Imitation English
December 15, 2003 2:46 PM   Subscribe

We're familiar with imitation German, imitation Swedish and imitation Chinese. What's it sound like in non-English countries when people mock English?
posted by inksyndicate to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I once asked a German woman this, and she said that Americans sound like this: "bluh bluh fluh bluh muh." I didn't dare ask her about the British.
posted by vraxoin at 2:49 PM on December 15, 2003

If they're imitating Canadian, they just ramble really, really, really fast, so much so that you can't understand a word they say.

We talk fast because we're trying to get back inside, where it's nice and warm and dry.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:54 PM on December 15, 2003

My only-spanish-speaking grandmother used to babble in pseudo-english to make us laugh. For a Romance language speaker, English words end too abruptly and have a staccato sound. She might have babbled:

eye-kana go too michun mees-tur jahn-sahn

which might translate if you tried to make sense of it as "I cannot go to mission mr. johnson" A cousin of mine loved to repeat neex-sun "Nixon" because he thought it sounded funny.

I also just asked a german friend of mine (he is in germany right now) and he said "well, they say you got to put a potatoe in your mouth, then try to speak and you sound like an american "
posted by vacapinta at 3:14 PM on December 15, 2003

For speakers of Romance languages, two defining sounds from Britishers are wet consonants and superfluous diphthongs. The bizarre thing for me as a Brit is that some people from these and other countries can't distinguish between the accents of an American, Australian or English person speaking their language, and yet I can hear the difference clearly.
posted by suleikacasilda at 4:06 PM on December 15, 2003

My French friends say that it's the flat American "a" (as in apple, plan, baffle, etc) that makes us identifiable. Their faux American English is usually "Bla-bla-bla," with flat a sounds (ie, not "blah," but "blaaaa").
posted by arielmeadow at 4:41 PM on December 15, 2003

Google search for "wet consonants." What's up with that?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:50 PM on December 15, 2003

Americans caricature -- think about a southerner's accent caricature

Brits caricature -- clipped. snooty.
posted by matteo at 4:54 PM on December 15, 2003

Most Europeans that I asked about it tended to think of Texan as being the quintessential American English. They also seemed to emphasize our schwa sounds and the 'a' in 'cat' as being the dominant sounds to them.
posted by oissubke at 5:23 PM on December 15, 2003

I've often thought about this question, too. I think the best responses here, though, are the ones that try to give an idea about how non-English speakers try to imitate English speakers. Most western European languages are too close to English -- I'd really love to hear how Asians or Africans who don't speak any English mimic it.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 6:41 PM on December 15, 2003

Romanian "phonetic transcription" of the post:

We're familiar with imitation German, imitation Swedish and imitation Chinese. What's it sound like in non-English countries when people mock English?

"Uir familiar uis imiteishan German, imiteishan Suidish and imiteishan Ceainiiz. Uatz it saund laic in non-Inglish cantris uen piple moc Inglish?" [some diacritics are missing]

If you read it in Romanian (phonetic language) it sounds pretty close to the original.
posted by MzB at 9:10 PM on December 15, 2003

This sounds like a web site in need of creation. seems available. A library of people giving their rendition of non-native languages. Hilarity ensues.
posted by cairnish at 8:55 AM on December 16, 2003

To better understand MzB's post you should hear the Romanian President (Ion Iliescu) speaking in English. Given that he studied in Moscow and only learned English at a late age, he really speaks English as a Romanian would mock-speak it, with a powerful accent.

Unfortunately, I am unable to find any audio versions of his English speeches.
posted by Masi at 7:15 AM on December 27, 2003

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