Is there a linguistic term for, for example, certain Russian words sounding strange to the ears of a native English speaker?


  • I usually describe that as * foreign*
    – Jim
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 22:24
  • Greek & Latin
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 7:42

2 Answers 2


In linguistics, this phenomenon is called cross-language speech perception.

A large amount of research has studied how users of a language perceive foreign speech (referred to as cross-language speech perception) or second-language speech (second-language speech perception). The latter falls within the domain of second language acquisition.

Languages differ in their phonemic inventories. Naturally, this creates difficulties when a foreign language is encountered. For example, if two foreign-language sounds are assimilated to a single mother-tongue category the difference between them will be very difficult to discern.


  • Bonus: The sounds of language
    – ermanen
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 20:28
  • More concrete example of the text's example: Japanese has a roughly 'r'-sounding phoneme that is nearly halfway between English's 'r' and 'l', which is why hearing the difference between those is difficult for Japanese speakers.
    – Nich Del
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 20:39

The best term I can come up with is non-native phoneme.

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