Sunday, August 29, 2010

native-level or conversational?

I try not too bee to pluperfect. I sways yous a spell checkered. I can nut hep it if aim sways rite. Your junta gonna hafts a git moused too it. Whey strive four an imposable goal? Ax long as I right lick this in my naive luggage, I have nut to fair too go wen taming to peek my target luggers ask will ask my naive luggage.

How about you? Do you strive for quality in your language learning? Or are you happy with attaining a passable level of communication?

You may have an IQ of 130, but if your speaking and spelling in your 2nd language is not up to par with the locals, then you're not going to be able to show just how bright you really are. You can feel it too when dealing with others. But the worst part is that it is very frustrating when the point you are trying to make is not getting through and nobody cares about you and your situation.

This is a topic which you cannot really empathize with if you have never had to work and live in a foreign language. If you've never interviewed for work in which you will be using a foreign language on the job with coworkers who are native speakers, then perhaps you don't understand just how much better it would be if you could say, "I'm at a native-level and can handle any situation without difficulty."

If you have reached native-level in another language, which language and how long did it take? I'm looking forward to hearing from you.


  1. No native level yet but that is my goal, so I can't feedback on that until I reach it.

    Now making a concerted effort to close the gap in Chinese, I know the feeling of being able to chat comfortably, it is great and fun but now I am aiming to take things much higher, delibrately seeking out discussions at a higher level etc.

    Chatting about general life, family etc. etc. feels easy now but then if I wander into trickier areas that require intelligent comment I am reaching again (unless it is in one or two areas I have had a prolonged interest in). So I know what you mean.

    Some people seem happy not to bother, I wonder how much you really learn about a culture via the language though, if you can't have an intelligent conversation in it?

  2. I should add there there are one or two language where I would be happy to be able to chat, but would be unlikely to pursue it further, Chinese and Thai aren't those languages though, ultimately I will follow both through.

  3. That was terrible. Leve the non-native English to the professionals.

  4. I reached near-native level in English. It's something I'm quite proud of, so forgive the potential lack of humility in the following account.

    Although I grew up in a French-only environment, I decided to learn English as a teenager. My input was mainly from TV, music, radio and magazines. I also had lots of penpals (40+) at a time when Internet didn't exist yet, so I did lots of writing and I constantly maintained internal dialogues in English. When I watched TV, I'd always try to repeat and copy what I heard, and I wrote down every word or rule I didn't understand and I looked it up.

    I don't know exactly how long it took, but I know that when I was in grade 9, I started the year in grade 9 English and finished it in grade 11 (there was no grade 12). That was over 20 years ago, and I've no doubt continued to improve, so it's hard to know when I started reaching a native-level. But I do know that even back in university, most people would think I was a native speaker of English. I moved to an English speaking city at age 24. I'm 36 now.

    Although I'm equally comfortable in both languages, there is one notable difference: my accent is a lot more volatile in English than it is in French, since I have no attachment to one particular accent. When I hear a person speak with a different accent, I tend to move towards that accent. Sometimes, I'll turn to my wife and say something with a British accent because we were watching a British show, only realizing it after I've spoken.

    A lot of people are perfectly happy with being passable in a language and I can't argue with them. It's personal choice. However, I've set the bar higher for myself and so far, I'm happy with the results.


No profanity. Please be considerate of others. Thank you.