They are all the same,” said one of the participants, a professional dancer in a suit. “They are all the same.”
The participants were at first a little unsure of the point. After all, French was the first language spoken in America after English.
They then realized that while many dancers seem to use a “French accent,” there are other aspects of the language—like the use of “youth slang”—that make it far more complex than their English counterparts. Some even said they understood it more than their French counterparts.
At a different workshop held at the Smithsonian in D.C., participants could take a similar test. It looked similar to that the French-speaking world uses to determine their accents.
This was the first time the participants were exposed to the French accent. The researchers asked each participant if that accent was different from other French speakers in his or her neighborhood or family, and the responses were similar.
At every session, about 15 or 20 people had the opportunity to test out the “Youth Vocalization Test” at a distance and at home. In the past, the “youth speech” test had been used to determine if a person might be deaf. But the new test was being used to determine how to be successful in ballet classes.
The test consists of three short spoken phrases. One phrase is spoken by the teacher. The other two phrases are spoken by a student and an adult. The instructor asks the students to say the phrase “on a train.” The student and adult should only utter the phrases in their native language. The student should then repeat the phrase after the adult as well. The adult is asked to say the phrase “out on a cruise.” And so on.
Most of the people tested had learned how to repeat phrases. Some had also practiced how to speak French in French. When the adult was asked to utter the phrase “on a train,” the adults were quite proficient on their own, but when they needed the adult to repeat the phrase, they were significantly less proficient than a person who knew French and spoke it at home.
In some instances, the adults had the ability to do everything on their own but still did not pass the test. And in other instances, the adult’s ability to repeat the phrases was significantly higher than that of the person who knew French and spoke it at home.
The results showed that the adult participants had a difficult time repeating the phrase “on a train.” When they did
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