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Are English speakers louder than others, or do I just notice English more?

March 3, 2012

I’m torn on this. I live in a country and especially a city with a LOT of English speaking residents and visitors, but where it is not (quite) an official language. (Things aren’t quite so simple, but basically it’s not.) One can certainly get by with just English, although I have no desire so to do, and don’t. I definitely notice when I hear English being spoken on the bus/street/wherever, but then I notice when I hear French too, and I’m starting to notice more when I hear Russian as well. German doesn’t seem to come up as often, but I have picked it out a time or two in the more touristy areas. (I’ve never heard Irish here, although I’m sure its possible.) I don’t tend to notice Hebrew in the same way, but then it’s the default in most areas. (When I’m in a more English-speaking context I do notice the bits of Hebrew more.)

So absolutely I feel I tune in to all the languages I know, and I do find myself eavesdropping on people’s public conversations, although I usually couldn’t and wouldn’t want to recognise the person who had the conversation five minutes later. I don’t really want to know about them; I’m just enjoying deciphering the conversation. Probably a bad habit in terms of manners, if a good one for language learning.

I do still think, however, that English comes across significantly louder to me, and that perhaps at least some English speakers are particularly loud and open about their public conversations. (Not mentioning particular nations/regions of English speakers here!)

Thoughts?

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2 Comments
  1. What an interesting observation!

    As a native English speaker who has visited other countries, I have noticed that English speakers are much harder with our plosives. Plosive consonants and vowels with very pronounced dipthongs are spoken very forwardly in the mouth (almost spitting out of the mouth), and more loudly than the other languages that I have encountered. As a native of the United States, I can attest to the fact that for better or perhaps worse, Americans tend to be much more outward and exuberant in our manner of expression than citizens of European or Asian countries.

    In my personal encounters with native speakers of German and Russian languages, I have been amazed at how soft, delicate, and melodious these languages sound, and by contrast how loud and harsh English sounds.

  2. I agree with you. I lived in Ukraine for 9 months, and often tourists came in the summer. Things were nice and quiet on the metro–until the summer. I think personal space may be culpable. When the metro gets loud (say, it goes through a tunnel), Ukrainians get closer to hear one another. Americans get louder.

    This adaptation has its advantages. At times I had to get so close to Ukrainian I was speaking to that I could smell their (unpleasant) breath. Speaking up would have been fine with me.

    When Ukrainians get loud on public transportation, someone might say, “Hey! Does the whole bus have to hear your conversation?!” That certainly doesn’t happen on the bus in the US!

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