Doubletalk of the month

« previous post | next post »

Several people have sent me links to this recently-posted video:

There's a sequel here — and imitations of singing genres here.

I've noticed that people who are good at imitating accents and languages often associate each imitation with a different setting of postures, gestures, facial expressions, body-movement patterns, etc., as this woman does.

But this young man maintains fairly consistent body language through all of his accent imitations. And Amy Walker seems to limit the changes to the lower half of her face.

Some other posts on doubletalk-ish things:

"Yaourter", 7/21/2009
"Prisencolinensinainciusol", 10/25/2009
"Yoghurt medley", 7/23/2010
"What English sounds like if you have Wernicke's apahasia", 10/22/2011
"How Sid Caesar learned double-talk", 2/13/2014



  1. Coby Lubliner said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

    I checked out the second video, and she lost me with what was subtitled as Polish: it didn't sound at all like my native language.

    To me, by the way, the acme of doubletalk was Charlie Chaplin's pseudo-German in "The Great Dictator".

  2. Ellen K. said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    I think the "American English" version should be more specifically labeled.

    Related to what Coby says, it didn't sound at all like how I and the people around me talk, but it did sound like a variety of American English. Or maybe a stereotype of a particular subset of American English.

    Which I, alas, can't think of the proper way to describe/label.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

    These people are incredibly talented. I wonder if it would be possible to do some sort of phonemic analysis of their imitations to see how closely they match actual speech in the languages being imitated.

    And then there are the crudely reductionist impressionists like Bill O'Reilly with his "bing, bing, bing, bing…" and Shaq O'Neal with his "Ching chong yang, wah, ah soh".

    When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the hills of Nepal, the little children would try to imitate my English by saying "wh-, wh-, wh-, wh-…."

  4. Keith Ivey said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

    Some more toward the "crudely reductionist" end starting at 1:20 here:

  5. Theophylact said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

    The late Sid Caesar was a master.

  6. Yakusa Cobb said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 1:55 pm

    @Coby Lubliner, Ellen K.I think you've both:missed the point.

    As a speaker of English and French, I can say that the 'UK English' doesn't resemble my dialect at all (it could probably best described as a piss-take of 'Estuary English').

    Similarly, the 'French' is to me very unconvincing.

    But, the title of the piece is 'What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners' (not "… to Native Speakers').

    So, for example, the 'Portuguese', 'American English' and 'Polish' extracts all make me laugh (which, after all, is the object of the exercise…=.

  7. Jongseong Park said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

    Her Finnish and Swedish sound entirely authentic while still being gibberish, so she must be at least very familiar with the sounds of those languages if not a fluent speaker in them. But as she ventures further away the language impressions quickly deteriorate, which is not surprising.

  8. Piyush said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

    I am native Hindi speaker, and the Hindi on the video sounded to me like someone speaking Hindi with a stereotypical Tamil (or perhaps Telugu) accent. But the US and UK English imitations sounded quite authentic to me.

  9. D.O. said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    Somehow I think the lady is speaking all these languages with the same accent. That is her pronunciation is distinctively hers (or whatever is her native accent) no matter which language she tries to imitate. At least that is how it sounded to me.

  10. Slava said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

    What do people think of Danny Kaye's languages in "The Court Jester"? He does only a few, but I've always liked them.

  11. Keith M Ellis said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

    I had a different experience than some of the others here, as the two varieties of English surprised and amazed me. Not because they were exactly correct, but that they were gibberish and yet to my ear captured very well a number of features that are distinctive to both. That led me to re-evaluate the other languages (which I don't know) more positively, not less.

  12. Pflaumbaum said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

    I agree with Keith, although it must be said that her "UK English" seems to me to contain mostly real words and even full phrases, interspersed with occasional non-words:

    "I tell you I keel it in my bones. Dumb things, innit? It's like a miraculously ['mobbilising'] felt-tip pen, like her ordinary ['chrysentins'] of a [marriating] [follero]…"

    Which is not to say that it's not a superb London / south-east England accent. To my native ear it's perfect.

  13. Oskar Sigvardsson said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 6:07 pm

    She almost has to be a native Swedish speaker, her imitation of Swedish is far too good. It's gibberish, but she throws in a few words that almost only native speakers would know, and she pronounces them perfectly. She also uses a dialect of Swedish associated with young urban women (think Swedish equivalent of "Valley Girl") and she uses words that perfectly associate with that sociolect.

    For instance, the first word she says is a very quick "Asså", which is a Swedish interjection that's short for the word "alltså". When spoken in Swedish very quickly in certain dialects (primarily the Stockholm dialect), the double-l and t falls away and "alltså" becomes "asså". It's a word very much associated with young urban men and women, it functions similarly to the stereotype about how the word "like" in Valley Girl speak. It NEVER appears in writing, just speech, and only native speakers or people who have lived in Sweden for a very long time would know to use it in this way.

    There's a number of other examples this. At one point she uses the phrase "som fan" (roughly "like hell"), also very informal, also almost only appears in spoken Swedish. Another example is when she says "Dessa fjortare". "Dessa" means "these", but the word "fjortare" doesn't exist in Swedish. However, the almost identical word "fjortisar" does, it's a very slangy word derived from the number "fjorton" ("fourteen"). It means roughly the same thing as the word English word "tween" (that is, it's a derogatory term for pre-teens or very young teens). It's exactly the kind of word the "character" she's embodying would use, and the slight variation can be chalked up to her speaking gibberish. And again, every single piece of pronunciation is absolutely perfect.

    If she's not a native Swede, then this is the most impressive piece of linguistic mimicry I have ever seen.

  14. Victor Mair said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 6:26 pm


    "Somehow I think the lady is speaking all these languages with the same accent."

    I know excellent foreign speakers of Hindi, French, German, Mandarin, and many other languages, and the idiolect of their native languages somehow colors their speech in these second languages, no matter how fluent they are in them. However, there is one second language where, if I close my eyes and listen to advanced, expert non-native speakers of them, I can be fooled more often than with other languages into thinking that they are native speakers, and that is Japanese. I don't know why this is so, but I am acquainted with more non-native speakers of Japanese who have truly native fluency (or at least it sounds that way to me) than I am for any other language with which I am familiar.

  15. Jim Breen said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

    In the languages I know (English, French, Italian, Japanese) she sounded fairly unconvincing, bordering on caricature.
    Getting to Victor's comment about impressive non-native speakers of Japanese, my own experience is a bit the same. I know a couple of people of whom native Japanese say that if they shut their eyes they wouldn't know it was not a native speaker. That contrasts with virtually all the non-native French speakers I know, who may be very fluent but still have accents.

  16. Cecilia Segawa Seigle said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 8:11 pm

    She is an amazing polyglot, or polyglotic sound producer.
    She does not speak Japanese. The only brief phrase she produced with some meaning had such a strange accent she was almost non-communicative. Still, she is very impressive with her fast talking and approximating the sounds of various languages.

  17. Stephan Stiller said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

    I would think that the reason for the observation by Victor Mair and Jim Breen is the simple phonotactics of Japanese: simple consonants, only five vowels (with vowel gemination explicitly indicated in kana), and moras made up of only (‌C)V or [n̩] or っ-gemination.

    But then reality isn't nearly as clean, with a multitude of phonetic changes, such as /si/-as-[ɕi] and /fu/-as-[ɸɯ], often syllable-initial [ŋ], nasalization, a syllable-final [ɴ]-approximant, an /u/ that's in reality [ɯ], de-facto many consonant clusters (their so-called vowel devoicing isn't always vowel devoicing), pitch accent (which I bet most non-natives won't get right), and then some. On the other hand, I suspect that the perception of natives is tainted by the lack of certain contrasts. A native speaker whom I asked couldn't tell apart [d͡z] from [z] in the syllable onset, no matter how clearly I demonstrated a contrast. And I'm not sure how dialectal variation within Japan factors in wrt the perception of what counts as a native accent. I don't know how high a standard natives will apply to foreigners.

    Many language lovers say that Japanese is easy to pronounce and I know of some people with a distinct accent in say French but who tell me they are described as close-to-native (in their pronunciation) by natives. I'm really wondering to what extent they get the fine details right.

    Indonesian is also easy to pronounce but not popular enough to enter the comparison I suppose.

  18. Levantine said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 8:45 pm

    Jim Breen, surely "bordering on caricature" is in keeping with her aim, which she pulls off remarkably well. As a Londoner, I fully second Pflaumbaum's opinion that her British accent superbly captures the flavour of the real thing, despite (or perhaps because of) its patently exaggerated nature.

  19. maidhc said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

    Charlie Chaplin also does French doubletalk, in "Modern Times".

  20. Michael Dunn said,

    March 9, 2014 @ 11:00 pm

    I thought her American English sounded right for her age group, though gibberish. She does speak a few real phonemes (definitely a "hello?" in US English). Her Arabic in the first video was better I thought than her Arabic in the second, at least to my ear, most familiar with Egyptian and Levantine. Her Hebrew was OK but a little off. Her European languages weren't that great: I thought her Spanish sounded just like her Italian. In languages I know not at all but have heard a lot, Japanese sounded moderately convincing (again, some real phonemes) but her Chinese was lacking in tones, the one thing most people notice most. Still, quite clever.

  21. Vanya said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 2:35 am

    @Oskar – I assume you are a native Swedish speaker? Your response is funny because as a foreigner I didn't find her Swedish at all impressive. I.e. it didn't sound the way "Swedish sounds to foreigners", it was probably too realistic. Or maybe I just think of the Swedish Chef. But her English was very good, to this native speaker. I speak Italian and I didn't find her Italian impressive at all – it sounded like an American comedian – "pizza! tortellini! manicotti!" that kind of thing.

  22. Vanya said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 3:55 am

    I'll add – her Polish sounds very off to me. She uses a lot of "dark L" sounds, which is a feature of slavic languages like Russian or Slovak. Poles substitute the labio-velar approximant, i.e. "w". She sounds like a Russian speaking Polish.

  23. John P. said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 3:58 am

    @ Oskar: Isn't she Finnish? I thought that was Finnish at the beginning of the video. She could be a Finn who speaks Finnish and Finnish Swedish.

    @ Vanya: To me real Swedish doesn't sound anything like the Swedish Chef. IMO it's actually a really cool-sounding language with a "funky" intonation (i.e., it's not all just "hurty gurty" and that kind of stuff). I still like the Swedish Chef though.

  24. Avinor said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 4:54 am

    Agree with Oskar, her "greater Stockholm area young female blogger" imitation is spot on. But it's not all that surprising, since there are tons of YouTube videos featuring it.

    The Finnish media has identified her as coming from bilingual (Swedish/Finnish) Jakobstad (Pietarsaari) in Ostrobothnia (Österbotten/Pohjanmaa). Her parents are Finnish speakers, but she spent some time in the US growing up.

  25. TJL said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 4:57 am

    In case some of you are still wondering, the lady in the video is, in fact, Finnish (Finnish media are kind of obsessing about our new "internet celebrity" this week). She might still be a native Swedish speaker or bilingual, as Swedish-speaking Finns aren't exactly rare.

  26. Gunnar H said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 6:23 am

    Her Swedish gobbledygook sounds spot-on to me (as a second-language speaker since childhood), except perhaps at the very end: "Dessa fjortare plådar oss mot en botånde(?) mas hemma!"

    There's something about the intonation or rhythm or what have you in those last few syllables that make them sound more Romance than Swedish to my ears.

  27. Oskar Sigvardsson said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 8:32 am

    I suppose it makes sense that she's Finnish, it's about as close to a native Swedish speaker as you can get. It does make her imitation all that more impressive.

    @ Vanya: Her imitation is spot-on, but I should add that she's also very much doing a character, a specific kind of young urban woman. She's not imitating what we call "Rikssvenska" ("National Swedish", the "neutral" dialect). In other words, this is what you would hear if you sat next to a few 16-year-olds in a coffee shop in Stockholm, but not what you would hear if you watched an Ingmar Bergman movie.

  28. Vanya said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    @Oskar – that makes sense. As a matter of fact Ingmar Bergman probably is my primary source of spoken Swedish.

  29. KevinM said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 10:33 am

    I remember long ago seeing a Spanish-speaking actor (Fernando Lamas? Ricardo Montalban?) imitating the sound of English: basically a heavily rhotic "bar, bar, bar." It struck me at the time, because I'd been taught that the word "barbarian" originated in ancient times as an imitation of the supposedly uncouth way that foreigners spoke.

  30. J. M. Unger said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

    I came across the original YouTube posting thus several days ago. She's not trying to tool anyone into thinking she's really speaking these languages. I remember Peter Ustinov doing the muffled dialog you heard while waiting in line to buy a ticket at a art film house on a summer's night when the projectionist had left the door of his booth above the marquee open for air. By the standards of Ustinov and Sid Caesar (who once memorably used his pseudo-German to play the jailer in the last act of a Met production of Fledermaus), she pretty good. Modern vaudeville!

  31. Zabani said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

    I'd concur with Oskar; her Finnish and Swedish sound very accurate, almost too accurate to be a coincidence. I'd say that she's most probably a native speaker of both. I checked her 'about' page and it says she's a girl from Finland. So, she must be a Swedish-speaking Finn.

    This is coming from someone who spent the first ten years of his life in Sweden. I also grew up with numerous Finnish Swedes, so I'm familiar with the rhythm and cadence of Finnish.

    As a Brit, however, I'm not impressed by her rendition of UK English. Really grates on my ear. It's funny how British accents, though varied, are never reproduced faithfully. They're always so bloody exaggerated, especially what is supposed to pass for the 'average' British person in most Hollywood films.

  32. Levantine said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 6:01 pm

    Zabani, the British accent she's chosen to imitate (a kind of broad Estuary English) is one that many in the UK already find grating. In other words, she's doing an exaggerated version of what is to begin with a largely disparaged and mocked accent. And as someone who doesn't speak that accent but has heard it spoken a lot, I found her imitation of it to be highly evocative of the real thing.

    Some of the American commenters above have likewise said that her AmE accent is off, but if you watch the start of her second video, where she introduces herself and explains what she's doing, she speaks English in what sounds to me like an authentic US accent (I'm a Brit, so I could be wrong). This would bear out what Avinor said above about her having spent some time growing up in the States.

    Her Scottish accent (in the second video) was also impressive to me, though the Australian one just sounded like bad American.

  33. Zabani said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 7:19 pm


    No, you're right. It is highly evocative of the real thing, as annoying as it sounds! I guess what bothers me is how I never seem to hear a 'normal' or native British accent anywhere outside of UK television. I'm from West London so I guess what I mean by normal varies slightly. It just seems like the British accents one normally hears on US films/series are slightly exaggerated versions mainly catering to what an America audience wants, or rather expects, to hear . Having said that, some of the accents in Game of Thrones do sound genuine.

    My criticism isn't anything personal. It's quite a cool clip. Her American accent does remind me of Charlize Theron's neutral California accent. Though I could be wrong.

  34. Levantine said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

    Zabani, I agree that British accents as imitated by American actors are very often caricatural to the point of being silly, but I know the reverse is also true. I'm amazed at the ability of Australian actors (very often from humble soap-opera beginnings) to master other accents so well, and I'd be interested to know how they are able to outdo their British and American counterparts in this respect.

  35. Zabani said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 8:13 pm


    I'm in agreement. I haven't seen many bad accents from Australian actors. One of the strangest accents I can remember from a British actor, however, is Ewan McGregor in "The Men Who Stare at Goats". Though he does seem to redeem himself in "August: Osage County".

  36. Ellen K. said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 8:23 pm

    Yakusa Cobb, you don't know whether or not I've missed the point, since my question of not knowing what variety of American English she's imitating, while feeling like I should, is real either way.

  37. Levantine said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

    But Ellen K., I think the generic label accurately captures the point of the young woman's exercise. Few foreigners hearing American English are going to know what variety they're listening to; to them, it just sounds American. In fact, many Americans of my acquaintance insist that all varieties of British English sound alike to them.

  38. Ellen K. said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

    You, Levantine, are missing the point of my post. Which is, I'd like to know what variety of American English she's imitating.

  39. Levantine said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

    No, I'm addressing your point directly. Your post explicitly said that you found her labelling of the American accent to be inadequate. But all of her labels are similarly generic, and some more so than others (witness "East Asian" and, in her follow-up video, "Somewhere in Africa"). Why should she have made an exception for the American accent?

  40. Stephan Stiller said,

    March 10, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

    Btw the "East Asian" she heard and tried to imitate was Vietnamese (voiced implosive consonants).

  41. Brett said,

    March 11, 2014 @ 8:00 am

    @Zabani: I am puzzled by your reference to Charlize Theron as having a "neutral California accent." She is a good actress, and she is capable of doing a California accent, but her natural speech sounds clearly non-American to my ear.

  42. Gunnar H said,

    March 11, 2014 @ 8:16 am

    @Zabani: Charlize Theron is originally from South Africa, though. English isn't even her first language, according to Wikipedia. (Her native tongue is Afrikaans.)

    While many of the accents in Game of Thrones may sound relatively authentic (with Peter Dinklage as a major exception), I've seen the show criticized for lack of consistency, such as having the Stark children speaking in different accents. (

    I also find it very odd to hear a bit of Estuary creeping into Sophie Turner's accent even though her character, Sansa, is supposed to be rather posh and prissy. Just dialect prejudice, I suppose.

  43. Pflaumbaum said,

    March 11, 2014 @ 8:54 am

    I'm with Levantine re her London / South-East accent, except that I don't even think it's exaggerated. She's playing a character, with stylised diction, but I don't hear that in her accent. It sounds to me basically indistinguishable from lower-middle-class accents I hear every day across much of North London. ('Estuary' as a linguistic term is pretty much meaningless).

    Zabani, by 'normal' do you mean RP? I'd say that's pretty ubiquitous in films featuring English characters, both period dramas and modern ones.

  44. austerism said,

    March 11, 2014 @ 11:56 am

    Just a minor note to all of you who have commented on her Finnish and Swedish. She is a native Finnish speaker but lives in an area (Pietarsaari) where the majority of people (c. 55%) speak Swedish as their mother tongue. Actually, Swedish might be her second language at home, maybe also English. She's been all over the news in Finland in the past few days because her videos have gone viral.

    In addition, most of you have of course already realized that she is simply imitating (or parodying) accents, and she is not in fact a polyglot. She explains in another video that she basically knows Finnish, Swedish and English. In case you don't know this, Finnish and Swedish are official language in Finland.

  45. austerism said,

    March 11, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    Just one additional note about her Swedish. Generally speaking the Swedish spoken in Sweden sounds quite different from the Swedish spoken in Finland. There are of course lots of regional varieties in both, but to me it sounds that she is imitating the Swedish spoken in the central parts of Sweden or maybe in and around Stockholm. Simply put, the Swedish spoken in Finland is much more phonetic (ie close to the written form) than its counterpart in Sweden. So, good job on her part even if she is from a Swedish speaking home.

    In fact, I bet that to a foreigner the two Swedish varieties might actually sound like completely different languages, quite like Swedish and Danish to my ear, which, some might argue, are not different languages from a purely linguistic perspective. At least to my understanding, Swedish speakers are able understand Danish speakers and vice versa.

  46. Zabani said,

    March 11, 2014 @ 8:37 pm


    Are you American? Perhaps natives are better at spotting fakes. As a Brit she's always sounded American to me. I did note "though I could be wrong". LOL


    I know she's originally South African and an Afrikaner, that's why I specifically mentioned Charlize Theron. Someone who learnt English at a later date and who managed to master her chosen accent – at least, to my ears. If I listen to her very carefully I can tell, at certain points, that she's not 100% American, but personally I have to listen extremely carefully. Usually it just comes across as a neutral-sounding American accent. My point was that this artificially constructed sound (as opposed to a native speaker) the girl used in the video reminded me of Charlize Theron.

    On the Stark children, I agree. I don't think all the accents are successfully reproduced.


    No, I don't mean RP. I guess it's hard to put it into words. I know 'normal' is an extremely vague term. My point is that one often hears this exaggerated accent, even the RP in Hollywood films. Period dramas I can understand but whenever I hear someone who's English in a non-period drama, it's with this overdone RP inflection. If one walks around London, even in the more middle-to-upper-middle-class areas, RP is not what one hears, at least not the traditional kind of RP. I barely ever hear a 'normal-sounding' British accent on American films or shows. Like a middle-class accent from Richmond, Golders Green, Hampstead or Highgate (just a few random examples).

    I suppose it's just that actors have RP drilled into them at places like RADA.

    Peter Trudgill wrote an interesting paper on the sociolinguistics of modern RP –


    I've always thought Finland Swedish sounded similar to the language in Sweden, until you mentioned it. I listened to a Swedish radio show from Finland and a number of interviews and was just shocked. It's Swedish, of course, but sounds very similar to how my Finnish friends spoke in Swedish, in terms of their accent, that is. In other words, it sounds like Swedish spoken with the gentle tempo of Finnish. I listened to a number of Swedish-speaking Finns to make sure that it wasn't just a case of someone who's Finnish speaking with an accent. Maybe I'm wrong and I've been listening to Finns who have acquired Swedish non-natively. Any Swedish-speakers out there to check this? I ask because I've never been to Finland, nor have I known any Swedish-speaking Finns. My only interaction has been with Swedish speakers from Sweden, mainly Stockholm but also Göteborg and Malmö (skånska).

    Also – I think it's easier for a Swede to understand Norwegian. Danish is easy to read but the way they pronounce everything can take a while to get used to.

  47. Matt L. said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 2:54 am

    I didn't think her fake Australian accent sounded like a bad American accent (I'm American). It sounded pretty Australian to me. I don't know what Aussies would say though.

  48. Pflaumbaum said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 4:06 am

    @ Zabani –

    I think you're talking about what Geoff Lindsey calls modern RP, or Standard British (though it's obviously not at all standard in the Celtic countries).

    He does illustrate it with the speech of actors like Kate Winslet and Daniel Radcliffe, so I guess they're using it – in interviews at least.

    He has some excellent analyses of how it's changed from classic RP.ə-as-in-square/ɪə-as-in-near/ʊə-as-in-cure/

  49. Peter Smith said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 4:17 am

    @ Zabani: Could you give me an example of a celebrity with a "normal" London area accent? What about Simon Cowell? Jeremy Clarkson? I know that Clarkson is actually from Yorkshire and I also know that he has a deep voice and uses very exaggerated "TV show host intonation", but ignoring those three things (if possible), would you say he has a normal accent? Or are they both still too posh? Just curious.

  50. Matt_M said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 10:28 am

    An Australian here: to me, her "Australian" accent was completely unrecognisable as Australian. I wouldn't have known what she was aiming for without the subtitle.

  51. Zabani said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 11:35 am

    @Peter Smith

    I guess I messed things up by saying 'normal' London-area accent. I'm aware that London is home to people with different accents from across the UK. What I meant, I suppose, was the sort of accents I heard when I was in school around five years ago in the West/North-West London area. I had friends who went to expensive fee-paying schools as well as grammar and state comprehensives, and we didn't sound TOO different. There was no overblown RP. Of course, we all probably tend to 'standardise' our English when we're talking about something serious amongst ourselves. Again, I had/have friends at Oxbridge and most Russell Group universities who are from London, and most of them speak a with a 'normal' – again, excuse the vague term – sounding accent from the south-east of England. At its most extreme I'd say that it could sound something like Daniel Radcliffe in Pflaumbaum's clip, but that register is usually reserved for more 'serious' circumstances.

    And yes, I would say that Jeremy Clarkson and Simon Cowell sound MORE normal than what I hear on American films. I don't claim that it's exactly 'normal' but it's just not some exaggerated RP accent which grates on the ear. The reason I brought this up is because I had a reunion of sorts with some school/uni friends a few months ago and this topic came up and we were all in agreement over how 'our' accents aren't really represented well over in the States, so much so that when we meet Americans within the same age-range they are shocked that we don't all sound like someone from Downton Abbey, or Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) from Star Trek.

  52. austerism said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 12:52 pm


    "It's Swedish, of course, but sounds very similar to how my Finnish friends spoke in Swedish, in terms of their accent, that is. In other words, it sounds like Swedish spoken with the gentle tempo of Finnish."

    Well said.

    By the way, in Finnish the two accents have their distinct names. The Sweden Swedish is called "riikinruotsi" whereas the Finland Swedish is "suomenruotsi". According to Finnish Wikipedia, in the Sweden Swedish pitch varies in stressed syllables whereas Finnish Swedish is more monotonous in terms of stress and, in fact, sounds quite like Finnish!

    You might be able to watch Finland's Swedish TV here:

    There's also a list of radio channels there.

  53. Matt L. said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 7:38 pm

    @ the other Matt:

    Well it didn't sound American to me :)

  54. Levantine said,

    March 12, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

    Matt L., it was the rhoticity that made me characterise it as bad American, which was a crude equation on my part. I agree with Matt_M that it doesn't really sound like anything identifiable. I'm surprised at how wrong she got this particular variety of English when the others are all pretty easy to place.

  55. Matt L. said,

    March 13, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

    @ Levantine: I've heard young Australians with some rhoticity.

  56. Levantine said,

    March 13, 2014 @ 10:42 pm

    Matt L., that's very surprising to me. I can't even imagine what that would sound like. I'd be curious to know what the Australians here think.

  57. Levantine said,

    March 13, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

    Could it have been the intrusive and linking R that you were hearing? Anyway, I found the following article interesting and relevant:

  58. Matt_M said,

    March 14, 2014 @ 1:55 am

    @ Matt L.: As an Australian, I'm quite surprised by your comment — I'm pretty sure I've never heard anyone (young or old) combine an Australian accent with rhoticity (except in a playful or joking manner).

    I do remember once hearing rhoticity from a teenager who had evidently spent some time in America (her accent was a confusing mishmash of Australian and American, with her vowels seemingly fluctuating randomly between Australian and American versions rather than settling for some kind of compromise value).

    I'm wondering if the young Australians you mention had picked up a certain degree of rhoticity after living overseas among a rhotic speech community for some time?

  59. austerism said,

    March 14, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

    Just a minor update in case you're still interested in this. According to a recent interview, the girl, Sara, has lived in the US and the UK before going to school, so roughly before the age of six. No wonder her English is so good. And she has a Swedish family name (Forsberg), which could mean that at least one of her parents is a Swedish speaker.

  60. Avinor said,

    March 26, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

    Here's an interview with (Sweden-)Swedish TV.

    The title of the clip is Her fake languages are conquering the world

    Interesting to note is that she here she speaks normal high-register Finland Swedish (högsvenska), without a trace of "Stockholm Valley girl" accent that she mimicked in the original video.

    I do think I hear a grammar mistake or two (at 1:48 she turns publicitet (publicity), a real-gender noun, into a neutral one, giving it the definite form *publicitetet instead of the correct publiciteten). Her vocabulary seems a little limited, too. So my guess is that, while her Swedish is pretty good, her native language is Finnish.

    austerism: A Swedish family name can be an indication of being part of the Swedish-speaking minority, but not necessarily. Lots of Finnish-speakers have Swedish-sounding names and vice versa.

RSS feed for comments on this post