It's Not Only What You Say, But Also How

Oct 5, 2010 7:06:48 AM / by Rachel Reardon

globe with flagsGood 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.

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Rachel Reardon

Written by Rachel Reardon

Rachel works with some of the coolest marketers, designers, and writers around to help Mango look and sound its best. She loves bold colors, old books, the Montréal metro, and Star Trek. She has conflicting feelings about the Oxford comma.

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