What do you think about very advanced false native speakers? We often see someone with intermediate, or even beginner language skills claiming to be native on the forum. Usually, these members are promptly identified, accused of being dishonest and chased out of italki. But what do you think about very advanced speakers claiming to be native? They have spent years and years studying the language hard, maybe even living where it is spoken. Maybe they write so well they could easily deceive a native, and only when you hear them speaking you see that, though they speak really well, they clearly have a foreign accent. I have seen several such members and even teachers on italki, and never seen any of them being publicly accused of cheating. Is it fair of them to claim to be native? Does it make any difference if they are teachers, or if they only want to make it easier to find language exchange partners?

I think we can all agree that some non native speakers have better language skills than some natives. And still learners are much more likely to choose native speakers as teachers or language partners. So, is it fair for a very advanced non native to lie a little in order to get the status on the language market their skills and knowledge deserve? Or do they still have to be honest to their potential students and language partners about their native language?

Lastly, what would you do about such members or what do you think should be done?
Apr 10, 2018 5:19 PM
Comments · 75
@Alex Nguyen 

Um, what do your college degrees and your transistors have to do with being a native English speaker? Geez. And I certainly wouldn't want to have anything to do with anyone who calls me a "nobody." 
April 10, 2018

I think they are ok. Some, as you say, speak better English than the natives, eg Joseph Conrad, Einstein, Nehru... Even some unknowns: Walter Wallich who wrote an amazing English translation of «Simpliccimus» by Grimmelshausen. I have to be honest and say that many speak better English than native English. It would be a priviledge to be taught by them if I were learning English. I think their nationality subterfuge is pardonable.

@Débora. Yes, you are completely right about regional or state English, and if you are after American English or Australian or London or Brazilian or Indian or English English, then pretending would be a deception. There is, however, an educated or academic English, which is nearly the same in all the Englishes. This, to me, is the best English and is the thing to go for.

April 10, 2018

I believe you have to be honest.

But it does leave some people in a bit of a quandary. I've seen schools advertising for English speakers WHO HOLD A PASSPORT FROM THE USA, UK, AUSTRALIA or NZ, or CANADA. Having such a passport does not really qualify one as a good teacher so I hope they actually check the person speaks English. Some do not.

I'm sure a school would be better off hiring a really good non-native speaker than someone who cannot string a sentence together properly. But often, really good teachers are not even invited for interview because they are not from an English-speaking country.

But one should not misrepresent oneself.

So what's the answer? I have no idea! And I am as guilty as those schools, for when I hire a teacher I always check they are native speakers. I expect my Hindi teacher to be from India, my Brazilian Portuguese teacher to be from Brazil. I have a sneaking suspicion I expect them to be able to trace their Brazilian heritage back several generations. It's weird. The more Brazilian they LOOK also helps. A PALE Brazilian simply wouldn't do it for me!

Send for the psychotherapist. I clearly need one.

April 10, 2018


I wouldn't want anything to do with you either if you accuse me of being dishonest if I somehow don't forewarn you that I have a accent BEFORE we talk.  I wonder what some LEARNERS on this site think.  Somehow your target language will get contaminated if you speak with a non-native?  You're out of your mind.  It's all on you. Accent or not, it's YOU.  Look at yourself for your shortcomings.

If you are a learner, anyone can teach you a thing or two if the person is better than you. That's who you need, someone who is better than you.  That goes for everything. I learned more from an Indian coworker than I did from anyone else. His vocabulary and sentence structures were impressive and beautiful.  Oh yeah, and he was a stutterer.   I spent enough time on this site to know that many "students" here are so damn picky even when they don't have any money to spend.

April 11, 2018

Some of you are being insulting, so here goes.

I have worked with some smartest people in the world who were Americans, Pakistanis, Indians, Japanese, Syrians, Chinese, etc.. These guys at any one time were responsible for a few million transistors working together in their brain.  I myself have more than one college degree, and APPLY what I've learned to make a living. A very decent living I might add. 

However, I wasn't a child when I moved to the U.S., and thus speak with an accent. According to you, I am not a native, which I really, really don't give rat's a*s about.  Also, according to you, if I ever have a great honor of having you, a NOBODY, as a language partner, I must tell you I am not native. If not, I am being dishonest, and who knows where my dishonesty might lead. What do I think I am going to do? Deceive you into sending me whatever worthless currency you use over there?

As the great John McEnro once said, "You canNOT be serious."

April 10, 2018
Show more
Language Skills
French, German, Serbian
Learning Language
French, German