What does English sound like?

Candy   Wed Sep 21, 2005 8:53 am GMT
<<I'm continually amazed by the British-made English courses that place a huge emphasis on British-style intonation, apparently oblivious to its total irrelevance for anyone living outside the isles (or even outside the area around London). >>

I'm afraid I don't see why it's a 'total irrelevance'. People have to learn some kind of English, so why not British-style intonation? What would you prefer that they learn?
Kirk   Wed Sep 21, 2005 9:04 am GMT
<<I'm afraid I don't see why it's a 'total irrelevance'. People have to learn some kind of English, so why not British-style intonation? What would you prefer that they learn?>>

Mxsmanic would prefer everyone take only his ESL classes, as his way is clearly the best way to teach English.
Uriel   Wed Sep 21, 2005 2:23 pm GMT
I kinda like dirty Spanish, Kirk! ;)
Mxsmanic   Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:30 pm GMT
There isn't any need to learn intonation at all, because it varies so much from one pronunciation to another, and because it has no effect on comprehension. Teaching a specific variety of British intonation is like teaching the British legal system; both are irrelevant to learning English.
Uriel   Wed Sep 21, 2005 5:44 pm GMT
I would think that it would be difficult for an English-language instructor to NOT impart his or her accent to the class. And there's no way you can keep all regional "intonation" out of your voice! -- there's no such thing as a neutral accent. And there's no way students would not pick up on their teacher's pronunciation style.
Easterner   Thu Sep 22, 2005 3:40 pm GMT
Concerning intonation, I am of the opinion that even if it may not be the most important part of language production, it should be drawn attention to at language classes, at least the features that distinguish a statement from a question. Of course, learners can pick them up from listening to spoken English, but still, wrong intonation patterns can easily become fixed, especially if the patterns of the speaker's own language differ markedly from those of English. For example, the intonation of the question "Oh, really?" is just the opposite in English (rising-falling, then again just slightly rising at the end) and in Hungarian (falling-rising). If somebody asks this question with the Hungarian intonation in English, they may end up sounding strange and unnatural. I think this applies to both major variants of English, even if British English has more of a sing-song intonation than does American English.
Kristy in America   Sun Jun 04, 2006 6:03 am GMT
My understanding is that English is a modern, practical language. I'm not sure if its considered 'beautiful' or 'flowing', but I know it's not as harsh as German (which I'm in my second yr. of learning). English changes its pronunciation of certain letters/letter combinations, but the German 'ch' [for example] is said like a 'kh' most of the time. English is also really irregular and it might be harder for non-natives to learn....
but thats all I know :)
A6044NI   Sun Jun 04, 2006 12:52 pm GMT
"English changes its pronunciation of certain letters/letter combinations"

Er, no it doesn't.

Letters and letter combinations have no sound; they're merely a written representation of the spoken language.

What I think you meant was that English spelling doesn't do a very consistent job of representing the sounds in the language whereas German spelling does.

"English is also really irregular"

English is no more "irregular" than German or any other language.
greg   Sun Jun 04, 2006 5:11 pm GMT
Mxsmanic : « It's hard to imagine English sounding like singing to anyone, but as I've said, I can't tell. Perhaps this would apply more to British pronunciations of English, which have much more of a roller-coaster intonation (...) »

Dans mon cas perso, je préfère l'intonation de l'anglais classique (RP) à celle des autres variantes européennes ou nord-américaines. C'est une question de goût perso. Je trouve l'anglais classique sifflant, syncopé, hâché et sinueux, mais pas chantant.
Travis   Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:49 pm GMT
greg, könntest du das auf Deutsch bitte neu sagen?
Chris   Sun Jun 04, 2006 9:23 pm GMT
In my case, personally, I prefer the intonation of RP to that of Europeans or North Americans. This is a question of taste. I find RP to be whistling, syncopated, hâché? and sinueux?, but not singing. (greg) <<

What do hâché and sinueux mean?
greg   Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:18 pm GMT
Fr <hâché> [aSe] ~ Al <haschiert> <zerhackt>

Fr <sinueux> [sinu2] ~ Al <gewunden> <mäandrisch>

Fr <sifflant> [siflÃ] ~ Al <zischend> <pfeifend> <zwitschernd>

Fr <syncopé> [sE~kope] ~ Al <synkopiert>
greg   Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:20 pm GMT
ERRATUM : [siny2], nicht *[sin*u2].
Ed   Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:51 am GMT
I asked a native Afrikaans speaker what she thought English sounded like. She said it is difficult to say, since English is so familiar in South Africa, but that if she had to say she'd say English has a greater variety of consonants but fewer vowels and diphthongs. In Afrikaans the there is only one consonant sound that is lacking in standard English: G pronounced like the ch in Scottish "loch". But in Afrikaans words the CH in "cheese", J in "jam", S in "measure", Z in "zoo", SH in "ship", TH in "the" and TH in "thin" are either rare or absent.

She said English can sound slightly awkward because of the greater variety of consonants and more frequent consonant clusters and that English seems to be lacking in vowels. There are a few more S's in English because most English plurals end with an S whereas the most common way to form a plural in Afrikaans is by adding an E to the end of the word, though Afrikaans plurals can often be formed using an S just like in English. Lastly she said English can sound rather feminine.
Adam   Tue Jun 06, 2006 6:26 pm GMT
"English is no more "irregular" than German or any other language"

The spelling system is.