What word do you hear?

Write down the word you hear.

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Are you asking because you don’t know? If not, I don’t want to give spoilers.

I had to listen to it a few times to hear it. I think I know what she is saying but I’m not positive. If it’s what I think it is then the context would make it completely clear.

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That’s very interesting because I thought she was very easy to understand. I thought that everyone would hear that she clearly says “any”. I am trying to create new listening comprehension exercises for the new version of the website.

I hear the name ‘Annie’.
But I suppose the intended word is ‘any’.

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The pronunciation difference Annie/any would not cause a problem in context.
E.g. ‘Do you want any chocolate’ = of course we will understand the meaning is ‘any’ because ‘Annie’ doesn’t make sense.


I totally agree with you. Since English is a very ‘non-phonetic’ language just listening to the pronunciation of separate words is not very useful.

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It sounds like Annie to me for two reasons.

In American English the A in any is pronounced more like the E in engine or entrance. So any sounds more like envy without the V.

It also sounds almost like there is a double N sound, which makes it sound more British.


I heard “Annie”, though as @JadeJoddle said, context would make the meaning clear.

From other recordings, it sounds to me like the speaker is from Los Angeles.


The discussion above has reminded me of a phenomenon that I read about. That is that as we listen to someone who speaks with an accent, our brain does an adaptation to “tune in” to the different sounds that the speaker is using for the vowels. I notice this particularly with respect to people speaking English with a Hispanic accent. At first there is some difficulty as the “e” and “i” sounds are different from English but as the brain adapts, it becomes quite easy to follow.

If @Torsten had been listening to the speaker beforehand, then it could be that his brain could understand that “Annie” was the speaker’s normal pronunciation of “any”.

Of course, he also gave her the word so he knew what it was supposed to be.

Perhaps @NearlyNapping has some thoughts on this.


You are absolutely right that the brain adapts to certain accents and dialects. When we hear new sounds, our brain runs them through a database of existing sound recordings to find a match. If there is not an exact match, our brain provides the piece that is closest to what we heard. Once we are shown the correct word, our brain adjusts its database so that we understand and interpret it correctly the next time we hear the same audio source. The interesting thing about the audio examples in question is that I downloaded them from a website called EasyPronunciation, where they are offered as standard pronunciation examples. Below are some more…

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I think this is mostly learned if you are around a lot of people with strong accents.

I’ve lived in 15+ cities/towns in 10 states in the US. I’ve lived in the north, south, east, west and middle. The number of non native English speakers varies dramatically. When I lived in California, I could go to the mall and hear ten languages in ten minutes. Where I live now I can go months without hearing another language. When I was younger I could literally go years without hearing another language.

When I first moved to California I had to really concentrate to understand people. After a while it became more natural and I didn’t have to think about it. After I left California the ability to understand some accents faded. I lived in California for twelve years. But now I’m almost back where I started and have to really concentrate.

You mentioned Spanish. There are over 40 million native Spanish speakers in the US, and another 10 million second language Spanish speakers. If you live around a large number of Spanish speakers, very likely what you describe is not entirely about the Spanish accent itself, but because of repetition. Maybe the Spanish pronunciation of vowels has become almost “native” to you.

I bet the reverse is not true. I bet Spanish don’t pick up on the native English vowels as easily because there is so little constancy in English. Spanish vowels are easy. English vowels are not ( thanks to the Great Vowel Shift ).


Do you remember what languages were most commonly spoken when you lived in California? I would guess that there are many Chinese there (American-born Chinese), many of whom still speak Mandarin, but also many Russians, Poles, Vietnamese still speaking their native languages?

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Spanish by far. Hispanics are the plurality of the population in California. (there is no majority ethnic group in California )

Other than Spanish, I’m not sure. My guess is that Hindu, Chinese and Arabic are in the running.

Those are also the three biggest ones where I live now. All three out number Spanish speakers here.

Another thing that makes a difference ( just from my own observation ) is that people from some places put in greater effort to assimilate. Indians for example seem to actively try to assimilate and want their children to be “American” and fit in. People from other countries don’t seem to make much effort to blend in, or even learn the language in many cases.