Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

General discussion about learning languages
Finny
Orange Belt
Posts: 242
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 3:01 am
Languages: Native: English.
Advanced: Spanish.
Intermediate: French.
x 451

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Finny » Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:06 am

I'm in the effort + time + background camp. I count myself as having a good Mexican-American Spanish accent, but it came after countless hours of listening to music, singing along to music, listening to live radio, shadowing live radio, and watching telenovelas. Basically, lots of listening and lots of imitating.

Right now, learning French, my accent is still coming along. Part of the issue is that there are still a lot of words I don't know how to pronounce correctly, which I'm fixing through Forvo and more listening. The majority of it, though, is that I haven't listened to and imitated enough French speakers.

One of the differences I note off the bat between where I am in Spanish and where I am in French, accent-wise, is that I could probably speak like a few different people without much trouble off the bat in Spanish. In French, I can't yet. Part of that's because it still takes me effort to produce fluid sentences (which leaves less working memory for accent accuracy), but I'd wager a bigger part of it is that I don't have enough "samples" of voices in my head yet.
2 x

User avatar
Adrianslont
Orange Belt
Posts: 226
Joined: Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:39 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), Indonesian (lower intermediate?) French (A2?)
x 254

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:50 am

Serpent wrote:I think pronunciation requires the kinds of intelligence that for example musicians, sportspeople and surgeons have. It has more to do with physical precision.

Also this is a tricky topic. Just reminding everyone that ableism is not allowed here ;)

I think what distinguishes successful musicians and sportspeople is not so much a kind of intelligence as their commitment to putting in a huge amount of practice. My wife is a physiotherapist who likes treating musicians and serious sportspeople because she knows they will do their exercises at home - because they are accustomed to regular repetitive practice. They get great results.
1 x
: 2779 / 10000 SRS 10k challenge
: 220 / 610 610 days

User avatar
aokoye
Blue Belt
Posts: 893
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:14 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Languages: English (N), German (B2), Swedish (beginner), Dutch (beginner), French (beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2935
x 1258
Contact:

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby aokoye » Tue Nov 15, 2016 3:53 am

rdearman wrote:It occured to me recently people I know who speak a 2nd language tend to have better pronunciation the smarter they are.


I think this is very much a case of anecdata is not the same thing as data. Also who determines whether or not one person is smarter than the other?

There is a lot of evidence that shows that when one learns an L2 as a young child they will likely have a native like accent by the time they're a proficient speaker, but that has nothing to do with intelligence.
1 x
Prefered gender pronouns: Masculine

User avatar
Serpent
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2210
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 10:54 am
Location: Moskova
Languages: heritage
Russian (native); Belarusian, Polish

fluent or close: Finnish+ (certified C1), English; Portuguese, Spanish, German+, Italian+
learning: Croatian+, Ukrainian, Czech; Romanian+, Galician; Danish, Swedish
exploring: Latin, Karelian, Catalan, Dutch, Chaucer's English
+ means exploring the dialects/variants
x 2733
Contact:

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Serpent » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:11 am

Adrianslont wrote:
Serpent wrote:I think pronunciation requires the kinds of intelligence that for example musicians, sportspeople and surgeons have. It has more to do with physical precision.

I think what distinguishes successful musicians and sportspeople is not so much a kind of intelligence as their commitment to putting in a huge amount of practice. My wife is a physiotherapist who likes treating musicians and serious sportspeople because she knows they will do their exercises at home - because they are accustomed to regular repetitive practice. They get great results.
I was just pointing out that if we try to divide intelligence into different types, kinesthetical would be one of them for sure, and that's the one that matters for the pronunciation.

Also, I remember kuji posting something about how competitive athletes genuinely enjoy the routine (training as opposed to matches) much more than most people. (In his opinion he doesn't enjoy the routine of language learning as much as most members here) People often say that athletes have it easy since they train for 2 hours and are free for the rest of the day, but most realize they wouldn't really want to have such a job.
2 x
: 2 / 40 Budva na pjenu od mora: 3rd season (Croatian/Montenegrin)
LyricsTraining now offers Catalan, Turkish and Japanese romaji

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1200
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B1-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 1858

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:54 am

Adrianslont wrote:
Serpent wrote:I think pronunciation requires the kinds of intelligence that for example musicians, sportspeople and surgeons have. It has more to do with physical precision.

Also this is a tricky topic. Just reminding everyone that ableism is not allowed here ;)

I think what distinguishes successful musicians and sportspeople is not so much a kind of intelligence as their commitment to putting in a huge amount of practice. My wife is a physiotherapist who likes treating musicians and serious sportspeople because she knows they will do their exercises at home - because they are accustomed to regular repetitive practice. They get great results.


Interesting. My father represented Australia in kayaking. I was following in his footsteps until my life took other directions. I'm not saying I was definitely going to represent my country, but I trained with him daily throughout my high school years and for some years afterwards. I gradually turned more and more to an interest in languages over the years and in some ways this commitment I feel has transferred to language study. Maybe that's why I got more out of language courses than most (i like the repetitive nature of drills, exercises and the like more so than most). Still I must be fully upfront in saying I think in part why I didn't succeed like my father was that aside from choosing the wrong sport for a while, I didn't remain as consistent as him. This was a lesson I also had to learn in language learning. In the end though, i"ve put a LOT of time into my French pronunciation and maybe this is why I have been able to- because I have an in-grained understanding of what it takes to succeed or not succeed as having come from a sporting background. Sorry if this comes of arrogant, I don't mean it to be that way at all. Feel free to criticise within respectful reason. Also I think sports people don't necessarily have the only key to success for languages- whatever background you come from you learn through your own experiences of what works in life and what doesn't, and may apply those reasonings/experiences to the way you see apt to learn a language effectively.

Edit: Essentially I don't think being able to produce a native like or excellent accent comes from intelligence, I think it comes from commitment to want to do just that- improve ones accent and following through with the necessary practice and hard work to do so. Attention to detail is likely a key element.
3 x

User avatar
Adrianslont
Orange Belt
Posts: 226
Joined: Sun Aug 16, 2015 10:39 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), Indonesian (lower intermediate?) French (A2?)
x 254

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:07 am

Serpent wrote:
Adrianslont wrote:
Serpent wrote:I think pronunciation requires the kinds of intelligence that for example musicians, sportspeople and surgeons have. It has more to do with physical precision.

I think what distinguishes successful musicians and sportspeople is not so much a kind of intelligence as their commitment to putting in a huge amount of practice. My wife is a physiotherapist who likes treating musicians and serious sportspeople because she knows they will do their exercises at home - because they are accustomed to regular repetitive practice. They get great results.
I was just pointing out that if we try to divide intelligence into different types, kinesthetical would be one of them for sure, and that's the one that matters for the pronunciation.

Also, I remember kuji posting something about how competitive athletes genuinely enjoy the routine (training as opposed to matches) much more than most people. (In his opinion he doesn't enjoy the routine of language learning as much as most members here) People often say that athletes have it easy since they train for 2 hours and are free for the rest of the day, but most realize they wouldn't really want to have such a job.

Sure, absolutely, some people have more kinesthetic intelligence/talent that others. And that's always helpful. And I'm in the camp that believes that musical talent or training is VERY helpful in acquiring good pronunciation.

And the motivation to do the necessary practice of course - as you mention. Even better that/when it's intrinsic!

I was just thinking in terms of the language learning, pronunciation included, pretty much everyone has the apparatus for language learning (leaving aside the relatively small number of people with a disability that presents a problem for language acquisition and the decline in the apparatus that we experience with age). Whereas with elite sportspeople, MOST people don't have the apparatus e.g I just don't the physical size to play rugby at a high level or the muscle twitch to be competitive at sprinting or the hand eye coordination to excel at racquet or bat sports - no matter how much practice I put in. But I think I've got the apparatus to achieve reasonable pronunciation if I put in LOTS more work.

I think, with pronunciation, hours put in are more important than any kind of talent/intelligence - for most people.

And of course, the ego permeability I originally mentioned. Or empathy as someone else put it. Maybe ego permeability is really just intrinsic motivation? It's years since I read about it.

Cheers.
1 x
: 2779 / 10000 SRS 10k challenge
: 220 / 610 610 days

lichtrausch
Yellow Belt
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2015 3:21 pm
Languages: English, Japanese, German
Studies: Mandarin, Persian, Spanish, French, Korean
x 68

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby lichtrausch » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:33 am

Yeah, professors prove this one wrong. Some absolutely brilliant people with sometimes awful accents. A French physics professor I once had comes to mind especially, although I suspect he was aware of how most Americans find his accent attractive, so he didn't have much incentive to improve it.
0 x

User avatar
smallwhite
Blue Belt
Posts: 831
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2015 6:55 am
Location: AU
Languages: .
Speaking: Cantonese (n) > Mandarin > Eng > Spa > Fra (C1) > Ita > Nld.
Dreading: Deu.
Studying: Swe > Ell.
·
x 1208
Contact:

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby smallwhite » Tue Nov 15, 2016 6:36 am

I prefer to make comparisons holding other factors constant. Instead of, say, comparing a dumb but motivated person who started a cognate language at age 6, with an intelligent but unmotivated person who started a distant language at age 60. We don't have the data, of course, so, what can we look at?

* Both persons can have the same inborn ability to hear sounds. Tie.

* Both persons can have the same inborn ability to mimic sounds. Tie.

* Give them a book on pronunciation, IPA, phoneme and whatnot. The intelligent person will understand the book faster.

* Tell them their vowels are off but don't tell them how to improve. The intelligent person, who is a better problem solver, will solve his problem faster.

* Heck, tell them to learn pronunciation but don't tell them how to. The intelligent person will come up with a plan of attack faster.

In fact, I can't see how a dumb person will fare better than an intelligent person in anything that requires brainwork. That's the definition of intelligence, no?

Unless by pronunciation you mean one isolated incident of mimicking one sound, then I think everyone is equal.


And by "Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?" I don't think OP intends to discuss "Is intelligence or is hard work a larger factor to good pronunciation?"
2 x
: XX - Greek
: 12 / 12 Hippocrene Greek, skimming
: 05 / 12 Hippocrene Greek, listening etc

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1200
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B1-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 1858

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:01 am

smallwhite wrote:* Tell them their vowels are off but don't tell them how to improve. The intelligent person, who is a better problem solver, will solve his problem faster.


A very strong factor I believe is humility. An intelligent but egocentric person will struggle to accept flaws. A dumb person who self reflects well is likely to take on board pronunciation issues and attempt to correct them as best they can- and given enough time, they might do a fantastic job of it, while the intelligent person who won't accept flaws, or won't believe what they are being told, can't self reflect whatever you want to call it, may not improve their pronunciation at all.

smallwhite wrote:In fact, I can't see how a dumb person will fare better than an intelligent person in anything that requires brainwork. That's the definition of intelligence, no?

And by "Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?" I don't think OP intends to discuss "Is intelligence or is hard work a larger factor to good pronunciation?"


So on pure intelligence alone, you are absolutely correct I believe. However this isn't the real world, we have intelligent people who aren't wise, dumb people who practise humility, intelligent people that screw up all the time and dumb people that apply themselves and persevere, so although I agree that intelligent people should theoretically come out on top of anything requiring brainpower, there are too many factors at work in any given individual's personality which render in my opinion that theory untrue. There may indeed be a bias towards more intelligent people being able to produce better accents in general, but given the right mix dumb people can theoretically do better than many intelligent people, it's a matter of application and perseverence. Just my thoughts, not written in stone, only an opinion etc etc ;)
6 x

User avatar
aokoye
Blue Belt
Posts: 893
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:14 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Languages: English (N), German (B2), Swedish (beginner), Dutch (beginner), French (beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=2935
x 1258
Contact:

Re: Is pronunciation a function of intelligence?

Postby aokoye » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:25 am

Serpent wrote:
Adrianslont wrote:
Serpent wrote:I think pronunciation requires the kinds of intelligence that for example musicians, sportspeople and surgeons have. It has more to do with physical precision.

I think what distinguishes successful musicians and sportspeople is not so much a kind of intelligence as their commitment to putting in a huge amount of practice. My wife is a physiotherapist who likes treating musicians and serious sportspeople because she knows they will do their exercises at home - because they are accustomed to regular repetitive practice. They get great results.
I was just pointing out that if we try to divide intelligence into different types, kinesthetical would be one of them for sure, and that's the one that matters for the pronunciation.


I think it's also, however, important to point out that there are plenty of accomplished musicians who can't match pitch vocally and don't realize that they aren't matching the pitch. My voice teacher tells me this every so often when I get frustrated about something in choir (in which case it's him saying, "Adam accept that not everyone knows they are singing out of tune/the wrong note") or I am feeling like I am not good enough to be in my choir (in which case it's him saying, "Adam you can match pitch really well - it doesn't matter that you haven't been singing for very long - clearly you're good at it" - note that I have played classical music for most of my life).
2 x
Prefered gender pronouns: Masculine


Return to “General Language Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests