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How do you feel when you don’t understand?

  Tags: Dialect | Accent
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
32 messages over 4 pages: 13 4  Next >>
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 Message 9 of 32
19 September 2013 at 5:47pm | IP Logged 
The Glaswegian that Bill Bryson spoke to said nothing but "f**kle muckle f**kle muckle f**kle muckle...." as far as he could tell.
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 Message 10 of 32
20 September 2013 at 12:56pm | IP Logged 
Donaldshimoda wrote:
How do you feel when you don't understand a language YOU ARE
I mean, I'm into English since I was a child,and I'm still reading,writing,listening
the language on a daily basis understanding it 98%/100%.
I don't know if I'm a C1 or C2 (surely some skills are more developed than others)and I
don't really care about it, BUT as I wrote before I'm supposed to handle it flawless
even more so I've never had problems reading complex text or understanding any kind of
movies (mostly americans).
My ears are more acquainted with the american English, no problems at all even with
strong southern accents and so on but when it comes to listen people from UK or other
countries (singapore or india comes to mind)I find myself struggling alot to even catch
the general meaning of the speech.
I had troubles getting an ice cream in Chester (near Manchester),a train ticket in
Glasgow, asking for direction in Kuala Lumpur as well as complaining at hotel desk in
Hong Kong.
I did feel kind of depressed (language-wise speaking) because I couldn't and still
can't understand why I didn't handle those situations despite I'm so sure I have an
extended knowledge of the language under my belt. It feels like you're going nowhere
keeping studying and putting a lot of efforts into a language you love.

What about you?Have you ever experienced something like that?Have you ever find
yourself into a situation where you were thinking something like "It's not possible I'm
not understanding it, I really know this language!!!!"?

I'm a native speaker of English, but I had problems the first time I went to the
Republic of Ireland (to an admittedly fairly rural area). It took me a few days to "get
my ear in", and understand what people said without having to apologise and ask them to
repeat it.

So if you simply aren't used to some regional variations, don't worry too much. You
would soon get used to them if you were exposed to them for (I guess) more than a few

As to whether you were making yourself understood properly (or were people
unfamiliar with your accent), that's a whole other issue, and not what you asked
about, but clearly could have contributed to communication problems. I'm not surprised
you had problems in Glasgow, by the way. Chester shouldn't have been so bad.
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 Message 11 of 32
20 September 2013 at 1:08pm | IP Logged 
garyb wrote:
This reminds me that soon after when I started learning Italian, I told
a Northern Italian friend that I had difficulty understanding people from certain
regions in the South. Her answer: "So do I." Also reminds me of when I was on a tour in
Ireland and at times I could barely understand the guide. And that's as a
native English speaker; I feel sorry for all the Spanish, Italian, and German tourists
who made up the majority of the group. I grew up 30 miles from Glasgow so that one's
generally not a problem, but even I've heard a few particularly thick accents from
there that were difficult. And when I started university, I had to make an effort to
tone down my accent just so all the English and American people could understand me,
not to mention foreign students.

Anyway I have had similar experiences to what you describe. Quite a few times, I've
started to think that my listening comprehension is getting really good and I can
understand everything, only to be "put in my place" by a certain speaker or film. I
agree that it's humbling and just reminds you that you still need to improve, and now I
just accept it for what it is, but it was certainly frustrating the first couple of

Reminds me of a trip I made way back, when I was around 20, and was part of an exchange
trip aimed at people of my age group to our twin-town in Flanders. The young people who
mixed with us (who either had been, or were coming to our town in exchange) could
generally speak English very well, but they apparently had some problems with some
members of our group who spoke a heavily-accented, non-RP version of the local
(English) accent around here, which was probably a bit stronger then than it is
nowadays. I happened to be interviewed by a local newspaper reporter about the trip,
and he asked about this, and was it some obscure dialect or something. I remember
telling him "it's just an accent". It's possible that some of the lads were
exaggerating it a bit for effect, or to tease some of the Flemings.
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 Message 12 of 32
20 September 2013 at 1:25pm | IP Logged 
tastyonions wrote:
Yeah, I have trouble even in English with some accents. I
particularly remember a hotel
worker in England who had a mumbly speaking style and an accent that was tough to

For fun I like to show this video
to learners of English, warning them beforehand not to be discouraged if it's a bit
difficult. :-)

:-) enjoyed that. FWIW, they say "yonder" or "yon" where my parents come from in
Cumbria. (And a lot of other things that I don't say).

EDIT: my Concise OED gives Middle English for "yonder" + cf. Old Saxon: gendra, Gothic:
jaindre (jaindré? - not clear because of the way it's printed)

For "yon", it gives: Old English: geon


I often wonder whether US and British English will one day diverge into more distinctly
different languages. I think there are some pressures in that direction, and some
against, so it is not clear at this point how it will play out. They already are very
different, especially the regional variations, but still (sometimes with some time and
effort) mutually comprehensible. That could eventually change, I believe.

There may still remain (in the future) a common written (largely academic) language. I
think we have precedents for that in language history.

Edited by montmorency on 20 September 2013 at 1:49pm

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Super Polyglot
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 Message 13 of 32
20 September 2013 at 2:11pm | IP Logged 
The word "yonder" wasn't unknown to me -after all, several languages have a three-step distance indication system, where modern English just has two steps (here and there).

I listened to the Appalachians and it was not too hard to understand them once I had decoded their sound system (i.e. learnt to wait patiently for the end of the vowels). Most of the local words they mentioned were also known, but just not with the same meaning - for instance "poke" instead of "bag". "Jasper" and "peckerwood(er)" would probably have been comprehensible in a concrete context (with the speaker in front of you to provide facial expressions). I wonder whether "si-goggled" has something to do with the word "goggles" for glasses, but in the Appalachian Mountains it apparently means someting like "skewed" or "crooked". OK, guessable with enough context - and here we even got the explanation served on a silver platter

The simple fact is that all languages, dialects, socialects and other -lects contain unknown words. I also see unknown words if I try to read about unfamiliar topics, and it is not more problematic to deal with it in a dialect than it is when it occurs with an unfamiliar subject matter. And concerning the pronunciation: some languages are notoriously difficult to understand if you mainly know them from written sources, but dealing with aberrant pronunciations is a general skill which can be trained. You just have to find out how the wellknown words sound in the foreign dialect to tune in to the foreign speech.

And any mischievous dialect speaker can tease a foreigner by exaggerating the particularities of his/her dialect.

Edited by Iversen on 20 September 2013 at 6:09pm

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Super Polyglot
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 Message 14 of 32
20 September 2013 at 2:28pm | IP Logged 
Dutch also has "daarginder, daarginds". Same root as English "yonder". Sounds a bit
archaic to me, but it's still used.

Edited by tarvos on 20 September 2013 at 2:29pm

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Bilingual Triglot
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 Message 15 of 32
20 September 2013 at 2:50pm | IP Logged 
"Wild Blue Yonder" is a reasonably well know phrase: it's even made it into a few film

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 Message 16 of 32
20 September 2013 at 3:37pm | IP Logged 
If you find that you often have trouble with regional dialects or foreign accents, you may need to expose yourself to more material or you are not quite as fluent as you thought you were, but even those with native level fluency will stumble upon certain dialects. If it rarely happens, and you don't have to spend extended periods where they speak a dialect you don't understand, don't worry.

In Swedish I have been known to have trouble with gutamål from time to time, and I'm a native.

When it comes to English, I remember having quite recently moved to Aberdeen (Scotland). I was walking my bicycle up this enormous hill and the wind was so bad I could barely move. A very old gentleman came walking down the pavement next to me, nodded in a friendly manner, and said, roughly transcribed: "Eesskrauwkin av-vy towdee!" I still have no clue what it was doing heavily that day, but I'm guessing from context that it had something to do with the wind.

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