Tag Archives: epic online

Native Speakers

I am rather perplexed at the fixation most educated intellectual people have regarding trying to learn a language from native speakers.

Firstly, native speakers are not necessarily the best teachers of their language. This is because most of them are probably monolingual, which means they have never learnt to speak a second language. Hence they are at a disadvantage to understand how someone can acquire a second language.

Secondly, taking English as an example, I question why you need to learn to speak English from a native speaker. You probably need to speak English with a variety of different people, most of whom are using English as a second language as well. Let me give you this example of a multinational company in China that wanted to enroll their representatives to learn English, insisting on having native English speakers as teachers. I asked them who their staff will be using English with. This was an engineering company, and their technology centers were in Sweden, Italy and Germany. Hence it did not really make sense for them to be taught English by an American, British or Australian. Even when you travel to places like London and New York, Sydney, I am quite sure that more than half the time you will be speaking English to people who are using English as a second language.

Lastly, there is no homogeneity among native English speakers. There is no such thing as a common American accent or dialect because different parts of the USA have different accents. Texas, New York and New Orleans all produce speakers with different accents. Within England itself, there is even a wider spectrum, such as Cockney, Yorkshire, Geordie, and Estuary just to name a few. In Australia and New Zealand, and Canada, the accents are also different. In Zimbabwe, the only medium of education is English, so are they native speakers too?

To further illustrate my point, please watch this video of a young man imitating different native accents: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMc3fOhMDUM


For information about our online English learning services, visit www.epiclanguage.com, and for our online Chinese language  learning services, visit www.mandarin-espeak.com.

Learning to speak a new language in a classroom

It is hard to imagine that you can improve your conversational skills in a classroom with a fixed teacher or tutor. If you want to improve your listening and speaking skills, you should be practicing with different people, and one a one-to-one basis.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. In a classroom environment, it is generally not possible to engage in a dialogue. You end up taking turns to say something. This is not how conversation take place in a real life environment.
  2. You learn to increase your listening tolerance (the bandwidth of your listening) by speaking with different people. Different people speak differently, even if they share the same nationality or racial background. When I was first posted to the Philippines as a country manager for a multinational company, on one occasion, I asked my staff, “When are you going to get back to me?” They could not understand me even when I repeated this several times. The reason is that as a Malaysian I’m used to pronouncing back as beg. When I was pushed to re-emphasise, I pronounced it as beck. However, the Filipinos are used to hearing back as bark.
  3. You need to build your confidence in using your newly acquired language with people you have not met before. If you have only been speaking with your teachers in class, this will not help to overcome your intimidation and nervousness when you need to talk to someone that you have not met before. Practicing with different people is particularly useful in a language test situation because your assessor will definitely be someone you have never met before and you do not know how he/she will speak.

 


For information about our online English learning services, visit www.epiclanguage.com, and for our online Chinese language  learning services, visit www.mandarin-espeak.com.