What 'variant of English' would you learn?

Let’s assume you watched CNN Europe for at least 1 hour very day for at least one year in a similar fashion as described in the 30/30 challenge. Which variant of English do you think you would learn if any?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: At the bakery[YSaerTTEW443543]

With CNN International, I don’t think you’d learn any particular variant of English. You’d be getting a mixed input of US English, British English, German English, Bulgarian English and who knows what else. You might mistakenly think that a foreigner’s English is British or American. (I had a boss in Europe who thought that Bettina Lüscher’s accent was “very clear American English”, but I had trouble understanding her for about the first two weeks I heard her.)

Ultimately, just as when someone takes classes, the learner would end up with his own variety of foreigner English that is slightly influenced by the accent of whoever he chose to pay attention to.

At what level of learning would one need to be before one began watching such?

Do you mean by “foreigner English”, Jamie? Can you describe it and add a few examples?

There’s that “such” again.

Here are my questions again:

Jamie, what made it so hard for to train your ear to understand Bettina Lüscher’s accent? I mean, you probably have heard many Germans speak English with an even stronger German accent than her? What would you do if you had a student whose German accent was even thicker than Lüscher’s?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A kickboxer is practising[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten

I suspect that Jamie may have been hinting at the fact that Bettina Lüscher’s pronunciation seems to reflect a strong British influence. :lol:

I can understand a typical German accent – even a very strong one. The problem with Bettina Lüscher’s accent was that her rhythm and prosody were strange, and those can throw you off much more than mispronounced words or sound substitutions. She was stressing the wrong parts of sentences, reducing vowels in odd places and doing some other things that gave me so much trouble that I needed a couple of weeks before I could understand her without a lot of mental effort.

The same thing can happen with native speakers of the same language, even when their pronunciation of words is very similar. There are people from Ireland who have pronunciation that’s not significantly different than that in my part of the US, but because of their prosody we have a lot of trouble understanding them at first.

Hm. I’m nonnative and I understood her immediately.


That was my point previously. Non-native speakers understand her better.

Even now, even though in the early 1990s I trained myself to understand her, and her English has improved some, there were still times when one mispronounced or wrongly stressed word makes me expect her next words to go in a different direction, and I have to back up and retrace in my mind what she said.

There were some examples in this interview also:

Right at the beginning, she doesn’t say “we are” or “we’re” but [wi ɔʔ]. The mispronunciation of “are”, along with the glottal stop after it, makes me have to stop and decipher the very beginning of the sentence. That [ɔʔ] sounds like the prefix to some other, longer word, rather than like “are”, and I expect the rest of the word and get a new word instead. It requires me to backtrack.

She sometimes pronounces “we’re” as “we”, so I expect a verb to come where there isn’t one, or I anticipate a different verb tense.

Sometimes she pronounces “aid” correctly, but other times she pronounces it as an unstressed [ɛɾ], which also makes me think I’m hearing a prefix. Then I find out it’s not a prefix, and my mind has to backtrack.

Sometimes her word-initial /r/ sounds like [w], so you think she’s saying “we” and she turns out to be saying “really”.

She pronounces “hundred” as [hʌnɪt]. (A typical German would say [handrɪt].)

She doesn’t reduce the vowel in “and”, but changes it and says [ɪn]. I think she’s saying, “We’ve got the first helicopter in mow on…” My brain tries to figure out what she means by “in mow on”, when suddenly she says “on the way”, so my mind has to backtrack and realize she’s saying “and more on the way”. (Again, she’s pronouncing /r/ like [w].)

Did she say “get on our aid planes” or “get on our eight planes”? It’s not possible to know for sure.

In addition to that, the stress she puts on certain collocations makes some sentences hard to interpret. Where she says, “We’ve got the experts to do this very quickly…”, the weird stress makes it hard to figure out at first if she means they’d gotten the experts very quickly, or whether they can distribute the food quickly because of the experts. My brain ping-pongs for a second before I get the right interpretation.

She’s a perfect example of a person who doesn’t get basic pronunciation and prosody nailed down correctly at the beginning, so that as her English gets faster and more fluent she gets somewhat hard to understand and somewhat stressful to listen to.

I’m reminded of a trip I took on a Polish airliner right after the end of communism. Most of the stewardesses claimed to know nearly no English, but their pronunciation was crystal clear, despite their accents. For the PA announcements, they used a different stewardess who was deemed to speak “fluent” English. Her English really was much more fluent than that of the others, but because of her bad pronunciation, I usually couldn’t tell when she had switched from Polish into English. She’d be halfway through an announcement, when some clearly pronounced word would suddenly make me realize she’d been speaking English for a while. I requested that they have one of the stewardesses with “bad” English make the announcements, but of course they didn’t listen to me.

Today, I sent the youtube link to all our 57 native English teachers. Only three of them found her slightly difficult to understand. So what’s the problem here, J?

Maybe it’s you who needs more practice in listening to accents, etc, which are not your own. To me, she does a fine bit of linking there with “weyarallover the place”. Is it linking that you’re not used to?

Can you point out where you think that is happening?

A good deal of the time she is NOT difficult to understand. She’s just difficult to understand often enough that it is somewhat stressful to listen to her. With six or seven cases of confusing pronunciation or stress in just that short clip, it’s clear her pronunciation needs some work. It’s probably too late for her to fix it, however, since all her problems are probably fossilized.

In some places she does the linking, and in other places she doesn’t.

I have plenty of practice understanding “accents that are not my own”, because I listen to them every day. I can even understand people that seemingly no one else can understand. This woman has the unusual problem of having both fluent and defective pronunciation, which can make her harder to understand than someone whose pronunciation is less fluent but more defective.

I get the feeling that that’s a personal feeling on your behalf.

For you, yes.

As with many natives.

Again, it seem it may be your personal problem. In our academy, 54 out of 57 native speakers had no problem with her usage. Here, up to now, it’s only you who have found her a problem - but then you found Conrad a problem, if I remember rightly.

It’s not a personal feeling on my part. I gave you specific examples of things that made her speech confusing, most of which you did not address, such as one time where it is absolutely impossible to determine whether she said “aid planes” or “eight planes”.

People who don’t really care about what she’s saying, or half listen to only a snippet, and are satisfied with catching only 90% of what she says will say there’s no problem with her speech. But if one is paying close attention and is trying to get ALL of what she says, there are some problems.

As with many Americans:

?*she’s aid years old
?*I told you aid times.

Nothing new. She also has her peppering of a “US accent”:

You might also think you hear “ate planes”, from a BrEng speaker.

Again, I’ve found the same with many AmEng native-speakers. Nothing new.

Wrong. That change of /t/ to an alveolar tap is limited to places where it is between two vowels and the vowel before it is stressed.

The example you’re showing is not American.

Whatever, Jamie. The most surprising thing about you posts above is probably this:

It’s a little hard to believe, that’s all.

How do you pronounce “eight chairs”, when linked, Jamie?

Do you think her “having” in the opening “Thank you so much for having me, Jack” and her “getting” in “keep on getting attacked” reflect a strong British influence? I’d say she her English a mix of American, British and German influence.

And do you find her hard to understand, Amy?