Across the pond - An American learns British English as a foreign language. Also working on French.

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Deinonysus
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Across the pond - An American learns British English as a foreign language. Also working on French.

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:28 am

I was recently trying to rush through Pimsleur Irish before going on leave from work for a while (since I only do Pimsleur on my commute). But as I finished lesson four for the second time and it still wasn't sinking in, I realized I wasn't going to finish all ten lessons in time because... Irish hard. I also had a few other languages I was looking at, but it makes sense to hold off on them until I complete my goals in English and French. I'll get to Irish, Scots, and Afrikaans eventually.

English

Over the next few months I plan to learn UK Standard English using Received Pronunciation. Of course there are myriad acceptable ways to pronounce UK Standard English, but RP is what is taught in foreign language materials so that's what I'll use.

You are probably wondering why a native English speaker would decide to learn another variety of English as a foreign language, when it's already perfectly intelligible. There are three reasons:

  1. This is the biggest reason: American English does not have a distinction between short and long vowels, and I have trouble hearing this feature. I think my brain just deletes it when I hear British English, which does distinguish between long and short vowels, and converts it to the corresponding American vowels. I also have trouble with it in other languages, including German, which is one of the two foreign languages that are the most important to me. My theory is that the best way for me to solve this vowel length problem is for me to approach a familiar dialect of my own language as though it were a foreign language, relearning each sound the same way I would with a foreign language, and taking great care to get the prosody just right.
  2. Many of the language learning resources that I use are written in British English. I can usually understand it just fine - a flat is an apartment, a lift is an elevator, etc. One thing that took me a while to figure out that "revise" in British English can mean "review", but I got it eventually. Systematically studying the language could take out much of the guesswork.
  3. This last one would apply to only me: I'm working on a phonemic English alphabet, and I want it to work equally well for US and UK standard English. A more intimate knowledge of RP would help immensely.
Resources
  • BBC Learning English - Pronunciation
  • Pronunciator - British English (free through my library, similar to Rosetta Stone)
  • Teach Yourself - Complete English as a Foreign Language
  • Assimil - L'anglais

Français

I would like to solidify my French, for a few reasons:

  1. I will be using a French resource for my English studies, and I have a few other Assimil books in French.
  2. Strengthening my French will help me with corresponding features of related languages. For example, I was struggling with when to use "a" vs "in" when talking about traveling in Italian, but French uses "à" and "en" in basically the same situations. That would have helped me if I weren't so rusty.
  3. I will be traveling to French Canada soon and I want my speaking and listening skills to be the best they can be.

I would also like to get more familiar with the québécois accent. I'll come up with a plan for it.

Resources
  • Duolingo (I completed an earlier version; I'll probably only get the skills up to level 2, maybe 3, since it's a review.)
  • Assimil - Using French
  • Assimil - New French With Ease (finishing the second wave)

Anglophone Literature

I'm copying this from another log:

One of my goals in learning foreign languages is to read classic literature, but I haven't read most of the greats in my native language, English, so I should start there. I was a bad student in high school and I didn't read most of the books that I was assigned. Now I'm trying to make my way through the Anglophone portion of the Western Canon.

I've been making very good progress since I started reading ebooks on my phone, and especially since I uninstalled Reddit. Now I read books when I'm bored instead of mindlessly browsing oddly specific memes and manipulated spins on news articles.

Books reread:
  • Frank Herbert - Dune
  • Neil Gaiman - Stardust
  • L Frank Baum - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Books read for the first time:
  • H. G. Wells - The Time Machine
  • Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon
  • Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart
Currently reading (at varying paces):
  • Dead tree book: H. G. Wells - The War of the Worlds
  • Public domain ebook: Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Contemporary ebook library loan: Toni Morrison - Beloved
Last edited by Deinonysus on Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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English
: 1 / 80 Pronunciator - British English

Français
: 35 / 314 Duolingo French (to lv 2)
: 20 / 70 Assimil Using French

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Teango
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Re: Across the pond - An American learns British English as a foreign language. Also working on French.

Postby Teango » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:18 am

Good luck, Deinonysus, and congratulations on reaching 500 posts (welcome to the BBC...the Blue Belt Club)! ;)

I love that there are so many varieties of English, and a chocolate box analogy would fit in well here, if I could only get the picture of Forrest Gump out of my mind. I'm also a big fan of creoles and pidgins.

I too feel tempted to check out a copy of L'Americain sans Peine and work on my rhotic /r/ among other things, especially as my little daughter speaks with an American accent and gives daddy funny looks from time to time. Sadly Assimil doesn't produce a course for Jamaican Patois, otherwise, sign me up.

Keen to mix and match, and all too often slipping carefree into Hiberno-English and Hawaiian Creole intonation, I probably confuse people on both sides of the pond now... 8-)
Last edited by Teango on Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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jonm
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Re: Across the pond - An American learns British English as a foreign language. Also working on French.

Postby jonm » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:18 am

Deinonysus wrote:Over the next few months I plan to learn UK Standard English using Received Pronunciation.

So cool. I'll be really interested to hear how this goes. You may be familiar with this already, but I think John C. Wells's Accents of English 1: An Introduction could be very helpful, both with RP and with your phonemic English alphabet. It has a very detailed comparison of the phonological systems and lexical sets of RP and General American. It also has a history of the phonology of English: vowel shifts, splits, mergers, all that good stuff. It goes up to the "Great Divide" between British and American English and then looks at the major subsequent innovations in each branch. And then the other two volumes in the series zoom in on varieties of English besides RP and General American, in the British Isles (vol. 2) and around the world (vol. 3). So those two volumes wouldn't be so relevant, though they're very interesting in their own right.

I also really like the idea of using Assimil L'anglais. That seems like an interesting shift in perspective, with French as your base language and another variety of English as your target language.
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Deinonysus
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   German
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Re: Across the pond - An American learns British English as a foreign language. Also working on French.

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:32 pm

Teango wrote:Good luck, Deinonysus, and congratulations on reaching 500 posts (welcome to the BBC...the Blue Belt Club)! ;)

I love that there are so many varieties of English, and a chocolate box analogy would fit in well here, if I could only get the picture of Forrest Gump out of my mind. I'm also a big fan of creoles and pidgins.

I too feel tempted to check out a copy of L'Americain sans Peine and work on my rhotic /r/ among other things, especially as my little daughter speaks with an American accent and gives daddy funny looks from time to time. Sadly Assimil doesn't produce a course for Jamaican Patois, otherwise, sign me up.

Keen to mix and match, and all too often slipping carefree into Hiberno-English and Hawaiian Creole intonation, I probably confuse people on both sides of the pond now... 8-)
Thanks! I didn't realize that was my 500th post, how auspicious!

I'm not aware of any Jamaican Patois courses, but there is a Peace Corps Tok Pisin course! :twisted: No audio, unfortunately.

jonm wrote:
Deinonysus wrote:Over the next few months I plan to learn UK Standard English using Received Pronunciation.

So cool. I'll be really interested to hear how this goes. You may be familiar with this already, but I think John C. Wells's Accents of English 1: An Introduction could be very helpful, both with RP and with your phonemic English alphabet. It has a very detailed comparison of the phonological systems and lexical sets of RP and General American. It also has a history of the phonology of English: vowel shifts, splits, mergers, all that good stuff. It goes up to the "Great Divide" between British and American English and then looks at the major subsequent innovations in each branch. And then the other two volumes in the series zoom in on varieties of English besides RP and General American, in the British Isles (vol. 2) and around the world (vol. 3). So those two volumes wouldn't be so relevant, though they're very interesting in their own right.

I also really like the idea of using Assimil L'anglais. That seems like an interesting shift in perspective, with French as your base language and another variety of English as your target language.
Great minds think alike! Each of Wells' lexical sets has its own symbol in the Wā·rd (Weyard) alphabet, with three exceptions:
  • Some rhotic sets reuse existing symbols plus an "r"
  • The letter "ū" is not it's own lexical set but represents /j/ followed by a GOOSE, CURE, or lettER vowel (depending on whether it is followed by an "r" and then whether it is stressed or unstressed).
  • NURSE is split into FERN, FIR, and FUR.
I haven't finished reading the entire book yet, but it's sitting in a very accessible part of my bookshelf.

By mentioning lexical sets, you've automatically triggered the Wā·rd infodump! :geek:

If the primary stress doesn't fall on the first non-schwa vowel, it's marked with a vertical line below, as in "himse̩lf". There are 52 total letters including vowels with diacritics. Every word must have at least one non-schwa vowel, so ðe (the) and a (a) are irregular. "The" is ðē before a vowel.

Here are the consonants (with IPA between forward slashes if different):
labial/labiovelardentalalveolarpostalveolarvelar/glottal
nasalvoicedmnŋ
plosive/affricateunvoicedptc /tʃ/k
plosive/affricatevoicedbdj /dʒ/g
fricativeunvoicedfþ /θ/sʃh
fricativevoicedvðzʒ
approximantunvoicedƕ /ʍ/
approximantvoicedwly /j/
rhotic*voicedr
*various realizations depending on dialect

Other consonant symbols:

q /kw/, as in qēn (queen)
x /ks/, as in extr· (extra). If the second syllable gets the primary stress, the initial "e" is omitted, as in xel (excel).
ξ /gz/, as in eξit (exit). If the second syllable gets the primary stress, the initial "e" is omitted, as in ξam (exam). Voicing follows American English, hence eξit instead of exit.

Some of the new consonants have capitals that aren't immediately obvious from the lowercase:
Ð ð
Ʃ ʃ
Ƕ ƕ
Ξ ξ

And here are the vowels (all short vowels are bare, all long vowels and diphthongs have a diacritic above or are followed by an r):

KeywordWā·rd letter(s)RP IPAGenAm IPAExample wordsΞâmp·l wûrdz (Wā·rd)
KITiɪɪship, sick, bridge, milk, myth, busyʃip, sik, brij, milk, miþ, bizʏ
DRESSeeɛstep, neck, edge, shelf, friend, readystep, nek, ej, ʃelf, frend, redʏ
TRAPaæætap, back, badge, scalp, hand, canceltap, bak, baj, skalp, hand, kans·l
LOToɒɑstop, sock, dodge, romp, possible, qualitystop, sok, doj, romp, posib·l, qolitʏ
STRUTuʌʌcup, suck, budge, pulse, trunk, bloodkup, suk, buj, puls, truŋk, blud
FOOTʊʊʊput, bush, full, good, look, wolfpʊt, bʊʃ, fʊl, gʊd, lʊk, wʊlf
BATHâɑːæstaff, brass, ask, dance, sample, calfstâf, brâs, âsk, dâns, sâmp·l, kâf
CLOTHɔɒɔcough, broth, cross, long, Bostonkɔf, brɔþ, krɔs, lɔŋ, Bɔst·n
FERN (NURSE)êrɜːɜrjerk, term, earth, herjêrk, têrm, êrþ, hêr
FIR (NURSE)îrɜːɜrfir, sir, bird, first, dirtfîr, sîr, bîrd, fîrst, dîrt
FUR (NURSE)ûrɜːɜrhurt, lurk, urge, bursthûrt, lûrk, ûrj, bûrst
FLEECEēicreep, speak, leave, feel, key, peoplekrēp, spēk, lēv, fēl, kē, pēp·l
FACEātape, cake, raid, veil, steak, daytāp, kāk, rād, vāl, stāk, dā
PALMåɑːɑpsalm, father, bra, spa, lagersåm, fåð·r, brå, spå, låg·r
THOUGHTăɔːɔtaught, sauce, hawk, jaw, broadtăt, săs, hăk, jă, brăd
GOATōəʊosoap, joke, home, know, so, rollsōp, jōk, hōm, nō, sō, rōl
GOOSEo̊/ūuloop, shoot, tomb, mute, huge, viewlo̊p, ʃo̊t, to̊m, mūt, hūj, vū
PRICEīripe, write, arrive, high, try, buyrīp, rīt, ·rīv, hī, trī, bī
CHOICEɔɪɔɪadroit, noise, join, toy, royal·droͥt, noͥz, joͥn, toͥ, roͥ·l
MOUTHŏout, house, loud, count, crowd, cowŏt, hŏs, lŏd, kŏnt, krŏd, kŏ
NEARērɪəɪrbeer, sincere, fear, beard, serumbēr, sinsē̩r, fēr, bērd, sēr·m
SQUAREārɛəɛrcare, fair, pear, where, scarce, varykār, fār, pār, ƕār, skārs, vārʏ
STARTårɑːɑrfar, sharp, bark, carve, farm, heartfår, ʃårp, bårk, kårv, fårm, hårt
NORTHôrɔːɔrfor, war, short, scorch, born, warmfôr, wôr, ʃôrt, skôrc, bôrn, wôrm
FORCEōrɔːorfour, wore, sport, porch, borne, storyfōr, wōr, spōrt, pōrc, bōrn, stōrʏ
CUREʊr/ūrʊəʊrpoor, tourist, pure, plural, jurypʊr, tʊrist, pūr, plʊr·l, jʊrʏ
happYʏɪɪcopy, scampi, taxi, sortie, committee, hockey, Chelseakopʏ, skampʏ, taxʏ, sôrtʏ, k·mitʏ, hokʏ, Celsʏ
lettER·rəɚpaper, metre, calendar, stupor, succo(u)r, martyr, figurepāp·r, mēt·r, kal·nd·r, stūp·r, suk·r, mårt·r, figūr
commA·əəcatalpa, quota, vodkak·talp·, qōt·, vodk·

There is no capital schwa; the next letter is capitalized instead, as in ·Merik· (America). The capitals of the new short vowel symbols are:
Ɔ ɔ
Ʊ ʊ
ϒ ʏ

Sounds that are not easily approximated by sounds from GenAm or RP can be represented by a Latin letter followed by a tilde. The sound represented will vary based on the language of origin.

Examples:
loch - loc~
llan - l~an
Goethe - Go~t·
über - u~b·r
salon - salo~
Rodin - Rodi~
Xhosa - X~hōs·

Sâmp·l Text:
To̊ bē ôr not to̊ bē, ðat iz ðe qesc·n:
Ƕeð·r 'tiz nōbl·r in ðe mīnd to̊ suf·r
Ðe sliŋz and arōz ov ŏtrā̩j·s fôrc·n,
Ôr to̊ tāk årmz ·gānst a sē ov trub·lz
And bī ·pōziŋ end ðem. To̊ dī—to̊ slēp,
Nō mōr; and bī a slēp to̊ sā wē end
Ðe hårtāk and ðe þŏz·nd nac'r·l ʃoks
Ðat fleʃ iz ār to̊: 'tiz a kons·mā̩ʃ·n
Divŏ̩tlʏ to̊ bē wiʃt. To̊ dī, to̊ slēp;
To̊ slēp, p·rcâns to̊ drēm—ī, ðār'z ðe rub:
Fôr in ðat slēp ov deþ, ƕot drēmz mā kum,
Ƕen wē hav ʃuf·ld ɔf ðis môrt·l koͥl,
Must giv us păz—ðār'z ðe rispe̩kt
Ðat māks k·lamitʏ ov sō loŋ līf.
Last edited by Deinonysus on Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.
2 x
English
: 1 / 80 Pronunciator - British English

Français
: 35 / 314 Duolingo French (to lv 2)
: 20 / 70 Assimil Using French

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Deinonysus
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Re: Across the pond - An American learns British English as a foreign language. Also working on French.

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:03 pm

English

I got frustrated with Pronunciator because of microphone issues. I think I kept speaking too close to my phone. Each day of lessons is split into two parts, and part 1 of day 2 took me over half an hour, so I never did part 2, and I didn't get to do my Assimil French lessons.

I was having issues with two sounds:
  • I had trouble drawing out the /i:/ in "evening". I kept getting to the /v/ too quickly.
  • I kept pronouncing the long "a" as /ɛɪ/ instead of /eɪ/. I guess it was easier to tack an /ɪ/ at the end of my GenAm /ɛ/ sound than it is for me to draw out my /eɪ/ sound.

The RP short vowels have some interesting differences from GenAm. As I remarked in another log, the RP /ʌ/ is not really an /ʌ/ at all but is lowered and centralized to /ɐ/, which sounds very different from GenAm! Also, I'm noticing that /ʊ/ is significantly more centralized than in GenAm, more like a Japanese u.

Anglophone literature

(vague spoilers ahead)

I was inspired to take my reading a step further when I read a Reddit post where a user had predicted a significant lore development in season 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones from language that used to describe the Others (White Walkers in the show) in the very first chapter of the book series.
Here is the article: (Spoilers Extended) The books already told us who made the Others...

So I got a copy of Thomas C. Foster's excellent book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and it took a while for me to start reading enough novels for everything to sink in, but I think I'm really starting to understand what's implied in books, not just what's stated.

In Dune, there are no spoilers. What would be the key plot twist at the end of another book is revealed near the beginning of Dune. This is very deliberate and highlights the book's theme of politics as a solved game. Everyone understands basically what everyone else is going to do. Every major deviation from this comes because someone assumed something that turned out to be faulty. I've heard Paul described as a Mary Sue to whom everything comes too easily, but I think he's a subversion. His path to becoming an epic hero or even a messiah seems too easy, but that's because it isn't his goal; he's actively trying to avoid it because he can see the dire consequences, and that's where the conflict lies.

This is similar to the character of Ender in Ender's Game. The conflict doesn't come from whether he will achieve his goals, it's in what each victory costs him.

I got some heavy foreshadowing in Things Fall Apart from the products that the characters must have gotten through European contact. It started simply, with New World crops like corn and chiles. Then there was advanced technology, first machetes but then guns and eventually cannon. A mishap with a piece of European technology presaged a clash at the end of the book.

In Beloved, there's a major element of magical realism based around the ghost of a baby mentioned in the beginning of the book. I was also able to predict something based on the language that was used to describe a new character a bit later on in the book.

There are also a lot of descriptions of plants. I think I'm starting to catch on to the symbolism; I'll see whether it's confirmed. I'm still only 30% of the way through the book.
2 x
English
: 1 / 80 Pronunciator - British English

Français
: 35 / 314 Duolingo French (to lv 2)
: 20 / 70 Assimil Using French


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