I suppose we all have similar ways of mimicking the sounds and cadences of languages that aren’t our own: for Americans, it’s the “zh-zh-zh” sounds we hear in French sentences, the exaggerated syllable we elongate in every Italian word, the pronounced crispness of each letter as it’s enunciated in German.
But how does American English sound to others?
My friends from Mexico City tell me that the American cadence is flat and our words sound very “r”-y. Then they imitate what sounds to me like the repeated rev of a race car engine from the back of their throats. Rar-rar-rar-rar-rar-rar-rar-rar. My friend from Hungary nods in agreement.
I, of course, just stare at them.
Then I came across this story about an Italian singer who, in 1972, performed a wildly popular song called Prisencolinensinainciusol (pronounced preezen-coal’-in-naze-inan-kooze’-ull). It’s completely sung in English gibberish. If you’re at work, either gather your co-workers around or close your door because it’s laugh-out-loud delightful.
I don’t know whether we’ll ever understand how we sound to others – perhaps a linguist knows – but this has satisfied me for the moment.