Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do you wonder what English sounds like to foreigners (non-Anglophone foreigners, that is)? Well, some Italian professor did his best to show you, in the form of a rock video (definitely a product of its time). The experiment seems pretty successful; indeed, if I heard it as background music, I'm not sure I'd notice anything amiss (though rock lyrics can often be a little opaque to me). It's a similar sensation that overcomes me when I listen to Swedish singing, or to Dutch, as though if I just listen a bit harder I'll be able to understand.

On the same subject, I've always been intrigued by the following passage from Patrick O'Brian (The Nutmeg of Consolation, Ch. 1):

Stephen said, "The Captain does not understand Malay, so you will forgive me if I speak to him in English."

"Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to hear the English language," said the young woman. "I am told it is very like that of birds."

Given O'Brian's general erudition, I expect that he had some precedent for this passage. I'd love to learn what it might be. Though I can imagine how English might sound rather delicate and flitty to an ear accustomed to tonal, nasal speech.

HT: Rod Dreher.

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