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natram
Member

The fing with th-fronting

I just had an interesting discussion with a client about th-fronting, which is a bit weird to me.

 

The client is looking to hire a Swedish translator with good British accent for a future project and asked me if I could record a short piece of text so that he could hear if I am a good fit for the job. I told him that I have an American accent but he insisted because he thought that I would be able to do a short session in British. 

 

I have studied both British English and American English and I know the differences between the accents and phonetics, so I went along with the client's request having no doubts. When I finished reading the text, I sent it to him and the client replied to me saying that I had mispronounced some words. For example, I pronounce "thing" with "th", not with an "f" as in "fing", and that is wrong according to the client.

 

I thought at first that the client didn't hear me well. I assured him it was correct and that I pronounce words such as "thesis", "think", "Thursday" with "th", /θ/. But the client kept telling me that I was wrong and that the correct pronounciation is with the "f" and "v". I told him that th-fronting is unusual to me and ended the conversation politely telling him that I wasn't the right candidate for the job. 

 

I know th-fronting is common in certain dialects, but to say that "Thursday" is mispronounced with "th"... huh?

 

- Hey, my brover's birfday is next Firsday and I would love for you to come. Can you make it?

- Of course! What time?

- Free firty. 

- I fink I am free on Firsday. Let me see... yes, free firty Firsday is fine. 

- Awesome! We will frow him a surprise party so don't tell him anyfing.  

- OK, fanks for letting me know. I'll see you vere. 

 

It doesn't matter how many times I read it out loud, it still sounds weird to me. 

 

Is anyone here familiar with th-fronting? Is it really that common in British English?  

34 REPLIES 34
lh_johnston
Member

Sounds like the strong Cockney accent found among certain Londoners, which is usually considered as slang. Very odd that he should ask for that. Was he joking? Who were his intended audience, I wonder?

 

I know someone who speaks like that but I don't think he knows any Swedish.

Leila,

 

I thought it was very odd too. He didn't mention anything about a target audience, he just told me that he wanted to see if I was good fit for the job and wanted me to read a very short text with British accent. And then insisted that I pronounced the words wrong.  

 

If it wasn't a joke then it was one of the weirdest interviews I've ever had.

iaabraham
Member

I was taught by several British professors, and not one of them used th-fronting pronunciation. 

 

However, a quick look at Wikipedia brings this up: "Th-fronting is a prominent feature of several dialects of English, notably Cockney, Estuary English, some West Country dialects..." - perhaps that's what the client was thinking of?

 

Hopefully a native British English speaker will come along and clarify.

 

Anyway, I'm not particularly fond of th-fronting - doesn't sound like proper English to me, and I think you dodged a bullet with that client 🙂 (No offense to anyone who uses th-fronting!)

Isabelle,

 

He didn't mention anything about a dialect or any specifics about th-fronting. If I knew that he wanted a British dialect, I would have said no immediately because I don't speak British dialects. 

 

What really surprised me though was that he told me that I pronounced the words wrong. 

 

 

I've never heard of this and I've lived in England my entire life. I pronounce "thing" with a TH, just like everyone else I know...

 

I once pronounced words with an F, instead of TH, but that was because of a speech impediment. 

At least I'm not the only one to pronounce with "th". 

I'm confused. Is the dialogue you highlight in blue illustrate meant to illustrate your sense of weirdness, or is it an excerpt from the job script?

It's a short piece of text with some of the words that were in the original text to show what the client considered to be correct British English as if they were spoken. I realized he was talking about th-fronting when he told me about the "f" and "v". I didn't want to let things escalate to another level so I ended the conversation. The whole thing felt surreal when he said that I mispronounced words like "thing" and "Thursday" with "th". 

 

 

 


@Natasa R wrote:

It's a short piece of text with some of the words that were in the original text to show what the client considered to be correct British English as if they were spoken.


I'm still confused. It's a voiceover artist's job to read the script as written (bringing appropriate interpretive skills.) If the f's and v's are in the script, that's what one reads. If one doesn't feel up to the job of conveying a transliterated accent, one says so. Not sure of the point of discussing with the client what's "correct."

 

Best,

Michael

Douglas, 

 

This is not the original piece of text that I recorded. What I meant in my reply to you was that I wrote this text (in my own words, here in the forum) and used some of the words from the original text that were discussed with the client. I deliberately replaced the letters with the f's and v's just to illustrate what the client considered to be correct British English as if they were spoken. It was not a matter of conveying a transliterated accent, it was a normal piece of text. The reason I asked about the usage of th-fronting in British English is because of the discussion I had with the client.  

 

Anyway, no f's or v's were harmed during the interview. Smiley Very Happy

Thanks, Natasa!

I can see how your client's expectations and explanations must have seemed peculiar, and worth further inquiry here.

Best,
Michael
johntatlock
Member

This really reads like the client doesn't know what they're talking about.

 

There are a number of dialects in the UK where this kind of thing is locally prevalent, but this is no way any kind of standard British accent.

That's what I know about th-fronting too. It's more prevalent in some dialects but not considered to be standard British English. After the conversation with the client I actually started wondering if its usage has increased in British English and if it is a common thing these days. 

johntatlock
Member

> Hopefully a native British English speaker will come along and clarify.

For the record, I'm a  native British English speaker, and I also do a bit of narration work. And while I'm not the world's best at this, I can do a few different accents. "F" for "Th" is really not that commonplace. You do get it, but not all that much.

I wasn't aware that (outside American sitcoms) there was such a thing as a 'British accent.' People just in England sound quite different depending in area, ethnicity and social class, yet alone within the 4 countries that make up the United Kingdom.

Is this something to do with Asia, by any chance. In my experience they have an obsession with 'standard' native-speaking pronounciation that doesn't actually exist outside their imagination.

"Is this something to do with Asia, by any chance. In my experience they have an obsession with 'standard' native-speaking pronounciation that doesn't actually exist outside their imagination."

 

I only know that the client is from London.  

I said British and American accent just to distinguish the kind of English we were talking about. I know there are different dialects and accents within British English and American English and they all vary from one another. But to refer to what the client told me in his own words, which was "British accent", is what I understood as "British English". And by British English, I don't automatically think of th-fronting. I just found it weird that the client told me that I mispronounced the words with "th" instead of "f" and "v". 

As others have commented, that's definitely a Cockney (Working class London)/ Essex accent. Why they would want a non-native speaker to do this, however, is anyone's guess.  Did he give any explanation as to his peculiar requirement?

"Why they would want a non-native speaker to do this, however, is anyone's guess.  Did he give any explanation as to his peculiar requirement?"

 

The project involves translation and voice over, and the client wants the same person's voice to be heard in English and Swedish. But I doubt he will find any translator for this job.  

There are dozens of British accents. Even if he had hired a Brit to do this, he might have had a problem.

Sumfing/sumfink (cockney for something) - but I would bet a zillion on it that no cockney ever said Fursday for Thursday. Just possibly, the 'h' might get dropped and it would be 'Tursday' or 'Tursdee'. 

 

OK other Brits . . . smack me down.

kugrin
Member

What a bizarre interview! For future reference:

 

 

Smiley Very Happy

A ha ha! Thanks Krisztina! Smiley Very Happy Yes, a bizarre interview indeed. I will probably need more lessons before I can accept a job that requires a Cockney accent. Lol

 

@Nichola

 

"...but I would bet a zillion on it that no cockney ever said Fursday for Thursday. Just possibly, the 'h' might get dropped and it would be 'Tursday' or 'Tursdee'."

 

I am not the right person to answer this, but the client said it should be with "f". After Krisztina's video, I also checked this one out. I don't know how accurate this is but according to this man, they pronounce Thursday as Fursday. 

 

 

 

Look no further, Natasa, Jason is your man! He's the genuine article.

 

He puts me to shame because, even though I'm English, I could not even aspire to imitate him.

Oooh! I think my zillions might be wavering a bit - however, I might still fight from my corner 😉 Watch this space . . .

 (I do back down, when I know I have lost!)

What a bizarre thread! I'm not goung to go back copying and pasting, so I'll just put down a few thoughts:

 

Yes, there are hundreds of "British" accents/dialects. There is one called "received pronunciation" that is dictated by class/aspiration/snobbishness rather than region. But there is no such thing as a British accent. Consider in "Frasier" - Daphne Moon is an English girl from Manchester, yet her brother has a thick Cockney accent - yet presumably to American audiences they both just sound like English accents, even though they're light years apart.

 

Some of these regional accents pronounce th as f, but they are few and far between. Cockney is an obvious example, but also I think of the newer "black" street accents (Please don't anyone play the racism card on me here).

 

For a client to ask someone to just pronounce a consonant group in a particular way is strange - because just by pronouncing th as f doesn't make it a Cockney/black street/Cornish or whatever accent. You need a lot more for that, and you either need a native speaker of that accent or a very good voice actor (Consider **bleep** Van **bleep**'s horrendous attempt at a Cockney accent in Mary Poppins as how it can so easily go wrong...).

 

It seems to me that the cliet is either deranged or completely ignorant,  has very bad English him/herself and got his/her info from a strange inappropriate source. You will never please this kind of client, because they don't have the facility to accept that someone knows more than they do.

 

I know about this subject...I went to the speech therapist many years ago, and said "I have a problem - I can't pronounce my Fs or TH's"

 

and the speech therapist said to me

 

"you can't say fairer than that, then..."

Yes, I was going to mention Daphne's brother in Frazier as a good example of the type of 'British' accent that only exists on American film and TV. Other classic examples of this Include vampire Spike in Buffy, Christan Slater in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Keanu Reeves in Dracula AND Much Ado about Nothing, Forrest Whitaker in The Crying Game and, of course, the immortal **bleep** (Gawd blimey Maree Pawpins, oi's cleanin' the chimnees!) Van **bleep**.

 

 

I'd criticise Kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves too, except he never bothered to try in the first place. 

For God's sake, **bleep** Van **bleep** is not swearing, it's his name!

LOL. Let's try Richard Wayne "D i c k" Van D y k e

"For God's sake, **bleep** Van **bleep** is not swearing, it's his name!"

 

LOL Smiley Very Happy 


@Ramon B wrote:

For God's sake, **bleep** Van **bleep** is not swearing, it's his name!


This is the second strangest bit of auto-censorship I've seen online. The strangest was auto-suppression of the word "wristwatch."

 

Best to all,

Michael 

If I could reverse all the bleeping on this thread, I would. Sorry, guys, it's automatic.

 

It's a very interesting thread by the way. I personally learned a lot from it. Thank you!

~ Valeria
Upwork

I completely agree with you Stephen. I would never please this kind of client. This was one of the weirdest interviews I have had. Well, at least I know I am not going crazy here. Smiley Happy

Certainly sounded like a bit of a **bleep**! Cat Very Happy