TeachingEnglish
How can I be a native-like English speaker?

I've been studying English for years but I still have my own accent.  I wanna reduce it so much that I am making an effort to learn phonemic symbols and paying close attention to the methods of learning.

NikPeachey's picture
NikPeachey

Hi Angel,

 

I think you can become too obssessed with trying to sound like a native speaker. Which native speaker do you want to sound like? Every native speaker has an accent. Within that accent is encoded a wealth of information about who that person is, how they were educated, what part of which country they come from, what social class they come from etc etc etc.

 

All of this information is subconsciously decoded, by each native speaker that hears the accent of another. This information can trigger predjuduce or influence fiendships or the degree of openess or friendliness as well as how each speaker believes they fit within the hierarchy of the relationship. 

 

This is all very complex stuff and in the end my advice is to keep your aceent. It is part of who and what you are. As long as your accent doesn't distort your pronunciation and make it difficult to understand, you shouldn't have a problem.

 

Best

 

Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer

http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/

http://quickshout.blogspot.com/

http://daily-english-activities.blogspot.com

Katarzyna Sikora's picture
Katarzyna Sikora

Hello Angel,

 

I have been learning English for years and I live in UK now, of course I don't speak like the natives but it doesn't affect my everyday life :D Great Britain is a multicultural country and I think that a non standard accent is  quite common here . I got used to the questions : where are you from ? and I think people are just curious I don't make me down . Most of the English speakers use it as a foreign language so there is nothing strange about having a non standard accent. Don't worry too much ;) 

 All the best 

 

Kasia from Poland.  

Alulku's picture
Alulku

Hello Angel, you do well by having a concern to make your pronunciation a native-like one. This is absolutely what English teachers around the world should do. As an EFL teacher, I do the same and want that my English sounds like a native speaker's,  speaking the standard English. Not like any of I do not know how many varieties of English, but like the standard one. Like the one you hear on CNN, BBC,... Like the one the standard pronunciation of which is offered by many dictionaries with CD-Roms of excellent quality. If I do not understand at least what is spoken among the native speakers of standard English, what is spoken on TV, and if I do not teach my students how they can understand the native speakers and make themselves understood, I should give up my job and go home. My students know what "schwa" is, that they should pronunce "the" and "think" in a different way. These are the simplest examples. By the way, I was blamed by a native teacher of English for being a fanatic to have recommended using one of these expensive but high quality monolingual English dictionaries to my students. He found it totally unnecessary to deal with the phonemic symbols. It was enough for him to teach the English pronunciation with the Turkish phonemic sounds which is absolutely nonsense. Anything should be taught the way it belongs. My recommendation is that the phonemic symbols help you a lot and that you listen to and watch English programs on TV (CNN,BBC) as much as possible.

Good luck.

alicestanleyis@yahoo.co.uk's picture
alicestanleyis@...

Hello Angel

Im afraid I totally disagee with Ulku Ozurk, and agree with the other two replies.  Mr Ozrurk mentions the"the standard (variety of English)...like the one you hear on CNN, BBC".  However the 'varieties of English', or accents, which you hear with there two broadcasters are actually two different ones - generally American (CNN) and British (BBC) - differences in pronunciation, some differences in grammar, and many differences in vocabulary!  But, and here's the point, mututally intelligible. 

 I really wouldn't worry about achieving a native-like pronunciation, unless you want to blend into a particular English-speaking community, and appear to be a member of that community.  In that case you will have to choose which English accent you want to aquire, and then work very very hard!

Juan_Diego's picture
Juan_Diego

Hi Angel!

First of all, I'd like to say I agree in a certain way with each of those who posted their comments, but I would like to focus a bit on my personal experience. I've studied English all my life (quite), and had the incredible opportunity of going to the UK when I was 15. I was there for 45 days and because a friend of mine used to work at that time at a public school, I had the chance to enroll in a normal course for the time I was there. This meant, consequently so, that I spoke English with native speakers from 8.20 am to 3.20 pm. (using teacher jargon, this could be regarded as "exposure to the language" I guess...) Back to what really matters (accents), I want to tell you that after that trip to England (though not an extremely long one) my accent, that used to be British, but as British as a foreign guy can get, was modified and I acquired a very strong Brit accent. Now every time I meet a native English speaker, they almost can't tell that I am not English. But I reckon that the weirdest part is the fact that people unconsciously tend to speak with an American accent (cause of films and songs), so it's hilarious because everyone keeps saying: Gosh, how did you get such a British accent?!?! Honestly, I love British English and I would never ever change my accent, but I do believe that you should REALLY care about trying to achieve successfully the most important goal when you learn a foreign language: COMMUNICATION. If you do so, if you are able to convey your ideas and express freely in English, then the rest should come along, but you shouldn't be frustrated because you are unable to perform a native-like accent. Just to give you some advice, though, in case you really want to improve your accent is, once you get an above-the-average level in English (which of course you have), go to a country like the UK (or anywhere else according to what type of accent you want to get) and stay there, among NATIVE SPEAKERS ONLY for as long as you can. If you are from China, don't go to NYC and live in Chinatown. It just won't work. Expose entirely to the language, and you'll see quite soon that, given you have good hearing skills (are you good at music? this is a good sign...), your accent will be boosted. And to finish, you can always try doing what I do every time someone laughs because I mispronounce something (of course we all make mistakes, no matter how hard you try, you'll always be non-native). I say: Why don't you try with Spanish mate, and then you tell me how you did...

Hope I didn't bore you and you found my comment productive in some way.

All the best,

Juan D

Ajit Singh Nagpal's picture
Ajit Singh Nagpal

I have read the commets and really find them very interesting. 

Firstly what is a native speaker?  If I go by some by of the comments this term "native speaker" is a mis-nomer.  If you are a Chinese teacher from China does that mean you are a native speaker Chinese?  Or if you are an Indian from Singapore what does that?  

I agree with the comments that one should keep his ascent as long as he/she is clear and able to pronounce correctly with the right stress in the word.  The meaning is more important, as this will be portrayed in the complete sentence using the right intonation pitch, and pause. 

The question I wish to ask is "Why then so much-ado about native speakers?  You can find good speakers of the English language in all parts of the world whether they are Americans, British, Australians, Chinese, Indians, etc.. 

This leads me to another part of this subject on native speakers; which is not being discussed, i.e. why are so many people concerned and obsessed about native speaking English teachers?  Do they know what they are asking for?  I have my doubts.....          

   

   

mohamshaban's picture
mohamshaban

I disagree with some of you my friends .

I think every one can learn the accent by immetation, so I would advise you to choose one or more of your favourite native speakers of standard English that you have access to on the radio, on audiotape or on video and spend as much time as possible imitating what they say.

Make recordings of your favourite programmes and then play them back in short sections. Try to reproduce as accurately as possible the pronunciation, stress and intonation patterns of the speaker(s).

littlelilly's picture
littlelilly

I think having a good pronunciation is important, therefore you need to have a good native model. I agree with Nik when he says that you shouldn't become too obsessed with it and on what he says about identity. We all know it's pretty much impossible to get rid of a foreign accent, at the same time I think it's good to work on pronunciation, intonation and sentence stress. Besides, I find that working on sentence stress can be very useful to improve listening skills as well, especially in the case of languages which have a stress pattern different from English, such as Italian or French.

 

hicham astaifi's picture
hicham astaifi

Hello to everyone,

To some extense I agree with everyone who gave their opinion about whether a native like speaker accent is important or not. Personally I think that seeking it has been the desire of many language learners, and I was untill untill lately one of them. Since my first days at school I was obsessed with the idea that I should speak the same way native speakers do. I made everything possible to achive this goal. I watched NBC, BBC, CNN and immitated people I watched. I also immitated my ex-teachers. Many times I stood infront of the mirror speaking to myself loudly. I read novels loudly. I was crazy first about English and second about 'correct' 'native like' pronounciation. I still rememeber when I was at university, I would not tolerate any pronunciation mistake my mates would make to the extent that some got upset at times. However inspite of all these attempts to achive the native like accent, I still feel I speak 'Moroccan English' though many of those native speakers I meet online tell me I have a British accent. I am convinced I don't have it, untill lately I was told by an English friend I have an English accent; which means, I speak a clear, correct English, native speakers understand with ease. And through discussion with my English friend I mentioned to her that I like to speak like native speakers in that people wouldn't recognise I speak with a foreign accent. Her advice was that I should keep my accent since it is clear and understood she also mentioned the issue of identity.The reason, behind the story I mentioned above is that seeking a native like accent can be achived at times, but since our language is clear and understood,  why sustain the pain of achieving a goal that might not be achieved. Being obsessively concerned with pronunciation and correctness might cause us be monitor over users(Krashen) which impedes communication at times. Let us not give our out-put filter the a chance to prevent us from being fluent enough to get our message across. Let us be concerned with developping our language as a whole,Thank you

 

tunch's picture
tunch

 

 hello my friend,

i just wanted to put my idea forward after having read ur comment on speaking native-like english. I am an English teacher and unfortunately haven't got the courage to spend long long times over teaching how best my students can pronounce, instead im trying to teach how correct they can speak because at the end of the day, we learn the language to communicate and biritish accent is not the only one to learn as most of the people who speak this language is non-british and speak entirely a different accent.

On the other hand, i dont believe u can truelly be effective trying to teach how to pronounce because Turkey is not a country where students get over the language obstacles and have the opportunity to sound like a native. i would advise you to be more realistic and give the students what they need.not a dream which will neva come true...

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