Language in use  
English Language & Linguistics

English Language



Mis-heard conversations

This is (allegedly) an actual recorded telephone conversation that took place between an English-speaking traveller and a member of Room Service in a Far East hotel. The translation follows.

Read the passage aloud and note down which sounds made by the Chinese speaker approximate to the sounds of the English speaker. Note what sounds are omitted and which sounds are replaced by alternative sounds. Finally, write a summary of the pronunciation differences in a form which would help a Chinese speaker to improve his or her English pronunciation.

Incidentally, beware any tendency to mock the unfortunate speaker. Most English speakers would have much greater difficulty attempting Chinese. Remember also that the transcription will inevitably have been produced for comic effect. Possibly by someone who has listened to Manuel from Fawlty Towers ...

Room Service: "Morny. Rune-sore-bees" Morning, room service
Hotel Guest: "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought that I'd dialled Room Service."
RS: "Rye, rune-sore-bees. Morny. Djewish toe odor sunteen?" Right, room service. Morning, do you wish to order something
HG: "Uh....yes. I'd like some bacon and eggs."
RS: "Ow july den?" How would you like them?
HG: "What?"
RS: "Aches. Ow july den? Pry, boy, pooch...?" Eggs. How would you like them? Fried, boiled, poached.?
HG: "Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry. Scrambled please."
RS: "Ow july dee baycome? Crease?" How would you like the bacon? Crisp?
HG: "Crisp will be fine."
RS: "Hokay. An santos?" OK. And some toast?
HG: "What?"
RS: "Santos. July santos?" Do you like toast?
HG: "Um.....I don't know.....I don't think so"
RS: "No. Judo one toes?" No. You don't want toast?
HG: "Look, I feel really bad about this, but I don't know what "Judo one toes" means. I'm sorry."
RS: "Toes! Toes! Why djew don juan toes? Ow bow cenglish mopping we bother?" Toast! Toast! Why don't you want toast? How about English Muffin with butter?
HG: "English muffin! I've got it! I understand now. You were saying toast! Fine. An English muffin would be just fine."
RS: "We bother?" With butter?
HG: "No. Just put the bother on the side."
RS: "Wad?" What?
HG: "I'm sorry. I meant butter. Please put the butter on the side."
RS: "Copy?" Coffee?
HG: "I feel terrible about this but..."
RS: "Copy. Copy. tea, mill...?" Coffee. Coffee, tea, milk....?
HG: "Coffee! Yes coffee please and that's all."
RS: "One minnie. Ju odor strangle aches, crease baycome, cenglish mopping we bother honey sigh, and copy. Rye?" One minute. You ordered scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, English muffin with butter on the side and coffee. Right?
HG: "Whatever you say."
RS: "Hokay. Tendjewberrymud." OK. Thank you very much
HG: "You're welcome."


 Also see ...