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What betrays the non-native speakers?





inuyasha
Pronunciation?
Non-native speakers pronounce some syllables differently, affected by their mother tongue. But each language has various dialects. How do we know (s)he is a non-native speaker or a dialect speaker?

Tone and pace?
I was told that even though some English learners pronounce every word correctly, native speakers can still tell they are non-native, by his/her tone and pace.

Misused words and grammar rules?
There are big differences between languages. But non-native speakers may just simply translate a sentence from his/her mother tongue into a foreign language. Unfortunately it usually sounds unnatural. (I suppose my written English is also unnatural Embarassed I need a translation engine all the time.)
Native speakers didn't even need to know those grammar rules, though.

That's all that comes into my mind. How do you usually tell a non-native speaker?
ocalhoun
Not using colloquial words and dialects.
(Gotta learn to say Ain't)

Accent.
(Everyone has an accent. You may be able to learn how to mimic an accent of a given region/culture, but there's no such thing as 'unaccented' language... and an attempt to speak 'unaccented' or a foreign accent will give away a non-native speaker.)

Sentence, paragraph, and even thought structure.
(When you're familiar enough with the language, you can spot odd ways of putting together sentences, paragraphs, or even the underlying thoughts. I tell you, for example, on this forum, I can often spot the non-native speakers and even often identify which language was their original one by looking at this aspect of the text they type. This one's very difficult to 'fix', since there aren't really any rules about it, strictly stylistic.)

Archaic or academic words.
('Shall', for example, is extremely rare to hear in most modern English dialects (outside of very formal writing or speech), but some non-native speakers use it in informal conversation regularly.)

Spelling.
(Especially important for some transitions. For example, my Russian girlfriend still often uses a 'c' when the correct spelling calls for an 's', even though she's lived in America for 14 years. That's because the Russian alphabet has no 's', and instead always uses 'c' to make the 's' sound. Other languages can have other characteristic misspellings.)

Not using contractions.
(Saying 'I will' rather than 'I'll' or 'will not' rather than 'won't' -- particularly in informal spoken language is a giveaway.)*

That's all I can think of at the moment. I may add more later.

*With the exception of when emphasis is put on part of the contraction. If you mean 'will not', then it is perfectly normal (and indeed necessary) to not use a contraction, even in the most informal speech.
inuyasha
@ocalhoun
ocalhoun wrote:
Not using colloquial words and dialects.

Ha~~ That's really hard for non-native speakers~ Very Happy We learn a foreign language only to pass exams sometimes~

ocalhoun wrote:
Accent.

Yeah~ Many English learners from Japan have a broad accent!! They pronounce "k" as "ku", "t" as "to", "m" as "mu", etc. Embarassed Chinese are much alike. "k" as "ke", "t" as "ti", "s" as "si".

ocalhoun wrote:
Sentence, paragraph, and even thought structure.

True~~ Very Happy Hard to think in English~

ocalhoun wrote:
Archaic or academic words.
('Shall', for example, is extremely rare to hear in most modern English dialects.

Shocked I thought it could be just like "will" if used after "I" and "we". Those teaching materials seem just out of date.

ocalhoun wrote:
Not using contractions.

Very Happy And contractions may just be difficult for non-native speakers of English to recognize, which doesn't exist in some languages, like Chinese. I was always annoyed by contractions while doing listening comprehension. Embarassed
ocalhoun
inuyasha wrote:

ocalhoun wrote:
Archaic or academic words.
('Shall', for example, is extremely rare to hear in most modern English dialects.

Shocked I thought it could be just like "will" if used after "I" and "we". Those teaching materials seem just out of date.

It is perfect grammar to use it that way. ... It just isn't commonly used in modern, casual dialects, so using it is unusual, odd.

inuyasha wrote:


ocalhoun wrote:
Accent.

Yeah~ Many English learners from Japan have a broad accent!! They pronounce "k" as "ku", "t" as "to", "m" as "mu", etc. Embarassed Chinese are much alike. "k" as "ke", "t" as "ti", "s" as "si".

Don't be embarrassed. Everybody has an accent.
It's just that an accent can give you away as a non-native (or even just non-local) speaker.

You could learn to mimic a perfect New York accent, but even that would make you stand out in the Midwest. Likewise, you could mimic a perfect Southern drawl, and that would very much make you stand out in the streets of London.
Vanilla
Trouble with much/many, a/an, on/in/at
I have a hard time every time I need to use any of them. Usually I consult Google, but you guys can correct me (and you should do it because I'm horrified when someone butchers my beautiful Portuguese).

One thing I must say about English is that the general lack of gender-related variations makes it a lot easier to learn than other idioms such as German. Tis funny tough when an English speaking person tries to learn a language full of those little catches like Portuguese. And we have a lot of rules concerning plurals, verbs, pronouns...

ocalhoun wrote:
Not using colloquial words and dialects.
(Gotta learn to say Ain't)


I speak too many slang words because that's the way I have learned English: music, video games, internet, series, movies (especially Hollywood movies). And I curse. I curse like a drunken sailor both in English and in Portuguese.

ocalhoun wrote:
Sentence, paragraph, and even thought structure.


I think that this is my main problem. When I used to have English classes in school (AGES ago) the first thing I noticed about English is that the sentences looked like they were inverted. In Portuguese, we put adjectives after the noun. And I remember thinking that the whole "question thing" was way too confusing (because of the inverted order of things again). So when I was young I believed that the best way to form an English sentence was to invert the order of the words. Razz

ocalhoun wrote:
Archaic or academic words.
('Shall', for example, is extremely rare to hear in most modern English dialects (outside of very formal writing or speech), but some non-native speakers use it in informal conversation regularly.)


I use archaic words because I'm crazy and I think that they sound pretty. Like the one you have cited, "shall". Tis just too beautiful to not use it! Yes, I like "tis" and "twould" too (guess I spent too much time playing Castlevania games).


ocalhoun wrote:
Not using contractions.
(Saying 'I will' rather than 'I'll' or 'will not' rather than 'won't' -- particularly in informal spoken language is a giveaway.)*


I don't like using contractions most of the time because I think I sound more serious that way. And I think that the whole words look pretty. Do I look insane already? XD
SonLight
I saw a student text for learning English that used way too many contractions. Looking at it, I realized that in speaking I would have shortened most of the examples in speaking, whether they would have been fully shortened to the contractions, I'm not sure. What looked totally wrong in writing was probably reasonable in speaking. A legitimate criticism of the material is that it should have said that this is only valid when spoken, not when written.
inuyasha
Vanilla wrote:
I don't like using contractions most of the time because I think I sound more serious that way. And I think that the whole words look pretty. Do I look insane already? XD

Neither do I, sometimes~ Very Happy It's more convenient to type letters than symbols on my cellphone~

Vanilla wrote:
Trouble with much/many, a/an, on/in/at

Same here. In Chinese, there's no concept of countable or uncountable words. And one preposition functions as on, in and at to indicate locations.


ocalhoun wrote:
It is perfect grammar to use it that way. ... It just isn't commonly used in modern, casual dialects, so using it is unusual, odd.

So, non-native speakers are given away by not only broken English but also grammar rules~ Smile
ocalhoun
SonLight wrote:
I saw a student text for learning English that used way too many contractions. Looking at it, I realized that in speaking I would have shortened most of the examples in speaking, whether they would have been fully shortened to the contractions, I'm not sure. What looked totally wrong in writing was probably reasonable in speaking. A legitimate criticism of the material is that it should have said that this is only valid when spoken, not when written.

Really, it's just a measure of how formal the writing/speech is.
Speech will always use more contractions than writing, of course. But within each category, the less formal it is, the more contractions you would/should use. For a formal research paper, it should be almost entirely free of contractions... for a forum post, contractions could/should be used nearly as much as in informal speech.


inuyasha wrote:

ocalhoun wrote:
It is perfect grammar to use it that way. ... It just isn't commonly used in modern, casual dialects, so using it is unusual, odd.

So, non-native speakers are given away by not only broken English but also grammar rules~ Smile

And also (and perhaps mainly) by stylistic matters that don't break any rules at all.
crazyfffan
Here are some betrayals of English:
-Singaporean English
-Indian English
-Anyone whose great great great great grandparents were not native English speakers.
I personally don't refer to their language as English, nor a dialect of English. That's something "sounds" like English.
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