Jasmine Alic is an award-winning English teacher and writer from Bosnia and Herzegovina with many years of experience in a multicultural learning environment. The article “Sounding Like A Native English Speaker Should Not Be Your Goal” tells that when learning a language you should strive not to sound like an Englishman, but to be able to speak like a native English speaker. What is the difference?
You know, I've always been a perfectionist, one of those people who want to do something exactly the way it should be done. Therefore, when I first began to study English, and this was at the age of 5, I wanted to surprise people with how well I can speak this language and imitate the accent of native English speakers.
However, over the years, I realized that sounding and speaking as a native speaker are two completely different things. The sound is mainly due to the accent and for the most part is inherent to people born in an English-speaking country. Therefore, for most of us whose mother tongue is not English, this is not so easy to accomplish.
On the other hand, speaking like a native speaker is an area in which most of us can succeed. There are many ways in which you can impress by speaking English. You can really impress native speakers with your knowledge. To speak, and not sound like an Englishman, should be your main goal, and this is how you can achieve this.
A huge supply of vocabulary
Suppose you are speaking with a native speaker. Understanding every thing that you hear in this conversation will ultimately be limited by how much you really understand English, which means how well you know the English vocabulary.
There are many ways to learn a new vocabulary, but to effectively use your knowledge in a conversation is what really demonstrates your language skills, especially if you are speaking with a native speaker.
Constantly expanding your vocabulary is one of the main things you should do as a student. Knowing too many words is never bad. And, if you know all the right things, especially idioms and phrasal verbs, then you are one step closer to speaking like a carrier.
I think it is safe to say that one of the main reasons why most students find it difficult to learn English is its grammar. After all, it is an adhesive that sticks everything together. In my opinion, English grammar is the most inconspicuous thing if it is done correctly, but it is the most painful aspect of the English language if it is applied incorrectly.
Imagine something like: Why are you here? I never sent you no invitation!when someone you don’t tolerate comes to your party. But essentially, you have no reason to complain, because the double negation that you just applied indicates that you invited this person. So who is bad here?
However, if you are in complete control of all English times and using the correct time in the right context, all the right punctuation marks are natural for you, then you already understood the task.
Knowing the correct grammar and all the tiny aspects of everyday use of the language is a must, and this is one of the key things that turns everyday students into speakers, like native speakers.
Let's face it. For most of us, using English on a daily basis is limited to social networks. This usually means completely disregarding English grammar and making frequent use of abbreviations, acronyms and slang. However, no one says so in real life!
When it comes to real conversations, things like using the correct grammar, vocabulary and things like abbreviations, articles and connectors cannot be ignored, as this can seriously distort what you want to say.
The same goes for written English, so beware of grammar notes (grammar nazis) on social networks - they never sleep!
Ease of understanding
Let's ask a question: who determines what you sound or say as a native speaker of English?
Let me tell you: this is the person you are talking to! Knowing something on paper or in a test is one thing, using the language in speech or writing is natural and skillful - this is what ultimately makes people understand you.
In a nutshell, you can say that the goal is to sound like a native speaker of English, twice as much as the goal to speak like a native speaker. A great example: I have friends who grew up in the States and actually have this native accent, but for some reason they are still mistaken, speaking in English, which causes a lot “Wow” factor a quality or feature that is very impressive and makes it difficult for me to understand them.
On the other hand, it’s not difficult for me to understand many of my friends around the world who speak a different native language, because their English is literally perfect, there are no errors either in written or in spoken English! Of course, if you add the accent of a native speaker, then this will be a huge plus and will create a complete package for any student.
So, what is your next goal: to sound or speak like a native English speaker? Choose wisely.
Where to get the material from:
- Our article
We tried to state the basic rules of English intonation in the article "Intonation in English: the rules and techniques of study." There you will also find tips and useful videos to help you speak more naturally. Special textbooks
Try to study the manuals that help put the correct pronunciation and intonation. We recommend Intonation in Context tutorials by Barbara Bradford, Elements of Pronunciation by Colin Mortimer, Ship or Sheep by Ann Baker or Work on Your Accent by Helen Ashton and Sarah Shepherd. However, keep in mind that you should work with such textbooks with a teacher who can listen to your speech, evaluate the correct pronunciation and intonation, and give tips on what you need to work on. Any films and series
Have you looked at the excerpt from the series "Friends" that we proposed above? Notice how emotionally the heroes speak? Almost all native speakers speak the same way to more accurately convey emotions. When you watch your favorite episode of the series or the sensational blockbuster in English, pay attention to the tone that utters the questions, affirmative sentences. Of course, at first such emotionality may seem strange and simulated to you, but over time you will get used to it. Try to pronounce phrases behind the characters, this exciting exercise will help you significantly improve pronunciation.
Watch a native speaker explain important pronunciation features that help you speak naturally.
Synonyms of words
As you progress towards high levels of knowledge, your vocabulary should grow, be filled with complex vocabulary. You should know more complex and vivid synonyms for familiar words like bad, good, etc.
Agree, in Russian we rarely say “Good movie” if it was really good :-) Rather, we say that it is cool (cool), amazing (jaw-dropping), exciting (exciting). More complex and vibrant synonyms help us more accurately convey our emotions, provide more information to the interlocutor about the subject of the conversation, because there is a huge difference between just a good and exciting film.
For a natural conversation, you should learn synonyms, but use them sparingly, otherwise your speech will sound unnatural.
Synonyms are not only adjectives, but also to the rest of the speech. Let's look at a few examples where synonyms help more accurately express thoughts.
|Common word||A brighter synonym||Example|
|to be keen on (love, get carried away)||chances (chances, probability)||What are the odds that you will meet her there?|
What are the oddsthat you will meet her there?
|to feel like||Why? (Why?)||- I’m afraid, I can’t take you to the airport. |
— How come
- I have to work.
“I'm afraid I can't take you to the airport.”
Now, let's see how the Star Wars saga uses the synonym for handsome - gorgeous.
These are the very verbs that we don’t like to teach. There is no similar concept in Russian, and the variety of combinations of verbs with prepositions in English is shocking: it seems that you can never remember a dozen of them. But they need to be taught, because native speakers prefer them to ordinary verbs.
Let's see how singer Adele uses phrasal verbs in her song Someone Like You.
Let's carefully study the following passage:
Old friend, why are you so shy?
Ain't like you to hold back or hide from the light
I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited,
But i couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
In this short excerpt, the singer uses as many as 3 phrasal verbs:
- to hold back - hold back, hold back,
- to turn up - appear,
- to stay away - stay away, do not interfere.
1. Surround yourself in English
Listen and read the news in English. From Russia Today to the BBC, many news services make podcasts and programs and place them on their pages. Instead of absorbing Russian-language news, find an alternative in English.
Do the same with movies, music, and television. Many online services, such as Spotify or Netflix, offer cheap or even free access to a huge amount of English-language material.
Of course, just passively watching or listening is not enough. Read the words of the songs while you are listening to them, and vice versa, translate your favorite songs into English. Watch funny videos on YouTube, or from other video sources. If you're interested in something more intelligent, try the NPR (National Public Radio) and New Yorker podcasts.
2. Do not think that fluency can only be achieved by talking
The ability to speak freely does not come suddenly, and this definitely will not happen if you do not know the basic grammar. Reading increases vocabulary, teaches the correct word order, the construction of sentences, and in the process can naturally introduce you to a new grammar.
Writing allows you to write your own sentences using the correct English grammar. To achieve fluency, it is important to train both of these skills.
Italki teachers recommend that their students write short reviews of what the student learned in the lesson after class. At the same time, you consolidate the material and improve your writing skills.
Surely you already know that English words are combined with each other in a certain way and it is not always possible to literally translate the Russian phrase into English. For example, the British say to make a mistake, not to do a mistake, to tell the truth, and not to say the truth, etc. By and large, they will understand if you make a mistake and say to say the truth, but it will sound unnatural, wrong. Hence the conclusion: if you want to speak as a carrier, learn collocations.
Let's listen to Freddie Mercury and see what kind of stable phrases he uses in the song We Are the Champions.
Let's see what collocations we met in the first couplet of the song:
I've been paid my dues
Time after time
I've been done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've been made a few
I've had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I've come through
And I need to go on and on and on and on
- to pay dues - pay debts,
- to do a sentence - serve a term,
- to commit a crime - commit a crime,
- to make mistake - make a mistake.
3. Do not be shy and start making new friends
Feel free to use the language in action. Ask the other person openly if he speaks English. Often a person, just like you, will be happy to practice!
Also use social networks to meet native English speakers around the world. Communication on the Internet is a very powerful way to catch up to fluent English. There are forums and associations (groups, communities) where you can find language learning enthusiasts. And in specialized communities and clubs such as www.italki.com there are native speakers of languages for free language exchange.
4. Practice listening to different accents.
Try not just to watch and listen to British English or American English. Having become acquainted with various accents, and especially vocabulary and phrases, you can expand your knowledge of the language and its understanding. NETflix releases a number of television shows and films from around the world, or watch international news to better understand accents.
5. Practice alone. Yes, talk to yourself
If you do not want to talk to yourself, then how will you do this in a group? Speak or sing out loud in English. You can also try to speak what you do, how you do it.
If this is difficult for you, then here are some ideas. For example: when you cook breakfast, do you know the appropriate vocabulary for food, utensils and the cooking process? Can you use different verbs to explain your actions? This exercise will be especially useful at work if you are learning English for career advancement.
7. Record native speakers, and practice recording yourself too
If you are not sure how the text should sound when you read it, then a great way to train yourself to sound like a native speaker is to listen and try to imitate. In the end, it is more or less like the way children learn to speak.
Use the recorder to record TV shows, movies, interviews, etc., and listen to accents, pronunciation, and intonation. After listening to the recording, try to use the same style of speech yourself. If you compare these records, what is the difference? Of course, the differences between the native speaker and the student will be, however, is your intonation and the “flow” of speech similar, how fast are you talking, and is there articulation (clear pronunciation) of the same letters and sounds?
8. Do not forget to train the correct pronunciation!
Each language has its own unique sets of sounds. Identify the sounds you have difficulty with and train them using tongue twisters, lists of minimal pairs or various web pages dedicated to them (easily found on Google). The best way to succeed is to repeat frequently.
9. Try teaching someone else
Trying to teach someone else a language will make you speak it. Even if these are basic words, sentences or phrases, the more you teach someone ... the more opportunities you will have to practice. In addition, organizing your knowledge in order to teach someone else makes you see the structure, and helps to find out where there may be gaps in your understanding.
10. Stop translating all the time!
There is more harm than good from this. Is it sometimes necessary? Yes. But when you get used to relying on an internal translator all the time, you are creating a serious problem for yourself that will block the development and consolidation of fluency skills. In addition, you slow down the process of learning and finding comfort in the language.
It is important to understand that language proficiency is the ability to speak clearly, easily and fluently. If you translate everything consecutively, then the speech will be slow, and you will spend too much energy worrying about the mechanics of the language instead of enjoying the conversation.
Another problem is that languages use different word order and phrase construction structures, because there are many ways to say the same thing. Even British and American English use different words for the same object, so a translation may not always help you find the best words.
Slang and informal expressions
And with this phenomenon of the English language, we advise you to be careful. Slang is a spicy seasoning that makes speech tasty, rich. But, you must agree, it is necessary to use hot seasoning sparingly and certainly it is not worth adding it to all dishes. So, slang will be appropriate in an informal conversation, but not at a business meeting. But in a conversation with a friend, one should not use too many informal expressions, otherwise your speech may sound like the speech of a poorly educated person. Remember that everything is good in moderation.
See how he uses the very popular slang word to piss off Iron Man in conversation with Loki.
We think that all English learners are well aware of constructions like I wanna / gonna. In such a simple way, native speakers reduce the phrases I want to / I’m going to. And there are more and more such abbreviations in English every year. They are often used in films, series, everyday conversation, so they must be known. It should be noted that it is undesirable to use abbreviations in official conversation, leave them for an informal conversation.
Let's hear what abbreviations Bon Jovi uses in his famous song It's My Life.
It's my life
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just wanna live while I'm alive
(It's my life)
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said, "I did it my way"
I just wanna live while I'm alive
'Cause it's my life.
- ain’t = am not (in this context),
- gonna = going to,
- wanna = want to,
- ‘Cause = because.
Other reinforcing structures
Эмфатическая или усилительная конструкция — это конструкция, которая помогает сделать акцент на том или ином слове, добавляет эмоциональности и выразительности вашей речи. Инверсия — один из ярких примеров эмфатических конструкций в английском, но помимо нее есть и другие. Например, фраза What a (lovely day) — Какой (прекрасный день).
Давайте вспомним фильм «Алиса в Стране чудес». Мы видим, как Чеширский Кот использует глагол do перед основным глаголом.