Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Eurovision, Lena Meyer-Landrut, English, and accents

This came in yesterday:
Hi Mr. Verb,
Love the blog. I just wanted to point out something interesting that you might want to discuss on the blog. The Eurovision contest winner from Germany, Lena Meyer-Landrut, has an incredibly strange accent when she sings. Perhaps someone could look into it. It sounds partly Australian, partly American, but she never sounds like a German singing English. Whatever it is, I think alot of people (including myself) find it really annoying. Perhaps this is something for the blog....

Here is a clip of her famous song that won the Eurovision thing.

Larry Linguist
Well, first off, thanks Larry. Yup, that sounds pretty much unlike any dialect of English I know. Sounds very affected, and plenty of singers do that. Of course she's a German high schooler and who knows what coaching she's had and how this got created. I haven't heard her interviewed in any language. How does she talk?

Second, it turns out that her language is a whole nother issue for some people in Germany. One of our contributors tells me that the Verein Deutsche Sprache is complaining bitterly about her 'embarrassing' Germany by singing in English. This link gives their argument, pretty lame I think, that singing in German leads to better results.


iselin said...

Hi from Germany!
First I want to make sure Lena's accent is not only noticed by native speakers - for me it is ... well, I wouldn't say annoying, rather 'strange'. God knows where she got that from.
The problem with the Verein Deutscher Sprache is that they are quite radical. They think English threatens the language of Goethe and Schiller. I wouldn't take them too serious there, while there are other projects I appreciate.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. Really a lot of pop singers end up with odd pronunciations, and hers isn't too weird by that standard. I guess I don't personally find it annoying, but like you, kind of odd.

But you're much more positive about the VDS than the German-speaking linguists around here are!

Anonymous said...

Here's an interview with her in English:
in which she says u.a. "I'm very verplant..."

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks. So, her English doesn't sound too remarkable in speaking. Sure, she's got an accent but if she only had 5 years in school (as one commenter say), it's pretty good. There are aspects that on a quick listen sound Brit and aspects that sound American.

I'm sticking with the original guess that this is the kind of affectation you can get with singing.

Ellen K. said...

Two things I notice. First, a singing style that I definite recognize, which I unfortunately can't place (can't post or name other examples of, alas) that I find strange whenever I hear it (whoever I hear it from). And this singing style affects the accent.

Additionally, I notice very distinct diphthongs, which sometimes sound Australian, but also sound like they could be someone either singing phonetically, or else, maybe, trying to sing very articulately, and, because of not being a native speaker, thinking of the diphthongs as two sounds instead of one, and thus being very distinct about each sound in the diphthong.

Of course, I could be way off base. And I'm sure there's more to it that I'm missing.

TonyMo said...

I too thought her accent a bit strange. It reminded me of a cross between Gabriela Cilmi ("Sweet About Me") who is Australian, and Diana Vickers, who was a contestant on X Factor in the UK in 2009, and who I thought also sang with a strange accent and affectation.

Anonymous said...

It is very obvious that this is an attempt to sing in the style of Lily Allen or Kate Nash, which is difficult enough if you're German. I suppose it kinda works though.

moon daisy said...

Hi, I'm from the UK, and when I first heard Lena sing I thought she was Irish. When she pronounces certain words like 'heard', 'without' and 'love' she sounds just like my Irish friends.

I wonder if she had an Irish voice coach, or maybe that was just the style she was aiming for.

I agree with the previous commenter that she was going for a song in the style of Lily Allen or Kate Nash.

Anonymous said...

Hi from a globalist.. I don't find it annoying either, rather a bit cute and charming. To me it sounds like a mix of certain accents in Scotland, Ireland and Wales and australian and some scandinavians/nordic people singing in english, think Bjørg for instance, or take Trentemoellers remix version of 'What else is there', with a swedish singer, who I unfortunately can't remember the name of.
As globalisation expands, native english speakers will have to accept that their tongue will be twisted in new and strange ways.
And let me add that I think her accent is such a part of the song, that one has to credit it part with the success it has had.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I reckon that it's not that weird. A little strange but by no means annoying. Kind of like Lisa Mitchell Australian mixed in with some type of British. Also, I've heard that a lot of Germans speak English with American accents, but I'm not to sure how accurate this is. Can someone from Germany comment on the learning of dialect in the Hanover area maybe?

Anonymous said...

Singers Adele and Kate Nash are her musical idols, and I think there are many similarities with Lena and them. Let the girl sing as she wants. Her English vocabulary is impressive, though.

Anonymous said...

At first I found it annoying because it smacked of laziness (it is after all not that hard to sing with a plain vanilla accent). And when this tune wedgie wouldn't quit in my head I began to realize that I found Lena's odd accent attractive very much like her dancing or her singing for that matter, none of which is polished. It's a bubbly pop song about puppy love sung by a pretty girl. Just the way it ought to be. My moment of Zen.

Mr. Verb said...

You know, a LOT of people seem to be having this reaction. And maybe that explains something about the funky accents that a whole set of young singers, maybe especially women, are using. Thanks.

I'm still pretty surprised by the volume of comments this little post has gotten, by the way.

Victor C.Pankouken said...

Well it is Australian. Lena is a fan of Australia and she must have picked up this accent by listening to songs of John Williamson, speeches of John Howard and of course watching Croc Dundee. Within Australia it can be located to somewhere in the Outback, true to the formula "the more flies are around the more it will be pronounced like Lena does".

searingscarlet said...

Satellite didn't stand out to me, but I was taken aback at how much of Mockney she was when she sang the cover of a Kate Nash song. Living in Australia, I don't get any hints of Australian accents at all, but I do think that she might have imitated her singing from the wave of Mockney singers like Lily Allen or previously mentioned Kate Nash.

Her speaking English sounds a lot more natural to me. Not vanilla, nor native, but a lot less forced.

As a non-native English speaker, I do find that when I recite lines I tend to use the original speaker's accent as a speaking marker. It's probably what's happening here.

Anonymous said...

A lot is two words!

Anonymous said...


I'm a Belgian and hear a lot of 'English' of different sorts.

She's not other than Lilly Allen, Lady Gaga, Rihana and con-sorts.

Yes, it's a con too. She does her best to talk the words she he-ars.

All in all it's their game, I don't bother but I don't like it.

She has the smile of a Manchurian: not even, well forced on 1 side.

Go on.

Chicago Lampoon said...

The accent puzzled me too. In the "sattelite" video it is about 80% American English, with strange variations. I thought it was English Cockney at first, but these posters may be right -- it sounds a bit Aussie too. At any rate it is odd.

I did a post on her from an American perspective:

If Europeans feel they must imitate Americans, I wish they would at least imitate the best part of our culture.

Anonymous said...

As a native speaker of English, her accent does not come from one place. If I had to guess I'd say she sounds the most Cockney. Having said that I actually like how she sings, quirky and cute, and it suits the songs.

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