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Thread: Things that betray the non-native speaker

  1. #41
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    We were talking --post #36-- about "like this" (así). In this case, to translate it as como así is certainly wrong and you can tell that that person is not a native Spanish speaker.

  2. #42
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Adjectives are tricky for nonnatives. If when cleaning a countertop you use a powdered cleaner, such as Comet or Ajax, and fail to rinse the cleaned surface well, the countertop will be covered in a powdery film. If the cleaning product is grainier, the resulting film may be gritty. An English-speaking nonnative (who happened to be Chinese) mistakenly used the term sandy to describe a residue that, for me, was powdery.

  3. #43
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    I think you could try to generalize by referring to linguistic branches, such as :
    - phonetics: has been made clear here
    - lexicography : idiomatic expressions (I notice that I can never imitate Germans because I tend to translate too literally from Dutch); language registers (is that the right word to refer to 'colloquial' vs. 'formal', etc. ? )
    - syntax: e.g., the place of certain words may point out that you are not good
    - pragmatics: there are different 'habits' as for the use of for example 'please' (in our Dutch-speaking context we generally say something when giving/ handing over something (often 'alstublieft', lit. 'please'), but in an English-speaking context you don't, or only 'here you are'.

    Those are things that are hard to learn ! But professional linguists could add more branches, like morphology, but I think grammar is often fairly easy to learn, except for certain things that are 'conditioned' by some kind of worldview, like tenses, which comes close to pragmatics, I believe.
    Even if you can get all of these linguistic things right, then you have to get over the cultural stuff... The two things that I always notice are:
    1) lack of knowledge of children's programmes from their age group... a 50 year old guy in London who does not know "Bill and Ben the flowerpot men" (from the 1960's) was not brought up in the UK...
    2) lack of knowledge of music and music groups from their youth... someone in their late 30's who doesn't know "la unión" or "duncan dhu" was not brought up in Spain...

  4. #44
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by elirlandes View Post
    Even if you can get all of these linguistic things right, then you have to get over the cultural stuff... The two things that I always notice are:
    1) lack of knowledge of children's programmes from their age group... a 50 year old guy in London who does not know "Bill and Ben the flowerpot men" (from the 1960's) was not brought up in the UK...
    2) lack of knowledge of music and music groups from their youth... someone in their late 30's who doesn't know "la unión" or "duncan dhu" was not brought up in Spain...
    These things are relative, El Irlandés. Although they may be related to the speaking abilities of a person, they do not dictate or determine his "passing off as a native". Not even do they say whether someone is a local or not.

    People brought up in X country are just as Native to Y language as people from country Z, who may have a complete different cultural setting but share the same language (E.g Cuba and Chile). Even people from the same country may not have been exposed to those things you quoted.

    For example, I have been looked at with awe for not knowing some famous cartoons of my country. The reason? Simple, I never liked cartoons. Same goes for music, TV programs, sports and other "cultural" stuff. Or the other case of Duncan Dhú, I have no idea who they are and I would never recognize one of their songs. Yet, Spanish is my mother tongue. These kind of indicators can serve, to an extent, to pinpoint whether someone is from around or not; but they are certainly not tests to know if someone is native to X language.

  5. #45
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    I think we have to distinguish between command of language and knowledge of culture indeed. The latter might come close to pragmatics (due to the 'thin line' between concepts and words), but I think indeed that culture will allow one to distinguish between learned, modern, postmodern and other native speakers, but I would focus on the linguistic aspects of 'native speaker'-dom/ ship...

  6. #46
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    I think we have to distinguish between command of language and knowledge of culture indeed. The latter might come close to pragmatics (due to the 'thin line' between concepts and words), but I think indeed that culture will allow one to distinguish between learned, modern, postmodern and other native speakers, but I would focus on the linguistic aspects of 'native speaker'-dom/ ship...
    Please excuse my ignorance but, what is a modern and a postmodern native speaker? And yes, cultural accumen does not equal linguistic abilities. Two different things.

  7. #47
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Those are just two of the immense number of categories of people, all having their own cultural background...

  8. #48
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Yes, but what are they?
    "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." Bruce Cockburn

  9. #49
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Well, there are Canadians, French Canadians, Belgians, French workers, Flemish people, Walloons, Flemish intellectuals, ... ;-) and all of those have different cultural backgrounds, and more or less extended 'vocabularies' and a different degree of command of their language, as far as grammar is concerned. But they will all be native speakers of one or other language !

    You see ?

  10. #50
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Not really ... how do the terms modern and post-modern apply to this?
    "The trouble with normal is it always gets worse." Bruce Cockburn

  11. #51
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Well, some Flemish people have a postmodern view of the world, others have a traditional view of the world, but they are native speakers of Dutch. You see ?

    JUst by the way: very small details betray something - but this list is endless :
    - the rounding of the o, the clarity of the difference between /v/ and /w/, lenis/ asper pronunciation of vowels
    - the use of ellipses (German tend to drop more subject pronouns than we do)
    - absence of expressions, etc.

  12. #52
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    Well, some Flemish people have a postmodern view of the world, others have a traditional view of the world, but they are native speakers of Dutch. You see ?
    Yes...we do. I think I also heard somewhere that some people in Belgium are men, that some are women, and some are actually children. I am just not sure what these categories are called, though.

  13. #53
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Well, some Flemish people have a postmodern view of the world, others have a traditional view of the world, but they are native speakers of Dutch. You see ?
    Ok, but what aspect (linguistically) do you think needs to be separated between these two categories? I'm afraid I don't see how it affects the topic we're talking about.

    As mirx said before, culture of a native speaker and linguistic ability are unrelated (I agree with this) I am forever not understanding common idioms in my language, that everyone else seems to know (I think I missed those lessons at school) i.e. expressions like 'for my sins', and other idiomatic usages, this is probably what it's like for people who never learned these expressions, non-natives from a different culture, but I also have trouble sometimes with them, it is a culture thing, but in no way shape or form affects my linguistic ability to portray myself as a native speaker of English.

    So I'm not sure what point is being made with modern/postmodern and this culture aspect in this thread.
    Last edited by Alxmrphi; 9th January 2010 at 3:26 PM.

  14. #54
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    I try to summarize the discussion/ exchange. Eilirlandes referred to cultural knowledge, and some of us pointed out that that is mainly cultural not linguistic (though I specified that to some extent there is a link between culture and pragmatics). I then tried to explain that different social/cultural groups have different commands of grammar and knowledge of their culture.

    I thought of 'registers', Mirx, but in fact those are types of one language fitted for different contexts (bureaucrats use another 'register' than workers, teachers vs. pupils, older people vs. youngsters). So, maybe registers might be a correct word, but culture is not part of a register, it is however an aspect of the background of each social group using particular registers. Am I making myself clear?

  15. #55
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    I think I see your point a bit better.
    I think to make a better point ThomasK, would be with examples, so I can better understand the type of thing you mean (like for Dutch speakers maybe?)

    I think with a few solid examples it'd be easier to understand.
    My general view is all this culture / register discussion does not betray the native speaker, I think if you had to assess if someone was a native, then a lack of this knowledge would be useful, but a lack of it doesn't betray anyone, because many people might not have come into contact with these different cultural / social items.

    The things that betray the native speaker are things which natives would not say / do. If someone handed you something and you said "Please", then that would betray a native speaker, I don't see if any cultural thing would do really.

    I think we've switched from, "things that betray" to "things that a native speaker would be expected to know", so that's where I got confused because we had different views on the question in reference.
    In summary, (IMHO) the last few posts aren't dealing with things that betray the native speaker, therefore the topic, hence why I said I didn't see the relevance, they deal with a similar / linked topic of what native speakers are expected to know, and a lack of it points to the probability of a non-native, which isn't always the case.

    I'm still interested to better understand what you mean about modern/post modern Thomas, could you give us some examples of what you mean?

  16. #56
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasK View Post
    Am I making myself clear?
    I do get it now, and as vague and random my last post might seem, it actually adds to your views. Men and women do use different lingo, and there are also big differences between generations. My granma defiitely uses a different set of vocabulary to the one I use.

  17. #57
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    I quite agree with you, Al(e)x, your distinction is the one I was trying to make.

    Registers in Dutch:
    - an intellectual might say 'participeren', in stead of our Dutch equivalent 'deelnemen' (take part), becaus 'p' sounds 'more expensive' ; yet, both are native speakers
    - a substantive style (de verschijning van [the appearance of] fenomenen als piercings wijzen op [point towards]..) can very often be replace by simple sentences (steeds meer jongeren hebben piercings; dat toont dat .. ^[the longer the more youngsters have piercings, that shows) - register but at sentence level now
    I am not so sure traditional and postmodern speakers have their own registers, but certainly their own words, codes, etc. (barmhartigheid for example [benevolence, mercy] is a word postmodernists would not use, I guess: too traditional, too Christian, etc.). But both are native speakers.

    Capisci ?

  18. #58
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    I think the Finnish list is mostly similar to the other languages.

    Phonology.
    a) Being unable to tell long and short sounds apart. Katu is different from kaatu and tapan from tapaan & tappan.
    b) Aspirating consonants. It sounds funny when German or English people try to pronounce our language: Khun khäveli khesäilala...
    c) Straightening up diphtongs (sometimes this is possible, sometimes not). Hoono soomi (bad Finnish) has already become a concept among us -- it should be pronounced huono suomi.
    d) Strange way of stressing words.
    e) Being unable to pronounce wovels well. However, ä is slowly disappearing and ö becoming more like the shewa even in the natives' speech. But let's pronounce them well, as long as we can!
    f) Using melody and intonation. Finnish is supposed to sound monotonous; however, some Finnish dialects DO have melody.

    Words & phrases.
    a) Using wrong verbs and verb forms.
    b) Messing up transitive and intransitive verbs. Minä maistun ruokaa. I taste (intr.) the food. However, a very popular Christmas song breaks this rule: Kuiske kuuluu: "Miltä ruoka maistaa"? Correct form: maistuu I've never understood why.
    c) Idioms.
    d) Omitting declinations and conjugations.

    Style.
    a) wrong style: too formal or informal word choices.

    ____
    But, don't let me interrupt your ongoing conversation ;D

  19. #59
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    interesting list. BTW: the last one refers to registers !

    But I don't agree with 'mostlt similar to other languages': it is way more difficult! And you know, what could be typical too, is mixing us v/w. Just teasing...

  20. #60
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    Re: Things that betray the non-native speaker

    There are so-called non-verbal means of communication. They sometimes tell more about a person than his grammar, vocabulary, etc. I don't know why but I can always tell whether a person is a native speaker or not even if their English is flawless. You just wait a little and there will be something about them that at a certain moment makes them incongruent, so to say.

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