Three obstacles when trying to speak like a native
This is the big question. I totally understand why people ask this because probably you’ve noticed that often natives don’t speak a language anything like the one you learn in textbooks. It’s confusing.
I’ve heard from a number of people, that they were shocked to find they didn’t understand very much when visiting an English speaking country like the UK or USA, and this is, of course, due to that one very special work: Slang.
Slang is just one part of breaking through the barrier of understanding, but it’s by no means the only obstacle. Accents and articulation are also two of the biggest hurdles you have to overcome when learning a new language.
In the start, it’s probably best to focus on the language and the accent in the region in which you want to live or visit, or in the country, you find most appealing. Each will have their own way of doing things, or rather, of saying things.
But there are also some common themes across the board, which you will hear in almost any English speaking country.
This is a super basic concept, but very common among natives. Let me just give some simple examples.
I don’t know = I dunno
I want to = I wanna
I ought to = I oughta
I should have = I shoulda
I would have = I woulda
I could have = I coulda
You can hear that the words get swallowed and contracted when spoken quickly. In natural conversations, these shortened versions will usually always be used, as they are quicker and easier to pronounce.
Accents vary greatly from one place to another, and in the UK alone you can drive just thirty minutes north and find a completely different accent, loaded with new slang and cultural references.
English is such a big language, so it’s good to be aware of some of the most common accents: American (Central and Southern), UK (Southern, Midlands, and Northern), Australian, Irish, Scottish…
Each one has a totally different rhythm and sound, and this is only the English speaking countries. You could also consider speakers of English who have learned it as a second language: The French accent, Indian accent, Russian accent etc.
Check out some of the videos below to compare accents.
The English Language in 24 Accents
7 Tipos de Acentos en Ingles
Learn Cockney Accent with Jason Statham
The English language is littered with idioms and slang words, and by learning just idioms alone, you will gain not only a deeper understanding of the culture, but you will also advance your language in a fun way.
Let’s face it, idioms are awesome. They bring so much color into your language. Here are some common examples:
To cost an arm and a leg
Pretty straightforward, right? When something is or was expensive, you could say, “It cost an arm and a leg.”
To be sly like a fox
If someone is very deceitful and untrustworthy, you could say that a person is “sly like a fox” i.e. they try to cheat or trick people.
Like a fish in water
If you are very comfortable in your environment, be it your workplace, the town you live in, or any other kind of situation, you could say that you feel “like a fish in water.”
Like a fish out of water
On the other hand, you could also be totally out of your comfort zone, and therefore “like a fish out of water.”
To spill the beans
You “spill the beans” when you tell the truth about something, usually when gossiping with friends. So, if you have a secret, your friend might say, “Come on, spill the beans already!”
To get/wake up on the wrong side of the bed
If your husband is very irritable, you might simply say, “He woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”
To steal someone’s thunder
This is never a good thing, so be careful not to do it to often. Basically, if you take attention away from somebody else, you could be perceived as having “stolen their thunder.”
Imagine you’re getting married, and you’re just about to tell everyone the good news, then your sister comes in and shouts “I’m pregnant.” Everyone then congratulates her and makes a scene.
Yes, she has officially, “stolen your thunder.”
As you can see, there are many fun expressions you can use to make your language both more colorful and native-like, and we’ve only just scratched the surface.
So, next week I’m going to give you a whole bunch of interesting idioms along with example texts, so be sure to check back for those.
Until next time, if you know any idioms you’d like to see included, please leave a comment below.