Standard spelling and accent

I have two questions.

  1. Are the spellings given here standardized?
  2. Something I have always been curious about. It seems, and maybe Im wrong, that when English speakers try to learn other languages they also try to duplicate the accent. But when other language speakers learn english they donot try to duplicate the accent. It is easy to know a person whose first language is spanish, french, german, japanese, vietnamese, etc, by the spanish, french, etc accent on the english. I have to wonder if the accent is not as important in english as it is in some other languages. My son in law is Russian and there is no doubt by his english that Russian is his first language by his accent yet he speaks english very well. Or am I wrong? Do Spanish, French, etc, know a native english speaker by their accent even when they are fluent in the language? And finally, how important is it to try to get a welsh accent?
    Thanks. George

In my experience, that is usually the case. Accents are primarily ‘caused’ by speech musculature developed in early childhood from imitating parents, and are difficult to eliminate altogether.

Only as important as it is to be understood, I would say. Cf. your son-in-law’s example

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um - yes and no. Most of them are standardized, yes, because Welsh is very phonetic, but SSiW also teaches colloquial/spoken forms which don’t necessarily have the spellings you would find in most dictionaries.

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As a teacher of English as a second language for the last 13 years, I can tell you for certain that many, many English learners try very hard to learn the accent. I have had students work with me for a year on nothing else. That said, it is very hard to achieve.

I agree that this plays a huge part, and it seems to start even sooner.

I found this research years ago that reports that accents are formed in the womb from what babies can hear their mothers saying before they are even born - and scientists have been able to identify accents in the melodies babies make when they cry. The NPR report discussing the Current Biology paper I have linked below has audio with examples as well as interviews with researchers.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120131516

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In my experience, it’s extremely rare to meet people who do not have even a bit of their native language accent when they speak Italian (or any other second or third language) - just like it’s extremely rare to meet Italians who do not speak other languages with at least a bit of Italian accent, I’m sure!

When English-natives try to imitate or mock Italians speaking English, they usually:

  • speak louder
  • gesticulate wildly
  • pronounce each syllable in a stronger way
  • over-emphasize the second to last syllable in every single word

Isn’t this more or less how we usually sound to you? :wink:

I hope not to offend anybody describing how we tend to imitate or mock English natives speaking Italian, that would be:

  • pronouncing “e” at the end of each word (like mangiare) as in bee
  • pronouncing “r” like a dog growl (mild for British, strong for American)
  • keeping the mouth tightly shaped as for pronouncing “o” when pronouncing any vowels for British, and like a very open “a” for American.
  • pronouncing “gn”, “gl” and double consonants wrong
    :grimacing: Sorry, sorry but that’s a bit how many native English speakers sound to us!

As for Welsh language, one quite curious thing I discovered is that vowels and r, especially in Southern accent, are very similar to Italian.
In fact Welsh natives I heard speaking even very basic Italian have an amazingly good accent!

I also had the impression that quite a few English natives seem to “bend” sounds of Welsh a bit towards English-language sounds.
During my short trip in Wales I noticed that this is quite a bit more complicated for me to understand, even when they speak much slower than Welsh natives! :open_mouth:
(I guess for the same reason why the easiest English for me to understand is…English spoken with Italian accent!)

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# Throw their hat on the ground :wink:
Well, that’s what Angelo, our famous scooter dealer used to do.

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I wanted to follow up because I have had this in mind but hadn’t found a good article about it yet. Our ears are trained to hear the sounds of our native language so strongly that we actually may not be able to even hear the new sound properly at first, which is one reason why learning to pronounce words in a new language can be so difficult - new languages often come with new phonemes, sounds that don’t exist in our L1. This can lead to many challenges. I will post a link to another article below.

“What is paradoxical about this is that someone may have no difficulty recognizing an error in someone else’s pronunciation, while remaining unable to correct that same mistake in his own speech.”

“The unaccustomed sounds that occur in the foreign language are initially assimilated to the familiar sounds of one’s first language. In other words, the phonetic analysis is short-circuited, and we do not really hear the properties that differentiate the foreign-language sounds from those of our native tongue,”

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