“What American English sounds like to non-English speakers”
I am a native English speaker. From time to time I wonder what I sound like when I speak to someone who does not know any English – someone who only hears the sounds I am making and the tone of my voice without any attempt at comprehension. I have heard many other languages that I do not understand and each of them seems to have a distinct natural shape that is difficult to describe but most evident to someone who doesn’t understand the language at all. One day, via the wonders of the internet, I came close to experiencing this sensation about my own native language. This song, called “Prisecolinensinenciousol,” imposes the role of a non-English speaker listening incomprehensibly to English lyrics on its listener. It was written by Italian songwriter Adriano Celentano and is entirely composed of American-English sounding gibberish. The beauty of this video is that as you (I assume you understand some level of English if you are reading this) listen your mind picks out pieces that sound familiar and clings to them to try to sort out some sort of meaning. Repeated failures force you to abandon that pursuit of the specific and focus on the abstract shape of the language. You are forced to step back and observe your own perfectly understandable language in what I call the “gibberish mirror.”
Questions to think about:
- What makes English “sound like” English? Or ___________ “sound like” ___________ ?
- How are we able to create “gibberish” that sounds like other languages to us?
- What is the purpose of gibberish?
- Does being conscious of gibberish affect the way you speak and/or communicate?
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