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Q&A

Why is my Danglish pronunciation much better than Danish?

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For background, there exists a stereotypical Danish pronunciation of English. "Danglish" can also mean other things, but this is what I am referring to, here.

I lived one year in Denmark and can read Danish fluently and manage understanding spoken language, but my pronunciation is very clumsy. I have since learned fluent and non-awful, even if non-native, Norwegian. English is not my native language either.

The other day I tried to read some English with a stereotypical Danish accent and it went surprisingly well. I then tried to read actual text and the accent is much weaker there. I should say that I can't really copy other accents of English or my native language, for that matter, and can't copy a stereotypical accent of a Norwegian speaking in English.

This seems quite unintuitive. Is there a specific reason why the Danish-like pronunciation of English is particularly easy (my native language is Finnish, if it makes a difference)? Or is this simple hubris on my part? Or is there something generally easy about the Danish pronunciation of English? Or is this simply a bizarre occurence with no systematic reasons?

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2 comments

How would you classify your normal English accent? Maybe Danish pronunciation is harder just because of the harder phonology? (I don't remember glottal stops in Danglish, nor guttural R's, nor "soft d's") user53100‭ 5 months ago

I mispronounce some words (since I have read much more than listened), but overall I am quite comprehensible. Likely some systematic problems like weak difference between "v" and "w". The emphasis is somewhat off when compared to natives. tommi‭ 5 months ago

1 answer

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In the Pinyin romanization of Mandarin Chinese, the 't' denotes a voiceless aspirated coronal stop and the 'd' denotes a voiceless unaspirated coronal stop. But, since I'm a native English speaker, I just use my standard voiceless aspirated coronal stop for 't' and my standard voiced unaspirated coronal stop for 'd'. In English we don't really have voiceless unaspirated stops at the starts of words, for whatever reason, so the Mandarin-style 'd' is really difficult for me. Lucky for me, Mandarin does not have any voiced coronal stops at all, so as long as I get the aspiration right I'll sound like an American but they'll understand my 'd' just fine.

Maybe Finnish also has no voiceless unaspirated stops at the starts of words; it has the same voice-aspiration pairings as English. I have no idea if that is true, but let's assume. Then you would probably mangle Mandarin in the same way that I mangle Mandarin: you would sound steriotypically Manglish! Like Danglish? From merging "Mandarin" and "English?" Well anyway just because you mangle Mandarin the same way that I mangle Mandarin, it does not mean that you speak English the same way that I speak English. Yeah you pronounce word-leading coronal stops the same, but there is no guarantee that you can also master English's many and nuanced fricatives! Your ability to do Manglish is not the same as your ability to do Mandarin or English, just like your ability to do Danglish is not the same as your ability to do Danish or English.

Big disclaimer: I have no idea how specifically you are mangling English, or which phonemes Finnish and Danish share that enable you to mangle English in the same way. This is all just a guess. If you do want to dig deeper, note that you should not look only at phonemes present naturally in each language... it's easy for me to change how I hold my mouth and my tongue to try to get some of Mandarin's retroflex consonants, which are not naturally in English, but I am probably screwing them up in a systematically predictable way because of how I am used to breathing, or because of how I am used to gliding into particular vowel sounds.

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