What English Sounds To Non-English Speakers

Foreign phrases on green board

English is the most popular language in the world. Everyone tries to speak it, which turns us into the laziest linguists in the world – no need to learn anything new, any time the communication is possible. In this situation, it’s hard to imagine how English can sound weird, ha?

But for the majority of the world population, it really does. And the complexity of the globe is the cause of it.


All English speakers are sensitive to various accents – but while for us it’s just the matter of weird intonation and strange pronunciation, for non-English speakers the new variant of English may turn into a complete disaster. When they get used to a certain accent, the new variant can completely cut the ground from under their feet. This results in the mental pressure. English learners try to understand everything but catch only some words; they put too much effort in all this, and the meaning is forever lost.

For example, it is easier to understand American English at first – simply because it is slower and not that aggressive. However, if a student starts from British English, the same kind of difficulties may appear in conversation with Australians. What a vicious circle!

Language groups

Also, the background of a student is important. For European people, hearing English is not that weird – German, for example, belongs to the same language family, and there are some familiar words in both languages.

But in the case of Asian countries, the situation is not that favorable. Some students feel English as an animal sound – strange intonations, unusual movements of the mouth, and weird combinations of sounds. Besides, many languages do not have ‘th’ – imagine their reaction when they hear that for the first time in their life! It really needs special practice to learn how to produce the sound you’ve never heard before.

How to feel that experience

No matter how long we’ll explain the feelings of non-English speakers, you’d better feel it with your own ears. Here are two brilliant illustrations to the idea discussed here – short film from London filmmakers Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston Skwerl and Adriano Chelentano’s song “Prisencolinensinanciusol.”

Check them out and feel that pain!

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