Listening to Language: what English sounds like to the non-English speaker

Spending time in a foreign country–even a country where you know the language really well–will make you reevaluate the concept of understanding.  After a day or two in France, I sometimes have a hard time switching back into English, and I start dreaming in an amorphous, bilingual haze.

Writing becomes even more dicey: my fiction slips more than anything else, so that I’ll write sentences with one or two badly-translated adjectives, or verbs.  The worst is, it all sounds good to my mind.  G and I will start to speak in both languages at once, adding colloquialisms and rambling expressions in whichever tongue we prefer.

Most impressive of all, however, is our ability to tune out any language–English, French, Bulgarian–if we don’t expect to hear or understand it.  While out to lunch with my brothers and sisters-in-law, all speaking French, I was oblivious to the fact that the table beside us was filled with Brits, all speaking some form of my native tongue.

The following short film is a pretty example of the opposite phenomenon: what does English sound like if you don’t understand English?

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