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What's wrong with an Israeli accent?

Speaking in a second language is easier to understand if it is used in the accent of the listener and not in the "original" accent of that language, according to a new study conducted at the university. The study was published in the prestigious Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

Shrolik, the Israeli of Dosh. Photo: Y.S. From Wikipedia
Shrolik, the Israeli of Dosh. Photo: Y.S. From Wikipedia
Many schools for learning a foreign language for adults make sure that the students are exposed to this language in its original accent, but the new study, conducted by Dr. Mark Leikin and Dr. Rafik Ebrahim from the Edmond Y. Center. Prof. Zohar Avitar from the Department of Psychology and Prof. Shimon Sapir from the Department of Communication Disorders found that this way is not necessarily the best and certainly not the fastest.

In the current study, the researchers sought to find the level of sound information that adults need to recognize words in a second language that they learned at a late age and whether the level of sound information they need changes when the word is used in different accents. For this purpose, sentences were recorded in Hebrew in which the last word is a noun in four different accents: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and English. These sentences were computer coded and presented sequentially every 40 milliseconds, so that it would be possible to test the amount of sound information that each listener would need to recognize the word.

These sentences were presented to 60 subjects aged 18-26: 20 of them were native Hebrew speakers; 20 of them were new immigrants from former USSR countries who learned Hebrew only after immigrating to Israel; 20 of them were Israeli Arab speakers who speak Arabic as their mother tongue and started learning Hebrew at the age of 7-8.

The findings show that native Hebrew speakers did not show differences in the amount of sound information they needed to decipher the words. In contrast, native speakers of Russian and Arabic clearly showed that they needed less tonal information when the sentence was spoken in their native accent than in any other foreign accent.

"This study sharpens the understanding that the cognitive aspects of the accent must be further investigated in order to better understand the way in which we learn languages ​​other than our mother tongue. In Israel, where there are many groups for whom Hebrew is not their mother tongue, this understanding has a central meaning," the researchers concluded.

13 תגובות

  1. In India I got to hang out with Indian guys, they were really nice but also quite rude!
    They kept talking in their language and I didn't understand what they said except for a few words they said in English for some reason...
    Finally it turns out that the brazen ones spoke English all the time but with an accent and even a Hindi dialect, just like the Israelis...
    why like this ("Why like this?" asks the Israeli traveling the world) you asked?
    Maybe this really is the best way to learn a language.

  2. I wonder how English-speaking Englishmen will treat a South American who speaks a dirty language
    which is made up of syllables of English origin,
    Why Israelis must learn to speak a dirty New York American
    Instead of learning original and correct English?
    Just to adapt to American ignorance?

  3. I encountered this phenomenon when I was traveling in South America.
    When I tried to speak Spanish with the locals, I couldn't understand almost anything of what they were saying (especially in Argentina and Chile - literally not a word), even though I understood the language quite well (for example, I could read Spanish at a reasonable level)
    On the other hand, when I heard Israelis speaking Spanish (broken, sloppy and mixed with English, usually) I could understand them easily.

  4. In my opinion, what is bad about the "Israeli" accent, is the lack of awareness of foreign accents. Often the person does not bother at all to refer to the correct pronunciation and phonetics of the letters and words, so his language sounds terrible and often incorrect.
    In addition, there is also a correlation between Israelis whose English is at a very low level and Israelis who speak with a heavy Israeli accent.
    In my opinion, an American Yankee speaking French with the accent of his English language would sound ridiculous and would likely be thought of as retarded.

  5. I was indeed talking about the Arab residents of Israel.
    The question of whether the study was forced is a question of character and attitude and two different people may relate to the same study framework in opposite ways.
    I don't know how Arabs in general accept Hebrew studies, but I tend to believe that some of them are actually happy to do so (and especially those who over the years have agreed to participate in a study conducted by Israelis).

  6. I was talking about learning and not about forced learning... I assume you are talking about learning Hebrew by the Arab residents of Israel.

  7. Yigal:
    It seems to me that the writers are aware of all the issues you raised and the fact is that they mentioned the age of learning Hebrew of the Arabs.
    By the way, their findings refute what can be concluded from your claim that learning a second language before the age of 12 gives the same result as learning a mother tongue.
    When conducting research in real life one must use people who are in the area and willing to cooperate. Therefore, it is not always possible to create exactly the optimal populations.

  8. From Cal (Rothschild), I tried to point out two problems on two different levels: one, the one who conveys the messages of the research bodies does them an injustice with the distortions that are born along the way. The second, on the face of it, the research seems to have been done somewhat amateurishly: the acquisition of a second language depends profoundly on the age of the acquirer, and especially when it comes to the issue of accent (heard and spoken). It is clear that the exact age points are personal, but roughly speaking, those who acquire a second language up to the age of 12 or so, acquire it in a similar way to a first language, those who acquire a second language up to the age of 30 or so do so almost without an accent and beyond that the acquired language clearly sounds (and is learned) as a completely foreign language . The whole process of language acquisition (and especially mother tongue) is still unclear and in infancy it is probably closely related to the massive shaping that the brain goes through in the first years of life. For example, those who do not hear human language until the age of 3 to 5, will never acquire human language. (For that matter, the sign language used by deaf people is also a human language). If all these things were not taken into account, (and the fact that they only tested one particular age group shows that they probably did not take this into account - unless, again, the transfer of the information to the publication was done poorly), then they have sinned against the subject of the research as presented in the article.

  9. Yigal C:
    The study tries to assert a general claim about any combination of languages.
    The title speaks of an Israeli accent (probably in a foreign language) but this is only an example of the principle that the study claims to have revealed (through experiments it did in the Hebrew language with different accents).
    I think it's really worth checking if the principle is also true in other languages, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Tests on the effects of the accent on the understanding of English may be better done in an English-speaking country.

    From the fact that you are used to hearing sounds in a certain language, it is not possible to immediately draw the conclusion of the research.
    It is clear that the researchers guessed that there was such a possibility (otherwise they would not have conducted the experiment) but your expressions of disdain only show that you do not understand that in science there is more than guesswork and claims regarding the existence of these and other laws should be backed up by experiment.
    In stark contrast to the dismissive tone of your words, the research can have very practical implications.
    Consider, for example, software designed to serve the blind by reading out loud what is written on the screen.
    From this study it can be learned that it is better for this software - when it serves a user whose mother tongue is Hebrew - to read the English words with an Israeli accent.

  10. I don't understand why this study was conducted and what is its huge benefit. What, before the research you didn't know that a speaker of language A is not used to hearing sounds in the way they are pronounced in language B? What do you propose - that in our schools (which are already the worst) they will learn Hebrew with an Israeli accent? Then the students will arrive in New York and we will find that they do not understand a thing and a half - thanks to the learned experts.

  11. I have no doubt that there is something in the research and that the researchers wanted to say something, but the way the news was written (publicists??) negates all meaning. The title speaks of a Hebrew accent, but the body of the news shows that native Hebrew speakers did not show differences in the amount of sound information they needed To understand the words. Maybe the problem exists for those who learn a third language? The most obvious thing written here is that more research is needed (more money...).

  12. sounds interesting
    However - I lack a lot of data in order to better understand the results
    Why don't they post a link to the research in such articles?

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