Emma Stein – (Volunteer Training Coordinator ELP Wellington)
“I want to sound like a Kiwi” is a comment that many of our more advanced learners might make so it’s good to remind them that speaking perfectly is not the same as speaking fluently – even native speakers make mistakes. In fact, in the case of a very high-level learner, this is what might differentiate her/him from a native speaker. Occasionally, an ESOL teacher/tutor will hear a learner say “but I heard my friend/colleague say “…” and now you’re telling me it’s wrong?” This can make it difficult to know which errors to focus on and which to let slide.
Generally, in spoken English, native speakers make errors for a variety of reasons:
However, there are some mistakes that non-native speakers make which are rarely made by native speakers!
A few examples of spoken errors: Can you guess which ones are made by non-native speakers and which by native speakers?
Very often, non-native speaker errors arise from:
Using the wrong word order – “I helped cook my sister”
Getting the stress, tone or intonation wrong – “Please give me…” rather than “I was wondering if you could give me…”; “I suggest you get…” rather than “Have you thought about getting…?”
“Brain grooves” due to repeated drilling at early stages of learning. For example, questions with do or does – “what does this mean” – get lodged in the ear and it’s very hard not to say “Could you tell me what does this mean?”
Some tips to help your high-level learners sound more like a Kiwi:
Inspired to share your knowledge of English with former refugees and migrants to NZ?
Why not consider volunteering as an ESOL Home Tutor with English Language Partners?