Join 3,553 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why is Heidi Klum's English accent better than Henry Kissinger's?
November 29, 2006 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Why is Heidi Klum's English accent better than Henry Kissinger's?
posted by airguitar to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Because Henry never listens.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 6:07 AM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]


My foreign policy prof claimed that Henry Kissinger could do a pretty good imitation of an American accent when he wanted to.
posted by grouse at 6:24 AM on November 29, 2006


One reason is likely because it's more difficult for him to speak in an American accent than in a Germanic accent. Sure he can put on an American accent, but if it's more work for him and if people accept him with his Germanic accent, what impetus does he have to change? Kissinger is known as a very dominant and intimidating man, not the type that would change just to make other people comfortable.

As for Heidi Klum - she's probably taken English lessons since she was six years old, plus she's married to a British citizen.
posted by watsondog at 6:37 AM on November 29, 2006


I was told by a friend who interviewed Henry Kissinger's older brother for a newspaper article that his older brother has barely an accent and indeed has more of a New York Jewish accent. They both came to this country at the same time, logic wold have it that Henry should have less of an accent.

I suspect that it's an affectation to make him appear mittel-europan and vaguely intellectual. I mean he came to this country when he was fifteen! Sort of like the reverse of George W. Bush's Texas accent which to me at least is equally suspect and equally put-on.
posted by xetere at 7:15 AM on November 29, 2006


my father came to the US from Croatia/Yugoslavia when he was only 19, and he lived to be two months short of 102 years old. He always had an accent, and at times could even a bit hard to understand (such as he pronounced "pepper" as "paper").

We always attributed dad's accent to the fact that he tended to spend more time speaking with people of his own nationality, and of other nationalities (we lived in an area of northen california with a lot of diversity, and my dad also spoke Russian, Italian, Spanish and German) than he did with Americans. I don't think it was ever anything conscious on his part, I think it was just habit. (the "Madonna factor"!) Had he only been exposed to Americans, he probably would have lost his accent eventually.
posted by doplgangr at 8:05 AM on November 29, 2006


just wanted to add that watsondog made a good point -- heidi klum is of the age that she probably had english classes throughout school, and kissinger isn't. english seems to be taught as a second language in a lot of countries these days, and i'm sure it was when she was a kid, but most likely not when kissinger was young. i think it makes a big difference if you learn a second language at a young age.
posted by doplgangr at 8:09 AM on November 29, 2006


heidi klum is of the age that she probably had english classes throughout school.

A few years ago, when she was first appearing on US television, she spoke with a heavy German accent. In recent commercials, she speaks with none.
posted by airguitar at 9:22 AM on November 29, 2006


Do any of you remember Heidi's accent years ago? Bad. Worse than bad -- unintelligible. Although I have nothing to support it, I firmly believe that she's undergone an extensive amount of speech classes to work on getting rid of her accent. My (Swiss) wife started learning English when she was 7, she's lived in the States for more than ten years, and her accent is still thick as syrup. The difference between Heidi even five years ago and Heidi now is night and day -- I'm sure that once she knew she'd be on Project Runway, she hired a really great vocal teacher and has been working on making her speech more precise and understandable.
posted by incessant at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2006


I lived in Germany for a year, and when I first got there (after the first few months actually learning the language, anyway) I made a big effort to pronounce things correctly and take on a German accent. By the end of the year, I realized that it was a lot of work and people had already accepted me and respected my ability, so I sort of stopped trying to pronounce things like a German. It wasn't that I couldn't, I just didn't see any particular need to anymore.

Perhaps K-dog is the same.
posted by !Jim at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2006


xetere: I was told by a friend who interviewed Henry Kissinger's older brother for a newspaper article that his older brother has barely an accent and indeed has more of a New York Jewish accent. They both came to this country at the same time, logic would have it that Henry should have less of an accent.

According to NNDB, Henry Kissinger's brother (Walter) is one year younger, not older.

Here's a short article on the correlation between the age at which English is learned and the strength of the accent. "A number of studies have revealed a strong correlation between age of learning and phonetic accuracy. In general, the later a person learns a second language, the stronger his or her accent is likely to be." See the graph in particular. There isn't a sharp cutoff, but it looks like someone who learns English after the age of 15 or so (Kissinger's age when his family fled Nazi Germany) is almost certainly going to have an accent.
posted by russilwvong at 12:28 PM on November 29, 2006


Ergo, Kissinger is normal and Klum is exceptional.
posted by airguitar at 12:47 PM on November 29, 2006


It is so funny that you ask this question. Every time I watch Project Runway, I can't understand why she sounds so much better than the freakin' governor of California!
posted by HotPatatta at 2:54 PM on November 29, 2006


Some people have that kind of ability. I used to work with a guy with an Iranian name. This was in Boston, and he spoke English with a slight Boston accent, so I always assumed he was second generation. Actually, it turned out that he came to the US for college, and had only been here for about 7 years at that point. It's just that in addition to being a fine engineer, he also had an ear for languages.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:36 PM on November 29, 2006


As someone who has watched/studied an inordinate amount of Project Runway as a job requirement (yes, really), I recommend listening closely to Season 1 Heidi vs. Season 2 or 3 Heidi - specifically, the section in Act I where she gives the designers their challenge for the episode. She's much more Teutonic sounding later in the series, which implies to me that she had speech classes before starting season 1, but then lost the precision a little as time went on.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:07 PM on November 29, 2006


« Older Could anybody recommend a nice...   |  Plug external hard drive into ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.