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Old 24.01.2009, 00:13
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Swiss pronunciation of English

I met my Swiss girlfriend whilst cycle touring in Canada. She was cycle touring as well, and we spent the next four months travelling together. Given that I don't speak any variety of German, we of course spoke English to each other. Her English is reasonable, certainly good enough for us to communicate, though of course there were misunderstandings.

One thing that I found amusing about her accent was her pronunciation of words with the letter V. For example, she'd say wisitor center rather than visitor center, walley rather than valley, and willage rather than village. She's certainly capable of pronouncing village correctly, as she speaks French. I've heard other Swiss with the same problem, so I guess it must be related to how they're taught. My girlfriend just sent me some text out of a German-English dictionary, with pronunciation, which included:
-Du ju hw e hdjk?
-Weri strong
Given those pronunciation examples, it's obvious why she's in the habit of pronouncing the V like a W.

I'm interested to know if this a Swiss characteristic, or is it common to all German speakers?

-Wayne

P.S. I'm not judging of course; my German is almost non-existent and will remain so until I start an intensive course.
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:17
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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I met my Swiss girlfriend whilst cycle touring in Canada. She was cycle touring as well, and we spent the next four months travelling together. Given that I don't speak any variety of German, we of course spoke English to each other. Her English is reasonable, certainly good enough for us to communicate, though of course there were misunderstandings.

One thing that I found amusing about her accent was her pronunciation of words with the letter V. For example, she'd say wisitor center rather than visitor center, walley rather than valley, and willage rather than village. She's certainly capable of pronouncing village correctly, as she speaks French. I've heard other Swiss with the same problem, so I guess it must be related to how they're taught. My girlfriend just sent me some text out of a German-English dictionary, with pronunciation, which included:
-Du ju hw e hdjk?
-Weri strong
Given those pronunciation examples, it's obvious why she's in the habit of pronouncing the V like a W.

I'm interested to know if this a Swiss characteristic, or is it common to all German speakers?

-Wayne

P.S. I'm not judging of course; my German is almost non-existent and will remain so until I start an intensive course.
My girlfriend speaks English with an Irish accent! Many Swiss I know speak English like native speakers.

Rather annoying, I'll never be like that with German.
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:26
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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My girlfriend just sent me some text out of a German-English dictionary, with pronunciation, which included:
-Du ju hw e hdjk?
-Weri strong
Given those pronunciation examples, it's obvious why she's in the habit of pronouncing the V like a W.
Actually those examples are perfectly logical for a german-speaker.
Their w is pronounced as our v - for example, the German words weiss and winter are pronounced vice and vinter, so saying to a German-speaker to pronounce Very as Weri or have as haw is understandable!
I have 2 German friends who master English really well but who still have great difficulty not calling me Vendy grrrrrr
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:38
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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I have 2 German friends who master English really well but who still have great difficulty not calling me Vendy grrrrrr
Indeed, in the same manner, when I'm in Switzerland, I'm going to be called Vain!

Fortunately for my girlfriend, she's never made that mistake.

-Wayne
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:39
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

Yes, Swiss 'w' is like English 'v', but with less voicing. As a result, many Swiss (me included) have considerable difficulties pronouncing 'v' well unless we make a conscious effort, and some then err on the side of pronouncing 'w' like English 'w' (i.e. veil becomes whale).
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:41
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

Similarly my girfrienfd from Zimbabwe is saying that her accent has gone bad while staying with me for last couple of years (not in a negative contest) as I am not a native English speaker although spent 10 years in SA which is another story. People always ask me whether I am German or Swiss Iused to have a reasonable South African accent until I landed in Switzerland and started with intensive Deutsche course where your pronounciation goes highway!
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:44
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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Indeed, in the same manner, when I'm in Switzerland, I'm going to be called Vain!
Isn't there a song about you by Carly Simon ? (You're so vain)
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:51
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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My girlfriend speaks English with an Irish accent! Many Swiss I know speak English like native speakers.

Rather annoying, I'll never be like that with German.
The fact that you r gf speaks with Irish accent, is this something inherited or just pertaining to the fact that English belongs to Anglosaxon (or Germanic) group of languages? As you are Irish language (Celtic) native speaker, most likely your accent will be close to German language. I heard from linguists it is so much easier for Dutch, Germans or Swiss to learn this accent than for us Slovak language speakers.
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:54
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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The fact that you r gf speaks with Irish accent, is this something inherited or just pertaining to the fact that English belongs to Anglosaxon (or Germanic) group of languages? As you are Irish language (Celtic) native speaker, most likely your accent will be close to German language. I heard from linguists it is so much easier for Dutch, Germans or Swiss to learn this accent than for us Slovak language speakers.
She picked it up about 8 years ago when she was hanging out with my and my friends. She hasn't lost it.
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Old 24.01.2009, 00:54
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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Isn't there a song about you by Carly Simon ? (You're so vain)
Hmm, thanks so much ...

I'm currently in Mexico, and it's so difficult for the Mexicans to pronounce Wayne that I almost decided to call myself Pablo (my middle name is Paul), just to save everyone from the hassle of trying to get their tongues around Wayne (there is no Spanish equivalent for Wayne).

Is there a close of approximation of Wayne in German?
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Old 24.01.2009, 01:10
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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Is there a close of approximation of Wayne in German?
Maybe 'Werni'?
nickname of Werner

(Btw, I haven't known there is a difference between 'V' and 'W' in English. This thread just made me aware of that I am probably also saying 'Walley'... sigh.)

Last edited by alessandra_; 24.01.2009 at 01:42. Reason: spelling
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Old 24.01.2009, 01:14
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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She picked it up about 8 years ago when she was hanging out with my and my friends. She hasn't lost it.
Exactely, this is something that takes time. Sometimes, I just think that posting on the EF will never help me switch to German, but not that I would really care, because I still feel as a guest-expat here in Switzerland... Today when I heard my German teacher sepaking (psst not to be mean), but it sounded so atrocious that I would never wanna speak like that...
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Old 24.01.2009, 10:17
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

Here's the developmental side of language...

our mother tongue is learned by immersion from pre-birth (in utero hearing begins around 6-7 months gestation) to around age 6 years...

From birth to 12 months a newborn baby makes all the possible sounds of every language on earth (think those 'clicking' sounds that are in some African languages, or the intonations of Mandarin, or the alphabet sounds of German or English)...this is the 'goo gah' of babies...

From around 6 months they begin to repeat more often the sounds from what they hear around them.. they 'pare back' those sounds...then the first 'word' appears around 12 months. It's usually a really functional word (Mum, Dad, Hello)...

Deaf babies, and babies with speech problems usually make sound to 12 months before people start to notice that they are not communicating (the exception would be a child who has something wrong with their speech apparatus)...

You learn your language by the sounds of those around you... but by age 6-8 the capacity to learn a 'mother tongue' begins to switch off - you can no longer make all the sounds even if you wanted to - in fact, it can be like the person can't actually 'hear' the sounds of a new language - example is Mandarin and Japanese where they do not have a sound for our English - for example, my Japanese friends call me 'Jesh-Ka' because they don't have a sound for our hard 'ss' or 'si'. The mandarin-speaking children I teach have trouble with the sound 'b' and 'd' and they will substitute the softer sound 'p'.

I think the problem you are describing with 'V' and 'W' is that firstly, there isn't actually a 'W' sound in German...and my husband just pointed out also the hard 'D' sound isn't there either - our son is 'Edmund' but he becomes 'EtMoont'

So, even if the person 'knows' that the sound is different, they may not actually be able to make that sound with their mouth! - It's the same for me if I try to speak Mandarin - there are at least 7 different intonations for the same sound, and it changes the meaning - without the intonation, you can, for example call someone a 'mouse' (Lau-Shu) or a 'teacher' (La-Tsu) - well, someone can correct me on how to reproduce the sounds and the spelling of the sounds...but that is what is 'sounds like' to me.

Hope that helps.

Oh, yes, and we notice here people speaking German with a 'scottish' or an 'english' or an 'Irish' accent - just as you get people who speak English with a 'chinese' accent!

Partly it is that we apply our intonation and sentence emphasis to the new language, part of it is that we are dropping in sounds from English to words in our non-mother tongues.

Oh, and mother-tongue is defined essentially as the language/s you learn in the first 6 years of life - after that age, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who speaks the language technically perfectly...but it's possible to have several mother-tongues - those languages you heard and learn as a baby/child...

Hope that all makes sense/helps...
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Old 24.01.2009, 10:25
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

By boss always brings a smile to my face when he says "Wegetables"
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Old 24.01.2009, 11:10
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

I was not able to copy the table so if you go to this page and click on the table you will be able to see the range of sounds in some of the major languages. The overlap (or lack of overlap) has a major impact on people being able to correctly pronounce/speak the new language.

You will notice the lack of overlap between German and English. We won't even talk about the typical Parisian trying to speak British English (now you know why looking at the zero frequency overlap).

Notice the difference as well between British English and American English.

This Swiss company has developed a system that "trains" the ear so you can more easily move into the new language.

http://www1.speedlingua.com/foundations/
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Old 24.01.2009, 12:03
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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Indeed, in the same manner, when I'm in Switzerland, I'm going to be called Vain!

Fortunately for my girlfriend, she's never made that mistake.

-Wayne
Yeah, fortunately for her, eh. She prolly speaks x languages and you want to harp on about her pronounciation of W.

Good one. You shall go far.
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Old 24.01.2009, 12:42
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

I love different accents and pronounciations. The world would be such a boring place without them.
You can always tell where people come from when they speak english with their native country accents and it always brings a smile to my face. Similiarly it's funny when a native english, dutch, turkish, nigerian, indian or swedish speak in german.
Most fun are all the regional english dialects, scouse, geordie, birmingham, south african, australian, deep south american, newyork, irish, scottish etc.
On the german side you have bayerisch, hessisch, sachsisch,tirol, zridtsch, walliserdiitsch, swabisch, frnkisch etc.

They all make me crack up to varying degrees when I hear them, and I hope that globalization won't mean that everyone will soon start speaking in a Perfect Middle of the Road English accent......would be so so boring
One of my favourites is definately how the german speakers prounce an english W and how English(especially americans) pronounce the german R...........just great!
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Old 24.01.2009, 13:12
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

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Given those pronunciation examples, it's obvious why she's in the habit of pronouncing the V like a W.
Funny. I have heard of German speakers pronouncing W like a V, "Vhat are you talking about?", but not the other way round. I guess it's because they've just reverted all V and W sounds to a "W".

I had a simular issue in English (I'm a native by the way, but "northern"). I never used to be able to pronounce "th" and instead said things like "I fought so. Fank you. One, Two, Free, etc.". Anyway, when I was about 17 (I think I realised as I was in posh company), I trained myself to say "th" correctly. Took me about two weeks. However during this period I sometimes over did it and said things like "that is for three (free). Knife, Thork (fork), Spoon. Tharther (farther)" etc.
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Old 24.01.2009, 13:37
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

Bloody hell what part of the North do you come from never had any problems with TH especially as some of the older people in my area still used thee and though. My problem was missing out whole worlds "up road" and "round corner" I was soon cured of that when I moved to Kent.
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Old 24.01.2009, 13:39
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Re: Swiss pronunciation of English

I thought that the German 'V' was like an English 'F'; my friend Volker is 'Folker'- it seems as though the German speakers are trying too hard maybe to be correct in English and getting their 'w'/ pronounced 'v' reversed instead of using the 'F' sound (which would go almost unoticed).

I remember when I was learning French I had a tendency to overdo to French 'r' gutteral loogie hack sound; some helpful criticism from friends got me to just soften my Yank 'r' and the Frenchie sound came later.
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