For the adult learner, foreign languages aren’t exactly easy to get one’s tongue around. They have sounds that just don’t exist in their native language. I, for one, will forever struggle to produce the trilled Spanish “rr”. I can just about fake a single “r”, but the double one, forget it. Although, some kind Spaniards once complemented me on my “r”s. But they might have said “arse”, I can’t be sure.
Anyway, I have every sympathy for Spanish speakers who cannot produce a German “ü” or “ö”, never mind the many diphthongs that litter the English language, or Brits who can’t quite muster the phlegm-hacking Spanish “j”.
What constantly puzzles me, though, is people’s apparent inability to reproduce the same sounds in a foreign language, which readily exist in their native tongue.
Last week, there was an amusing little discussion happening on Bev’s blog (see this post & comments), about why Germans insist on pronouncing “cat” and “hat” as “cet” and “het”, respectively. There’s also no audible difference when most of them they say “man” vs. “men”. Although it was a long time ago, I do vaguely recall that my (German) English teachers spoke like that. Why on earth, why?!? It’s totally baffling.
English speakers (probably as an act of revenge) will keep pronouncing the German “z” like an English “z”, staring off words like Zeitgeist with a long soft ssss sound, which is equally annoying. English is replete with German “z” sounds (sounds just like the “t’s” in what’s and that’s), so this problem should not arise in the first place.
OK, let’s pick on Spanish speakers for a bit 😉
I understand why it is difficult for them to produce complex vowel sounds, but it seems that, for no other reason than sheer laziness, they just lop final consonants off English (and also German) words, or take perverse pleasure in maiming them in some other way. So, “thing” atrophies into “thin”, even though they can pronounce the syllable “-ing” just fine, e.g. as in the Spanish slang word “minga”, which means “dick”. “New York” becomes “New Yor”, “Hong Kong” becomes “Honkon”, “bank” becomes “ban”, etc, and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Whenever the (German central bank) “Bundesbank” is mentioned on the news (i.e. every day sixty times), for instance, giving the final “k” the chop effectively turns it into the “Bundesbahn”, which is Germany’s National Rail company. Also a big institution, granted, but this is where the similarity ends.
Now, the Spanish word for bank is “banco”, which is virtually identical to the English and German equivalent, save for the vowel at the end, but why the “k” has to die together with the “o” is beyond my comprehension. Surely, if you can say “banco”, you can say “bank”????
Another thing that really grates on me is when words terminating in “m”, are suddenly pronounced as if they ended with an “n”.
OK, to be fair, not every Spanish speaker does this, there’s about a 50/50 split. Up for this type of consonant buggery are, for example, all Latin words ending in -um. (These are part of Spanish vocabulary just as they are part of English and German). So, curriculum and referendum turn into “curriculun” and “referendun“. I’ve even seen them spelt like that by Spanish people.
In the same vein, the .com domain in website addresses morphs into .con. Now, hearing a company advertising itself as “www.usedcars.con” wouldn’t particularly entice me to buy from them, I must say.
Well then, let’s hear it from everybody else – do you have a mental list of particular pronunciation pet peeves for which, in your opinion, there’s just no valid excuse?
While you’re all ruminating over that, I’ll be trying to kick my “r”s into shape… sigh.