My SIL got the wife one of these for Christmas. Now, most people would not detect any accent in my wife, but over the years I’ve become attuned to where she is not quite native in her pronunciation. The machine, however, picked up on that right away, although my wife claims that the extreme variance between what she says and what the machine records means that the thing is having fun at her expense. Examples?
Wife: band aids
Machine: tennis balls
Wife: I’ve been trying to get it to say apples for five minutes!
Machine: pine nuts
Me: You’ve been at that a while, wouldn’t it be easier to just write it down?
Wife: But then I would not have won.
Not that I’m immune from this, either. Chinese is a tonal language. That means that the using normal rhythm of an English sentence in a Chinese one will change the tone, and hence the meaning of the final word. If you want to say: “you’re so good” and emphasize the “good”, you’ll likely wind up changing the flat-toned 乖 “guai” (good) to falling tone 怪 “guai” (weird, strange).
Once a recalcitrant child was refusing to take her glass (杯子 bei tz, flat tone) , to her mother at the sink. She dawdled. Her father sharply told her to take the bei tz to her mother. Except using sharp English intonation shifts the tone from first (flat) the fourth (falling). A few minutes later the child is seen struggling with a huge Chinese blanket that weighs as much as she does and is many times larger. “Why are you dragging that thing out?” asks her mother. “Father told me to bring the (fourth tone) bei tz (被子).” Fourth tone bei tz , or 被子, means “quilt” in Chinese. That was years ago, and I still haven’t lived that one down. “You speak Chinese like a deaf person” says my wife.