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Welcome to the language pages


Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 8/2019 vom 26.06.2019

Over the next dozen or more pages, we give you the opportunity to practise grammar and vocabulary in an up-to-date context. We start off here with a column that takes a light-hearted look at English in popular culture.


THE LANGUAGE PAGES

ENGLISH EXPLAINED

Try not to twist your tongue

Ein Zitat aus dem Filmklassiker „Der Pate 2” inspiriert unseren Kolumnisten dazu, über die Feinheiten der englischen Phonetik zu sinnieren.

MEDIUM US

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What’s your favorite movie? That’s a hard question to answer, I know. One of mine, I guess, is Good Will Hunting from 1997, written by and ...

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... starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

It’s difficult to rank movies, but people do it, and one of the most respected lists of best movies of all time was created by the Internet Movie Database. According to IMDb, The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is the number-one movie ever. At number two is The Godfather (1972).

I’ve never been a big Godfather fan, but I’m smart enough to know that it made a huge cultural impact. So much so, in fact, that there’s a famous line from the second movie in the Godfather series that I’ve heard repeated on many occasions: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

The line, uttered by the character Michael Corleone in the 1974 film, stresses the importance of having people around you who care about you, but also never losing track of the people who wish you ill. It’s a dramatic line, but we can use it as a tool to help us understand the fine differences in pronunciation between the adjective “close,” the verb “close,” and the nouns “clothes” and “cloth.”

Sounds confusing? Fear not…

When “close” is used as an adjective to mean “near” — which is how it’s used in The Godfather: Part II — the pronunciation is [klEUs] in British English and [kloUs] in American English. The last sound, [s], is voiceless.

Now, on to the pronunciation of the verb “close,” as in: “I close the door every night.” Here, the pronunciation is [klEUz] in British English and [kloUz] in American English. Note that the last sound, [z], is voiced. If the verb is in the third person, it is pronounced [klEUzIz] or [kloUzEz].

Still with me? Then how about if I asked you to pronounce those things we all wear — shoes, pants, shirts, socks — you know, “clothes”? Here, the pronunciation is [klEUDz] in British English and [kloUz] in American English. As you might know from painful experience, the combination of [D] and [z] at the end of a word is often a nightmare for non-native speakers to pronounce.

Since we’re such experts on all these words now, we can add “cloth” to our vocabulary. A cloth is a type of rag that’s kept, for example, in the kitchen to wipe away moisture, and the pronunciation of the word is [klQT] in British English and [klO:T] in American English. In the plural, it’s [klQTs] in British English and [klO:Dz] in American English — again, a challenge to pronounce for learners of English.

So there you have it. Now, anytime you want to sound cool, you can say to someone: “You should keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” But, hey, you can now also properly say: “I’m going to use my old clothes as cloths.” You decide!

CHAD SMITH Originally from New York City, Chad Smith is a freelance journalist and English teacher who now lives in Hamburg.


fear not [(fI&r nA:t], keine Angst

ill: wish sb. - [Il], jmdm.übelwollen, Böses wünschen

impact [(ImpÄkt], Auswirkung, Bedeutung

lose track [lu:z (trÄk], aus den Augen verlieren

moisture [(mOIstS&r], Feuchtigkeit, Nässe

nightmare [(naItmer], Albtraum

rag [rÄg], Lappen, Lumpen

Still with me? [)stIl (wIT mi:], Können Sie mir noch folgen?

utter [(Vt&r], äußern, von sich geben

voiced [(vOIst], stimmhaft

voiceless [(vOIslEs], stimmlos


Fotos: pepifoto/iStock.com; privat