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  1. #1
    Senior Member BlackDog's Avatar
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    Default Does English sound Like German?

    This is something I have always wondered. Does English sound like German? Or does it sound like some other language?

    The other day, I was walking around, and I heard muffled speaking through a microphone. In the district I live in, the language could have been anything because the area is highly diverse. Language-wise. However, I was close enough to hear the sounds and not the words. As I got closer, I realized it was English, but I got to thinking about what it sounded like before I could make it out. So, I walked back out of range, and listened to the indistinct noises. It seemed to me that it was broken up and not smooth, like German, but not as clearly pronounced; if German is broken up into small chunks, I would guess English sounds like the same thing but with the chunks 'smoothed over' or 'eroded' but still present.

    For those who can remember hearing English before they could speak it, what did it sound like? For those who speak English and another language, how do the two compare? Which do you prefer, or is one better at some things, and the other better at others?

    What I've always appreciated about German is that it is a strong-sounding language. It isn't beautiful like French or most of the other Romance languages, but it sounds clear and authoritative, at least to me. Does English sound like this as well, or does it sound more like indistinct mumbling?

  2. #2
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Definitely not. Especially american english. Sorry to say this but, to me, it sounds a bit like the rural dialects of central european languages (french, german, italian, english) but spoken in english. I´m an italian guy who can speak both english and german and currently lives in Germany.
    I also don´t think todays standard german sounds especially "authoritative". It depends a lot on the speaker.
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    Senior Member BlackDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Definitely not. Especially american english. Sorry to say this but, to me, it sounds a bit like the rural dialects of central european languages (french, german, italian, english) but spoken in english. I´m an italian guy who can speak both english and german and currently lives in Germany.
    I also don´t think todays standard german sounds especially "authoritative". It depends a lot on the speaker.
    What are the characteristics of these rural dialects that they hold in common with English? I defer to you on the German question; it was an impression from the few German speakers I have met, plus movies. And which American English dialects are you referring to, or do you mean Standard American? How about Southern?

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    Senior Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    In 'Italian is Beautiful, German is Ugly', Howard Giles and Nancy Niedzielski propose, basically, that most of the attributes we assign to different dialects and languages derive from (commonly) held beliefs about the people who speak them. I also read, though I cannot remember where, that the impression of German as harsh- or hard-sounding stems at least in part from the prominence of the glottal stop in German in contrast to, say, English. Also, of course, there is the final-obstruent devoicing which makes for sharp-sounding word endings.
    Last edited by Nicodemus; 04-28-2014 at 07:59 AM.

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    Male johnnyyukon's Avatar
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    Story time. I met a German in Germany that had studied a year abroad in Indiana. No one spoke German there (unlike Germans speaking English) so she basically didn't speak German/hear German for a year.

    After that year she goes back to Germany and after hearing nothing but English being spoken, for the first time, she was shocked at how "harsh" German sounded.
    Last edited by johnnyyukon; 04-27-2014 at 12:38 PM.
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    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnyyukon View Post
    Story time. I met a German in Germany that had studied a year abroad in Indiana. No one spoke German there (unlike Germans speaking English) so she basically didn't speak German/hear German for a year.

    After that year she goes back to Germany and after hearing nothing but German being spoken, for the first time, she was shocked at how "harsh" it sounded.
    Now that is interesting. Expatriates coming back to the U.S. often have similar "reverse culture-shock" stories like that.
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    Male johnnyyukon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnyyukon View Post
    Story time. I met a German in Germany that had studied a year abroad in Indiana. No one spoke German there (unlike Germans speaking English) so she basically didn't speak German/hear German for a year.

    After that year in the United States she goes back to Germany and after hearing nothing but English being spoken, for the first time, she was shocked at how "harsh" German sounded.
    (I needed to edit the above, ha)


    Quote Originally Posted by Cimarron View Post
    Now that is interesting. Expatriates coming back to the U.S. often have similar "reverse culture-shock" stories like that.
    Likewise, I was in Germany for a year, I came back to the states. The first real "reverse" culture shock was in Frankfurt airport, before even LEAVING germany, with all the fat ass, obese americans, in the terminal headed back home, haha. Plus when I arrived, I forgot how many goddamn fucking pick-up trucks there were. Like half the Airport parking lot at least.
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  8. #8
    Entertaining Cracker five sounds's Avatar
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    I am a native English speaker, so I might be biased in some way, but I think English kind of sounds like a mix between romance and germanic languages.

    Both English and German words naturally have their stress on the first syllable, while Spanish and (at least some) other romance languages have stress on the penultimate syllable. (languange vs. lenguaje)

    I think that might result in a similar direct or cold tone, while the later stress makes it more lyrical sounding.

    But we borrow a lot from those other languages and cultures as modern English speakers, so I think we've probably got a little more phonological flavor than German speakers.
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  9. #9
    Stansmith
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    I can see how this is in the same language family as German.


  10. #10
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    It sounds closer to Dutch IMO. I've never mistaken German for English, but I have overheard people speaking Dutch quietly in the corner and thought it they were muttering in English for a while. It has a smooth quality and a rhythm that feels similar to English. It still has too many gutterals which immediately ends any sense of familiarity.

    I think American English will certainly seem more differentiated from German than some other English accents. (Most) Americans have more of a rounded flow to their speech which smooths out the edges, and it doesn't match well with the choppy, sharp pronunciation of (most) German.

    Although, English speakers do often feel a natural connection to German, because there are a number of words and phrases that are similar enough to be able to figure them out. At my high school, in the first year you take all 4 of the 'main' languages offered. These were French, German, Japanese and Maori (the native NZ language). The second year, you had to choose just one language and study that. So many of the other kids just took German because it seemed like the easiest one based on their previous experience.
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