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Copycat! – About the imitation of foreign languages

Haven’t you ever had to really laugh when you heard a German or French politician speaking English with a terrible accent? Aren’t some announcements in public transportation incredibly funny when they are made in a German reinterpretation of English and then also resound loudly through the compartment?

But – don’t you know someone who speaks perfect English – even though they are not a native speaker?

How is it that some people can pronounce foreign languages better, or more easily, than others?

Learning to pronounce a foreign language – talent or practice?

When you start to learn a foreign language: What influences whether you learn the pronunciation quickly – is personal talent the decisive factor, or is it simply a matter of practice?

As is often the case, the answer to this question is: learning the pronunciation of a foreign language depends on both factors – talent and practice.

Learning the pronunciation of a foreign language – only for the “talented”?

Of course, the matter of “talent” has already been investigated in various scientific studies in linguistic experiments. Results of this research are as follows:

  • People who, by their personal disposition, are very open to new things and open to change have an easier time learning the pronunciation of a foreign language.
    As a rule, such people try out everything that promises to be different or new. This openness is often accompanied by high motivation in people with such dispositions.
    And high motivation makes learning pronunciation easier.
  • The “talent” of a pronunciation artist can also be seen in his native language.
    Those who can already recognize and imitate dialects in German as a native speaker will also have fewer problems with the pronunciation of a foreign language.
  • Another sign of a person’s linguistic talent is:Anyone who is able to assess the emotional state of a speaker in a foreign language (without seeing the speaker) has a good “ear” for pronunciation in general and pitch in particular.
    So if you’ve already heard the “Hello. Good morning.” of your American colleague on the phone, then there is a good chance that no or only a weak German accent can be detected in your English.

In addition to these personality factors, which you can control or influence to a lesser extent, there are of course clearly factors whose effect you yourself have control over.

How can I positively influence the learning of the pronunciation of a new language?

If you are in the process of learning a new language and are still struggling with pronunciation…
Perhaps these pointers will help you:

  • High motivation = faster pronunciation learning!
    A learner’s motivation has a huge impact on his or her learning success. If you have fun and are highly motivated to learn pronunciation, you will succeed faster than someone who has to force himself every day anew to deal with the foreign language.
  • The more often you practice, the faster you will learn the pronunciation!
    This rule of thumb is also immediately obvious to everyone: If you practice the pronunciation of a foreign language every day, you will learn it faster than someone who only deals with it once a week.
  • It’s easier to learn in a (foreign) country!
    This is not a new insight, either: You learn the pronunciation of a new language much faster if you are in the country. Simply because you have a permanent opportunity to test your pronunciation on a native speaker and see if your conversation partner understands what you mean.
    If you only go to Spanish class once a week and have three opportunities to read a Spanish sentence during the class, it will simply take longer for you to get good at pronunciation.
    If you don’t have the opportunity to travel to the country whose language you are learning, try to get the language “in your ear” as often as possible back home in Germany. Listen to web radio and podcasts, watch news programs on the Internet, buy music CDs and sing along loudly in the foreign language! It is also very effective if you form a so-called language tandem with a native speaker of the foreign language, in which you support each other in learning the foreign language.
  • Stay curious!
    At the beginning of this article, you learned that people who are open to new things can learn the pronunciation of a foreign language particularly quickly. So try to maintain a certain childlike curiosity.

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