We would like to introduce our guest blogger, Bret Calvert. Bret works as a television comedy writer in Los Angeles, California. He has become a big Mango fan over the year. Originally from Texas, he has lived all over the US and has seen the way different cultures have contributed to his home country. Let’s see what he has to say…
I’ve been spending the holidays with my best friend and her family, who are Russian. She (my friend) moved to the U.S. when she was 8 and has pretty much mastered the English language. She has the slightest hint of an accent on a few select words, but for the most part could easily pass as an American. Her, family, however, is much closer to the roots of their language and communicate with my friend primarily in Russian. I’d say about 75% of the conversations in the household take place in their mother language and I find myself not understanding most of what is said around me.
However, I’m still able to follow most of the back and forth. The rhythms and cadences of Russian are much different than English, yet it still has it’s own specific sound and variance which make the basic premise of the conversations decipherable, even though I don’t speak the language. I can tell when someone is frustrated, loving, concerned or curious. I can pick-up on interest levels and dynamics. I may not understand the exact specifics of the exchange, but I can absorb the overall feeling.
At first, to be honest, I thought most of the conversations sounded angry. Russian is a fairly abrupt language, full of hard consonants. Add to that the brusque nature of it’s delivery and it’s not hard to see why it took me off guard. It took a few days to settle into the specific sound of the way they talk in their native tongue. But once I did, I found that not only was I mistaken about the anger level, but that there was a unique arc to the spoken words that gave clues to their meaning.
I have found the same to be true of most languages. The have their own unique sound, that fluctuates with the feeling behind the words. I think observing and becoming familiar with these patterns is an important step in the learning of a language. Along with the definitions and assembly of sentences of a language, it’s important to learn the flow. The intent of the words comes through the pattern in which they are presented as much as it comes through the selection of the actual words.
I am new to trying to learn a second language and, admittedly, have no basis for this other than my own observation, but it’s definitely helping me on my way to comprehension and the ability to express myself in a new way. Even though I am pretty sure I can sense the feeling of what’s being spoken, I’m looking forward to learning the vocabulary to go along with rhythm, so I can finally understand what the heck these people are actually saying!
Good Morning Mango Fans!
Last night, I was motivated to improve the little bit of French that I know, and decided to drive in the world of Mango, in French. I was interested in learning about the etiquette, culture, and vocab when it comes to restaurant outings. I got to chapter six, lesson 41, slide 7, which was about un plat principal, the main course. I read the phrase a few times, heard the narrator say it, and memorized it. Each time I said the phrase to myself, I pronounced the phrase louder and louder, feeling confident with my French accent. I was ready to test my pronunciation skills with narrator using the “voice compare” feature. As I recorded myself saying “un plat principal” as clearly as I could and played it back along with the native speaker for the 4th time, I realized what I was trying to do. Why did I want to record and play my pronunciation back over and over again? I was trying to perfect my French accent. I then started to ponder, about accents, specifically English accents…
There are many countries in which English is the native language, yet in all of these countries English sounds very different because of the accent. In linguistics, an accent is a manner of pronunciation of a language. Accents are not only phonetics, but they are an identity. There are two types of English accents widely spoken in the world today; they are the General American English and the Received Pronunciation (RP), also known as the Queen’s English. In North America, the interaction of people from many ethnic backgrounds contributed to the formation of the different varieties of North American accents (making up a Boston specific accent and one that is specific to Texans).
Looking back at history, it is difficult to measure or predict how long it takes an accent to formulate. Accents in the USA, Canada, and Australia, for example, developed from the combination of different accents and languages in various societies, and this had effects on various pronunciations of the British settlers. Yet North American accents remain more distant, either as a result of time or of external or “foreign” linguistic interaction, such as the Italian accent.
The accent does indeed provide the identity of the country to its native language. When we hear American being spoken, we associate it with the United States and when we hear someone speak with a British accent with think of England. Learning the vocabulary, grammar, and use of a language is very important; however practicing the correct accent allows you to indulge in the identity and history of the language and its native country.
Realizing this, I kept practicing, putting the “voice compare” feature to full use. Un plat principal … u(n) pla pri(n)seepal.
The more I practiced my French accent the more connected I seemed to feel to the French culture.
Next phrase: Comme plat principal, je voudrais le plat du jour (As a main course, I’d like the plat du jour).
They say practice makes perfect… or so I hope.