Fri, 06 Oct 2017 11:08:28 +0000Geralde Vincent-BancroftSome of my students have repeatedly asked how they can sound more like native speakers and my answer has been that they should aim at easily communicate their thoughts and understand the native speakers in exchange.
But when you move to a country were your target language is spoken, it might be…
Some of my students have repeatedly asked how they can sound more like native speakers and my answer has been that they should aim at easily communicate their thoughts and understand the native speakers in exchange.
But when you move to a country were your target language is spoken, it might be slightly different for the following reasons.
When I moved from Spain to Mexico, people at school frequently remarked about my strong Spanish accent. I was not at all pleased, I wanted to blend in and speak like them. I started paying attention to the way they talked. Even though Spanish people and Mexicans are both native speakers, their use of the language differs quite a lot.
First I paid attention to their accent.
Accent is the way words are pronounced. You can notice enormous differences between people from different countries but within one country as well. In Britain for example people from Liverpool have a different accent from somebody from Bristol.
In Spain, the letters “C” and “Z” are pronounced more less like the English sound for “TH”. Cabeza ( kae-ba-tha). In Mexican Spanish the same word is pronounced differently ( Kae-ba-sa).
Secondly I studied their intonation.
Intonation is the rise and fall of your voice when you speak. It’s the musicality in the sentence.
in our example Spanish people’s intonation is brisk, short and fast. Mexicans on the other side seem to drag each word for longer.
Next I studied their colloquial expressions
These are words and phrases people from a particular place or country use.
In Spain the word for “douchebag” is “gilipollas” whilst in mexico it’s “pendejo”.
Colloquial expressions somehow define the people as a group and tell about their collective knowledge. When you start using them with the natives it means to them that you are embracing their culture, that you are bonding with them. They start seeing you as one of their own and the other way round applies as well and this is called integration.
I kept a notebook and wrote them down every time i encountered a new expression.
I also made a note of all the connectors they used.
Connectors are words or phrases that you use to make the conversation flow. They can be used as well when reacting to what somebody said.
For example if a friend says:
– Yesterday I worked all night long.
and you answer:
– Dear me
Dear me in this example is a connector. With it you’re telling your friend that you’re listening to her but most importantly that you’re sympathetic.
Next I noticed where they stressed their words and sentences
word stress is important. For example in the Spanish word for banana, plátano the stress is in the first syllable plátano.
Stress sentences are very helpful as well.
In Spanish,French, Italian and many other languages when asking a question the stress is on the last word of the sentence in order to establish a difference with the affirmative.
My advice to you is to pay attention to all these and repeat these patterns.
These non-verbal communications, like hand gestures, facial expressions etc, help you get your message across like a native speaker would, i.e the Italians.
To wrap up, if you want to sound more like a native speaker:
1- Choose which country or region you want to sound like.
2- Take note of their accent, intonation, colloquial expressions, word and sentence stress, use of connective words and try to copy them. Listen to TV and Radio programs.
3- Slowly introduce your findings to your own conversations.
4- record yourself and check your pronunciation. Ask a friend for help or with google translate if you’re not in the country where your target language is spoken.
5- learn about their culture, important dates in their calendar, what makes them who they are.
All these will help you bond with the native speakers and you will end sounding like one.
What happened at the end you may ask. Well when I visit Spain they call me the Mexican.
Disclaimer: Having a foreign accent is nothing to be ashamed of. It makes you stand from the crowd and can trigger a great deal of first time conversations that might lead to unforgettable experiences.
What is your trick to sound more like a native speaker? Feel free to drop a comment below.