January 25, 2011

The decline and fall of the native speaker

A "native speaker" of English is someone who grew up speaking English (though there are problems with any definition here). Language schools all over the world want "native speaker" teachers, so students can speak like "native speakers" themselves. But Evelyn from Chile, Amine from Morocco, and Oriane from France will probably never sound like me. Why is this comparison so important?

"If, on the the contrary, bilinguals are regarded as multifaceted individuals who possess a different, albeit more complex, mental organization, we are finally questioning native speaker dominance and native speaker idealization. In such a case, monolingual competence will be replaced by multicompetence as the optimal state of mind, and experienced multilingual users will have the upper hand."

--Enric Llurda, "The Decline and Fall of the Native Speaker" (2009)

1 comment:

  1. Hmm... but what about all the subtler, unconscious information a native learner has from years of immersion and experiences that a second-language learner wouldn't? You'd have to be an exceptionally fluent (not only in the language but in the culture) learner to have the same wealth of familiarity as a native speaker.


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