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8 Ways to Talk Like a Native, and Why We Don’t Need To

8 Ways to Talk Like a Native, and Why We Don’t Need To

Let me tell you a story about two colleagues of mine who were native speakers of English living in Italy.

Jenny spoke fluent Italian but was constantly mocked and imitated because of her unmistakable and laughable English accent. What most people didn’t know when they sniggered, was that Jenny had been an editor for an Italian/English dictionary! Her knowledge of Italian grammar and vocabulary were second to none.

David, the second colleague, spoke perfect Italian and his impeccable intonation and pronunciation was constantly admired and he was always complimented and nobody ever mocked him either! But I can tell you that his knowledge of grammar and vocabulary came nowhere near Jenny’s. Both colleagues actually spoke excellent Italian but Jenny was stigmatized because of her accent.

So, you don’t have to talk like a native speaker. Just concentrate on communicating effectively when you are learning English or any other language for that matter. Here are 8 ways you can do that.

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1. Start talking.

Even if you are not living in the US or in Britain, you can use Skype to start talking. You will have to develop fluency and the best way to do that is by talking. Get on forums and online chat rooms to make contact. You can try out My Language Exchange or Interpals and see how you get on. That is much cheaper than flying to London for a full immersion weekend! Stop worrying too much about accuracy. That can come later. Don’t think; just talk!

2. Now listen.

I taught English for many years and the students’ main problem was that their listening skills were never properly developed. You can listen to English anywhere and everywhere now. Podcasts, YouTube, news broadcasts, audio books, TV, films, and radio. You name it, there are multiple channels where you can really polish up your listening skills. TED talks are an excellent resource. If you are learning another language, these talks have been translated into over 40 languages!

3. Learn the 300 basic words you need.

Tim Ferris, of the 4 hour work week fame, claims that you can learn any language in 3 months. One essential takeaway from his post is that 65% of all written material in English uses only 300 words! Check out the post as they are listed here. Start using them. Here are some apps to help you gain mastery of even more vocabulary.  Get the Anki app because this uses a SRS (spaced repetition system). This means that you never see the list of words repeated in the same order but at strategically spaced intervals so that you do not forget them.

4. Get cheap lessons.

Maybe you need a few lessons but you do not want to pay a high price for one-on-one lessons with a native speaker. You can hone your conversation skills at any level just by getting really cheap lessons from the italki.com site. Where else can you get lessons for $5 an hour! This is where Skype comes into its own.

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5. Go for more vocabulary instead of more grammar.

Once you have your 300 words, you cannot stop there! What are your goals and what words do you need? This should always take preference over learning grammatical rules, although you do need to be able to distinguish the past tense from the future. It makes communication less problematic.

The word renowned linguist, Stephen Krashen, also favored meaningful interaction over anything else. Vocabulary is the heart of any language, not knowledge of grammatical rules.

“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.”

—Stephen Krashen

6. Never stop reading.

Reading is a great way of improving your English. You can read anything you can get your hands on such as cartoons and kids’ books if you want a good laugh and to relax. You can buy graded readers of all the classics and then move on to the real thing. I always tell my students that there should be no books in their native language on their bedside table as they will never be tested on that. Been there, done that! Having a pen handy to underline words is also great.

“Never read a book without a pen in your hand.”

—Benjamin Franklin

7. Leave your comfort zone

Experts always tell you not to worry about making mistakes. Just do it! Here is a task to do. You want to find out essential information from a museum/art gallery in London. You can choose a hotel or airline if you wish. Phone them up and ask for a lot of information. Prepare your questions beforehand. Then check what you have understood by looking at their site in your own language. Talk to English or American tourists when you spot them in your area.

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8. Never quit

“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.”

—Salvador Dali

When we talk about accents, it really is a very superficial aspect of speaking English. After all, many regional accents in the UK exist. Add in all the accents of Ireland, India, America, and Australia. Then, think about all the foreign speakers of English you will come into contact with on your travels and your business trips. Now, who is judging who on their accent? Communication, the desire to constantly improve plus the determination never to give up are the keys to success.

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”

—Lance Armstrong

Featured photo credit: Learning English/freestocks.org via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

12 Powerful Habits of a Lifelong Learner

Formal education is something everyone has to go through to a certain degree, and the knowledge it offers isn’t always that practical in real life. Life long learning is how you improve as a person, bit by bit and day by day.

Life long learners recognize the importance and joy of growth so they never settle for what they currently know and always seek for improvement.

Here are 12 habits of people who value lifelong learning have in common – see how many of them you recognize in yourself.

1. They Read on a Daily Basis

Whatever problem or dilemma you currently face, there’s definitely at least one decent book that discusses it and presents a variety of solutions.

Reading is a great way to open up new horizons, train your brain and revolutionize your life. I can’t even count how many times books completely transformed the way I view the world, and it’s always a change for the better. Through reading, you can connect with successful people and learn from the lessons they share.

Life long learners love to get lost in books and do it regularly. Bill Gates knows that reading matters a lot; on his personal blog, he reviews plenty of game-changing books.

Due to technology, you can access a bookshelf of the wealthiest entrepreneur on this planet.

2. They Attend Various Courses

Whether it’s online or offline, there are countless courses you can participate in without spending a dime on it. These are great opportunities to connect with clever and like-minded people and learn from them.

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Because of the advanced technology, you can now gain knowledge from online programs, starting from coding through self-improvement to programs from top universities.

There are literally endless ways to thrive. What life long learners have in common is squeezing as much as possible out of these opportunities.

3. They Actively Seek Opportunities to Grow

Instead of spending your free time laying on the couch and watching TV, you prefer doing something creative and practical. You know every wasted minute is gone forever.

That’s why you’d rather practice your language skills with a native-speaker you’ve met, engage in local meet up or attend a class that teaches something you always wanted to learn.

Life long learners stay up-to-date with growth opportunities in their areas and participate in them frequently.

4. They Take Care of Their Bodies

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” — John F. Kennedy

A clever mind combined with a body in a great condition is the best asset you can have. Our bodies were designed to run, walk, jump, swim, lift and much more. Leading a sedentary lifestyle harms both your physical and mental sphere.

Life long learners know the body is your temple. In order to make it flourish for as long as possible, they train regularly, move a lot and eat healthy.

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5. They Have Diverse Passions

Among Steve Jobs’ wise quotes, there’s one I like especially. It’s about connecting the dots:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” — Steve Jobs

Each dot is some event or skill in your life, and it’s only when you go through these elements that you know how to combine them into something great.

Having a variety of passions indicates that you love to progress. By practicing different skills, you give yourself an advantage over the rest of the people. During hard times, you are more likely to to act intelligently and solve your problems with less effort.

6. They Love Making Progress

If behind the efforts, there is passion and a deep desire to grow, your chances of success are way higher, compared to when you are forced to learn.

Life long learners love to experience the constant growth and improvement. The breakthrough moments help them to notice the impressive change that took place because of the learning process. Any milestone serves as a driving force for further headway.

7. They Challenge Themselves with Specific Goals

In order to keep growing, you clearly define your goals. Smart goal setting is one of the tools to ensure constant growth.

Since you love challenges, a difficult goal doesn’t scare you. Quite the opposite, it keeps you motivated and engaged.

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Research showed that precise and ambitious goals increase the performance of an individual. As we already agreed, life long learners are people who care about their performance, hence they never stop improving.

8. They Embrace Change

A complete change can lead to incredible results. This is especially visible on the example of successful companies.

Oftentimes, it’s that transformation which created space for their so-called overnight success. Twitter was originally created as an internal service to serve Odeo employees. Currently, it has over 300 million monthly active users and is considered the second biggest social network.

As a life long learner, you know a change can lead to extraordinary results so you welcome it and stay open minded about making a shift.

9. They Believe It’s Never Too Late to Start Something

Some people tend to think after a certain age, they are no longer allowed to start something and become successful. The truth is, it’s just a lame excuse not to leave the comfort zone.

Opposite to common misconceptions, there’s no wrong age to begin something. Henry Ford was 45 when he invented the Ford Model T car, which is considered as the first affordable automobile.

Sure, for some domains like becoming a professional athlete, starting early is required. However, to learn and improve for its own sake, you are never too old.

10. Their Attitude to Getting Better Is Contagious

“We now accept the fact that learning is a life long process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” — Peter Drucker

There’s nothing better than to see your surroundings getting involved in what you actively participate in. Oftentimes, the best way to achieve that is to inspire them and be the example. As Gandhi would say, you need to be the change you want to see in the world.

As a life long learner, you are extremely passionate about the constant growth and people around you can sense that positive attitude. As a result, they start acting similarly.

11. They Leave Their Comfort Zone

Is it really better to step out of your comfort zone? The answer is always yes.

You always embrace discomfort as you know the path to success leads through hardship and countless obstacles. Instead of being afraid of facing them, you challenge yourself to overcome more and more difficult handicaps.

Every time you get out of your comfort zone, regardless whether you win or fail, you learn something new. That’s the part you love the most!

12. They Never Settle Down

“Knowledge is exploding, so you need to commit yourself to a plan for life long learning.” — Don Tapscott

A sense of being clever enough is something you don’t experience. Without a doubt, you appreciate what you already know, but that’s never a reason to stop. You just know once you stop learning, you lose the amazing privilege humans have, namely an ability to a never-ending intellectual development.

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Featured photo credit: Christin Hume via unsplash.com

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