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What does English sound like if you don't understand English? (fun video)

This short film is in English...or is it?

Actually, it's not English at all! It uses a lot of nonsense words that sound like English! For example, one of the lines is:

"Yeah. That doll's a reen blunderface. Can bereave that mory alpen john. Joo flan by the lon blat call?"

Again: this is not English, it's meaningless blah-blah-blah! You are not supposed to understand this!

However, this really sounds like English, doesn't it? (By the way, any native speaker can recognise the American accent too...even though the actors are Australian).

But why? Why does this nonsense sound so much like English?

A couple points:

- A lot of the "grammar words" are the same. Unfortunately, those don't add much to understanding - just like in real English :-(

- Although the vocabulary might be nonsense, the rhythm and intonation is exactly like real English. Here's a simple exercise: can you hear when the speakers' voices rise at the end of sentences? That probably means they're asking a yes/no question! (distinguishing rising/falling intonation is very important to understanding spoken English)

- Beware: There are a few very naughty words in this video, especially in the last few seconds. Avoid using these in your own speech, as you could upset people!

A suggested exercise for you:

"Translate" the dialogue into real English! Write a script for the couple's argument!

This will take you a long time but I think it's fun and really worthwhile. Please try to:

- Match the length (eg. don't write a very long line when the speaker only says a few words)

- Match the intonation (write Y/N questions for rising intonation)

- Be creative! Have fun!

If I get any scripts back I'll make one myself and post it here.

Sep 13, 2016 5:59 AM
Comments · 26

But of course! The famous foot-stomping, finger-snapping rockabilly anthem "Prisencolinensinainciusol"!

I've always had a soft spot for Simlish (the language of the video game series, The Sims). It was basically improvised by a couple voice actors spouting random gibberish sounds into microphones (, but as the game became more popular a "Spimlish" (Spanish Simlish?) dialect developed, whereby Nelly Furtado sang one of her hits for the game's soundtrack, using Spanishy gibberish instead of Englishy gibberish.

September 13, 2016

Suggestion: If you want to write a script, save it in a Word document, then post it on Docdroid will give you a link that you can then post here to share the document...unfortunately, italki's writing interface is a nightmare for long texts like these.

It's up to you, but note that I'll only correct scripts posted on docdroid...sorry, but it's too much of a headache dealing with italki's character count limit.

September 13, 2016

What I find interesting about the video is, that even though they used completely made up words, it still sounded like the actors had American accents i.e. I could still hear their accents despite not having any specific words for which to compare their accents to my own. I wonder what the same video would sound like if it was made to sound the actors had Australian/English/Scottish/Irish (etc.) accents.

Edit: I just noticed this comment: "By the way, any native speaker can recognise the American accent too...even though the actors are Australian". I never would have picked that the actors were Australian haha

September 19, 2016

@Sid1995: I actually agree with you, and addressed this issue in an earlier comment:

"I really dislike the original title of the YouTube video, "How English sounds to Non-Native Speakers". It assumes that non-native speakers understand 0% English, which of course is rubbish! Non-native speakers understand much more than this."

The original film was simply titled "Skwerl", and was made for festival film audiences. It certainly wasn't meant to make fun of English learners' listening skills. I think the film's intent is to show how much spoken meaning is conveyed through non-verbal means. For instance, if you turned this film into a comic book strip, with drawings of faces saying rubbish like "I can't believe you greep that treesh!", it wouldn't be nearly as effective, don't you think?

September 19, 2016

Here's a super funny video from a Finnish Saara showing how languages "sound" to her - not limited to English 

Including Australian, Scottish and Irish accents of English.

September 19, 2016
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, Persian (Farsi)
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin), Persian (Farsi)