In a big international city like New York or Brussels, it’s common to find yourself surrounded by people speaking a foreign language. I am a native English speaker and I speak fluent French, but that doesn’t always mean I understand everything French speakers say. Sometimes all I can hear is just a bunch of “Bahhhh…fiiiiinnn….euhhhh, mais non! Putain!” I can usually guess the language being spoken next to me, or at least what I perceive it to be based on a few words or sounds. I was extremely proud of myself this year when I figured out that two men next to me were speaking Wolof, but I was just too shy to bust out my Wolof chops.
A few months ago, someone sent me this hilarious video about translation. The woman in the video accepts the challenge for translating from English into French, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, most likely Punjabi, Chinese, and African. As you can see if you watch the video, she ends up just making the various sounds and grunts that non-speakers characterize the language in question.
I think the woman is pretty spot on. To many non-French speakers, the harsh French R sound stands out the most, for and the Spain Spanish habit of lisping a lot is pretty obvious. I like her “Indian” and “African” too, many of the languages spoke in India and in certain parts of Africa are languages that to me sound kind of spoken deep in the throat and on the tip of the tongue. Her Chinese sounds fine to me, and she got the stereotypically (but stereotypes for a reason!) hand gestures to go along with Italian. Totally offensive!
This leads to another blog post…what does English sound like to those who don’t speak it?!