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What does English sound like to foreign ears?

We’ve all heard examples of fake Chinese or German from speakers who lack familiarity with either language. While typically cringe-worthy, these examples do raise interesting questions regarding our own language. What does English sound like to non-English speakers? After more than 40 years, Adriano Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol” remains one of the most illuminating examples. 

The entire song is nonsense verse, neither English nor Italian, but the sounds are meant to resemble English. Linguist Mark Liberman wrote an interesting post about this sort of thing over at Language Log discussing yaourter, the French word for an attempt to speak or sing in a foreign language that one doesn’t know all that well. This often involves trying to sing a foreign song with nonsense or random words filling in the blanks. Liberman shares this wonderful quote from a random Internet user:

Just for the story, in France, when we don’t speak English and we want to imitate the sound, we call it “yaourter”(to yoghourt), the imitation sounds like a very nasal language, kind of like a baby crying. It mostly imitates the “cowboy” accent.

jesus christ this is actually reALLY FRUSTRATING IT SOUNDS LIKE ENGLISH BUT IT DOESNT MAKE WORDS

I discovered this video some years ago and it remains one of my favorite things on the Internet.

Most people find it frustrating because of the whole “it sounds like English but there are none WORDS” deal.  I do find that frustrating, but mostly I find it frustrating because I keep waiting for THAT DAMN CHORD TO RESOLVE.

YEEEEES

COME ON AUTHENTIC CADENCE LET’S HAVE ONE PLEASE

  1. wordcubed reblogged this from shrrrr1mp
  2. nullifiedknight reblogged this from sokorra
  3. datablossom reblogged this from nullifiedknight and added:
    To be completely honest, this is what I hear half the time too, and I’m an English speaking American.
  4. okay282828 reblogged this from boyswanna-be-her
  5. pizza-day reblogged this from bandpants
  6. bandpants reblogged this from pizza-day
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  13. passavantsridge reblogged this from boyswanna-be-her and added:
    I am obsessed with this video for always.
  14. instytut-poznania-dobra-i-zla reblogged this from shrrrr1mp
  15. isolatedhonesty reblogged this from unknowntrombone and added:
    Its like if an american made an entire song imitating the swedish chef.
  16. chewbaccagaijin reblogged this from fallen-scientist
  17. faeddel-bird reblogged this from munnarita and added:
    Tbh when my language processing is being rubbish this is what English sounds like to me.
  18. fallen-scientist reblogged this from livelongandsass
  19. kaitkillscuriosity reblogged this from boyswanna-be-her
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  24. awez-im-gohst reblogged this from boyswanna-be-her and added:
    I heard this song on the radio when I first moved to LA I’m so glad to have found it again