Accent samples - Michal

Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 06:52 GMT
To Ryan:

I wonder why you did not point out that my [o] vowel in the words 'honest', 'solid', 'strong' is not like Americans say it.

My r's are purposefully swallowed so that they are only half there. I used to enunciate my r's very clearly many years ago when I focused on American pronunciation. Over the years I developed in the direction of less strain on my vocal apparatus and more casual and relaxed speech. I found that I had to give up on some of the American-like tricks that I had previously picked up.

As for the r's being Slavic, it is a very big misunderstanding. The Polish 'r' is a hard trilling sound and my swallowed English 'r' is very far from it. First of all it is close to not being there at all and secondly it can be prolonged in time without changing, whereas the Polish 'r' is very conspicuous, definitely there, and it is vibrating - changes with time.

I doubt that my 'called' in the recording sounds like the British would say 'cold'. Any British people to join in and comment on that?

I listened to my "nose in the air" and I definitely heard the 'th' sound. But I am not surprised that you have come up with such a comment. I myself sometimes have the impression that a 'd' is used instead of a 'th' in native speech.

And moreover, me and Tom once made an experiment in which I read from a book in Polish and Tom was intently listening and coming up with instances of imperfect enunciation. It turned out that I could not speak clearly enunciated Polish.

Ryan, I thank you for your time and attention. Please everybody be certain that I have nothing against dissecting my accent on the forum. It is there for anybody to discuss and share their impressions.
language police   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 07:41 GMT
I think you should not go defensive when someone says your pronunciation and accent is not perfect. It is not perfectly native. That is the truth. Sometimes you should cut yourself some slack and stop dwelling on this perfect accent thing.
Tom   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 09:54 GMT
I think Ryan meant the way Americans pronounce "cold". The [Ou] sounds a lot like the British [o:].
Ryan   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 16:52 GMT
Michal, you do show yourself very capable of pronouncing the "th" sound, both the voiced sound in "the" and the unvoiced sound in "with." It's just that sometimes I heard it more than other times. Every time you said a word with this sound in it, you said it enough that you were perfectly understandable to an American, but sometimes you underenunciated the sound in a way that betrayed your origins as a Central European.

You have a 10 rating in understandability already. The point is now how much like a native you want to sound. Like I said, I think the "r" definitely needs to be practiced if you want to sound more native. It sounds almost like you try and put your tongue too far back in your mouth when you say our "r" sound (I was trying to imitate your accent last night so I could get an impression of what kind of mechanics you use to speak it).

Learning to use the right rhythm for an accent is the most difficult part of learning an accent. Even professional actors screw this one up. I think in your second reading your sentences had a much more American rhythm than in the first reading, but that some of the words that were three syllables or longer still sounded Slavic when you were saying them. We Americans use "stress" when we say our words, but it is important not to overdo the stress on the syllables. I think this is the main issue here.

I don't know how Tom cannot detect that you have a slight Slavic accent still when his own accent seems much closer to a true American accent to me. Do you use all the same techniques that he does? Maybe he just has more of a gift when it comes to learning accents, although you said yourself you are pretty good when it comes to learning the language itself. I would just keep practicing because, although it is extremely difficult to learn to speak with a perfect accent, it probably is possible with a lot of hard work, if you really feel the need to put that much work into it. I know that I certainly wouldn't.

Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 19:43 GMT
I am grateful to you for the attention that you have given to my recording. I appreciate your willingness to give detailed answers to my questions.

It is not my goal to sound like a native speaker. I want my pronunciation to have only two properties:
(1) I am understood by all English speakers who understand BBC World and CNN International.
(2) I am comfortable while speaking English - the physical effort of producing English sounds is comparable to the effort of speaking my native language.

In the first six months of learning English pronunciation consciously I went for British. Then I switched to American and kept it up for some years. In the course of time I crystallized my goal as stated above and realized that I did not need to care about sounding like a native speaker of American English. I found that a mixture of American and British (and possibly a trace of my native language) can serve my purpose better.

In any case, I am still anxious to know how you would react to the claim that I am a native speaker of English but of a dialect that you have never heard before?
Ryan   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 21:09 GMT
Well, that's always a possibility, but most Americans are somewhat familiar with the way that native English speakers speak. We are familiar with Canadian, the UK, Ireland and Australia/New Zealand. We are not as familiar with South Africa, but most Americans would just confuse native English speakers in South Africa with Brits.

I have read before that the main difference between English-speakers' dialects is the way they pronounce vowels. The main difference between foreign speakers' dialects is the consonants. The main exception is the Scots and Gaelic originated "R's" which most Americans are familiar with from movies. Since your "R" is not a Scots or Gaelic-based one, it is easily identified as foreign.