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  1. #1
    pinbong is offline Junior Member
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    Default Question regarding different accents...

    Hi, teachers:

    I wanna know if fast talkers are appreciated in English speaking countries? Native English speakers speak so fast. That's almost my main problem now. And seems that they spoke even faster on the phone.

    The other night I was watching a British TV show and all people in it spoke as fast as gusts of wind. There was one people speaking even faster than the rest of the roles. In one episode he said "What do you mean" and "I beg your pardon" repeatedly.

    He pronounced "What do you mean" as "what d'you mean", that was at least recognizable.

    But I could not catch a syllable of the "I beg your pardon"s he said. The subtitle was "I beg your pardon" and I'm sure the sub was right(judging from the context). I think actually he said "beg your pardon", but I couldn't catch a syllable of it.

    Just wanna know how do you actually say "I beg your pardon" in UK?? To me that actor slurred all the syllables together like stirring a bowl of pottage. They were fused into 2 syllables at most.

    I thought Americans were the fastest talker in the world. Now I think British talk even faster. And to make it worse, there seem to be more accents in UK than in America. Few British speak like the speaker in my English teaching CDs. Even actors speak in different accents to each other. And modern Londoners speak quite differently from people in old movies.

    I've discussed this with a British but he said being a native speaker he did not notice the subtle difference. Man, the differences sound so big to me!!!

    Listening is a big headache for me and I feel so frustrated. Any special training available?? I'm always curious how do children in English-speaking countries learn to talk?

    Excuse the ranting please. I really need some advice and tips.
    Last edited by pinbong; 10-Nov-2010 at 05:28.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Question regarding different accents...

    It merges into a single unit and sounds like /begjəpɑ:dən/- we often don't say I.

    There are more regional types of English in the UK and some can be very different from each other and we can have difficulties understanding some regional varieties. I am not really sure whether we talk faster than American speakers or not. One thing that you might be hearing as fast language is the way we (in all variants) run words together, adding or removing and changing sounds, so that words can sound very different from the dictionary pronunciation.

    And many modern Londoners do talk very differently from old movies- language is in a state of flux and BrE is changing quite fast in many ways.

  3. #3
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Question regarding different accents...

    You have clearly picked up some fast-English yourself: I wanna know if fast talkers are appreciated in English speaking countries?

    wanna, usually written in full, want to (except in fairly informal writing) is a representation of how many people pronounce these two words in conversation. Similar examples are gotta (got to), oughta (ought to) and shoulda (should have).

  4. #4
    pinbong is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Question regarding different accents...

    Thanks to all teachers above for the tips given. :)

    And regarding that "I beg your pardon",

    It merges into a single unit and sounds like /begjəpɑ:dən/- we often don't say I.
    I was trying to locate the video clip in question and post it up here but failed to find it. It was one episode of the British sitcom Yes Minister ,or probably Yes Prime Minister. I can't remember which one was it. But it's even shorter than /begjəpɑ:dən/.

    English TV shows are now quite popular in China and most come with subs. But I've noticed that subs tend to "repair" and "improve" the errors in spoken language, be it grammatical or shortening of words. I used to rely heavily on subs for accuracy, but I now find it time-consuming and inefficient. Actors just don't sync with subs.

    Yes, I used to think British speak slower than Americans, sometimes. Both peoples speak slow in my English teaching CDs, haha. Way slower. That's why many Chinese can not understand a word of what native speakers say when they go abroad.

    Some of the examples of shortening words I can think of are:

    1. Would you go out me??=Would you go out with me?? (the sentences after the equal mark are the ones from subs)

    2.......wow, for the time being I can only think of one, will update this post when I come across new ones. Can you help me with some more??

    Plus, I find that Americans slur more. British slur less but both are fast talkers. Taja was right. Shortening of words is to blame. I have fewer difficulty understanding radio and TV broadcasters even if they speak very fast.
    Last edited by pinbong; 11-Nov-2010 at 04:37.

  5. #5
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Question regarding different accents...

    Hi, pinbong. There's a general tendency in English to shorten vowels in unstressed syllables. They become shorter (become schwas) or even disappear altogether. I understand your pain. I had (and still have) to struggle with it a lot. If only native speakers did it the same way everywhere! But they don't...

    There's only one solution I think. Listen to as much English as you can. It's easy nowadays, with all these Youtubes, Dailymotions and others. I think it's well worthwhile to diversify your sources. Understanding different accents and dialects can turn out very useful at some point. It won't come very quickly. I've been learning and using English for a really long time and I still encounter major problems understanding some accents. But good news is it really works. With time, you'll discover that some things you couldn't get are becoming clearer, that you can sing along to songs you could only hum before.

  6. #6
    pinbong is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Question regarding different accents...

    birdeen's call,you're so right. With all those video sites, we can catch up gradually.

    handshakes.

  7. #7
    luke2 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Question regarding different accents...

    Yes, English can be a challenge. However, just because what you are reading - or remember from learning material - is not what you are hearing, does not mean that speed is at play. Most English dialects aren't particularly fast, but all English dialects will alter (ie. reduce) certain phonemes because of sentence prosody. This isn't sloppy English, this is English! English has lost many of the morphemes it inherited from Germanic, meaning that it is quite easy to learn how to conjugate words and put together sentences. Chinese is similar. These languages are called analytic languages, in that they are more or less put together one word at a time, with each word communicating more or less one piece of information. However, with this loss of information, English has made greater use of phonological distinctions to convey information. As you know, English has several dozen vowels and dipthongs (!); also, however, "desert" and "dessert" are distinguished in speech through stress; "flaggelate (n.)" and "flaggelate (v.)" through vowel quantity; "lead (n.)" and "lead (v.)" through vowel quality; and "record (n.)" and "record (v.)" through a combination of all three! Chinese, for its part, developed tone to distinguish otherwise similar lexemes. No one would suggest that tonal differences are a mark of "sloppy Chinese"! Tone is part of Chinese, and anyone learning Chinese ought to learn the tones as well. So too is stress and phonemic reduction a part of the phonology of English, and learners of English must treat it as a part of the language they are choosing to learn. English requires these stress and quantity adjustments to function!

    Stress is very complicated in English. Vowel reduction is the easy part. Though in reality there are several schwas, in practice you can get by with just one. However, stress operates on the sentence level. And where the stress falls in the sentence is going to determine which vowels reduce. Further, once these vowels reduce, certain consonants might have to shift as well. Consider the letter "T" in each of the following:

    untie
    Brenton
    martyr
    Britain
    British
    fountain

    Each of these might have several realizations, based on sentence stress factors and the particular sequence of phonemes in the word. Also, each of these differ from dialect to dialect, even within Britain. They main point is that they are all different, and it's not because the person is not speaking clearly!

    Americans do not "slur more." They reduce the same sounds as the British do, and in many instances reduce them less, though sometimes more. It's all according to the dialect. The major prosodic difference between US and UK English is that American vowels have a tendency to lose contour (ie. to monophthongize) and to lose pitch range. To an American, the height and sudden fall and then rise in pitch across the length of a question is very distinctively British. For British listeners, the "monotone" of an American speaker is a dead giveaway. Though of course, American English is not devoid of pitch range; stressed syllables are, in general, given a higher pitch, as in Britain.

    My advice: When you listen to English, listen to the rhythm and stress of the whole sentence. Don't give up just because it doesn't sound how it looks. If it doesn't sound like your teaching CD's, they weren't very good CD's, were they? It sounds how it's supposed to sound. The prosody - a term that includes everything I've been talking about - is one of English's most subtly beautiful qualities. I think it makes the language ripe with potential for poets and musicians. Because it's not an inherently "musical" language, like Italian, but it contains a complex foundation for musicality within it.

    English stopped sounding like it's written over half a millennium ago. And it continues to change. What you hear is what you get...

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