5:05pm

Fri April 22, 2011
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

How Does American English Sound To Non-English Speakers?

Ursula Goodenough recently offered us a stunning video of a parrot at play. If you didn't check it out then, check it out now.

Is the parrot talking?

Why are we so sure we should say no? Is it because the parrot is only imitating the music of speech, without meaning, without syntax?

Or maybe the parrot is talking. Not exactly as we do, but in our style, and precisely because that's the way we do it. After all, the parrot is imitating us.

Of course, this parrot waits until it is left alone to start talking, and its rhythm is the rhythm of partnered speech, but without the partner. It's a kind of perverted speech. Dialog as monolog. Maybe this is why the video is somewhat disturbing.

As a companion to Ursula's video, enjoy Adriano Celentano's hysterically funny look of how American English sounds, and also feels, to people for whom the language is strange:

Thanks to Freya Vass Rhee for the link! Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.