I’m worried they won’t choose me for the job because I’m not a native speaker…
I want to talk like a native speaker…
I’ll never be as good as a native speaker…
These are all things that students have said to me so I was interested in investigating this mystical native speaker status.
In my opinion, having a language as your maternal language doesn’t give you perfect knowledge of it.
In fact there are many people who have learnt a language as a second, third or even fourth language and they have knowledge, mastery and skill far greater than someone who was simply born into an environment where that language was spoken.
Sometimes people chase after and idealise the dream of being like a ‘native speaker’ , but I think it’s important to define what we mean by that, so we can take steps towards achieving our goal.
After all, it’s not some magical status that’s awarded after X number hours of study as a prize for working your way through a pile of boring grammar books.
So, what do we imagine when we dream of being “as good as” a native speaker?
Personally, I believe there are 3 key aspects:
The language has been learnt gradually and naturally, so there’s no pressure or stress associated with it. There are no expectations or thoughts of what we “should” be capable of, we just do what we can.
We don’t doubt ourselves because we aren’t worried about being judged by anyone. Also, we know that being criticised and learning from our mistakes isn’t the worst thing in the world. We enjoy learning and improving and honing our skills.
We can make jokes, we can create, we can play with the language. We can bend the rules.
I believe that once we understand that these 3 elements are what we are really after, we can shift our mindset and start to speak with ease, with confidence and we can play with and enjoy the language. And we can do it fast.