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  1. #1
    thedaffodils's Avatar
    thedaffodils is offline Key Member
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    Smile How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

    Some of you might realise the text above in Italics is the first paragraph from the novel -Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, who was originally from Russia but immigrated in the US. Casting aside the controversial content of the novel, I am very impressed by his flowing and passionate writing.

    Mr. Nobokov's mother tongue was Russian but I assume that his English level was beyond that of average native speakers'. I wonder how non-native speakers of English can manage to reach the English level of native speakers'.

    I have tried my best to study English with great enthusiasm but I am a bit disappointed that my English, either speaking or writing, still falls short of my expectation - real acceptable level. I know I am kind of a perfectionist about the criterion. I am not seeking comfort or encouragement here from you guys. And I hardly found non-native speakers, especially who never go to live in an English-speaking country, can speak/write English, that is as good as that of educated native speakers' in my real life.

    I think the biggest hurdle for mastering a foreign language is the different ways of thinking between native speakers and non-native speakers.

    What do you think about this? Please pen down your thoughts and share with me. Thank you for your reading and comments.

    P.S. Sorry if this post is a bit long because I just hope to have more chances to write in English for practice.
    Last edited by thedaffodils; 05-Feb-2009 at 18:50. Reason: solecisms

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Apparently, he never lost his accent. Very few learners get to the stage where they are indistinguishable from native speakers.

    There are very few other writers like Nabakov; offhand, I can only think of Joseph Conrad.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Apparently, he never lost his accent. Very few learners get to the stage where they are indistinguishable from native speakers.

    There are very few other writers like Nabakov; offhand, I can only think of Joseph Conrad.

  4. #4
    thedaffodils's Avatar
    thedaffodils is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Apparently, he never lost his accent. Very few learners get to the stage where they are indistinguishable from native speakers.

    There are very few other writers like Nabakov; offhand, I can only think of Joseph Conrad.
    Hi Tdol,

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    I had thought Mr. Nabakov had the perfect talent in the English language. I alway envy the guys who have a gift of languages.

    There's a well-known Canadian star whose stage name is Da Shan. He is very well-known for his mastering of Mandarin. I think his accent in Mandarin is far better than mine. It is really not a piece of cake. I just can imagine how hard he had been to learn Chinese.

    Have a good day!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    The fact is that "native speaker" is a rather broad term and is often used by people who aren't language- literate, as it were, and want to find a quich and easy solution to problems; natitve speakers aren't a homogeneous group: obviously some of them speak better than others while some others write better, and in terms of acceptability judgement, I often come across cases where native speakers disagree or contradict each other.So one way to overcome your depression is to think that there are areas in which you can be better than an average native and being a native doesn't necessarily mean having full mastery of the language, which is practically impossible.

  6. #6
    thod00 is offline Member
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    I have met non native native speakers that I wouldn't have known were non native if they hadn't told me. Of course ability varies, someone can be perfect and then they say something which sounds odd and that gives them away. There is the usual spectrum of educational achievement in anglophone lands and thus some peoples English is restricted. However these peoples grammatical mistakes will be alike to those that children make. They apply the general rules to cases where they dont apply. This sort of mistake leads to a 'dumbed down' English. 'Gooder' instead of 'better' for example. It is true that it is very hard to achieve native level unless you are immersed.

    I have tried my best to study English with great enthusiasm but I am a bit disappointed that my English, either speaking or writing, still falls short of my expectation - real acceptable level.
    Take your words for example, "either speaking or writing", although the anglophones understand it, it is not correct. You could say "either in speaking or in writing" but "either spoken or written" would be better. I would also add an 's' to 'expectation' to give "still falls short of my expectations"

    Most native speakers have never studied their own language and couldn't tell you what a pronoun or a past participle is. Thus they simply use whatever words seem right to them, whatever other people understand. This can lead to the highly educated non native speaking better English than they do.

    Of course the debate about what is correct English continues. Some would argue that if natives split their infinitives that makes it correct, since whatever they do is by definition 'English'.

  7. #7
    thedaffodils's Avatar
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Paulmoss and Thod00:

    Thank you for joining us for the discussion. And Thod00, I appreciate that you took the solecisms of my writing to illustrate the issue so that I will not make the same error again in the future.

  8. #8
    abaka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Nabokov, interestingly enough, dismissed Conrad's writing as merely a well put-together sequence of hackneyed phrases.

    I've read Nabokov in both English and Russian. His writing, in both languages, is strongly coloured, quite literally so: he suffered from synaesthesia, and saw colors in speech and in the very letters of the alphabet. Although he tried to describe the colours that corresponded to each phoneme, his writing remains full of patterns and shades of meaning that will never be properly seen by anyone else. Nabokov's gentle blood could not tolerate bourgeois conventions: he truly saw the world as both loutish and banal. All in all, though, his refinement comes off as developed to perversion.

    But to get back on topic. You are absolutely right that the way to develop a non-native language to a native level is to learn to think like a native. Then even the solecisms will no longer be foreign. For a language spread and imposed by means of political and economic power, this is a point no less true for all its apparent imperialism. Without possibility of cultural immersion on site, so to speak, the only possible solution is perhaps to drown yourself in Hollywood movies.
    Last edited by abaka; 09-Feb-2009 at 01:03.

  9. #9
    thedaffodils's Avatar
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Hi Abaka,

    Thank you for your input.

    I don't understand the words of yours as below. What do gentle blood' and 'bourgeois conventions' refer to respectively?

    Nabokov's gentle blood could not tolerate bourgeois conventions: he truly saw the world as both loutish and banal. All in all, though, his refinement comes off as developed to perversion.
    But to get back on topic. You are absolutely right that the way to develop a non-native language to a native level is to learn to think like a native. Then even the solecisms will no longer be foreign. For a language spread and imposed by means of political and economic power, this is a point no less true for all its apparent imperialism. Without possibility of cultural immersion on site, so to speak, the only possible solution is perhaps to drown yourself in Hollywood movies.
    Thank you for your suggesion about this. I think I also might make some native speakers in real life because many expats are in Shanghai.

  10. #10
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: How non-native speakers reach native level of English?

    Another writer who used English to a high standard was Rabindranath Tagore. There are also a number of brilliant West African writers using English in their writing.

    It comes down to good teaching, considerable reading, and ultimately the desire to do something well.

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