we all knew the song. The point of this is that she pronounced her name Aylward the cockney way, with the 'dark l' and almost absent final 'd'; presumably to the Chinese ear this sounded as "Ai Wah".
Incidentally, the portrayal of her in the movie by Ingrid Bergman was woeful miscasting in one sense, that of appearance; Patricia Hayes would have been a better choice. I find no fault with Miss Bergman's performance.
This raises another Quite Interesting topic; when portraying a real person in a drama, should the presenter of the drama strive for close physical resemblance, or best performance? For example, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy.

 
violetriga
77862.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 8:36 am Reply with quote

mckeonj wrote:
This raises another Quite Interesting topic; when portraying a real person in a drama, should the presenter of the drama strive for close physical resemblance, or best performance? For example, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy.


Christian Slater made a great Churchill :)

 
Flash
77935.  Sun Jul 02, 2006 5:29 pm Reply with quote

Good thread. Should we re-title it "Elocution", do we think?

 

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