Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Willow

      Welcome to the forum!   09/17/2017

      Please come in from the rain and sit by the fire! We're happy you found us and hope you will feel at home here.  
Myrtonos

Why non-native speakers sound the way they do if they haven't mastered it fully

Recommended Posts

Myrtonos

Native speaking pronunciation of English varies widely, but if a non-native speaker hasn't fully mastered it fully, one can tell from their accent that English is not their native language, but why is that?

What is the difference between native and non-native accents and what's the explanation for that?

*One is staccato talking. Native speakers of continental European languages often sound as if they put pauses between syllables when speaking English, and I believe they aren't the only ones who do it. You don't get that in native accents in English.

*All native accents in English distingish between [v] and [w], most other languages don't make this distiction. Take for example, the words 'west' and 'vest'. Pronouncing <w> as [v] or <v> as [w] or mixing them up marks one as non-native speaking.

*The distinction between the TRAP vowel and the DRESS vowel is also standard, even though the pronunciation of each of those two vowels varies between native accents.

*Most but not all native accents have the two [th] sounds. And in ones that don't, it either becomes a flat [d], or an [f]. Some Irish do pronounce it like [t] or [d] in all positions. Pronouncing the <th> like [ s] or [z] is distinctly foreign.

Native speakers from some English speaking countries and areas may say one of the following:

*Wot's da madda wiv dat/'at red bed? [Afro-American Engilsh or Pittsburghese]

*Wot's the metta with thet rid bid? [New Zealand and South Africa] 

*Wot's the mutta with thaht radd badd? [Certain regional accents in England] 

Native speakers from some places pronounce the <r> in all positions, others only pronounce it only at the beginning of a syllable - including between vowels. There are a few native accents with a trilled <r>, at least at the beginning of a syllable. But 'Vot's ze metta viz zet red bed' is distinctly foreign sounding. 

Edited by Myrtonos
fixing problem, apparently just putting [s] strikes through all following text
  • Like 1
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nesf

There is an interesting TV series from the 80's, "The Story of English", that explores the origins of all the different versions of English. Regional variations of English are usually the result of migration and the influx of other populations into the area, often who speak a different language, and their accent gets mixed with that of the local population and it homogenizes over time.

Here is the first of the series:

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Myrtonos

While I haven't watched that program at the time of writing, I'm not sure what it has to do with native vs. non-native pronunciation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nesf
1 hour ago, Myrtonos said:

While I haven't watched that program at the time of writing, I'm not sure what it has to do with native vs. non-native pronunciation.

It's related to the content of your post. Watch it, you might find it interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
HalfFull

Its almost impossible for someone speaking a language other than their native one without their native accent getting through. 

I'm native English and can speak French with quite a good French accent. To most English people I sound French, but most French people can tell I'm English. I'd love to speak with an unmistakeable French accent but I think I'd need to become quite obsessive about reaching the goal. If I mastered such whilst living in France, my English speech patterns would probably start to come out sounding quite bizarre.

  • Like 2
  • Helpful 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nesf
2 minutes ago, HalfFull said:

Its almost impossible for someone speaking a language other than their native one without their native accent getting through. 

I'm native English and can speak French with quite a good French accent. To most English people I sound French, but most French people can tell I'm English. I'd love to speak with an unmistakeable French accent but I think I'd need to become quite obsessive about reaching the goal. If I mastered such whilst living in France, my English speech patterns would probably start to come out sounding quite bizarre.

I agree. Anyone who learns a foreign language as an adult will inevitably have an accent when speaking that language. When you are learning your native tongue as a child, you train your muscles to produce the specific sound of your native tongue, and as you get older it becomes increasingly difficult to adjust to pronouncing new sounds which don't already exist in your native language. Greek students learning English will have no difficulty with the [th] sound, but German students do, because this sound doesn't exist in their mother tongue.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Myrtonos

Again, even native speakers have accents, but they are different from what those who learn a foreign language as an adult have and sometimes each other, but there are ways to tell a non-specific native accent from a non-specific non-native accent. And as a child, it actually takes some time to train your muscles to produce all the sounds in your own language.

And even some native speakers have "accents" in their own language, for example speech impediments. And actually, could it be that you, due to Asperger's syndrome, speak a little differently from other native speakers?

21 minutes ago, Nesf said:

Greek students learning English will have no difficulty with the [th] sound, but German students do, because this sound doesn't exist in their mother tongue.

The difficulty that most foreign students have with [th] isn't just because the sound doesn't exist in their native language. It may just be harder than any sound in their own language. It is the sound that English aquiring children master last and a certain portion of native English speakers, including many on the spectrum, never learn to say it at all.

 

  • Like 1
  • Helpful 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Myrtonos

Acutally, we don't train our muscles to produce indivdual sounds but sound patterns. Sound patterns vary from language to language and it can be difficult for adults (apart from gifted language learners) to adjust to pronouncing new sound patterns. It seems like we actually train our muscles to produce not to produce individual sounds but whole syllables.

Those with normal speech development learn their native spoken language and train their muscles before they know anything of writing. I believe they think of whole syllables, they don't learn to decompose syllables until they learn to read.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RiRi

In response to the initial post, I think it's possible to master a language and still have a non-native accent. I have mastered the English langusge, but I don't sound like a native speaker. Additionally, I didn't start learning the language as an adult. I was fluent by the age of 13.

What do you guys think explains my non-native to English accent? I know you guys don't know me personally, but in a general sense, what could account for this non-native English speaker accent?

Edited by RiRi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Myrtonos

What do you mean by 'mastering' a language then? I'm not that surprised you did start learing English before adulthood.

If you think that those you don't know you personally, and don't know much about your personal life could have an idea about what could account for that slightly non-native accent, this is an unrealistic expectation. Ask a native English speaker who knows you personally and knows more about your personal life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×