How English sounds to everyone else

I got the idea for today’s post from the podcast A Way With Words. I’m super in love with this show, and I recommend it for everyone who is interested in English word origins and other language topics.

Native English speakers have ideas about how languages they do not speak sound. There are certain noises we can string together that imitate our idea of another language—noises that if we were to make to a speaker of that language would sound like gibberish.

Here’s a video of one English speaker speaking what he thinks sounds like several foreign languages:

 Ever wonder how English sounds to people who don’t speak it?

Youtube has a treasure trove of videos showing just this: English-sounding gibberish. Here’s a collection for you to enjoy.

This is a song made for Italian TV in which the singer sings entirely in sounds he interprets as sounding like English. (Also note the awesome background dancers!)

Here is a song in “fake” English from an Argentinian band:

Skwerl is a short film that plays with the same idea. In it, a couple speaks in “fake” English. One aspect I like about it is that even though they are not saying real words, the audience can still understand the emotions and ideas portrayed.

Here are more examples of foreign language speakers’ interpretation of English:

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5 thoughts on “How English sounds to everyone else

  1. Wow, what an interesting post! What English sounds like to non-English speakers is something I’ve never really thought about. And watching “Skwerl” was a weird experience — it felt like I simply was mishearing what they were saying. It really seemed like they were simply mumbling their words, rather than faking English!

    Really great post. 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words. I felt the same way about “Skwerl.” The sounds were so familiar that I thought I simply didn’t hear them right–or like I couldn’t hear well enough to make it out. Such a strange feeling . . .

      • To be fair, there are _some_ real English words sprinkled in there 🙂 “Sure”, “I”, “and”, “good” and the final “you f* a*, shut up” to name a few.

  2. Pingback: Happy birthday, Grammar Party! | Grammar Party

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