An amusing little YouTube video of a 9-year-old Japanese kid imitating English. Thanks, Nick!


  1. This reminds me of a very old Teach Yourself Swahili book. In the introductory chapter, the author warned against imposing English speech rhythms on Swahili, and advised his readers to “find a young child and get him to imitate an Englishman speaking Swahili”. I suppose he didn’t think Swahili would be chosen by anyone who didn’t need it.

  2. He seems to be impressed by the letter “r”. However, it’s interesting that there didn’t seem to be any consonant clusters.

  3. This reminds me of the fake-English spoken by one’s alien race in the just-released game Spore. The speech rhythms and phonology strongly suggest American English, while the content is (obviously) fictitious.
    They did this in The Sims, but it always sounded to me like they were imitating some Central European language rather than American English.

  4. In the ’30s, the WPA conducted extensive interviews with elderly former slaves. An 89-year-old woman in Tulsa, OK, who had lived in what was then the Indian Territory said that she had belonged to a Creek Indian and didn’t speak anything but Creek until after the Civil War. When she first heard English, she said it sounded like “wild shoat in de cedar brake scared at something”.

  5. I’ve heard before about how Japanese speakers perceive English. The case I’ve heard turns out something similar to “Likee-likee-likee-likee.”
    This vid seems to bear out some of that in the nonsense syllables in which above all, the “l” is stressed stronger than any other sound.
    Of course, it would be vastly politically incorrect for an English speaker to express how they perceive the way in which the Japanese or Chinese speak. C’mon, you all remember when you were a kid: “Ching-chang-chongq quing quang!”

  6. Slightly off-topic – as a British teenager on my first solo vacation on a Greek island (Spetse) I was rolling home from the taverna when set upon by some Greek kids of my own age who didn’t speak English but started mockingly imitating what they thought the English sounded like to them (slow, low pitched rumbling noises, if I recall correctly) so I responded with very fast nonsense words of what I thought Greek sounded like (kaka kaka kaka). Luckily I was a much faster runner 30+ years ago.

  7. Heather Broster says

    It is funny how certain phonemes like those in the /r/ category seem to be so salient. When I think of Italian, I immediately feel the urge to insert a number of rolled r’s to generate the effect. The same goes for French and its uvular trill.

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