If you want to learn a language, don’t take advice from native speakers. In this article, I am going to talk about this statement I found in a blog. I am going to explain what I think about this sentence, writing why I agree or disagree with it. And you what do you think? Is it wrong learning from native speakers? Read this text if you want to know my thoughts about this topic, and leave your comment!
I often do research and read a lot, especially blogs from other language teachers or polyglot. This is essential for my work because it helps me to identify the best methods for my students and myself to be able to learn and teach things to the fullest.
It is not uncommon to find in these blogs interesting food for thought, to develop in my own way. Sometimes, however, I find theories that I completely disagree with. A few days ago, for example, I found an article whose title attracted my attention. The title could be translated in this way: “Do not accept advice concerning language learning from native speakers”, a sentence which intrigued me, and I could not resist the temptation to read it.
Why shouldn’t I accept advice from a native speaker?
I think this is a fair question, and to this one, I would add two more:
- Who, if not a native speaker, can help you to immediately understand the mistakes you made and help you to correct them?
- Who, if not a native speaker, can make you notice all the nuances of your target language?
Now, I have no intention to tell you that the only way to learn a language is to hire a certified teacher to practice with because this is absolutely not the case. Even the simple conversation with someone whose job is completely different can make a difference if you use with that person the language you are learning, and even better if that person is a native speaker.
It is indisputable that the exchange brings benefits, for this reason I always advise my students, especially those who live in Italy or who have the opportunity to surround themselves by Italians, to take advantage of all the opportunities to try their hand at Italian. Clearly, those who we know at a party, at the gym, or in another place will not be there to correct all our mistakes. Nevertheless, we must be ready to take this opportunity to “exploit” this new friend, and practice with him/her. In this way, it is likely that we will find ourselves faced with a pronunciation and a way of expressing ourselves different from the one we are used to.
I believe that to get in touch with native speakers is essential, and I say this from experience. It often happens, when I teach English native speakers, that they make me notice particularities of their language that I wouldn’t have noticed, and it happens despite the language we speak about, is the Italian one.
Why do native speakers not know how to learn a foreign language?
Even reading this second sentence was surprising to me. It is possible that some people never had the need or the desire to learn a foreign language. But today we live in a world where we need to be more and more competitive, in a world where it is normal to know at least the English, in addition to our native language, and even better if we have other knowledge. So how can someone state that native speakers don’t know what it means to learn a foreign language?
Let’s take my case. I work for two international language schools, and the first thing they asked me was the knowledge of English.
It supposes that I, like many other language teachers, have been a foreign language student, and I am aware of the effort, commitment, and dedication needed to learn and improve a language.
To be in touch with native speakers is part of the learning process, otherwise, the popularity of websites that allow language exchanges could not be explained, and the presence of so many language schools, with native speaker teachers within one’s staff, would not make sense.
Not everyone has the opportunity to practice with native speakers, and I have to admit that this is not the only way to practice. In fact, not everyone has friends who speak the language they are learning, or not everyone wants or can afford to pay for lessons with teachers. There are indeed many other methods and resources, especially online, to which refer to learn and improve their language skills. On the other hand, however, it is not possible to affirm the uselessness or incapacity of native speakers, because there is the risk to commit an error of assessment. No one knows the language better than someone who was born and raised speaking that language, and even after years and years of study, there will always be something new, even just a small detail, to learn.
That’s why my advice is, if possible, talking to the Italians and, to “steal them” as much as possible, and use what you hear in your speech.
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