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26 June 2009

Friday Language Rant

Why do the languages of the world have to have such complicated sounds? In English we have the famous "th" sound that children and ESL-ers alike have difficulty pronouncing. In Spanish I struggle daily with the "rr" sound. Oh, it's easy, everyone tells me. Just pretend you are riding a motorcycle and make the sound with your tongue "rrRRrrRRrrRRrr". No, not that easy. Really. I also have problems with the "l". I think sometimes I wasn't to roll my l's. I don't know why. It's something that my tongue does with my brain telling it. In German, I also work hard to say the r's because they are tapped, not rolled, or barely pronounced like English. And the ö? Wtf is that? It sounds like someone hit you in the stomach "öh!"

Maybe, what I'm getting at is the basis for the accents we carry in a particular language. Our pronunciation affects everything. It affects how people understand us, and how well we understand others.

Would it be easier if there was a language that consisted of, say the easiest sounds ever? We could do away with the rr's, the ö's and the th's of the world and exist in more pronounceable world. Obviously, I'm dreaming, and venting a little.

What do you think? What are the hardest sounds for you to say in a given language?

9 comments:

Аманда said...

I would say that they're not complicated, they're unique to the language. If each language had less complicated sounds, we wouldn't have the rich diversity of language that we do. And certain sounds are generally only complicated to people who did not grow up around a language. Even if I have trouble pronouncing certain sounds of a language, I appreciate the diversity, because it is what makes it a "foreign" language.

With that said, I had trouble with a lot of German pronunciations. All umlauted vowels. Like you with Spanish, the German "l" (the tongue is supposed to hit the top of your mouth, not the front by your teeth). And I actually think the German and Spanish l is pronounced the same, if not very very similar. And the German r is most evil of all. Not pronounced in your throat, in the mouth.

But. I also think that letters we are familiar with but that have a different pronunciation can be just as difficult. It also drives me crazy to hear people pronounce a German word with an English pronunciation (which can totally butcher the word). Spaetzle. For example. I've yelled at people on the TV for that one.

^^ said...

Isn't it all relative? I'm sure those sounds aren't complicated to native speakers of languages who have them.

To me Spanish sounds are easy, but I find it difficult to pronounce German vowels. I also find Swiss German easier to pronounce than the German I'm taught in class.

CancunCanuck said...

I can do the "rr", years of French helped, but the "ll" sounds of Spanish still give me probs sometimes. "U" is hard for my students, they want to say "boos" instead of "bus" and "moost" instead of "must". And of course the reverse is true, I can never say "murio", but I can say "muerto", so I cheat and say "Esta muerto" instead of "el murio". :)

Miyaunna said...

I was looking at Esperanto, and it looks like that has incorporated all of the easiest sounds from many languages, forming a very simple, no-frills language.

The hardest thing for me to pronounce is a sound in the Arabic language. It starts in the back of the throat, and it is impossible for me to say! I've been trying so hard to get it right, and I just feel like a fool when I attempt it!

Ricardo Rodríguez Q. said...

In fact that's what I love from languages! their different sounds. If they didn't have them I think I wouldn't be that interested into them.

I had a hard time learning the german "ch" [ç] as in Hoch Deutsch "ich" [Iç], but with a couple of weeks of practice I was able to make it.

Jess Mendez said...

Hi,

I just wanted to articulate in language a hello, and I hope that you're well,

stay in touch,
Jesse

Danielle said...

Portuguese nasal vowels! Death!

There is a minimal pair between pão (bread) and pau (penis). As a native English speaker, the 2 are almost the same for me. I really have to force it to get the pããão out.

Patrick and Katrina Foster said...

Rs are killer! Also the B/V issue in Spanish. I'm taking a class right now and the professor seems perplexed as to why I can't just repeat him and get it right.

Deidre said...

I have a terrible ear for language like really bad - so it's so hard for me to learn the sounds!!!

In particularly, like vietnamese that is all tonal - so the same spelling of a word means totally different things depending if you make your voice higher or lower at the end! HELP.