Estuary German

Lena Meyer-Landrut’s weird English pronunciation (only when she’s singing – when she talking, it’s just normal mediocre school English) has attracted some attention.

I’ve tried to transcribe the beginning of the song:

I went everywhere for you a? w?nt ?f??w?? f? ju?
I even did my hair for you a? i?v?n d?d ma? h??? f? j??
I bought new underwear, they’re blue a? b??t nu? and?w??, ða? blu?
And I wore ’em just the other day ?n ? w?r?m d??st ð? ?ð? da?
Love, you know I’ll fight for you l?v, ju? n?? a?l fa?t f? ju?
I left on the porch light for you a? l?ft ?n d? p??t? la?t f? ju?
Whether you are sweet or cruel w?ð? ju? a? swi?t ?? k?u?(l)
I’m gonna love you either way a?m ??n? l?v ju? i?ð? we?
Love, oh, love, I gotta tell you how I feel about you l?v ?? l?v a? ??t? t?l ju? ha? a? fi?l ?baut ju?
‘Cause I, oh, I can’t go a minute without your love k?z a? ø? ai kan ??? ? m?n?t wiða?t ju? l?v

Some people (at least in Germany and Denmark) have been trying to defend her pronunciation by claiming she’s singing in Cockney (by which I guess they mean Estuary English), but that’s a misunderstanding.

It’s true that many native Londoners would pronounce ‘day’ in a way close to [da?], but like all other native speakers of English, they would make it rhyme with ‘way’, which should in this accent be [wa?], not [we?].

In the same way, no matter what accent of English you’re trying to speak, you should use the same vowel/diphthong in ‘oh’ and ‘go’.

Also, no variety of English that I know of conflates the vowels in ‘light’ and ‘day’. In Scottish English, they are [??] and [e]; in RP, they are [a?] and [e?]; and in Estuary English, they might be [??] and [??]. The main thing is they’re always different.

Finally, of course there are features of a London accent that she hasn’t copied at all – for instance, her /l/s and /r/s sound very German to me.

So this is not a case of a German who sings in Cockney; it’s a case of a German schoolgirl with mediocre English who’s copied pronunciations at random from songs she’s listened to.

3 thoughts on “Estuary German”

  1. And I have to say as a translator, why oh why do these people never run their texts past an English native speaker – this song is total foreign nonsense!

  2. Perhaps most people don’t know where to find a native speaker to check their texts? Of course they could go to a translation agency, but that’d cost an arm and a leg. Perhaps one should create a service on the internet that allows you to upload a short text and prepay a fixed fee, and you get a corrected version back within a few days.

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