I wanted to feature these comments from Jean-Paul on the issue of speaking like a native. I am interested in your comments. I largely agree with Jean-Paul on this.( Getting close to a native accent means) Immersing oneself, plunging deeply and irretrievably into the new sounds, falling in love with the rhythm, melody and tonality of the new language. Listening, but as a lover would to the Beloved, not as a biologist watching a dying frog. Embracing, cherishing, breathing in every word, sigh and whisper of Her (or Him).
The more languages you know the easier it becomes to hear the sound structure of a new language, to compare it with known ones and to absorb it. And I find that detailed phonetic descriptions are initially invaluable: e.g. retroflex dentals in Hindi or Punjabi? Curl tongue back against upper palate.
Acquiring native (or almost) pronunciation fundamentally requires a conscious change of identity. The new language becomes “Language”. Your thought patterns switch over. All internal dialogue is transferred over. Music, movies, TV are all switched over. You are not an estranged, tentative foreigner trying to communicate; the new language is as much yours as your own body. This – for me, at least – is a deeply felt and consciously made decision. I went through this process as a teenager and have done my best to replicate it several times since.
If I needed two word to describe the greatest requirement it would have to be “Ünconditional Love” (for the object of your linguistic affections): hopeless, mad love. (Throw in a pinch of unmitigated obsession if you like.)
Yes it is possible (to speak like a native), but it requires a complete and fierce decision to become part of the new language: on all levels – internal dialogue, communication, intense study, social contacts, media. Nothing short of absolute engulfment – conscious or unconscious – will yield this result in a typical person. The time-frame is individual. It happens magically fast in younger children.
Experience tells me – having watched this process for decades – that if you are going to acquire native-sounding pronunciation and effortless syntax/vocab command in a new language, it will occur within a short time (a few years). A (usually unconscious) decision is made by an individual HOW MUCH to integrate and shed his/her old ego-persona-language for the new one. If the new speaker hangs on to the phonetic structure and syntax of the old country, these habits will usually fossilize and the passing of decades will only reinforce them. Comprehension could be flawless but output development will be permanently arrested.(A good linguistic coach could change that.)
I believe that native command of a new language is be achieved by living in a country. (I’m sure there are exceptions.)