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How does one speak "pretend English"?
July 7, 2005 7:56 PM   Subscribe

If an English speaker wants to pretend to speak German (and be completely obnoxious), he might say something like "Ach Bach Ze Hooverhoffen!" Or if he wanted to mock Spanish, he might say "Ahblo babblo ahblado el babblado!" Swedish might sound like "Hurky gurky pookety borkety!". What sounds do non-English speakers use to mock English?

Or are we the only linguistic jerks?
posted by 4easypayments to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, I know this one. A friend and I had this conversation when we were travelling in Europe, and a couple of days later we were speaking to a German woman and she answered our question. "Yes, with the English, it's all 'Rar rar rar'" Apparently there's something with the "r" pronunciation that's uniquely English.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 8:01 PM on July 7, 2005 [1 favorite]


I once worked at a place with an international staff and when they wanted to mock the Americans they would start talking with a very nasal short "a" sound. A frequently repeated phrase was, "I'm an Am-AIR-i-cAn and I need to use your bAthroom....."
posted by jrossi4r at 8:10 PM on July 7, 2005


Believe it or not, this one's been asked before.
posted by rafter at 8:17 PM on July 7, 2005


My friend taught English in Korea and he said he asked a Korean what Americans sounded like. Apparently we sound like buzzing insects, with all the "ssss" and "shshshsh" and "zzzzz". To Arab ears, the most exaggerated American English sounds are the flat vowels.
posted by evariste at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2005 [1 favorite]


Strange as it may sound, I've heard (from someone who speaks Mandarin Chinese) that the typical replacement text is "Yak Yak yak yak."
posted by odinsdream at 8:27 PM on July 7, 2005


"Yes, with the English, it's all 'Rar rar rar'"

rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb...
posted by sfenders at 8:38 PM on July 7, 2005


When my family lived in France, my sister and her one English-speaking friend were walking down the street one day in Orsay talking in English to each other.

Two French guys followed them for awhile, saying "ararararararar" to each other, making fun of them.
posted by interrobang at 8:55 PM on July 7, 2005


When I was an exchange student in Italy, the father of my host-family would imitate me with "Rurr rur rur rurr rurr rur."
posted by hydrophonic at 8:58 PM on July 7, 2005


The 'th' sound is somewhat rare, is it not?
posted by jikel_morten at 9:10 PM on July 7, 2005


Believe it or not, this one's been asked before.

Holy crap. Well, thanks to everyone for your fine answers!
Shrururursssarararzzzz.
posted by 4easypayments at 9:29 PM on July 7, 2005


Actually, adding several of these responses together (a la 4easypayments' "Shrururursssarararzzzz", maybe plus some 'm's) gets me something real close to what I would do when imitating someone who is nagging - kind of a grumpy old man grumble. Try it yourself!

Authority Figure: "Do this, because I said so!"

You: [under breath] "Meh merzh mnah rah ra!"
posted by attercoppe at 9:59 PM on July 7, 2005


Similar to the comments above, in Peru I was told that English is an ugly language, and they imitated it like "rarararar", with nasalised vowels.

The funny thing is that in New Zealand, American English is parodied in the exact same way: nasal vowels and too many r's.
posted by nomis at 10:30 PM on July 7, 2005


Damn, I've always wondered this. I've asked several exchange students, but it's often a hard question to get across. My Japanese friends nearly died laughing at our pretend Japanese, though.
posted by Amanda B at 11:27 PM on July 7, 2005


My friend taught English in Korea and he said he asked a Korean what Americans sounded like. Apparently we sound like buzzing insects, with all the "ssss" and "shshshsh" and "zzzzz".

That seems unlikely, and both the 's' and 'sh' sounds are very common in Korean, as a single and double character which, alone, is the equivalent of a soft 's' or 'sh' depending on the following vowel, and as a double, is a harder, more aspirated 's'.

Korean does not have any true consistently voiced consonants (that have any linguistic significance for understanding speech) however, except for the analogues of 'm' 'n' and 'ng'.

Perhaps that buzzing idea was not so much sibilants, as you suggest, but voiced consonants that they were hearing.

I'll have to ask 'my guys' about this next week.

Also, tangentially : I parody Americans by speaking through my nose, and flattening vowels, as other suggest upthread, but there are so many regional accents in America that that doesn't really capture the essence.

(In general, I teach my students that accent differences in the various Englishes are primarily about vowel sounds. This is not scientific, but merely my observation.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:22 AM on July 8, 2005


My French friends tell me that the difference between the English accent and the American accent to a French ear is that to imitate the American you'd talk as though you had a hot potato in your mouth.
posted by soplerfo at 6:33 AM on July 8, 2005


Believe it or not, I asked this question (in a different form) once before. You worded it better and are actually getting answers ;-)
posted by Shane at 7:07 AM on July 8, 2005


Believe it or not, this one's been asked before.
posted by rafter at 8:17 PM PST on July 7 [marked as best answer] [!]


Wow, triple-post! That's okay, sometimes it takes two or three posts to squeeze out all the good answers.
posted by Shane at 7:09 AM on July 8, 2005


...[for the French]...to imitate the American you'd talk as though you had a hot potato in your mouth.

Come to think of it, the mouth seems more relaxed in tongues other than English.
posted by Shane at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2005


Is English Unique? has discussion of sounds in English that are relatively uncommon (and yes, /th/ is one of them; Greek, Burmese, and Iberian Spanish have it, but not many other well-known languages).
posted by languagehat at 7:35 AM on July 8, 2005


"Yes, with the English, it's all 'Rar rar rar'"

hm, interesting... the (ancient) greek word "barbarian" comes from what they perceived foreign speakers to sound like... all "bar bar bar" (so it didn't technically mean savage, just funny sounding foreigner...)
posted by mdn at 7:38 AM on July 8, 2005


Think of the parents on the Peanuts cartoons.
posted by togdon at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2005 [2 favorites]


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