“Hello, my name is Ivan, I’m from Russia!” How come this greeting sounds funny to native English speakers, regular to users of Russian language, and unintelligible to automatic voice recognition software? Check out these 3 worth reading facts you most probably haven’t realized about language accents.
#1 Everyone has an accent. Not everyone knows it.
What is an accent? Well, Google says, it is “a distinctive way of pronouncing a language, especially one associated with a particular country, area, or social class”. In other words – this is the way you sound to others when you speak.
We can distinguish 2 types of accents. One is a ‘foreign’ accent; this occurs when a person speaks one language using some of the rules or sounds of another one. It sounds wrong or ‘foreign’ to native speakers of the language.
The other kind of accent is simply the way a group of people speak their native language. How can Americans be convinced a guy is from Idaho and another one is from Texas? These two just sound different!
We can’t know what our accent is like without others. There must be somebody to listen to us speaking and detect it. Accents ‘exist’ only because somebody distinguishes them. This is why technically we all speak with accents – at least in someone else’s opinion.
#2 Russian accent does not sound funny to Russians (neither Indian does to Indians, Arabic to Arabs, etc.)
Ivan from Siberia uploaded his video to YouTube and plainly became a star. Thousands of English speakers asked him to teach them that thick and broad Russian pronunciation. But do you believe this video in any way whimsical to Russians? Definitely not – because many Russian people speak English just like him, and nothing is far-out about the way you usually speak! Furthermore, this video didn’t really amuse many speakers of Slavic languages.
The clue is hidden here, in this beautifully drawn linguistic family tree: http://mentalfloss.com/article/59665/feast-your-eyes-beautiful-linguistic-family-tree. Easy to note, learning to speak a language that is closely related to your ‘branch’ would be easier than speaking one that is on the opposite side of the tree.
Particularly, Russian accent sounds ordinary to Polish, Slovak, Czech, Ukrainian, Belarussian people since they’ve all got Slavic roots, while it is too thick to native English speakers and not understood by the Romance branch – Spanish, Italian, Portugese and French speakers.
#3 Accents are an onerous obstacle for automatic voice recognition.
You don’t trust us? Go and see Ivan’s video one more time with automatic subtitles!
“Hello from Russia...” – “Who look from Russia”
“My name is Ivan” – “My name is a run”
“I am from Siberia” – “And from seeded”