HomeQ&ACan non-native learners of a language sometimes be better at a language than natives?

Can non-native learners of a language sometimes be better at a language than natives?

5
votes

With this question, i guess I'm mainly focusing on grammatical accuracy. How is it that my Mexican boyfriend corrects my English more often than i have to correct his???I'm a native English speaker so how is this logical??? ohh

One mistake that i always make and he always, always picks me up on is when i say: If i was..., when the correct version is If i were... rolleyes But the thing is, I've been saying that for ages and didn't even realise it was wrong! (He takes great delight in telling me that he's ended up teaching me English when I'm meant to be teaching him )

Does anyone else have experience of this?...or is my English just really lacking? hahaha

Cardiff x

2819 views
updated JUL 16, 2010
edited by FELIZ77
posted by Cardiff1985

12 Answers

7
votes

When native speakers as young children learn their mother tongue they first do so in their home environment and, apart from corrections from parents or family and close friends, much of their learning of langauge seems to be instinctive: that is intuitive. Later, when they attend nursery, and afterwards, primary school they usually receive further correction which can be both formal and informal according to the situation.

Yet, despite increased fluency and confidence native speakers can still pick up bad habits including incorrect grammer and use of street slang which they may use inapproparitely in more formal written styles eg exams. I have actually seen photocopies of exam papers with text style writing with no punctuation and poor spelling. Yes, so in some respects non-natives can demonstrate better use of the language in a purely grammatically correct sense when they are taught by competent TEFL/TESOL qualified teachers who only teach them good examples of the language.including ueful everyday idioms. This is not the same as fluency and should not be confused with the kind of fluency frequently exhibited by coompetent and confident native speakers who know how to use their language correctly and appropriately in the wide range of everyday situations they experience.

updated JUL 16, 2010
edited by FELIZ77
posted by FELIZ77
Well said. I believe I fall into the category of 'coompetent' native English speakers. ;-) - chaparrito, JUL 16, 2010
Muchas gracias, amigo - FELIZ77, JUL 16, 2010
4
votes

It has much to do with the relative levels of education that both speakers may have enjoyed. The person who had access (and took advantage of) the most detailed and higher quality learning tools, will most likely have a better domain of the language, regardless of who's the native speaker.

updated JUL 16, 2010
posted by Gekkosan
ohh that makes sense come to think of it:)- he went to a private school while I'm at a state owned comprehensive school. Even though I'm at a state school i wouldn't say that my level of education is low (i love my school ^^) it's just that his were - Cardiff1985, JUL 15, 2010
ridiculously high hahaha - Cardiff1985, JUL 15, 2010
3
votes

I think so as not too many English native speakers seriously learn grammar at school. As a non-native English speaker myself, I did. Sometimes my written English is better than a native, grammar-wise.

updated JUL 15, 2010
edited by Brandonzin
posted by Brandonzin
Oh, we learn it, but forget it and seldom use it. - 0074b507, JUL 15, 2010
I remember learning more about grammer in French and Spanish lessons than I ever did in English lessons - FELIZ77, JUL 15, 2010
Yes good comment 1 You can also say 'I think that this is true as....etc.. - FELIZ77, JUL 15, 2010
2
votes

I've started carrying a dictionary with me (with Spanish words and Spanish definitions), because when I'm conducting classes (speaking in Spanish, but not teaching the language) it is not rare to come across a word in a lesson that is unknown to the student, who is a native speaker. The dictionary is useful for them because it won't help for me to say the word in English, they need a definition.

So I agree with Gekko. We never stop improving (or shouldn't, as far as I'm concerned wink) on our ability to speak our native language or a secondary one.

updated JUL 16, 2010
posted by chaparrito
2
votes

Native speakers of any language tend not to study the grammar of that language as thoroughly as people who learn it as a second language do. When I was in high school in Venezuela I got better grades in Spanish class than many of the Venezuelan students. By the same token, many American (and, I presume, English) school children have trouble in English class. Just because you can use something doesn't necessarily mean you're an expert on how it works.

updated JUL 16, 2010
posted by KevinB
2
votes

I am a native english speaker and did poorly in english language classes until I started spanish classes in high school. The logical nature of spanish conjugations and learning the other grammer rules in spanish made me more familiar with the correct grammer for english and my english grades were better. I still have some bad pronunciations of words when I am not thinking about it or talking too fast. An example would be: Didja do dat? Meaning: Did you do that? I remember when I was about 10 years old and my Mom caught me saying "nutin". She made me write "nothing" on my chalk board 20 times. I now remind her that I could now be a millionare after naming a breakfast cereal in the USA called Nut & Honey.
(Nutin, honey) Something I would say to my wife. Now if I had just not earned that D grade in typing, all would be easier.

updated JUL 16, 2010
posted by Leeh
2
votes

i uess they mght could be, it would depend on how much they studied.

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by HollyJ
1
vote

I guess so, Gekko is a good examplewink

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by 00494d19
You said what I was thinking! - patch, JUL 15, 2010
1
vote

Obviously he was taught the right way. We often us improper grammar when speaking english..

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by bill24
English - nizhoni1, JUL 15, 2010
1
vote

I can imagine that non natives speakers of a language would be better than my grammer! I too say "If I was..."

I am struggling with learning spanish grammer as my knowledge of english grammer is so poor!

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by lucylysenko
1
vote

I truly believe that education and location are the predominant factors here. Obviously, if people didn't have a "grammar geek" for a teacher (sorry Dillon) wink then this would greatly influence whether or not you picked up on things such as "If I were" type statements. As for location, I am from the south (in the U.S.) and the dialect is way different from region (in the U.S. at least) to region. This can play a huge factor in acquiring language. When a non-native starts to learn another language they are very focused on getting everything correct. Now we know that this doesn't happen all the time but it is the goal. Since maybe the accent isn't as good some people overconpensate for other areas of the language like grammar. This is just a start to the thread and I hope it sparks good conversation. smile

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by Jason7R
0
votes

I'm actually curious now if "If I was..." is NOT improper? Since it's

I was you were he was we were y'all were (using y'all only to indicate informal plurality) they were

Is "I was" not right? I've always thought that "If I were you" and the like are incorrect, because I is a singular verb, using a plural verb conjugation. I know, obviously, that English isn't as concrete with their conjugations, but I'm just curious now.

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by megan5
"If I were" is employing the subjunctive mood. "I was" is in the indicative mood. - webdunce, JUL 15, 2010
gotcha!... I forgot about the subjunctive. We don't really use it, or identify it, in English as much as Spanish does.. - megan5, JUL 15, 2010
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