Accent samples - Michal

Tom   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 15:47 GMT
Here's Michal Ryszard Wojcik's speech sample:
Ryan   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 17:06 GMT
The pronunciation is excellent and he is very understandable. He has a Polish rhythm to his sentences when he talks, though, especially the way the sentences end. It's nothing anyone would ever criticize but it certainly marks his country of origin, just as my American accent sticks out to a British or Australian person.

Richard Li   Thursday, August 14, 2003, 22:02 GMT
I think Tom and Guofei speak English more like natives than Michal. Michal's Polish influence is more audible than Tom's Polish influence or Guofei's Chinese influence.
Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Friday, August 15, 2003, 11:03 GMT
Ryan, can you be specific about the way my sentences end?
Can you offer a technical remark?
Ryan   Friday, August 15, 2003, 13:21 GMT
It's difficult to describe sentence rhythms. Your intonation tends to go downwards at the end of sentences and at the end of words three syllables or longer, such as "Norwegian." There's also a tendency to shorten the last syllables of sentences and longer words. I'm surprised Tom hasn't been able to describe it to you as he seems to have American sentence rhythm down pretty well. American is very flat, robotic speech compared to the way that most Europeans speak.

Like I said, your pronunciation is great. The only reason you'd want to change your speech anymore is if you are purposely trying to imitate an American, as your words are perfectly understandable to any American.

wingyellow   Friday, August 15, 2003, 14:34 GMT
I don't know if it has anything to do with our mother tongues, but I think Michal speaks more like a native speaker than the best speaker I can see in Hong Kong.
Antonio   Friday, August 15, 2003, 18:43 GMT
To Ryan:

How can you tell his is Polish by the accent?? Ok... I confess I have never talked to a polish, so I haven´t the faintest idea of how you could tell that. Rythm??
Ryan   Friday, August 15, 2003, 19:20 GMT
It sounds central European. I can't tell it's Polish specificially, but I'm guessing it is by the nationality of his name. It might be Czech. I've never been to that part of the world so I can't distinguish the accents.

Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 20:13 GMT
Here is a two-minute long recording of my voice reading from a book:

A question to Ryan:
now that there is more stuff to listen to, can you please once again pay attention to the rhythm of my sentences and the way they end.

I suspect that you may have formed your impression just on the basis of the one word "Norwegian". In this recording there are many more sentences and thus many occasions to test your original impression.
mjd   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 21:42 GMT
I can tell Michal has a Slavic accent by his speech, but if I didn't know his story I'd say he moved to the US at a young age. I wouldn't be able to say "that's definitely a Polish accent," but you can tell it's Slavic just by the sound of some words. I wouldn't describe Michal's accent as being heavy and his pronunciation is very good.
wingyellow   Monday, August 18, 2003, 15:01 GMT
I think Michal was under a lot of pressure reading this article. He spoke like a robot without any emotion. He should not compare too often with his friend Tom.
Tom   Monday, August 18, 2003, 16:22 GMT

Could you please list some of the words that sounded "Slavic" to you in Michal's recording? It's very important to me, because personally, I can't hear any traces of Polish in the recording. Thanks in advance.
Antonio   Monday, August 18, 2003, 20:31 GMT
I could find no trace of ´slavic´ accent.
mjd   Monday, August 18, 2003, 21:05 GMT
I agree with Ryan on the "Norwegian" issue. I'd also say the word "textbook" also gives away Michal's Polish roots. His "k" at the end can almost sound like a "g."

Anyway, I feel a little bad writing about people's accents sometimes. I know it's very important to many people learning English, but I don't really have a problem with those who have accents. My dad speaks with an accent (he's Portuguese) and I'd never nitpick because of someone's accent. Michal speaks English very well and I hope no one is taking offense to any of this.
Ryan   Tuesday, August 19, 2003, 03:21 GMT
This is a much better accent...

The word "earth" has a funny sound to it. The first time you say it, it's hard to tell you are putting the "th" sound at the end of it. The second time, you do put the "th" sound at the end, but the "ir" sound in "earth" has kind of a Slavic ring to it. I notice also later in the reading that sometimes you forget to enunciate the final "th" sound in words like "with" fully.

When you say "deal with" at the end of the first sentence, it has much more of a downward intonation than Americans would put at the end of the sentence. Good pronunciation of the final "th" sound, though.

The word "pleasure" has a strange intonation to it that sounds Slavic. Americans would say the word much more flatly.

The word "important" has a very slight Slavic intonation to it. Once again, Americans say this much more flatly. It seems like it is difficult to keep too much intonation out of words that are three syllables or more.

The "r" sound in "their" does not sound like the American "R" at all. It sounds much more swallowed than we do it. I detected this in the word "person" as well.

The first time when you say "nose in the air," "the" sounds more like "de." Most of the time you are good at using the right sound, but I noticed this particular time, perhaps because it was in the middle of a phrase. When you say it later, the "th" sound is more accurate.

"Similar" has too much intonation as well. Any word that is three syllables or longer needs to be said flatter.

When you say "called," it sounds more like "cold." It's said the way the British say it.

The main problem is with the "r" sound. It sounds very Slavic. If you practice the American "r" more, you will sound ten times more American. Of course, you were perfectly understandable and the only reason you should change your accent is if you are trying to imitate an American.