How is my accent?

Jérémy   Tue Jul 17, 2007 5:03 pm GMT
Hi !

I know this type of topic must be boring for you because there are quite a lot of people regularly asking you what you think about their accents. But I really need to improve my own English accent so I would like to ask those of you who are native speakers of English what you objectively think of it.

Here's an mp3:

Thanks a lot indeed to those you will answer!
Guy   Wed Jul 18, 2007 2:28 am GMT
A very clear and good accent.

It certainly has a little bit of French-sounding elements in it... but it's really no big deal.

To me, you sound more British than American or Australian. The word 'better' had a rhotic vowel but it didn't have the flapped 't' either so I guess this particular word didn't sound neither American or British.

Overall it's very good. I wonder how you learned the cadence and intonation so well.
K. T.   Wed Jul 18, 2007 4:24 am GMT
I agree with Guy on almost every point. The only thing that bothered me a bit was the vowel in "stick". That's easy enough to correct. Listen to a pronouncing dictionary on the internet and you will be good to go.
Jérémy   Wed Jul 18, 2007 9:28 am GMT
Thank you guys for your comments !

I knew you'd point out the vowel of "stick" lol. The thing is this type of /i/ does not exist in French. The "i" in "stick" is half way before "ee" in "feel" and "e" in "bed". "i" in French is closer to "ee" in "feel" (though it's shorter). So I always try to do something half way between the two others. But this time I just happened to miss the target lol.

I'm a bit surprised that you find my accent good, though. Even if I was almost sure it was clearly understandable, when I listen to myself speaking I find my accent horribly French, not sounding real English at all.

As I said I am learning British English but it's difficult to pronounce everything in the same accent. American is present everywhere for example (films, etc). So when you learn it's not really "accentproof" lol. And there are some sounds that I find easier to pronounce like in American. I did not utter a flapped "t" in "better" but I could have pronounced it so. And I generally don't pronounce my Rs (like in British English) but I find them hard to skip at the end of some words and in some contexts.

I'm surprised you find my intonation good. I didn't think it was at all. One again, French intonation is very different form the English one, especially in questions.
As far as the cadence is concerned, even if you find it good, I think I should slow down because most of the time I slur my words because I speak too fast. That's the same in French anyway.

If there are particular points you think need improvement, just tell me!
Thanks again!
Jérémy   Wed Jul 18, 2007 9:41 am GMT
"I happened to miss" or "I happened to have missed" ?

I wanted to add that except three separate weeks (which is very short) in London, I've never been to any place where people speak English. I have learnt all my English phonetics in books, at university and with the BBC or films. But I've never got myself immerged into an English-speaking country for the moment. That's why I think I find my accent sounds quite artificial and unnatural.
Jérémy   Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:11 am GMT
The volume is too weak, you can hardly hear me.
I've normalised the volume, here's the mp3:
K. T.   Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:44 pm GMT
K. T. Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:37 pm GMT

Type this address to get to the Merriam Webster site for American English. Type in YOUR word and listen as many times as you need.
K. T. Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:41 pm GMT

Type in the address above for another pronouncing dictionary.

In addition to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this dictionary is available for you to use. Once again, type YOUR word and listen. This may have British sounds.

Two dictionaries for you to try while you are online, J.

BTW, is there anything similar for French?

Okay, I would like to know something about your intonation if it's not too personal. Have you studied another foreign language?
RalphZ   Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:44 am GMT
I think it just fine, I don't know if the second language can be perfect through practice, but I think for almost acquired languages it's not very hard to get 90%, but almost impossible to make it 100%
beneficii   Thu Jul 19, 2007 1:04 am GMT
It sounds fine to me. You can easily pass for a native speaker. Don't be so hard on yourself.
K. T.   Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:12 am GMT
I think he is being a little hard on himself, but I don't know what his goal is. Actors and Spies should have the accent down perfectly (lol)...oh, and professors, and royalty and interpreters and (you get the picture...)

Then there is this: How annoying is it to go into a store and have people ask you, "Where are you from?" or "What kind of accent is that?" It doesn't happen to me very often overseas, but it happens to me in the USA!

Since J's starting language is French I want to say that I appreciate his effort. Some people say that French people expect people to speak French well, so I am pleased that he doesn't apply some high standards to others and not to himself.

To J.

I understand what you mean about intonation and questions. I've noticed this about myself. My accent is good, but I find myself wondering if my intonation sounds native when I listen to native speakers.
beneficii   Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:41 am GMT

Japanese is your native language, right? If so, let me hear a recording of you.

Also, tell me when you started to learn English.
Brit-Girl   Thu Jul 19, 2007 10:33 am GMT
Well, in my opinion, your accent is really good! French speaking people have problems in pronouncing other languages, especially non-Romance ones!
I totally agree with the others, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself! Apart from that, unless you have a terrible pronounciation - which is not the case - grammar and vocabulary is more important to people in GB! Of course, it is hard to achieve a special accent, but many Britons like English with a German accent and have no difficulties in understanding it, I don't know why! So just speak English with thinking about intonation etc. all the time, because fluency is more important than speaking native-like!
Greets to France!!! A bientôt! ;)
Brit-Girl   Thu Jul 19, 2007 10:42 am GMT
I am sorry for having typed << more important...>>. Actually, it should be ...are more important..! Typing isn't one of my favourite activities - as you can see... (LOL)
Jérémy   Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:22 pm GMT
Thank you K.T. for your links but I already have the Oxford English Dictionary and its shorter version ON CD-ROM, with which I can hear the words. Anyway, knowing how words are pronounced is not a problem for me because I know phonetics (I'm a student of English so I often use it), so I have no problem reading it in dictionaries and pronouncing it.
In fact it is not really a matter of pronouncing words correctly, it is a matter of pronouncing whole sentences because it's not easy for me to speak fast (well, fast for me, but at a normal speed for you) correctly because the sounds tend to mix up in my mouth.

I don't know any dictionary of the kind that enables to hear French words.
But don't hesitate to ask for the pronounciation, I can record myself if that can help you :-O

The other foreign language I studied is German. But I didn't like (sorry you German people!) it so I'm no longer learning it. But I think German pronounciation is much easier.

Even is my accent is not bad, at least for the moment I wish I were not identified as a French speaker of English. I know that may be a bit silly but if I were asked at least "Are you German" I'd be real pleased, because German people often have a very good level at English.

You're completely right saying "I think he is being a little hard on himself, but I don't know what his goal is."
I an a student of English, I love the language. I plan to become a linguistics professor at university, which recquires a perfect level. Moreover, I more or less need to pass the "agrégation", which is a competitive exam to become a teacher (there are two competitive exams to become a teacher, the "agrégation" is the hardest - only 145 seats currently in France each year, but I have to pass this one). The agrégation is a difficult exam and a big lot of attention is paid to the accent. The jury are real tough. In a word, a student who does not have a perfect accent cannot pass it. That's why I cannot be content with only a accent that enables me to be easily understood, but I've got to sound like a native speaker of English.

Anyway apart from the recquirements to achive my goal, I'D really like to be able to speak like a native speaker. I think language learning is a real treasure and also that the best way to be able to integrate a culture and a way of speaking is to manage to sound like the people there. I don't like it to be able to speak just a correct English. I also think that working hard to try to have the most native accent as possible is somehow a question of respect to the native speakers, because somehow I feel that it's showing them that their language is not just a technical tool but it is also and above all part of an identity.

I am currently working in a service station for the summer. Hundreds and hundreds of cars go by each day (I live by the sea, South-West of France) and I get to come across quite a lot of English, German and Hollandish people. I really appreciate it when they try to speak a few words of French, at least to say hello, thank you, bye and their pump number. On the other hand, foreigners coming to France not even knowing how to say the numbers or hello is really annoying. It's as if they were kind of invading the country without caring about those who inhabits it. They talk to me directly in English (they're lucky I speak English, but my two colleagues don't) as if they were in England (or whatever their countries, but it's almost exclusively English people that make no effort). I think this is not respectful. I really appreciate those trying to speak French.
It's the same kind of respect I want to show when I speak English if I go to England. I want to show I try to integrate. Once again, I think language is not a tool but a human treasure.

Despite your comments I still have difficulty believing my accent is that good LOL. When I listen to myself I really find it French and somehow sort of stupid. Dunno why. But it really does not resemble native speakers speaking English. But I guess it's still too early and anyway I haven't spent a long time in England yet (I say England because I went to London several times and really liked it so I guess that's where I'll go again, though I'll also discover other places). As I say, my accent is quite artificial because I got it almost without any contacts with life there. Sheer work in "bookish" phonetics is efficient but can't do everything.

Greets to England too!, Brit-Girl, and thanks to all of you for your messages!

Jérémy   Thu Jul 19, 2007 2:42 pm GMT
Additionaly, though I can express myself rather well, I have a lot of difficulty understanding "natural" (everyday life) spoken English if it's too fast or coloquial. The whole speech turns into an undisconnected mumbling in which I can't separate the words. That's annoying.
The way I can write an to a certain extent speak does not match the way I can understand. That's odd because it seems to me that non-native speakers can often understand better than they can talk. Am I wrong?