Why listen to speakers of other languages speaking English?

Now that is a very fair question and one which many will see as being totally pointless.

I mean, if I listen to an English speaker (my mother tongue) speaking French, then they will make the same mistakes as me, right?

That’s about it – they will make mistakes in French, and I will clearly be able to identify their mistakes, so what’s the point?

Well, from a pedagogical point of view, listening to people speaking another language, in my case English speakers speaking French, is a very valuable exercise for me.

The point being that I can hear their mistakes, and they are probably, overall, the same mistakes that I make in French, BUT, I am able to hear their mistakes, a lot clearer than my own mistakes and I can perhaps learn to rectify my mistakes.

After all, if I were able to hear my own mistakes so clearly, then why haven’t I been able to correct them – which is a reasonable question, being as I still make the same mistakes.

Then there is the issue of accents – there is no, ONE, accent in English and foreigners speaking with a French, Italian or Spanish accent in English is not a problem – accents are only a problem when they hinder communication.

It’s near impossible for a non-native speaker to sound completely native.

Native speakers will always find one feature that is non-native. Speakers of all languages are aware of their dialects (a New Yorker sounds different to a Yorkshire accent, which is different to Geordie, etc.). So, even if the non-native speaker sounds very close to a native speaker, the native listener will not attribute the different features to other dialects but to different languages.

Pronunciation, however, is very important, as this is where communication can break down.

That said, listening to non-natives speaking English can heighten awareness to aspects of grammar, syntax, pronunciation, rhythm and intonation that can be only beneficial for those learners that take the time to reflect and act on what they have listened to.

This is why, at EFLPodBlog, we have a mix of  interviews of non-native and native speakers to work on these aspects in the learning units for premium members.

What do you think?

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