how to become a native speaker?
Step 1- be born in an english-speaking country
Step 2- be surrounded by people who speak English
Step 3- enjoy being a native speaker
You can’t sound like a native speaker from another language as hard as you try with everything you’ve got. It’s impossible. You can gain fluency, but native like is impossible.
(…) You can’t sound like a native speaker from another language as hard as you try with everything you’ve got. It’s impossible. (…)
I don’t think it is possible either, at least so far I have not met anybody who could convince me of the contrary. I have been studying and using English for 30 years, also professionally as a simultaneous interpreter. But what I know about and in English does not even come close to my knowledge in my native tongue (and it does not have to).
Gaining fluency is already quite a challenging objective. If you want to use foreign languages professionally, you might have to reach an even higher level (depending on the kind of work you do) but sounding like a native is not necessary.
On the other hand, I have met quite a few foreigners who from a grammatical point of view and as for the spelling write better German than many native speakers. I guess the same is true of many people who study other foreign languages.
Speaking like a native is a different matter, I think. I have met some foreigners studying German who actually made me believe German was their native tongue for a short time. Usually, however, after a while you become aware of something “foreign” in the way they structure their sentences or pronounce certain words.
There is nothing wrong with that. I think there are two major groups of people amongst those who try to be taken for a native speaker in the language they study. The first group is just ambitious as to their study goals, the second wants to avoid to be perceived as foreign (immigrants for example).
Once (only once) I saw a person who spoke absolutely natural Russian. Nothing incorrect or foreign in his grammar, or in the way he expressed his thoughts, or the way he structured his speech. For six-seven minutes I was sure that I was speaking with a russian, even his accent was natural. What gave him away was the intonation he gave when pronouncing some (very long) words. Maybe 4-5 times within 40 minutes. He wasn’t bilingual, his native language was English. Now I’m convinced that it’s possible. ;))
@Bautov I hate to sound negative but I have to agree with the 3 posters before you. I believe with with ALOT of effort you can become very good and near native like the Russian guy you were describing but I have never seen or heard a person in my life who sounds completely Native like in every situation. I heard this German girl on you tube and I thought at first she was american as she had pretty much no accent but after a while there are just some words that are hard to pronounce and gave her away. Like the word squirrel to Germans. ;p.
The only way you’ll be native like is if you start speaking at a very young age and speak ALOT in the target language, which I have seen before. I’ve never seen an adult learner learning English sound native like in my native language (Canadian English eh).
One might be able to pull it off for a while like a very gifted actor but its only a matter of time before they give themselves away. I don’t think perfection is a goal worth striving for. I think there is nothing wrong with accents or making the odd grammar mistake, even that is a very worthy achievement.
It depends on what we mean by ‘being native’. Speaking about accent, I agree it’s impossible to get rid of it completely. There always will be some squirrels.
I’ve found quite a few people who were very close to native speaker level in English even though they began learning after their school years. This native thing is to me highly over-rated. We just want people to sound the same as us. I find the English of some native speakers different enough from the variety I grew up with to be quite difficult to cope with. I also find the English of many non-native speakers to give me very little to complain about. Yes, little differences in use of idioms or of pronunciation of a few words can reveal that they are not actually native speakers. Perhaps this matters if a spy is trying to pretend to be a native speaker. Otherwise, what does it matter?
@Nate: Some second language users of English have a better use of correct English grammar than some native speakers I know.
(…) As far as language students having better grammar abilities than natives, it depends on what we mean by “better”. (…)
I was referring to people using wrong cases in German for example.
(…) The one who has journeyed beyond C2 is the one who knows that the rulebook is there, but he has ventured past it, and his L2 has become more of an art form and less of mathematical equation to either get right or wrong. (…)
That is a beautiful description.
When I was working in the Netherlands I knew a couple of Dutch guys who spoke native-like English with absolutely no accent; I wouldn’t have been able to detect they weren’t English (although their names were kind of a giveaway). They hadn’t spent any substantial time outside their own country. Amazing.
So, it’s not “impossible”, but I guess very much the exception.
In fact, on second thoughts, their English was TOO good; no localization in their accents at all. I probably should have given them some training in Scouse or something.