Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Speaking English "Correctly"

In one of my grammar classes, a student told me that it was her goal to speak naturally like an American, and she was surprised when I replied, "Are you sure you want to speak that way?" Not knowing what I meant, she tried to clarify herself by saying that she wanted to speak informally to sound like an American. (As if there were one type of American speak . . .) She continued by saying that Americans don't care about grammar when they talk.

However, I tried to explain to her that in many cases, native speakers have no idea that what they are saying is grammatically incorrect, so you might not want to emulate a native speaker in all cases.

As a simple example, what is the problem in this sentence?

- The girl is tired, so she wants to lay down.

This is a very common mistake that native speakers make. Therefore, just trying to sound like a native speaker isn't enough if you are really concerned about a professional level of English.

Any thoughts on this?



  1. I believe that it is important to learn a professional level of English, because it's better talk correct English in formal occasions.

    You never know when you might need to use "CORRECT" English on the spur of the moment. Why don't you just learn the professional English from the beginning?

    Major, Taiwan

  2. Hello Randall and everyone,

    I have once thought that to speak any language correctly I needed to "sound" like a native speaker. Then, however, I've learned there's much more to it than just "sounding" like a native speaker... I've come across lots of speakers that would sound closest to a native but were not fluent in the language. In other words, it was a struggle for them to put their thoughts into words and/or to engage in different communicative events.
    Overall, I think that using a language is just like wearing clothes, we should know what to wear on different occasions. We should adjust the kind of language we use to the situation or the person we're talking with in order not to get ourselves misunderstood.
    What are your thoughts on this?
    PS.: The girl is tired, so she wants to "lie" down. Am I right? :-)

  3. speaking in english correctly is a whole challenge as it involves the correct use of gramatical structures, make it fluently and just to get that people can understand us...it is a process people have to go through in vivid way to get the skills of speaking a second language, in our cases.

  4. I think the student who asked it is afraid about the actitude from a native english speaking when he realizes that you are foreight... and I think it´s normal just we wouldn`t be ashemed our background


  5. For a beginner English learner, probably it's sort of a dream to talk like native speakers. So they feel better about their English.

    However, at certain point, they realize they face other barriers.

    Native speakers tell me I don't have a strong accent, but I still find myself improve in many areas like vocabulary, correct grammar usage...

    Never ending job...

  6. Liseth Camargo.
    Yes.you all right it is different when you are a native speaker or when people are learning english,because if you want to speak like a native, really it is complicated, but also if you have a considerable level you can do it.


Thanks for posting a comment. I appreciate your interesting in sharing your ideas.



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