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ETpro's avatar

How come most Americans can talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but Arnold can't talk like most Americans?

Asked by ETpro (34415points) November 6th, 2012

I mean, most Americans have never set foot in Austria, much less lived there to learn the accent. But most can do a reasonable impression of Arnold. Why has Arnold been unable to shake his heavy accent? He moved to the US 44 years ago. Do you think the accent just became such a part of his growing brand that he deliberately held on to it?

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28 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

I honestly think he makes his accent a lot thicker than it really is. It’s his trademark.

wundayatta's avatar

Most Americans imitating Arnold are imitating him speaking English. They are not speaking German. If they tried to speak German, they would no doubt sound much more ridiculous than Arnold sounds speaking English.

Get a grip on your cultural biases, dude. Make an apples to apples comparison, not apples to postcards.

Mariah's avatar

The impressions sound reasonable to us because we’re not Austrian. Ever heard a foreigner try to imitate an American accent?

bolwerk's avatar

I don’t think it’s really an impression of his accent they’re doing that’s so on target. It’s more an impression of his robotic tone.

Also, it’s very difficult to speak a language without an accent if you learn it during or after adolescence. I grew up speaking German, and forgot it but am told I still have an absolutely impeccable accent.

In Arnold’s case, his early films had to be dubbed because his English was so bad. Later on he got a better grasp of the language, but losing the accent is a whole other ballgame.

JLeslie's avatar

I support @wundayatta‘s answer. We are speaking in our own language mimicking an accent, not speaking a second language. I bet Arnold can mimic an American speaking German.

Coloma's avatar

I’ve never been impressed with Ahhnold. He reminds me of a large and stupid dog. All brawn, little brains. I also agree he plays up the accent. Only in California can a “B’ rated actor become governor.

bolwerk's avatar

Only in Amerika can one become president, lest you forgot Ronald Reagan.

Coloma's avatar

@bolwerk, not forgotten. lol

poisonedantidote's avatar

From what I have seen over the years, it kind of works like this: If you are over 15 years of age, and try to learn a new language, you will never have a perfect accent. Even if you can fool a native in to thinking you are also a native, there will be times when it will be plainly obvious that you are not a native speaker.

EDIT: oh yea, as for Americans imitating him, it is a stereotype imitation that has spread through out culture. However if you compare an impersonator to the real deal, you can always tell them apart from just hearing them.

mazingerz88's avatar

I was under the impression, all that neck muscle had something to do with they way he talks.

hearkat's avatar

My mother moved to the USA 52 years ago, and she still has an accent. Part of it is the muscle memory around how we formed the words of our first language. The difference between the native language and the acquired language and the greater the number of phonemes that are unique to each will also make a difference – as evidenced by the difficulties that most native Asian-language speakers have with speaking English (especially the /r/ and /l/ phonemes).

Another part is the variable range among humans to have an “ear” for accents and languages, and the ability to reproduce what we hear… Meryl Streep is a fine example of someone who is particularly gifted at mimicking accents.

Blondesjon's avatar

I have no idea, but, I do know you will be receiving a bill in the mail for my emergency room visit where I was treated for a blown mind.

Coloma's avatar

^^^ LOL!
@Blondesjon Wanna happy brownie, it’ll keep you sane. :-)

josie's avatar

If he talked with an American accent, nobody would pay attention to him.

gailcalled's avatar

When I was young and energetic, I often worked on my French accent and enunciation and rhythm by listening to a French actor or actress speak English and try to copy it.

woodcutter's avatar

If he perfected English he would then need to change his name to “Black Ploughman”. That is just too choppy to pronounce. He is good like he is so- GET TO THE CHOPPA…...................


Sunny2's avatar

He probably isn’t able to reproduce some of the English sounds that are in the language. Some people are able to hear and reproduce sounds that are part of a foreign (to them) language accurately; some, aren’t. Try some of the other world languages’ words. If you’ve heard the sound made by clicking your tongue at the back of your throat that is common n some African languages, you may or may not be able to make that sounds. Most of the difficult sounds are learned by six years of age. Think of kids who speak English who lisp because they they haven’t yet learned to pronounce st sounds. They may say a betht instead of best.

ETpro's avatar

@uberbatman, @Coloma & @woodcutter Just as I suspected.

@wundayatta Relax!

@Mariah Yeth. Ounce.

@bolwerk Fascinating. Thanks for the info. I had not realized losing an accent was so difficult.

@JLeslie I wonder if he could? My guess is yes.

@poisonedantidote I don’t know that it’s as simple as that. There are actors who can adopt very convincing accents, and there are others who cannot.

@mazingerz88 I’m pretty certain that isn’t it. I know a professor of physical fitness at Virginia State University, Dr. Rodney Gaines, and he’s at least as muscular as Arnold, but speaks perfect English. :-)

@hearkat Thanks for the info about your mom. Yes, Meryl Streep is a winner at accent duplication, all right.

@Blondesjon I get lots of bills in the mail. Send it on. I’ll add it to my growing collection. :-)~

@josie When a guy is that size, you pay attention to him howevah he talks.

@gailcalled Did you seriously. I spoke French reasonably well, but OMG the accent.

@ragingloli Ha! Can’t prove it with that example.

@woodcutter Arnold does have a fondness for “NOW!”

@Sunny2 Yeth, Betht ansah.

Berserker's avatar

Dude, don’t even question Mr Freeze The Terminator.

ucme's avatar

I bet most americans have heard of Egypt, but can they walk like one, oh eh oh!

ragingloli's avatar

Why not? Sounds perfect to me.

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli Because your example proves what everyone has been saying. Accurately intimating a foreign accent isn’t easy, even when it’s one spoken in your native tongue. I am guessing Meryl Streep has an IQ up there with Einstein and Dr. Stephen Hawking.

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro Immitating a foreign accent is one thing. Speaking in a different language is another. Speaking in a foreign language with an accurate accent is another. Certain sounds are very difficult to develop when a person is older. Spanish speaking people have a hard time pronouncing TH in English, it doesn’t really exist in Spanish, and the J sound like in jet can be tricky. Their tongue is not in the right place to make the sound and need a lot of practice. It is difficult for an English speaker to pronounce r’s in Spanish. Not just the double r, which is trilled, but even the single r, which is almost a d, but not. The accent is another layer on top of it.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie Points taken.

ragingloli's avatar

My example sounds exactly how americans sound to me.

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli You can’t even accurately “hear” or accent, then. :D

bolwerk's avatar

@ragingloli: he’s pretty good at that (and funny), but to me his native accent comes out rather thickly during his impersonation.

Actually, it’s rare to see British pull off American accents even that well, but Hugh Laurie (of House fame) pulls off a pretty good midatlantic states accent.

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