How English sounds to non-English speakers

Have you ever wondered how English sounds to a non-English speaker? A short (under 4-minute) film called ‘Skwerl’ attempts to demonstrate this phenomenon. As I was watching this, I often had the uncanny feeling that if only I could hear it just a bit more clearly, I would have understood the words just fine! But perhaps that’s the point. English has particular sounds and often when we’re speaking quickly or lazily, our speech becomes just a blur of sound.

Perhaps you could use this with your students to make up a dialogue or discuss what problems your students have with listening. Perhaps you could use this just to sympathise with their experience.

Pronunciation matters. In students’ feedback they sometimes mention when a teacher paid particular attention to correcting their pronunciation. Do it right from the start. As students start to notice their own mistakes and correct themselves, so their listening ability should also improve.

As for the film itself, personally speaking I wish they hadn’t put in the one swearing expression (2:55). On the other hand, swearing is part of any language and, interestingly, it is pronounced clearly and is understood easily, whereas many of the syllables in the rest of the dialogue are mumbled and difficult to hear – pronouns, connectives, particles, vowels, consonants. Do swear words make our ears prick up and take notice?

Anyway, enjoy. Listen closely. Sympathise.

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