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  • Have you ever found yourself speaking English with a weird hybrid accent when you go abroad?

  • Or know someone who doesn't sound like a native speaker of a language, even when they're fluent?

  • This is why you have a different accent in a foreign language.

  • The first reason is that sounds differ from language to language.

  • Open a textbook, and one of the first things you'll see is an alphabet,

  • explaining, for example, that the P in French is very different from the P in English.

  • Hold the palm of your hand up in front of your mouth and say Paris in English, you'll feel a little puff of air on your hand.

  • Now, try the same thing again, but try to remove that puff of air and you'll get something closer to the French sound.

  • Learning about letters individually tells you very little about how they work when they come together.

  • For example, when certain consonant combinations are forbidden in your native language,

  • you'll often find yourself inserting sounds to make them pronounceable in a foreign one.

  • The reason a Spaniard might tell you that he is from ehSpain is because SP is just not possible at the beginning of Spanish words.

  • It's the same reason that when English commentators talk about the French footballer, Kylian Mbappé,

  • they often find themselves inserting a third syllable to make it more pronounceable.

  • It's because in English, starting a word with an M and a B next to each other is just not done.

  • So people find themselves subconsciously adapting words of a foreign language to fit the rules of their own.

  • The next reason is stress.

  • No, not that kind.

  • It's where people put the emphasis on words.

  • For example, all French words are stressed on the final syllable, usually with a higher pitch and greater volume.

  • That's why French speakers will call the Texan City, yooston, instead of the English, Houston.

  • Meanwhile, English words often have a secondary stress in addition to the primary one.

  • Civilization, for example.

  • Ditching your languages stress pattern is often very hard and is not always well taught.

  • Other elements of a language's rhythm can be hard to pin down.

  • Cantonese and Italian, for example, are syllable timed, which means that every syllable has roughly the same duration.

  • If you repeat this sentence with every syllable roughly equally timed, you may find yourself halfway to imitating an Italian.

  • Whereas in English, the stressed syllables come at roughly regular intervals and the remainder are less distinctly pronounced.

  • This is how you can distinguish Italian from English being spoken through a wall, even if you can't make out any individual words or sounds.

  • If pronunciation, stress and rhythm were better taught,

  • you might not find yourself speaking like this next time you go on holiday.

Have you ever found yourself speaking English with a weird hybrid accent when you go abroad?

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