La Liseuse
Can a non-native's English accent ever be good enough to pass as native?
Yes, but it is very rare.

Here's someone who fooled me:


Believe it or not, the actress in that scene is not a native English speaker. Impressive, eh?
Jun 16, 2020 7:58 AM
Comments · 21
Thank you for answering:

Sol
Thanks for the link. It's an entertaining video, and Amy Walker is good on the practical side of accents. However, she got one thing completely wrong : she said that Received Pronunciation is called 'received' because we receive it i.e. nobody speaks in this way naturally (!).That's complete nonsense, unfortunately.
In fact, in this context, 'received' means 'accepted' or 'standard' : as in the phrase 'received wisdom'. And of course there are people who have RP accents as their one and only way of speaking. If parents speak with RP accents, that's how their children speak. I do wish people would check their facts before making videos!

James
So you weren't convinced by Elizabeth? I confess I was.

Meysam Asadi
Yes, like most actors who work in a second language, Christoph Waltz is convincing when in character, but not as himself. I just watched an interview with him and he does sound slightly German.

tempus.edax.rerum
So many of your students could pass for natives, if only for a few minutes? Interesting. Is that your superb teaching? Or do you think it's easier for that to happen in the US than in the UK?
June 16, 2020
Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Miriam and Anees MT
Yes, very impressive. She is the only person who has ever had me fooled. I had watched a couple of seasons of Poldark before realising that Heida Reid was Icelandic.
Of course, the character and the rather stilted period-drama RP helps: when she's interviewed in her relaxed, off-screen persona, you can actually tell that English isn't her first language. There's something not-quite-right there. There always is. But as Elizabeth Poldark? Spot on. 100% convincing.

John
Yes, there are many Germans who speak English extremely well. In fact they speak English better than we do, if DavidK is to be believed. I'm guessing that this is what he meant when he said this:

<em>In my area, about 25% of the people don't speak English natively. Very few of them can pass as native to my area. </em><em>But a significant percentage of them will sound much closer to my language than those who learned English natively outside of North America.</em><em> There's nothing magic about being native/educated/... - what counts is proximity to the target audience. ...I wince when I hear these poor English learners asking about a </em><em>ridiculous idiom used by a small percentage of eccentric natives</em>. <em>What a waste.</em>


June 16, 2020
PART 1:
She’s great. Of course, Icelandic isn’t that far off from English to begin with, and given how few people speak Icelandic, of course they're going to master English. Likewise, I meet a lot of native Dutch speakers whose English as as easy to listen to as a UK native’s RP. Since most UK speakers aren’t actually RP speakers, the Dutch are actually easier to understand for an American. I actually wonder how many native Dutch speakers (and others) I may have met without even realizing they weren’t native English speakers. Unless they were wearing a Dutch flag (whatever that looks like). 

There’s no need for most learners to take it that far, but why not make an effort to speak as much like an educated (or “uneducated”, if that’s your goal) native speaker as possible? The vast majority of learners don’t have that problem — most of them, sadly, still need to get the basics of pronunciation under control. As learners have no way of knowing what constitutes “pronunciation” and what constitutes “accent” (it’s different in every language), they would do well to pick some good models and simply aim to get as close as possible in all ways.
July 20, 2020
Several of my students could pass for native speakers of English. The problem is that they eventually say something that no native speaker would ever say, and that gives it away that they are not native speakers. Maybe I should say that they could pass for native speakers for at least two or three minutes straight.
June 16, 2020
Another interesting video. An accent expert talking about British accents in movies <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGPUbyOk4_s" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGPUbyOk4_s</a>;
June 16, 2020
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La Liseuse
Language Skills
English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Learning Language
Spanish