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Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021


If you're learning English there is a lot of pressure to speak like a British person or an American but this 'speak English like a native' is bad advice. Please watch this video to understand why.
What I don't think is OK is to suggest that because you're a non-native speaker and I'm a native speaker your objective is to speak like me.

Somehow one of the guardians of the English language and we hold the key to entering the promised land where only those who sound like native speakers reside, where you breath the rarified native air and drink from the fountain of youth…

All this thing about ‘speak English like a native’ just feeds anxiety and is bad advice. Don't speak like a native instead speak like yourself. become the best version of yourself. Improve your skills, learn grammar, learn vocabulary, speak idiomatic English. Improve your pronunciation certainly all of these things are OK, but don't fall into to the mindset that if you somehow don't speak like a cast member of Downton Abbey you've somehow failed.

Let's look at the two main aspects of learning English because they're quite different.

The language and the pronunciation first of all the language, the words and expressions you use.

Your objective should be to become the best communicator you can possibly be.

Communication is not based solely on correct grammar and correct pronunciation and correct syntax.
Yes, I do encourage you to learn that stuff but grammar is just a tool to help you craft your speaking and writing skills albeit a useful one

Firstly, why should you limit yourself to speaking like a native? Your objective should be, if anything, to speak better than that.

Lots of non-native speakers are extremely articulate of course and lots of native speakers are inarticulate.

If you're educated and I don't know you've read 10,000 difficult books in your own language and you are eloquent in your mother tongue, if you are able to discuss the burning issues of the day, if you are able to express complex ideas and abstract emotions in your own language then, once you've reached a certain level, you can do it in English too.

Eloquence is a transferable skill if you've achieved in your own language then once you've got to grips with English you're going to speak better than the vast majority of native speakers so don't cut yourself short don't aim to speak like a native - aim higher or, rather I'll put it another way, at a certain point native or non-native becomes irrelevant a native speaker who's never read a book is never going to have the skills and the wherewithal to shape the opinions of others. Provenance counts for nothing.

Some of us are brilliant but some of us are just cattle wearing clothes. If you can talk about, I don't know, non-Euclidean mathematics in your own language then with a little training you can do it in English too. Not me I have no idea what that's all about but maybe you can.

In short, anything a native speaker can talk about perhaps you can do better and if not today then one day soon it depends on your skills you have as an individual native or non-native it's the same.

My job as an English teacher is to help you with the grammar and show you idiomatic English but what I won't be saying anymore is speak like this to sound more British, use this phrase it sounds more native, then give you a list of vogue words and expressions du jour which will probably sound
old-fashioned in a couple of years anyway.

I believe is that the first 90% of pronunciation is important, very important, you need to speak clearly, you need to be understood and not misunderstood.

Listeners should not be unsure whether you are hungry or angry or whether you are walking or working you should pronounce words like sew - s e w and borough correctly.

You should also be aware of many important things in pronunciation such as weak forms informal contractions like gonna, wanna, gotta, betcha all of these things are super important .

However, I would say that for the vast majority of people once you've got the fundamentals right that's enough an approximation of how native English speakers speak is sufficient with pronunciation it's the law of diminishing returns the first 90% is relatively easy and takes shall we say this much time. The next nine percent, don't ask me where I get the statistics from, it's just to give you an idea, the next nine percent takes can you see that takes this much time just for a little improvement if you say comfortable instead of comfortable if you say culture instead of culture nobody really cares but we obsess over it there are exceptions here. Some people love taking that path, spending loads of time on phonetics and the minute nuances of pronunciation and if you are one of those people then that's OK. I say go ahead I encourage you.

However, for most learners what I don't want you to think is that if you have a slight accent you are somehow inadequate that your English is wanting.

No it isn't, there are lots of famous non-native speakers who become successful here in spite of, or maybe because, they have a foreign accent so Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Penelope Cruz just to name three from the top of my head. Has an accent impeded their career?

Come on guys a slight foreign accent doesn't matter frankly nobody *** cares. In fact the opposite is true. It's nice to have variety in English and as I said I realize there are a few exceptions. Some people love learning the details of pronunciation. It's a passion that's fine, go for it but for most learners I say don't lose any sleep if you don't sound like a Londoner or a New Yorker or a Sydnerian. I'm not sure which is correct, put that in the comments please. For most of you I'd say focus on the 90% so we understand you 100% but then frankly after that it's not that important in fact a moderate foreign accent is quite charming we like it so don't speak like a native that should not be your objective I almost forgot I've talked about the 99% of pronunciation but what about the last 1%?

That sliver that will get you from speaking close to sounding like a native speaker to passing that linguistic Turing test. It's virtually impossible for an adult who has an accent, a foreign accent, to lose their accent so completely that they sound exactly like a native speaker there are probably more people who've been in space than have achieved that and I don't mean that in a nasty way because as I said it's not that important it's not just English of course.

I've learned French and I hope one day I'll speak it really well but I know that even if I live to be 100 billion years old I will never sound French as soon as I open my mouth, as soon as the first syllable comes out of bonjour they know I'm a foreigner, I'm English or some kind of foreigner uh yeah bonjour, bonjour, bonjour the French know I'm a foreigner but I'm OK with that I'm happy having an English accent perhaps I could reduce it a little but I don't want to sound French I just want to be understood I don't want to spend hours and hours on on the phonetics of French. Sorry, sorry French people.

So my advice is to learn idiomatic English learn the grammar idioms, enrich your vocabulary but then be natural and follow your own path. The most powerful thing of all is when you take control and you use your own words and play to your own strengths you are unique don't try and be a carbon copy of that British or American or Australian speaker you can do better than that you can speak like yourself.

* Please note: the text here is not properly crafted in "native English", as it has been automatically generated by a machine. The machine is obviously invented by a non-Native-English speakers, just as Google is done by two native Russian speakers, Apple\iPhone\iPad is invented by native Syrian and the device you are using is based on Algebra, invented by Egyptian before the English language has been invented. The electricity your device is using to read this has been invented by native Serbian speaker, Nikola Tesla, not by Thomas Edison, and the internet is invented in France (Minitel) and not by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is a wonderful talented person with great achievements, but the internet was not one of them (the URL structure is defiantly one of his great inventions, but this is not "the internet" as its often wrongly promoted).

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