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I was watching episode 8 of Srugim's third season and noticed, beginning at approximately 19:50 (at least in the Hulu upload), this very minor character whose Hebrew sounded weirdly "off" to me. From the context and my imagination, it almost sounded like the speaker might have been an American.

However, I don't speak Hebrew, and my sole exposure to listening to it has been through one or two TV shows and pop music. It's thus a bit peculiar to me that I should have picked this up, although from past experience (noticing that a Chinese actor's Japanese was off, despite not knowing Japanese but having some exposure to it via television), this isn't entirely inexplicable.

Is my evaluation of the Hebrew here (that the pronunciation is off) correct? If so, why exactly is this the case?

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  • I don't think anyone else can tell you why the Hebrew you heard sounded "off" to you. Also, the question seems to address an issue larger than accent, but you indicate that you don't speak Hebrew. I suggest that you ask a different question Hebrew spoken with an American accent. – James Grossmann Mar 13 '15 at 3:42
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    the speaker speaks with a strong, American accent. you are correct. – David Haim Feb 5 '18 at 16:37
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My guess would be that you're simply hearing sounds or sound patterns that you're not used to hearing. Perhaps you've learned to recognize the distinct sounds of the uvulars /χ ʁ/ and the pharyngeals /ħ ʕ/, and you notice that instead of those sounds, you hear sounds that aren't quite the same - perhaps something easier for an English speaker to pronounce, but distinctly different in sound. Or perhaps it's the vowels. Perhaps you notice /e/ pronounced as [ɛ] or [ɛɪ̯], or /o/ pronounced as [əʊ̯] or [oʊ̯], or /a/ pronounced as [ɑ]. Or, perhaps the character's /i/ and /u/ were slightly diphthongized rather than being pure vowels.

It could also be that what you're noticing isn't the quality of the speaker's phonemes, but his intonation or rhythm. I don't know much about Hebrew intonation or rhythm (nor did I know much about Hebrew's phoneme inventory, but that information is readily available on Wikipedia), but if Hebrew is a syllable-timed language, and the character you speak of is speaking as if it were a stress-timed language (like English), that would be pretty noticeable. Similarly, if he uses English intonation patterns that aren't common in Hebrew, then that could also be noticed.

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First thing I noticed were that his r's are American English, then his vowel reduction and intonation as Zgialor mentioned.

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    Ah, yes, how could I have forgotten the English r? That's a huge contributor to an English-sounding accent. It's not just Americans, either - The British still have the same "r" sound before vowels, like in "ring" or "ridiculous foreign accent". – Zgialor Mar 13 '15 at 0:47

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