Subtitles are your friend.


There was this documentary on the Xhosa I saw once, where the speaker made a point of emphasizing that the X part was actually a click made way, way back in the throat. How many languages have that sound built into the spoken word? Okay, I channel-surfed after that piece of educational material. But there’s a world of other stuff out there. Vlogs made by people local to a particular region of a country might have a regional accent. There’s this one vlogger who got me interested in growing potatoes - mine were nowhere near as large or plentiful as his, but he’s fun to listen to and includes information on cooking methods. (Relevant photo is relevant, and was very tasty in that night's stew.) Period pieces with historians and reenactors can give you old-timey language, and I don’t just mean the one with the hot Scottish unicorn. Try internet channels and websites for museums and some television networks. There’s a good chance you’ll find video clips with voiceovers reading old documents. (Certain channels can surprise you sometimes - I’m typing this out to the sound of a historian talking about immigration in the time of Abraham Lincoln, complete with some shocking correspondence.)

Right now, I’m curious about Tudor court clothing, so I watch videos on those clothes and the history around them. In some cases, the videos have readings of letters and publications from ambassadors, traveling nobles, and some royalty. (Bit of a digression - looking for voices is also an excuse to get out to actual museums and nearby tourist attractions. Maybe war reenactments, olde-tyme crafts shows, or places labeled living history. Other people have tried local theater groups doing Shakespeare, or readings of Dickinson’s poetry at the library.) Foreign films with native speakers can help with pronunciation of words in their languages. Have you, reader, ever seen old martial arts movies in their original language? What happens at the ends of the speakers’ sentences in different situations? When they’re complaining, or speaking to a relative, or starting out a fight scene? How are the sounds similar to or different from action movies in English, or your native language? If English is something other than your first language, you’re already at least familiar with a greater variety of the sounds the human voice can handle. And if you’re already an English speaker, the stuff from actual England can be as foreign as they come. (If you, dear reader, are actually British, would you be so kind as to explain to this poor foreigner names like Hingham, and words like lieutenant, and why on earth something golden and crispy is referred to as a pudding? Now, or in a minute. Whichever’s convenient.) And across the pond is a ham-handed segue into the next post…

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