Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"think" like a native

part of a series on hot tips for doing things well

what do you sound like when you are thinking? in the middle of a conversation, if you have to think for a second, you say something like "umm..." or "uhh...". if you are talking to someone who is not a native English speaker, one of the telltale signs is that they don't properly express "duh." As an accomplished language non-learner* one of the things i look for in a language is how to sound like you are thinking.

En Francais:
the most important thing here is to tighten your lips into as small and as tight of a circle as you can. now everything you say will sound a little bit french. go ahead and try. "baguette", "oui oui mademoiselle". good. to "duh" from here, just say "eh" but with the circle.
advanced technique:
you can stretch these words as long as you have breath in your lungs:
francaispronunciation anglais
parce quuuuuuuuuuuuuue ... parse kuhbecauuuuuuuse ... 
maaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis ... maybuuuuuuuuuuuut ... 
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet ... ayaaaaaaaaaaand ... 
Voila! Tu es TRES Francais!

i haven't quite figured this one out, but i have a couple. the good news is that their "uh" seems to sound just like ours. i've been listening to some norwegian radio, and to my untrained ears, these seem to be good bets.
norskpronunciation engelsk
fordiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii ... fordybecauuuuuuuse ... 
mennnnnnnnnnn uhh ... men uhhbuuuuuut uhhh ... 
og uhhhhhhhhh ... oh(g) uhhand uhhhhhhh ... 
Ja! Du forstå norsk!

now this one is fun. 
rastapronunciation english
brrrrr...rrrrop!! puddin' pop!! (none) 
lord have mercy lawdamerseylord, show thy mercy unto us
(abrupt loud horn noises) (play a horn)(BWAAAAAAH BWAH BWAH BWAH BWAAAAAAH)
Ah wah dis likkle sinting yuh a gi me?

now, if you have mastered the ability of letting other people speak and just leading them with a word here and there, you can now use interminable duh's to bait people into finishing your thoughts. then just point at them (in countries where that is an acceptable gesture) and nod like they just read your mind!


* non-language learner qulaifications: i have taken 4 years of high school french, one pimsleur spanish lesson, and about a week's worth of fumbling with various online resources and one physical book trying to learn norwegian. but so far i still only speak english.

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