How to Sound Like a Native Speaker
One of the reasons we learn languages is to fit in and embrace new cultures. Languages are like portals to new worlds and new ways of thinking. However, many speakers make common mistakes that immediately mark them out as tourists. If you really want to fit in and show off your newfound language skills, you should follow these tips to sound more like a native speaker. Naturally when learning a language with us we will endeavor to help you pick up the local dialect you prefer, as an example our Spanish Courses offered in Leeds have instructors with many regional dialects.
Pay close attention to spoken language
If you really want to sound like a native speaker of a your chosen language, you have to pay close attention to how the natives talk. You can listen to a recording or simply listen in to how a native is speaking to you. It is important to analyse the speech for certain nuances that you can pick up on. You should see which words seem to come together as one, which words sound similar to one another and which letters sound differently to how you would imagine them. You should take notes of what you notice and incorporate this into your own language learning. After a while it will become easy to spot certain patterns emerging and you will be able to apply this in your own speech patterns.
Keep practising pronunciation
It is difficult to understate the importance of pronunciation. Language is just sounds, and it is so important to speak with the right sounds for letters and words. A dead giveaway of a non-native speaker is when someone lacks necessary pronunciation skills. These skills can only be worked on through practice.
With a lot of languages, there is the added difficulty of listening and pronouncing the specific variety of the language spoken. In English for example, the pronunciation of the English spoken in Britain is quite different to that of English spoken in the USA or Canada. Even worse than that. You will find that the accent of a person from London will be different to that of a person from Edinburgh or Glasgow.
It is important to note down the sounds you struggle with and to keep on repeating them until you have mastered the pronunciation. One way to learn difficult sounds is to compare them with similar sounds and see how they differ. Pronunciation is a skill that takes time to master, but it is one that is vital for sounding like a native speaker.
Use the right emphasis
You might be wondering what ‘emphasis’ means in the context of language learning. We use emphasis in our native languages without barely sparing a thought. Think about how much the meaning the sentence can change depending on which word we emphasize.
For example, read this sentence: “She said she did not take his money.”
Reread the sentence but change the word you emphasize each time. You will notice how the meaning completely shifts depending on which word you use. With this in mind, you should also notice which keywords are being emphasized when you listen to the language. With enough practice, it will become natural to you to use emphasis in the same way that natives do.
Keep conversation flowing with connecting words
A conversation is supposed to allow us to express our ideas and show our emotions to others freely. As noted in our article on the business case for language learning, there can be some significant benefits to just being able to enable a conversation to flow naturally. It is easy to give bare minimum responses that are rigid and do not provide much more information than what was asked for. Using ‘connecting’ words can help to personalise conversations and make them seem far more natural.
For example, if someone is speaking about a topic that you also have experience with, in English you could state “ah right” before introducing your thought. While listening in Spanish for example, you could also use phrases such as “vale, entiendo” “Oh, I see” and “Vaya, en serio?” “Wow, really?” This shows that you are being attentive and keeps the conversation flowing freely. One of the sure signs of a native speaker is their ability to keep conversations going in a smooth, natural manner.
Use informal vocabulary
When you are learning a language you will be given phrases that are formal and proper. This will not be the way everyone talks and it will not be suitable for all contexts. Therefore, it is crucial to learn informal vocabulary and to learn common informal phrases that are used by natives. This will help you to sound more natural and allow you to show off your language skills in many different contexts. You should learn a few phrases that are especially relevant for you and be sure to use them in informal situations. All natives use informal vocabulary from time to time and therefore learning a few informal phrases and words is vital.
So there you have it. These tips should allow you to progress further in learning your chosen language and help you sound more like a native and less like a tourist.
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A polyglot and international traveller. Anthony speaks 6 languages and loves sharing his passion of language learning through his writing.
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