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EnglishuserMost linguists I know claim it's the other way around: It's much more difficult to sound genuinely like a native speaker of a foreign language; developing perfect writing skills is said to be easier. One way of testing your writing skills could be to write a sample text and have a professional, native copy-editor proofread and stylish your text. If they don't find anything to correct or stylish, you might have achieved your goal.

Yes, fair enough. The other way round is no doubt more common.
What internal musical cohesion are you talking about, exactly? It would be nice if you'd give us some more specific examples of something a very skilled non-native writer of English has written that you did consider a remnant of their first language.
I will try to find some.

Have a good week,

MrP
Hi Openmind,

You wrote:
Hi EU, where and how did you pick up the expression to speak a language natively? Also, why are you interested in knowing whether or not you might be able to "sound" like a native speaker? I mean, what kind of native speaker do you have in mind? Age, educational background, IQ, profession, character, life experience, etc.?
The expression 'to speak a language natively' is something I've picked up in a conversation with an American (native speaker of English). If you pay close enough attention you will also notice that I wasn't particularly interested in whether I could "sound" like a native speaker; instead, I wanted to know if you could participate in online discussions on websites for learning English as a second language without anyone (or at least most people) noticing that you actually speak English as a second language. It's true that there are tremendous differences between different native speakers: for sure, a native speaker with a Ph.D. in English would be expected to know more about the language than would a 15-year-old schoolgirl, for instance.

Englishuser
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Hi MrPedantic,

You wrote:
That's a very interesting point. I have read somewhere that second, third, etc. languages are stored in separate regions of the brain.
Yes, that's true. Sometimes people lose a language if their brain gets damaged. It could be your first language. Have you ever hear of the 'foreign language syndrome', by the way?
JulielaiJust out of curiosity, Mr. P, how do you distinguish a native speaker who's learned a non-standard form of English from a decent non-native speaker? (e.g. How can you tell if a speaker born in India, Singapore or other Asian countries is native?)

Hello Julie

I'm not sure I always could – sometimes I'm not sure whether a poster is speaking erratic non-native English, or a US dialect, for instance (especially if the erraticism resides in the modal verbs!).

But on the whole, non-standard natives make different mistakes from non-native standards. NSNs may be unusual in grammar, but they're usually strong in idiom. And a very good NNS will often hyper-correct (in the use of the subjunctive, for instance, or the past perfect).

(I'm speaking very theoretically here, though – merely spouting impressions!)

MrP
Hi MrPedantic,

You wrote:
(I'm speaking very theoretically here, though – merely spouting impressions!)
Of course you are. There simply is no scientific way to prove that someone is a native speaker or a non-native speaker of a language. People who are non-native speakers of English may very well be idiomatic in their use of English almost all the time. Then again, as I've pointed out earlier, native speakers who learn other languages also sometimes translate foreign idioms into their first language. Therefore I believe the posters in another thread were quite right: it is sometimes nearly impossible to tell whether someone is a native speaker. You might be wrong without knowing it, as Nef put it.

Englishuser
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There simply is no scientific way to prove that someone is a native speaker or a non-native speaker of a language.
Of course, much depends on the amount of material available, and the nature of the material. If the sample consisted of 10 words, it might not be possible. But with every additional word, the chance of detecting a fault increases.

MrP
MrPedanticHello Julie

But on the whole, non-standard natives make different mistakes from non-native standards. NSNs may be unusual in grammar, but they're usually strong in idiom. And a very good NNS will often hyper-correct (in the use of the subjunctive, for instance, or the past perfect).

I can safely say that if the language in question is Chinese, I can spot a non-native speaker every time. Emotion: stick out tongue (After all, how many non-native Chinese speakers can master the language?)

Hi MrPedantic,

You wrote:
Of course, much depends on the amount of material available, and the nature of the material. If the sample consisted of 10 words, it might not be possible. But with every additional word, the chance of detecting a fault increases.
I agree. But it also depends a lot on how dedicated the writer is. You can surely write a page or two without sounding non-native at all, for instance, even though you are not a native speaker of a language. What about investigating this further? All we'd need to do would be to collect some short pieces of writing, post them here, and see how good MrPedantic is at detecting whether a writer is a native speaker of English or not.

Englishuser
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Hi julielai,

You said:
I can safely say that if the language in question is Chinese, I can spot a non-native speaker every time.
I doubt it. I am sure there are people who can write a page or two, in perfect, idiomatic Chinese. Not to mention people who could write a short note that way.

Englishuser
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