Finding the Native Accent

6 practicing my german with frankPerhaps you’re like many Americans who get so bummed out when they spend a lot of time learning a second language, and then they go abroad, excited to use their new language, and foreigners look at them perplexed. In all likelihood, the people you’re talking to simply can’t follow your rather inaccurate accent. Maybe this is confusing because you did so well in your French/Spanish/German high school and/or college courses.

Aha! Generally, few primary and secondary schools hire native speakers. So, the German that you may have learned from your Alabama- or Massachusetts-born-and-bred German teacher is aurally incomprehensible to Germans.

Accents can also vary greatly within a country, which is why they are often standardized in media outlets. The national news broadcast in the United States, for example, is standardized to a neutral accent, referred to as General American <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_American>. In England, it’s called Received Pronunciation or the Queen’s English <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Received_Pronunciation>, and it’s what you hear on the BBC. In Germany, this neutral pronunciation is called Standard German, Hochdeutsch, or High German. Many countries, like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland not only have different accents from country to country but different dialects as well.

One of the most valuable things about TOTALe is that it offers the voices of native speakers only. So, when I’m going through my lessons, I only hear people who are native German speakers. When I log on to TOTALe for my live coaching, I get a native German speaker, and when the magic voice-recognition software asks me to pronounce German words and phrases into my headset, it is mapping my voice to a model of native speakers’ pronunciation. The speech-recognition engine is checking to see whether I’m speaking accurate German or if I’m getting lazy.

So, if and when Germans look at you perplexed or correct your pronunciation, they’re not trying to be rude or insult your speaking abilities, they’re trying to be helpful—learn from them. Most Germans really appreciate foreigners, especially Americans who are learning their native language.

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Chris Abraham

Thousands of people around the world know exactly what Chris Abraham had for lunch yesterday. With 13,000 followers on Twitter, posts on Digital Next blog and SocialMedia.biz, and two popular blogs of his own, Chris has a wide audience and is generally considered an interesting guy. However, his content is far from the despised what-I-had-for-lunch posts, as Chris frequently imparts his knowledge of social media, salivates over expensive cars, and documents his adventures as an American living in Berlin, Germany. In between his trips across the Atlantic to and from his homes in Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Chris runs a social media marketing agency called Abraham Harrison LLC [AHLLC] with his business partner, Mark Harrison. AHLLC has 35 employees from 12 countries. The diversity of culture and language makes staff meetings less like, well staff meetings, and more like a UN summit. Many employees could conduct meetings in English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, or German, or a combination of all five at once. Not wanting to be one-upped by his staff (again), Chris is remedying his lingual shortcomings by learning German with Rosetta Stone. He also would like to impress his friends in Berlin with fluent, witty, dinner party conversation in German. Rosetta Stone has commissioned Chris to share his German language learning journey and his experience with TOTALe on this blog. Chris’s insights on social media marketing, the BMW, and Berlin dinner parties can be found at www.marketingconversation.com and chrisabraham.com. Chris can also be found on Twitter (www.twitter.com/chrisabraham) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/chrisabraham).
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