Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Native speaker vs Non native speaker

me, akmal and isa with a korean and a japanese

Enough with Raya. Now, lets get started with something serious, erm, I guess you will stop reading when you see the word 'serious'. But if you are still reading, wow, I am surprised and honored. Well, it's not a serious issue but something that has to be considered by those who speak more than a language, especially when you speak or learn English as a second language.

The terms native speaker and non native speaker are defined differently by many scholars. However, I personally define native speaker as someone who speaks the language since childhood while non native is a person who learns a language other than his mother tongue for some purposes such as business or education. Some conflicts occur regarding the term as well as the various definitions. Here are some:

1. People believe that the term non native is unfortunate as it is a negative term for native. People assume that native is positive and the prefix non- means negative. (Matsuda, 2003)

2. Most people believe that native speaker should be able to speak the language better than non native speaker.

3. People also believe that native speakers are better teachers of the language than non native speakers regardless their educational background.

4. How about bilingual children? Are they called as native speakers for two languages? That sounds weird right?

and the list goes on...

Now,let me share my experience as being non native English speaker in an English speaking country. Personally, I feel more confident to speak in English with other international students like Chinese, Japanese, Arabs etc than speak with Americans. In fact, I feel uneasy speaking with Americans; I think it is due to the term standard English.

When we are talking with other non native English speakers, we have the notion that we are similar. However, communicating with native speakers requires us to achieve the 'imaginary' standard of English. We always believe that native speakers' language is better than ours. Thus, we have to put a lot of effort to keep this inferiority away. I am working on it now.

The other thing is, non native speakers should be compared with non native speakers instead of native speakers. Hence, non native speaker should not set a goal to be a native speaker - do not imitate!. Be yourself! Remember, there are many accents in English. Watch this video: