Life from an outsider's perspective…

Recognising the sounds of another spoken language.

Recognising the sounds of a spoken language. Speech patterns & voice recognition.As far as most people are concerned, all foreign speech sounds more or less the same. When you are first learning another language, you can soon expect to identify people only by hearing their voice. In my experience, this important listening skill takes place within a matter of weeks or months, depending on the amount of exposure you’ve received.

This is because everyone has a unique voice, just like their fingerprints, retina/iris; all three can be used for biometric recognition scans:

I was exceptionally good at identifying actors in different roles by their voice patterns, especially when wearing some sort of disguise. Just recently, I identified one Spanish actor who plays a Columbian drug lord in “Sin tetas no hay paraíso”; he also made cameo appearance in Aida as ‘MC Killer’, Chema’s ‘protector’:

Modifying your voice intentionally is one thing, but accurately portraying voices is an entirely different matter. In this regard, duplicating unique voices presents a special challenge for foreign language translators. In the video segment above, Edna Mode has a very distinctive voice which is translated into Spanish exceptionally well. I’m not sure the same thing can be said for the French translation – although I must admit I don’t speak French.

It is only when you have a decent grasp of another language that you begin to recognise local and foreign language speech patterns. I am able to pick up the differences between castillian and latin american spanish, but I am still not able isolate which country people were raised in based on their accent. My spanish girlfriend on the other hand can easily differentiate between people from Mainland Spain, The Canary Islands, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Cuba, etc. But then she can’t really tell the difference between English, Irish, Scottish, Australian or American accents.

Another interesting observation when learning a language is that you can experience a change in pitch of your voice if you are multilingual. For example, when I speak in Spanish, the pitch of my voice rises involuntary. I am often mistaken for a female when I speak on the telephone. I attribute this to having many conversations with women when I was learning (my partner, her aunties).

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