Anomalies

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Anomalies are those things that do not just veer off into the unknown causing major friction in chartered and metered courses. They are in and by their own right natural occurrences that sometimes allow us to change course or make us stop right in our tracks. One of these phenomenas in language learning is the case for fear of mispronunciation. It is a well established fact that there is a time limit for humanoids (yes, it sounds weird) when it comes to trying to learn a new language as fluent as possible. After the so called window of opportunity closes the fluency channels begin a slow shut down. Not that it is impossible to learn a new language, you can, but no just as clear and fluent as a native. There are tricks and other awareness related techniques that allow for an artificial likeness to fluency but it is not the same. Again, you really need to be aware, awake of what you are doing. Basically anybody can do it but as languages go a slight mispronunciation can give away loads of information about you the speaker.

Be that as it may, the anomaly here is not whether one can pronounce right or not or how best to achieve pronunciation in any given language. There is one factor I have never heard discussed in major scientific ways and that is the negative side effects that mispronunciation produces in natives when the target language is produced. This Pavlovian reaction to the mispronunciation of the target language is of interest to me. It ranges the gamut from admiration, positive-negative, when accents acquire an accepted pronunciation to total rejection to both the speaker and the language produced.

I am brought to this topic because I was watching a tv news program earlier this morning. The Swedish tv channel called 4 had an Australian guest in its morning reportage and the guest tried to reproduce a Swedish word and was relieved to have pronounced the word right which was no small feat since it was a word with an ö.  This is tantamount to seeing foreigners trying to reproduce the -ird in bird or the -ur in fur. It was not the kind of relief one would expect to be a relief from achieving positive result or born out of curiosity but a relief that the produced language did not create a negative reaction and was both accepted and understood by the parties at hand which in this case were all natives speakers of the Swedish language. I immediately related to this behavior because as a Swedish learner and speaker I have had my share of total rejection by other Swedish speakers for the kind of language I produce when speaking Swedish. If you are ever to learn Swedish in your lifespan be sure to take into account that the level of tolerance for mispronunciation in Sweden is a fact one needs to be able to take to task. This tolerance level is very low in Swedes. They tend to frown upon the speakers of the language who grossly overlook how to produce good spoken Swedish. They have no patience whatsoever and are ready to mock or just right out lash at the offense before them. One here ought to keep in mind that this is a natural occurrence for Swedes since their language is a tonal language. That they are more or less tolerant than other tonal language groups is up for grabs but if Chinese are any indication than tonal languages have a characteristic as being intolerant to speakers who mispronounce the language than we’re in for it for the rough.

I personally don’t take Swedish intolerance personally, not anymore anyways because I know this sort of behavior cuts right across the board even when it comes to native speakers. I live between Stockholm and Scania and boy do these natives from Småland have things to say about 08’s and mouth potatoes. Although this level of tolerance is painfully more acute towards immigrants. We feel it more the so because though Swedish people are themselves largely unawares about how their own language functions, and that can be said about any group pf language speakers, by the bye’s, they fail to take into account courtesy. They have no time for considerations such as the fact that one is trying to learn their language. They will ask you how long have you been in the country just to gauge the severity of the offense. For some asinine reason, really, Swedes will not help out with one’s language problems. I Personally am baffled at this behavior because both in English and Spanish although not the Good Samaritans we do extend a helping hand when it comes to learning languages. But that’s just the American in me.

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