About accents

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leosmith
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Re: About accents

Postby leosmith » Mon Jul 08, 2024 4:28 am

Jder9720 wrote:Hello! Well, first for the sake of the discussion let me ask you something, how do you avoid sounding like a wannabe?
Don't do the Fargo accent. For some reason a certain vocal minority of esl speakers selects this accent to emulate. I'm not sure any native speaker likes to listening to that.
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Re: About accents

Postby Cainntear » Mon Jul 08, 2024 7:00 pm

Le Baron wrote:
Cainntear wrote:When I learn a language, my goal is to get as close as possible to the accent. I don't consider myself a "wannabe" because I'm not attempted to present myself as someone I'm not.

My goal is just to be easy enough to speak to that people will happily speak to me. I am trying to present the same image of me as a person as is given when I'm speaking English. I don't see my "Scottishness" as defining of me as a person -- it's just a superficial, incidental detail. If I speak a target language in my Scottish accent, the image I present is of being external to the group; I want to be able to be seen as part of the group, not an outsider. Keeping my accent is keeping a social distance between myself and the people I'm speaking to.

Your reply is more related to the OP of the thread (which is fine and legitimate), however the point of my post above you was a little different. When you say this:
I am trying to present the same image of me as a person as is given when I'm speaking English....I want to be able to be seen as part of the group, not an outsider.

Two things immediately strike me: that achieving this doesn't usually happen and is more in the speaker's perception (or speakers' perceptions) than a reality. By which I mean a person becomes intelligible enough without ever really sounding like the natives they speak to. In circles of regular acquaintances this happens because they become accustomed to your speech. This is demonstrated by the sometime fleeting lapses of intelligibility outside those circles. Secondly, that from this the social distance is only partially closed, but enough to be intelligible. Social distance also has non-linguistic elements such as shared cultural knowledge and cognisance.

As an example, I know a fellow here in NL who has been here since 1979. He has a fairly strong English accent poking through, but has such a robust cultural cognisance and working linguistic knowledge that the accent is only ever a minimal hindrance (if it is at all in most cases).

OK, but I'll see your two things:

1) "In circles of regular acquaintances this happens because they become accustomed to your speech." But I'm not talking about talking to only people I already know fairly well. The tacit admission here is that people who aren't regular acquaintances will still have to spend a bit of effort to understand. I don't see this as a counterargument to my point.

2) If a person you know has an accent that is "only ever a minimal hindrance", that does not preclude the possibility that some accents will be a major hindrance. The problem is a beginning learner is in no position to know which of my weaknesses will be a minor hindrance and which will be major. To me, therefore, the obvious approach is to just try to make as few mistakes as possible.
I was talking recently about being mistaken for a native in a number of languages. That is not because I try to speak like a native -- it's accepting that I can't prejudge what errors will not break understanding, and just avoiding errors.

My least favourite line is "mistakes only matter if they break understanding" because I can never know whether they do, either as a self-directed learner or even as a language teacher. I know that as a language teacher, I have had far more exposure to learner errors than the average native speaker, so I am likely to understand what they intended to say, but I have no way of knowing whether anyone else would. I've actually had this discussion with teaching colleagues who tell me I'm wrong and that they do know what would cause a problem for a native speaker, but they'll leave errors completely uncorrected that I'll hear their students making when ordering a coffee that renders them unintelligible to the person serving them.
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Re: About accents

Postby Le Baron » Mon Jul 08, 2024 7:21 pm

Cainntear wrote:OK, but I'll see your two things:

1) "In circles of regular acquaintances this happens because they become accustomed to your speech." But I'm not talking about talking to only people I already know fairly well. The tacit admission here is that people who aren't regular acquaintances will still have to spend a bit of effort to understand. I don't see this as a counterargument to my point.

It wasn't meant to be counterargument to the idea of presenting yourself as a competent speaker, but the idea of 'presenting the same image of me as a person as is given when I'm speaking English", which I don't believe to be possible for the overwhelming majority of L2 speakers. The relation of this to accent is that if the accent is convincingly 'native-sounding' this can be mistaken for total linguistic competence even where that isn't the case.

Cainntear wrote:2) If a person you know has an accent that is "only ever a minimal hindrance", that does not preclude the possibility that some accents will be a major hindrance. The problem is a beginning learner is in no position to know which of my weaknesses will be a minor hindrance and which will be major. To me, therefore, the obvious approach is to just try to make as few mistakes as possible.
I was talking recently about being mistaken for a native in a number of languages. That is not because I try to speak like a native -- it's accepting that I can't prejudge what errors will not break understanding, and just avoiding errors.

My least favourite line is "mistakes only matter if they break understanding" because I can never know whether they do, either as a self-directed learner or even as a language teacher. I know that as a language teacher, I have had far more exposure to learner errors than the average native speaker, so I am likely to understand what they intended to say, but I have no way of knowing whether anyone else would. I've actually had this discussion with teaching colleagues who tell me I'm wrong and that they do know what would cause a problem for a native speaker, but they'll leave errors completely uncorrected that I'll hear their students making when ordering a coffee that renders them unintelligible to the person serving them.

I don't think error correction is the main key. Obviously egregious ones will always give you away entirely, but although large numbers of natives speak with common official 'errors' these don't create any friction in comprehensibility. Which is what I think you are saying in any case. However, taking as an assumption that a speaker is competent in structure and vocabulary (since this is an essential requirement) being "taken for a native" is mostly about how you sound. I have always been taken for a French native because I actually sound correct and entirely convincing when I speak, due to my early familial exposure and use; though eventually the odd thing causes doubt. Yet for a long time I had holes in structure and some vocabulary and it's still the case for some linguistic features that come from very deep cultural immersion of the sort a person would get from growing up in a Francophone country. As such this is what I meant with regard to 'sounding' convincing, but lacking some level of substance.
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Re: About accents

Postby Cainntear » Mon Jul 08, 2024 8:09 pm

Le Baron wrote:
Cainntear wrote:OK, but I'll see your two things:

1) "In circles of regular acquaintances this happens because they become accustomed to your speech." But I'm not talking about talking to only people I already know fairly well. The tacit admission here is that people who aren't regular acquaintances will still have to spend a bit of effort to understand. I don't see this as a counterargument to my point.

It wasn't meant to be counterargument to the idea of presenting yourself as a competent speaker, but the idea of 'presenting the same image of me as a person as is given when I'm speaking English", which I don't believe to be possible for the overwhelming majority of L2 speakers. The relation of this to accent is that if the accent is convincingly 'native-sounding' this can be mistaken for total linguistic competence even where that isn't the case.

Ah, fair enough. Well put it this way: I don't expect to succeed in perfectly presenting the image, but it all falls back to the same thing of not knowing what is the most important thing, and therefore trying my best at everything, just in case.

Cainntear wrote:2) If a person you know has an accent that is "only ever a minimal hindrance", that does not preclude the possibility that some accents will be a major hindrance. The problem is a beginning learner is in no position to know which of my weaknesses will be a minor hindrance and which will be major. To me, therefore, the obvious approach is to just try to make as few mistakes as possible.
I was talking recently about being mistaken for a native in a number of languages. That is not because I try to speak like a native -- it's accepting that I can't prejudge what errors will not break understanding, and just avoiding errors.

My least favourite line is "mistakes only matter if they break understanding" because I can never know whether they do, either as a self-directed learner or even as a language teacher. I know that as a language teacher, I have had far more exposure to learner errors than the average native speaker, so I am likely to understand what they intended to say, but I have no way of knowing whether anyone else would. I've actually had this discussion with teaching colleagues who tell me I'm wrong and that they do know what would cause a problem for a native speaker, but they'll leave errors completely uncorrected that I'll hear their students making when ordering a coffee that renders them unintelligible to the person serving them.

I don't think error correction is the main key. Obviously egregious ones will always give you away entirely, but although large numbers of natives speak with common official 'errors' these don't create any friction in comprehensibility. Which is what I think you are saying in any case.

Yes, but I'm also saying that nobody is in a particularly good position to guess which errors will prove to be a sticking point, and therefore error correction is kind of necessary.

What I didn't say before, though (and will say now) is that errors are cumulative, and that if making a particular error in a 4-word beginner sentence (eg. saying "je suis onze ans") isn't going to block understanding, that same error if left uncorrected can then interfere with other errors in a longer, more complex sentence further down the road in your language learning. Early correction is much easier than correction only when it's clearly a problem.

However, taking as an assumption that a speaker is competent in structure and vocabulary (since this is an essential requirement) being "taken for a native" is mostly about how you sound. I have always been taken for a French native because I actually sound correct and entirely convincing when I speak, due to my early familial exposure and use; though eventually the odd thing causes doubt. Yet for a long time I had holes in structure and some vocabulary and it's still the case for some linguistic features that come from very deep cultural immersion of the sort a person would get from growing up in a Francophone country. As such this is what I meant with regard to 'sounding' convincing, but lacking some level of substance.

Fair enough.
But I would struggle to speak any language with "my own accent" if that means the accent I use when speaking English. All of my languages sit nicely in their own little boxes because I get a whole virtuous feedback loop -- my mouth tells my brain what language I'm speaking and I just don't mess them up.

Edit: fixing quotation errors.
Last edited by Cainntear on Wed Jul 10, 2024 9:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: About accents

Postby leosmith » Mon Jul 08, 2024 10:55 pm

This is probably the best version of the Fargo accent I've heard from an ESL speaker. If you're going to do it, do it this way. But it's better not to do it at all. Don't mess with the vowel sounds; don't pronounce "can't" as "cyan't" for example.
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Re: About accents

Postby Le Baron » Mon Jul 08, 2024 11:47 pm

Horrible accent and sound. It sounds like an un-oiled door hinge.
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Re: About accents

Postby leosmith » Tue Jul 09, 2024 11:43 pm

Le Baron wrote:Horrible accent and sound. It sounds like an un-oiled door hinge.
Seriously? I don't find it that annoying. She must be one of the most successful "learn english" vloggers on YouTube - 5 million followers. I'd be surprised if she's not making 6 figures with those kind of numbers.
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Re: About accents

Postby Le Baron » Tue Jul 09, 2024 11:49 pm

leosmith wrote:
Le Baron wrote:Horrible accent and sound. It sounds like an un-oiled door hinge.
Seriously? I don't find it that annoying. She must be one of the most successful "learn english" vloggers on YouTube - 5 million followers. I'd be surprised if she's not making 6 figures with those kind of numbers.

I believe you. I don't doubt her success and ability. It's just the accent, it sounds to me like an endless creak.
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Re: About accents

Postby Cainntear » Wed Jul 10, 2024 9:11 am

Le Baron wrote:
leosmith wrote:
Le Baron wrote:Horrible accent and sound. It sounds like an un-oiled door hinge.
Seriously? I don't find it that annoying. She must be one of the most successful "learn english" vloggers on YouTube - 5 million followers. I'd be surprised if she's not making 6 figures with those kind of numbers.

I believe you. I don't doubt her success and ability. It's just the accent, it sounds to me like an endless creak.

Which raises an interesting point about sexism.

Is it bad that a man can be actively turned away by a woman's voice?
Arguably so.

But would she be as popular a YouTuber if she didn't look young and attractive?
Absolutely not.

I faced a similar dilemma with a female tech YouTuber not that long ago. I was finding her voice grating and irritating, and was wanting to stop watching. I was then faced with the reality that I wouldn't have the same reaction to a male YouTuber, and therefore had to accept that it was a double standard and pretty sexist, so I forced myself to continue to watch. Then I realised that I was only watching her because she was young and attractive and eyecatching in a thumbnail, so forcing myself to watch her wasn't actually addressing my underlying sexism in any way.

If the YouTube algorithm is exploiting male foibles to get female YouTubers more viewers, is there really anything sexist about turning off because you don't find it exploits your male foibles enough?

Deep existential questions.
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Re: About accents

Postby jackb » Wed Jul 10, 2024 12:33 pm

In a recent languagejones video, he talks about accents. It's mostly about vowels and how they are important to figuring them out. I'm pretty sure the woman in the previous video knows all about this.

edit: Removed youtube link and added it as a url. It can't be played on other sites
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