Sounding like a native.

Check out this video of an American speaking excellent Spanish, and I mean excellent. His name is Richard Vaughan, of the Vaughan language schools in Spain. (He should plug LingQ for me since I am plugging Vaughan, but then I was just so impressed with his Spanish.-:)

Would his Spanish be more impressive if he sounded just like a native? I don’t think so. He has total mastery. This is the ultimate goal of language learning. Pursuing the goal of actually sounding like a native is unnecessary, a distraction from the real task of language learning, and highly unlikely to succeed. I have seen people pursue this goal and end up sounding like caricatures, while not achieving the language mastery that Vaughan has achieved. Here is a video I just did on the subject.

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One thought on “Sounding like a native.

  1. I think that most people can sound like a native (in terms of accent) if they actually try and/or are taught. But the thing is many people do not want to — they feel like they are losing something if they do not have an accent. I have dealt with this issue with students I have taught, who in spite of having very heavy accents refused to work on diminishing them because it would make them less "French, Spanish, etc." Personally, I have always tried to sound like a native in pronunciation and I have. I think because that was my goal and I also do not believe that I need to show people I am an American by having an accent when I speak another language. Also schools (especially universities) fall back on the theory that adults cannot learn pronunciation and will always sound like a non-native in another language. If you start with that premise, then you make it happen. Teachers don’t bother to deal with pronunciation (and they don’t have time to do so, so this justifies it) and students don’t even bother because their accents are accepted and they feel like they can’t do any better. The man in the video does not have a very thick accent that impedes understanding his Spanish. Obviously he has been very successful in Spain regardless. I do think that if one is planning to teach languages to beginners (especially in a country where the language is not spoken, for example, French in the U.S.) you should have pronunciation that sounds native-like (even if you are not a native) because the student has no familiarity with the language. He/she is doomed to having inferior pronunciation if the dominant model he/she hears is a teacher speaking French with a non-native sounding accent.

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