Accenting Accents

by Laura Kernaghan
February 14, 2019

As you may already know, here at thisislanguage.com we’ve been working on some exciting new content to share with you (read more about it here). Over the next few months, we’ll be adding over 500 new French and German videos to the site, for even more linguistic variety.

So what’s new with accents you might ask?

Well, we’ve added our first non-German German accents and our most southerly French accent yet! These, combined with our Spanish-speakers from Colombia and the Sicilian natives we’ve filmed in the past, provide a great excuse to put together a lesson on accents.

With this in mind, we’ve gathered a few video IDs and handy tips on how to make the most of our interviewees’ accents in your classroom.

What to listen out for?

German

Video ID: 9467

Sophie’s pronunciation of the vowel combination “au” is typical of Viennese accents. Comparing the way she says prepositions like “aus” and “darauf” to the way they are pronounced by a German-speaker from Berlin (e.g. in video 2399) is a clear example of one of the differences between Hochdeutsch and Austrian German.

Video ID: 9421

Manuel from South Tirol brings some more pronounced pronunciation differences to the table! This is at its clearest when you listen to the way he says “ich” and “nicht”. Your students might find it interesting to compare this to how Mara from Berlin says the same words in video 4538. Manuel’s videos are great for testing understanding of tricky negatives.

Video ID: 9464 & 9530

Another interesting feature of our Austrian videos is the use of “ein bisserl” instead of “ein bisschen”. The suffix “-erl” is often used in Austria and Bavaria to create a diminutive form, much like “-chen” is used in Hochdeutsch.

French

Video ID: 9118

The different accents within France are often most distinguishable by the way vowels or vowel combinations are pronounced. While none of the people we filmed in Lyon have particularly strong southern accents, you can hear a slight twang in the way Annabelle says words like “quelqu’un” and “marier” in video 9118.

It is often said that some beginner French learners find it easier to understand southern French accents because they tend to pronounce each syllable more clearly. In the table below we’ve paired up videos on the same topic which have similar difficulty ratings but in which the speakers have different accents. We thought it might be interesting to test the theory with your students!

Southern Accent:             Northern Accent:            
91495721
91745218
92785314

Italian

Video ID: 6713

Salvatore’s accent is a wonderful example of the differences between Northern Italian accents and those from the South (he’s originally from Catania in Sicily). The way he says the ‘s’ in “casa” is much closer to the English ‘s’ sound than to the standard Italian version (more like our ‘z’).

In the same video (6713), your students may also find it interesting to listen out for the second ‘c’ in “cucina” – more like ‘sh’ than the ‘ch’ they’ll be used to.

Video ID: 6713

Salvatore’s hard consonants also give him away. In video 6713, you can hear that “cani” sounds more like “gani”. In video 6725,giocare” sounds more like “gioGare” and “campagna” sounds more like “camBagna“. Try asking your classes to compare the hard consonants in these videos to those in video 6585.

Spanish

Video ID: 1148 and 1355

As your students may well have noticed, one of the major differences between the Spanish and Colombian accents (the pronunciation of ‘z’) is on display in many of our videos. Comparing Mary from Spain in video 1448 to Karen from Colombia in video 1355 is a useful place to start.

Video ID: 4953 and 1562

There are also some great examples of regional variation in pronunciation of the letter ‘c’. You might like to try asking your students to listen to how
Margary from Colombia pronounces the letter ‘c’ in “cerca”, “bicicleta” and “facilmente” in video 4953 and compare this to Christina from Spain’s “entonces”, “hacer” and “solucionó” (video ID 1562) . These two videos also showcase a bit of vocabulary variation: “coche” and “carro”.

We’d love to hear how you approach accents in you lessons.

Tweet us @thisislanguage to let us know!

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