What does English sound like to foreign ears?
We’ve all heard examples of fake Chinese or German from speakers who lack familiarity with either language. While typically cringe-worthy, these examples do raise interesting questions regarding our own language. What does English sound like to non-English speakers? After more than 40 years, Adriano Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol” remains one of the most illuminating examples.
The entire song is nonsense verse, neither English nor Italian, but the sounds are meant to resemble English. Linguist Mark Liberman wrote an interesting post about this sort of thing over at Language Log discussing yaourter, the French word for an attempt to speak or sing in a foreign language that one doesn’t know all that well. This often involves trying to sing a foreign song with nonsense or random words filling in the blanks. Liberman shares this wonderful quote from a random Internet user:
Just for the story, in France, when we don’t speak English and we want to imitate the sound, we call it “yaourter”(to yoghourt), the imitation sounds like a very nasal language, kind of like a baby crying. It mostly imitates the “cowboy” accent.
This is fascinating *A*
I love when they mimic Americans speaking English in anime and it’s all “Shit!” and “OH MY GOD” and “pera pera pera” or something like that XD
I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED
This is amazing.
It sounds like it should be American English but it’s just…not, and as somebody whose mother tongue is American English that’s really fascinating. And frustrating. It’s almost hard to listen to.
Is no one gonna mention how rad this song is tho?
This song is catchy as hell but listening to it is like someone flipped off the part of my brain that understands language. It sounds exactly like American English, but doesn’t make a syllable of sense.
What does it sound like to British and Australian speakers?
this is really interesting, and it sounds like American English with a bit of a southern accent to me (as an Australian English speaker)
It sounds almost like…you know it’s English but you can’t quite pick out the words, and it’s a little frustrating listening hard to try and find words you understand, anything, but it’s just out of your reach.