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Do you think languages sound differently?


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I used to think all languages are same, it's just the pronunciation difference. However, when I get to hear more and more kinds of languages, I noticed that languages are not all same! I mean for same sentence it's ordered in various ways in each language. Attitude or accent of each group of people also speak differently, some people speak softly, like Japanese, some people speak a little powerfully, like Korean, some people speak romantically, like Spanish, some people... What do you think about it?

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I think languages take on a flavor all their own. As you mention, delivery varies greatly between languages as does inflection. And perception can be part of it too.

For example, many Americans find German a very harsh language, but I think for the most part it is a pretty language that often makes more sense than English.  :smile:

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yes, it is the same for European Learners of Chinese. There are also some "sounds" that we are not used to, so this makes it pretty difficult to study the language.

I know some people they have been studying Chinese for many years but on the streets they are still not understood as their pronunciation is just not good enough...the funny thing is, their teachers probably have no problem to understand them as they are used to foreign speakers..but on the streets..it's a whole different thing :smile:

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Ya that sounds reasonable. And it may also depends on the place where you are, if you visit Shanghai, maybe some people won't understand mandarin even by a native Chinese person, they have their own dialect, especially old people. However, nowadays mandarin is propagated quite widely, almost young people understand it within China or in Malaysia, Singapore, etc. By the way, if you learn Chinese well, Japanese might be somehow easy already, at the same time, if you learn Japanese already, Chinese would also be easy. Languages belonging to same linguistic family are similar to each other.

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This question sound very interesting too!  :smile: I have learned that languages have genealogy like human consanguinity relationship does which we call 'family tree'. Learning from this idea of language similarities (or differences) we can assume that some languages sound similarly if they fall below the same language family. However, they sound differently if they aren't.

Languages sound similarly and its so fun and easy to learn  language  if the new language is similar to the first language learned. In the Philippines, the sounds of the English language is similar to the sounds of Tagalog/Filipino but to learn German, Russian or French will be more challenging.

Languages sound differently perhaps will depend on reception of the listeners but for keen observers, the sounds may just be the similar if not the same. The human language has the common vowels and consonant sounds but some combinations of them vary in pronunciation. Here in the Philippines, we have 'ng' consonant combination pronounced as 'nang' like 'sang' in English. 'V' consonant for German language is pronounced as 'f' like in volkswagen.

Whatever it is, the bottomline is that we need to learn the similarities and differences of language when we will try to learn it.

Happy thoughts everyone! :wink:

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This is an interesting question. There are languages which are closely related that have very different sounds. Brazilian and European Portuguese, for example sound like totally different languages but are both dialects of Portuguese.

There are sounds that are unique to certain languages that do not exist in others. The Chinese tones, the  guttural sounds of Arabic, the retroflex sounds in Indian languages and the "Ll" sound in Welsh. These require specific types of articulations that make them sound unique to speakers of other languages. So yes, different languages sound really different.

Also the syllable structure is very different. You will recognize immediately that "mei tian" is a Mandarin Chinese word while "Krankenhaus" is definitely German.

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Well, there's only so many sounds that humans can make so I think that there are bound to be some crossovers but all language groups are very different. For example the Latin based languages might sound somewhat similar, but totally different to the Chinese languages.

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This question sound very interesting too!  :smile: I have learned that languages have genealogy like human consanguinity relationship does which we call 'family tree'. Learning from this idea of language similarities (or differences) we can assume that some languages sound similarly if they fall below the same language family. However, they sound differently if they aren't.

Languages sound similarly and its so fun and easy to learn  language  if the new language is similar to the first language learned. In the Philippines, the sounds of the English language is similar to the sounds of Tagalog/Filipino but to learn German, Russian or French will be more challenging.

Languages sound differently perhaps will depend on reception of the listeners but for keen observers, the sounds may just be the similar if not the same. The human language has the common vowels and consonant sounds but some combinations of them vary in pronunciation. Here in the Philippines, we have 'ng' consonant combination pronounced as 'nang' like 'sang' in English. 'V' consonant for German language is pronounced as 'f' like in volkswagen.

Whatever it is, the bottomline is that we need to learn the similarities and differences of language when we will try to learn it.

Happy thoughts everyone! :wink:

Tagalog was one of the the first languages I learned. I love the "nga" sounds, we use them a lot in Malay and Indonesian as well! I tried to teach a French friend how to pronounce "mga ngisngis" meaning "giggles" or "little grins" and we ended up laughing at his failed attempts! Really while there are some sounds that overlap and are found in most languages, a few unique sounds are limited to specific languages in certain geographical areas for example, or to those languages that belong to the same family.

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I think it's pretty clear that languages are structured differently based on  their place within the 'languge ancestry tree.' So, of course Romance languages sound more familiar to the ear and more easily recognizable as structured language than say Semitic or Far-Eastern languages.

As far as the tone of individual languages...that's tough. I mean, I've been speaking English for my entire life and I feel liek i've gotten the whole array of emotional and psychological triggers from m language so i would hate to label English as 'romantic' or 'casual.' I'm guessing that native Spanish speakers probably feels similarly about Spanish, despite how exotic and romantic I find it to be.

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I totally agree with you guys. exotic sounds may seem that way to us but to native speakers, these sounds are just natural and ordinary. Spanish or French might sound romantic to an English speaker but to native speakers, they sound completely ordinary!

Here's a clip of South African singer Miriam Makeba singing her very popular song "Qongqothwane" - it's in Xhosa, her native language. If you think Chinese or Korean sounds exotic, wait till you hear Xhosa. It uses a lot of click sounds (very common in southern Africa) and while the click sounds are incredibly exotic to us, to them, they're as ordinary as "a,b,c".

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I am a native English speaker, but I have noticed that when I hear German spoken, it almost sounds like English to me . . . I feel like I can almost understand it, as if it was just out of reach, like the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. :tongue:

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Yes! I believe languages differ in the way they sound. Some languages have certain sounds that don't exist in other languages. Some even have 'clicks' in them!! My mother who is native to Vietnamese for example, have a difficult time pronouncing the 'th' sound in the word 'there' because that 'th' sound does not exist in her native language. Many Asian languages are also called tonal languages because of the way a word sounds can change the meaning. So one word, spelled the same, can mean 5 different things just by changing the tone of the word.

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I think a lot of languages are vastly different. From continent to continent you hear very unique sentence structure, accents and pronunciation differences. Of course from country to country though, within close proximity the languages are very similar and many of them borrow words, phrases and pronunciations from each other. Learning a new language is hard and difficult at the same time because of this.

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Of course, they sound differently. You will notice that British English sounds different than American English. Although they speak the same language, there is a difference in the accent. So yeah, the difference in the accent and how they sound is only natural.

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Here's a clip of South African singer Miriam Makeba singing her very popular song "Qongqothwane" - it's in Xhosa, her native language. If you think Chinese or Korean sounds exotic, wait till you hear Xhosa. It uses a lot of click sounds (very common in southern Africa) and while the click sounds are incredibly exotic to us, to them, they're as ordinary as "a,b,c".

This is quite exotic.  I agree. What's amazing is that she is making the click sounds so effortlessly. As you are watching her perform, you can't tell how she formulates that unique sound.  It's almost as if she has a percussive instrument making those sounds, accompanying her as she sings. 

As to the larger question, yes, languages do sound different.  As a native speaker of English and as a child growing up -- before I studied languages -- it seemed to me that people who spoke other languages spoke so rapidly.  English, in contrast, seemed much slower in pace.  I heard mostly Spanish and the language sounded so beautiful and poetic compared to English. 

And the same with French.  Our family would sometimes spend vacations in Montreal, Quebec.  My father could speak French fairly well and I always noticed the difference between the way he spoke -- more slowly and deliberately --  and the way the residents spoke with such fluidity.

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Yes, languages do sounds differently. Sometimes even if two persons from different countries are using the same word or phrases you will notice the different sounds. Sometime by just listening to someone who is talking, you can say where he/ she came from.

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Yes, languages do sounds differently. Sometimes even if two persons from different countries are using the same word or phrases you will notice the different sounds. Sometime by just listening to someone who is talking, you can say where he/ she came from.

I for one can tell who is British and who is American by listening to their different accents. If an Indian guy who has been raised in India, speaks in English, you can pretty much guess that he is from India. Such is our accent lol :)

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Yes, definitely.

Many languages have different nuances that non-native speakers may not even notice.

A lot of asian languages are tonal. This means words are pronounced the same, but the meaning changes depending on the pitch.

I've also heard some African languages incorporate tongue clicks into their words.

Even with English, we raise the pitch of our last word when asking a question.

I'm sure there are thousands of other aspects that I don't know about. I think it's incredibly interesting.

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This is very true, all major languages sound distinctively different. Some languages however from that have similar origins sound very similar.It has a lot to do with geography and civilization.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Languages do sound differently and it's part of the charm of why I want to learn different languages when the time permits it! I really like the NG sound as stated by someone here. I always try to make most of my foreigner friends to speak it out and most I get to do it sound like zombies groaning for brains. :D

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I totally agree with you guys. exotic sounds may seem that way to us but to native speakers, these sounds are just natural and ordinary. Spanish or French might sound romantic to an English speaker but to native speakers, they sound completely ordinary!

Here's a clip of South African singer Miriam Makeba singing her very popular song "Qongqothwane" - it's in Xhosa, her native language. If you think Chinese or Korean sounds exotic, wait till you hear Xhosa. It uses a lot of click sounds (very common in southern Africa) and while the click sounds are incredibly exotic to us, to them, they're as ordinary as "a,b,c".

I think there are differences in level and inflection that may be consistent among certain languages but it does depend on the speaker.''  As to the click song, that was truly a treat and yes definitely a novelty I was not accustomed to.

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