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Can you achieve native-like fluency without having to go to English speaking countries?

When I say native-like fluency, I refer to speaking English to a level where you feel like speaking your language. At that level, you can speak without translating or searching for words and expressions in English. You can use idioms or native expressions freely without effort, and you can quickly respond to various situations/questions in English. From my personal experience, it's tough (or even not feasible) to achieve this without going to English-speaking countries. I have invested over a hundred hours on Italki and lots of time listening to podcasts, conversations between native English speakers on Youtube, and results were seen. I have obtained a C1 level in English, but I don't think level matters at all. Most native speakers don't achieve C1 in their native language, but it doesn't bother their fluency. Now I find it particularly difficult to take my English to the next level or achieve the fluency I like. I wish I could spend some years in an English-speaking country to give my English a lift. I think what it would do to me is it would give me more exposure to English than to Chinese which is my native language.

Do you think it is possible to speak (and think) like a native speaker without going to English-speaking countries?

Apr 5, 2019 7:03 AM
Comments · 11
First of all, I agree with you that fluency and CEFR level are unrelated. A five-year-old has native fluency, but would score poorly on a test. And many adults who score well and have huge vocabularies couldn’t talk their way out of a paper bag. As far as where your learning takes place, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that nowadays, moving to the country makes no difference whatsoever — it just means you’ll be more motivated to learn. Or not — there are millions of immigrants who live decades in a country and never achieve fluency in the language. In the past, being in-country meant you would have a lot more exposure to the target language, but with today’s internet, you can easily get as much (or more) practice (listening, speaking, etc.) without leaving your home. What does indeed make a difference is how close your native language is to the target language. If your native language is Chinese and you’re learning English, it’s going to take a lot more than 100 hours. And if your goal is fluency rather that beating a “proficiency test”, you’ll need to practice accordingly.

April 5, 2019
Yes, I think so. I wouldn't say that my English is on a near-native level but it's pretty advanced. I use English effortlessly and understand almost everything I hear and read. I never lived in an English speaking country but I lived in China for six years and am married to a Chinese. Stil,l my Chinese level is nowhere near my level in English. So, living in a country won't always make you achieve real fluency. But not living in the country of your target language doesn't mean that you can't achieve fluency either.
April 5, 2019
For 90-ish percent of the population I dont think to be possible and I question if it is necessary. In most of the cases we only want to comprehend and communicate respectfully, which does not necessarily, mean you need to know every grammar rule or specific pronunciation. I wish I could achieve a good level of comprehension including the cultural aspects and bounderies but not fluency of a native speaker.
April 6, 2019

Interesting link. It would have been even more interesting if he had done the immersion with a weak language.

April 6, 2019

Aiden, I'll give a straightforward answer to your question.

Honestly, NO, I don't think it's possible to achieve the fluency you're looking for without spending a consistent amount of time in an English-speaking country. 

This a sort of necessary condition. By no means sufficient! Living abroad won't make your English improve by virtue of geography: you'll have to interact with English speakers on a daily basis, in different types of situations, each requiring its own register of speech. Such a direct and diverse experience will give you that overall fluency in the language which is as close as possible to a native competence. 

From your home-country, you'll hit a high intermediate level (at the very best), but you won't go any further. As you've already a solid C1, you'll see by yourself that, quite soon, lessons, readings, music, series, etc. will be less and less effective. At a certain moment, you'll realize that they won't have any effect anymore. This is the sign that you'll have reached a limit. If you don't take any new step, your English will stagnate: at a high level, for sure, but still stagnate! 

So, if you can travel, do not hesitate and take the chance! Live in an English-speaking community, interact with people, develop relationships ... Your English will clearly benefit from it in a way that will be unattainable otherwise.   

April 6, 2019
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