10 January 2016

Do You Dream of Speaking Like a Native?


Speaking like a native is the ultimate goal of language learning. It is a goal that is almost never achieved. However, that is no reason not to aspire to this lofty goal, even in the knowledge that we will not get there. It is like wanting to play golf like Tiger Woods or play the piano like Charles Richard-Hamelin.

To pursue this dream we need to immerse ourselves in the new language, listening, reading, speaking, writing, and savouring the language. We need to commit ourselves emotionally to the language. We need to like the language, and at least some parts of the culture, in order to want to imitate the behaviour of the native speaker. The native speaker is the model, the unattainable goal that we want to emulate. We want to imitate how they pronounce, their intonation, their use of words. This means we really want to be like them, even to be them.


If you have not already experienced this phenomenon of transforming yourself into a fluent speaker of another language, you probably doubt you can do it. But I know you can. Once you have done it for one language, the doors open up to doing it for other languages as well. I have done it more than a few times. It is a wonderful experience, and yet I donโ€™t speak like a native in any of the foreign languages I speak.

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  1. Ian Whiting
    Posted January 15, 2016 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    I have had exactly this experience with my pursuits in French. I have spent several separate weeks in France in the past year and a half and I feel so at home every time I go back. The people are remarkably kind and accommodating. Even though they don’t necessarily act any differently when they speak English, the language barrier is just high enough that they appear uncomfortable when speaking to an Anglophone. It’s instructive to discover just how much language matters.

  2. Wiktoria
    Posted January 18, 2016 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Hi ๐Ÿ™‚ How about your polish ?

    • Posted January 24, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      I am still listening to my Polish podcasts and enjoying it.

  3. Wiktoria
    Posted January 25, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    That’s great ๐Ÿ˜€ You started learning polish several months ago and I was curious what do think about that one because a lot of people think that polish is really difficult and hard to understand.
    The best way to learn something new is enjoying it. Your blog help me understand it and improve my english skills. Now I decided to start learning another language beside english and thats gonna be spanish ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      Yes I enjoy Polish and because of my previous exposure to other Slavic languages I don’t find it difficult, at least to understand. Of course I speak with a lot of mistakes and search for words.

      • Alexandr Brojdo
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        What would you say is Ukrainian more like Russian or Polish?

        • Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

          the vocabulary is more like Polish, but the writing system (obviously) and pronunciation are more like Russian. Hard to say.

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  • […] should every so often focus on pronunciation and try to notice how your pronunciation differs from the pronunciation of the native. But donโ€™t force it. Don’t become self-conscious about your pronunciation. The more you […]

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