Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Critical Mom and the English Teachers

The critical mom is American, as you probably know.  The critical mom has on previous occasions grumbled at the locally-held delusion that British accents sound good and American accents sound like chewing gum.  The critical mom enjoys hearing her children imitate the accents produced by their classmates, especially when those classmates have been singing.  As in:

Old Meck-Tonald head a farm
Eye-eye, eye-eye, oh! (alternatively, "Ay-yi, oh!)
Und on zis farm zaire vas a pick,
Eye-eye, eye-eye, oh!

Those "th" sounds defeat them completely.  The "d" sounds so much like the "t" to them, and vice versa.  Also difficult is the hard g, also the soft g, so that "pig" becomes "pick" and "Sponge" becomes "Spunch" and Sponge Bob becomes "Spunch" (rhymes with crunch) Bop, as in bopping along, not much listening to language become global.  Another favorite often brayed lustily by my sons:

Heppy Burs-day tow you!
Heppy Burs-day tow you! . . .  

Sometimes the "H" gets that gutteral, I'm-coughing-up-a-hairball sound, too.  And we know a little girl named "Chenny."
"You mean Jenny?" I asked her mother.
"Ja!  Chenny."

If you want to erase your accent, or make it possible to hide your German identity, all ya gotta do is:

(1) Get that "th" sound--YouTube has lots of pronunciation exercises on this one, but basically, to make the sound at the beginning of the word "this," you have to touch the tip of your tongue to the backside of your two front teeth.  And if you want the word "think," you blow out a little, as if you were blowing a big bubble with your bubblegum.

(2) Learn how to pronounce "J" as in "Jack," and this one is harder.

(3) Learn how to pronounce "V" and "W" and don't get them confused.  And if you do all that, I just God-damn guarantee you that folks will guess you are from somewhere in Europe, but they won't know where.  And they will think that you sound "so sophisticated."  Take it from me.  How well I remember the Bavarian restaurant owner who catered our wedding.  His dream was to marry a rich American.  He heard--from an American friend of mine--something about a rich Guggenheim, and wandered around the whole wedding dinner murmuring:  "Guggenheim?  Guggenheim?"  I assured him that he could pass himself off as a count in New York.  None of those folks would ever guess that in Bavaria his accent betrays him as a peasant.

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