Accents, anyone?

This question is more for people who do not speak English as a first language.

In your native language, what regional accents are more noticeable than others?

Do you have an easy time telling whether an English speaker is likely an American, a Brit, an Aussie, etc.?

I wonder because I can imagine that in Spanish, for example, that a speaker from Spain, Mexico, Cuba, etc. probably have different accents–but I, as an English first speaker, would not be able to tell the difference.

It’s pretty easy to tell a Spaniard from a Latin American. Latin Americans pronounce “ll” like English “y”, Spaniards tend to pronounce it more like French “j” or English “zh”. All Spanish speakers pronounce the letter “d” somewhere between the hard English “d” and “th” as in “the”, but Spaniards lean the most heavily towards the “th” sound. Just a couple of examples I can think of off the top of my head.

God is dead. -Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead. -God
Neitzsche is God. -Dead

::hijacking this thread back north::

There’s a definite difference between the French spoken in French and the French spoken in Quebec. The Quebecois get rather nasty about it, too. They will often pretend not to understand what you are saying if you are speaking Parisian French.


I’ve never heard a Spaniard pronounce it like either of those sounds. It’s more like the sound in the middle of the world “million” - an L followed by a Y.

The best example of the difference is in the letters C (when followed by E or I) and Z. In Latin America, these are both pronounced S. In Spain, they are pronounced TH.

Back to the OP: I lived with an Irish girl in Spain and when we met Spaniards when we were out together, not one of them was ever able to tell by our accents that she was Irish and I was American.

All I know is that, during the few months that I taught English in Japan, my students understood me pretty well, but I had to translate for them when an Australian came through town.

Melin: really hijacking this north, south and all points of the compass…but relating to accents and tolerance thereof, here goes:

Refinements of french accents are even more complex in Quebec than just Parisian, Quebec and boilerplate Canadian. I timidly wandered my way around Quebec, intimated by my feeble grasp of French. (HaaRRummph…Coldfire is obviously an android; fluent, colloquial mastery of language like that just ain’t, ain’t, NATURAL!)

Anyway, I’d creak out with what French I knew, pitifully aware from a trip to Paris that if your accent right on target, you’re were somewhere lower than sewer seepage on the snob-o-meter.

After a few tortured, mangled sentences in my flat, midwestern drawl, BING! Instant thaw. Seems they expected Canadians to be fluent and at least somewhat graceful in French, but my drawling, shucks-gulhowdy Amurrican accent bought me a pass. They turned into the funniest, friendliest folks you could imagine. Loved my time there, and would love to go back. (fractured French and all.)

It almost made me forget Paris and the Old World Snots. Not wonder Cajuns are so so great; they came from those folks.

I don’t know what that says about high expectations and Applied Socio-Political Linguistics. But the food and folks were great.

But I strongly suspect Coldfire is still an android. Sheee-yit, the boy’s so dang comfy in the lingo ya can’t even tell he’s a furriner!



Hmm. That’s odd, I had a Spanish teacher from Spain once, and whenever she wanted to know where she put her keys (donde estan mis llaves, for you non-Spanish-speaking types), she would say “thonthe estan mis zhaves”, whereas most of my other teachers would say “donde estan mis yaves”. I never asked what part of Spain she was from, perhaps I should have. Anyway, between that and the “vosotros” thing, she did a lot of damage that my later Spanish teachers would have to undo…

God is dead. -Nietzsche
Nietzsche is dead. -God
Neitzsche is God. -Dead

I’m not a second language learner, but I can say that Argentinians are given away by their version of the “ll” sound–a soft g/zh sound, like neuro-trrsh girl was describing in a Spaniard. I lived in Camarillo for a while–it was amusing hearing my Spanish teacher say “Camari-zho.”

And maybe this is just me, but I seem to have an easier time understanding Spanish from speakers from other countries than Mexico. It seems to me that Mexican dialect is a bit more musical, and quite a bit more run together–I have an extremely difficult time understanding a Mexican speaker. Argentinian, Spaniard, Ecuador–not much of a problem. Native Spanish speakers–is it just the people I’m encountering, or am somewhere near accuracy here?

I used to think the world was against me. Now I know better. Some of the smaller countries are neutral.

Laura’s Stuff and Things

Hubby and his parents can always tell if someone is from Austria. I suspect it has something to do with them singing
“Edelweiss.” and blowing their Ricola horns :slight_smile:

Actually, they can tell Southern Germans from Northern Germans because there is a different dialect.Yes, this is a vague answer but that’s me. There is a variation of german called Platt-Deutsch that is dying out and was very strong in the northern German ( Hamburg/Bremen/Hanseatic region.) His grandparents can speak it and my old boss spoke it, but it’s probably like Choctaw indian, it will die out when the elders croak.

This post has really nothing whatsoever to do with the OP.

neuro-trash grrrl writes:

Perhaps so. As the Teeming Thousands probably already know, different languages are spoken in different parts of Spain: Gallegan, Catalan, Castilian, and Basque or Eskual (the last of which is not Romance, Indo-European, or anything else that we know of). A uniformity of pronounciation among native speakers of all those is no more to be expected than we would expect it of a Scot speaking Received Standard English, a Breton speaking French, or a Hanoverian speaking High German.
The dialects of Latin America are all derived from Castilian (what we commonly think of as “Spanish”), other than Brazilian, so they are mostly mutually comprehensible (although I’m told that Argentinos and Chileños have a hard time making themselves understood north of Panama).

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

Badly worded, I think. Castilian specifically refers to the Spanish spoken in Spain (the standard dialect, anyway) - it certainly isn’t a catch-all phrase for “what we commonly think of as Spanish.”

Anyway, the dialects of Latin America are derived from the Spanish of Andalusia (in SW Spain) which is a different dialect than standard Castilian.

Well, in France, southern French can immediately be recognized, even by an intermediate french speaker.

In Switzerland, in the german-speaking portion, almost each canton (aka state) has its own little dialect. You can tell what state a person comes when hearing them speak.

The french-speaking cantons are more alike, but a swiss person can be distinguished from a french person if you have a good ear.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

I’m really grateful to all the people who learn English, because I had poor language teachers at school, and thus lost interest in acquiring another tongue.

I’ve noticed that the Dutch are particularly good at languages. They have one particular sound I can’t do, as in SCH-evingen. The nearest I use is in Scottish “Lo-CH”. However they don’t seem to have “th”, so they say “t’e” instead of “the”.

Probably from the above I can usually spot a Dutchman speaking flawless English, and I’m good at recognising a German doing the same.

How long before English (nowadays it’s American really) becomes the World language?

I just had deja vu, and I’m sure it’s happened before…

Akatsukami: sorry to be picky, but Hanoverians do speak Hochdeutsch - Hanoverian is the equivalent of Standard Received for foreigners learning German…
This is not to say that Platt-deutsch is not also spoken in and around Hanover, but the Germans mostly count it as a separate language, not just an accent.

Man erith, woman morpeth

One of things about learning a language from reading a book: you pronounce some words more the way you spell them, whereas a native speaker learns from hearing it for most words. Vocabulary you learned in college is of course different.

No, I never said the T in castle, but someone once claimed I did. How about “sword”? Do you say “soord” ?

In most of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, people use a slightly different second person singular and corresponding present tense verb form. (vos instead of tu, and the conjugation differs: queres, tenes, etc. instead of quieres, tienes. Sorry about no accent marks but I’m on my home computer (a PC) and I have no idea how to make them. There should be accents on the last syllables of queres, tenes.)

LauraRae is correct saying that ll is pronounced zh in Argentina. Regarding being understood, I have an Argentine accent, but I have no trouble making myself understood by other Spanish speakers. It’s sort of like the difference between British English and American. The accent is different but understandable.

The one thing that is really different between Latin American dialects is that certain words have TOTALLY different meanings country to country.

Here’s an embarrassing example: in grad school, one of my good friends was Puerto Rican. One day I wanted to tell her how pleased I was with something, and I used the phrase “estoy chocha con [whatever it was]” and she just blanched. Turns out that’s a slang for female reproductive body part in PR. Whoops!

Many common words have many meanings, so you have to be careful. You don’t want to be throwing around phrases like “coger la guagua” which could mean “catch the bus” or “fuck the baby” depending on where you are.

And yes, you can definitely tell the difference between, say, a Mexican accent, a Cuban accent, a Puerto Rican accent, etc. In my opinion, the most difficult Spanish to understand is Cuban.

ruadh writes:

I respectfully disagree. Without meaning to impugn the knowledge of the Teeming Thoussands (or that of the even more Teeming Millions), I do not think that one in twenty of them know that there are other languages spoken in Spain. If asked the question, they would likely say, “Why, Spanish is spoken in Spain – and in Mexico”. However, the “Spanish” spoken in Mexico is most decidely not descended from Catalan – which, I believe that a goodly number of linguists and politicians would testify, is not a Castilian dialect.
Durnovarius writes:

I don’t think that Hanoverian is Hochdeutsch (High German); Hochdeutsch is the language of Austria and southern Germany. It is the literary and official language of Germany, and has been taught as such for over a century; it’s not surprising that Plattdeutsch (which is more similar to spoken Dutch – written Dutch being another matter altogether) is dying out, any more than it is surprising that Scots (not Scots Gaelic, which is a Celtic language and also almost extinct) is dying out.

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

Some of the more silly sounding accents are:

Swiss people speaking German
Belgians speaking French (from what my friends tell me)
Acadians speaking French
Polish highlanders speaking Polish (imagine someone speaking your language but randomly switching o’s for e’s)
Danes speak Danish (Have you heard this language???)

There are people who learned Polish back when when some areas of Poland were 80% Ukranians/Lithuanians/Belarussians and they sort of absorbed the accent of their surroundings. They can have accents so strong that it’s hard for me to recognize it as Polish. Kind of like really thick Scottish to an American English speaker. It’s obvious that they are speaking one language but with the tempo and style of another. Weird.

Another silly accent:
Poles speaking Russian.

It actually hurts your ears. Rivals American for goofy-sounding accent.

In my (very) limited linguistic experience… my meagre, but Parisian French, is certainly laughed at by the Canadians of all origins. “Why the hell are you grating away like that, it’s just an ‘r’”…
Also, the Brazilians find it hilarious to speak with the Portuguese…they understand fine, the Potuguese look like they’ve been asked to recite the bible backwards such is their concentration. The (non spanish speaking) Brazilians also understand Spanish to a certain level, but it seems the Spanish speakers of Equador, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina (i was reluctant to generalise, these are specific examples i have experience of) find it nigh on impossible to follow (Brazilian) Portuguese.
In the UK, specifically England, where people haven’t had their accents schooled out of them, i reckon you can place someone by their accent to within about 50 miles or so, they differ so greatly… eg compare a Mancunian (Manchester) to his enemy the other end of the East Lancs the Scouser (Liverpool) (sorry, about 20 miles) and you’ll wonder if they were born on the same planet, never mind part of the country.