An American author named Peter Farb once said,
“Native speakers of a language know intuitively whether a sentence is grammatical or not. They usually cannot specify exactly what is wrong, and very possibly they make the same mistakes in their own speech, but they know-unconsciously, not as a set of rules they learned in school-when a sentence is incorrect.”
The quote shows that being a native speaker is not only about having the correct grammar and sentence structure; it is deeper and more complex than that. When learning a new language with the aim of speaking well, a person needs to understand that while learning the language to reach a point where he/she can identify as a native speaker has more to do with speaking correct than writing correct.
Below you fill find 5 tips that work for all languages in which any person can adopt in order to sound like a native speaker:
Every language around the world is unique, and in every country one can find different accents depending on whether the people reside in the city, in the suburbs, or in the mountains. It is important to keep in mind that there is no one right way to speak a certain language. Let’s take for example English – in general there are 4 main accents: British, American, Canadian, and Australian. On a deeper level; people living in different states in America have different accents, and the same applies for the three other countries. In order for a person to be able to speak and sound like a native speaker, one must first understand the different accents and stick to practicing only one accent – do not mix between them as it would not be a step forward in becoming a native speaker.
Imitation in speaking is the act of copying how one speaks and trying to sound exactly like them. In order for a person learning a new language to become a native speaker, he/she, in turn, must regularly speak to a native speaker of the language, and while doing so try to utter the words in the same way as the other person is saying them; for example, stressing and un-stressing on the letters in a word in the exact same way as they are heard. Free language exchange programs simplify this process by giving people a chance to chat regularly with individuals across the globe who are native speakers of the language being taught. Imitation is a crucial step one can take in the road to becoming an avid native speaker.
The definition of slang based on the dictionary is: a type of language consisting of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people. As it is clearly stated, slang words are used by a ‘particular’ group of people, and by that, it is meant that usually, the people who speak a language while inserting slang are native speakers of a country. Therefore, if someone is learning a new language and is aiming on sounding like a native speaker, learning and using slang is a crucial step. While having a conversation with a native speaker on language exchange programs, make sure to ask that person not only to help out in learning the language in itself but as well to learn the slang that comes with it and the correct ways to use them.
Idioms – all languages have certain phrases that are used by people of the country that signify or link to something else. You have probably heard several famous idioms such as: “hard nut to crack”, “piece of cake”, “think outside the box”, and of course “thank God it’s Friday”. These four examples of idioms are constantly used and heard in a country; therefore, if someone is learning the language of a specific country it is important as well to learn at least a dozen idioms, and that person must learn as well how to use them correctly in everyday speech. This helps a lot in sounding like a native speaker – now it is natural for non-native speakers to find idiomatic expressions hard to use in everyday speech since they do not know the meaning behind the expression: step one. Learn the idiom and the meaning, and step two, use them.
Keeping in mind the above points: different accents, sound imitation, slangs, and idioms, one must learn the most important thing to link all of the above together; and that is the connection of words together. There is an important point that non-native speakers lack that native speaker are born with, and that is the ease in the flow of words. This is probably the hardest part, and the one that needs to most practice – in order to sound like a native speaker, one must be able to speak quickly and with ease: connecting the words together without overthinking about the grammar and sentence structure rules. In order to speak a certain language fluently, one must think in that language: avoid translating the ideas in your head. It is also important to practice as much as possible as frequently as possible, this would help in developing the flow and connection between the words.
As a general note for non-native speakers looking forward to sound like native speakers; aside from all types of practices one can do, the most important thing is to keep up the determination and the will to develop as well as maintaining enthusiasm. It not an easy path to embark on, but at the same time it is not an impossible task to achieve. Keep in mind one thing: “Practice makes perfect” – Julie James