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View Poll Results: is it possible to speak a foreign language like a native if you learnt it as an adult?
Yes, it's possible but not a cakewalk 50 58.82%
No, absolutely impossible no matter how hard you try, you'll keep a foreign accent 35 41.18%
Voters: 85. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 11-13-2007, 08:57 PM
Location: The world, where will fate take me this time?
3,162 posts, read 11,435,824 times
Reputation: 1463


imho it is, but you need to have a lot of friends from that country and spend a long time in her without having much contact to your homeland, it takes also willingless to practice the pronunciation but it's possible, specially if you aren't that attached. you can get rid of your accent but ymmv

Love and Light!
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Old 11-13-2007, 09:00 PM
Location: southern california
61,288 posts, read 87,405,055 times
Reputation: 55562
rough going. you can always improve. reading and writing well are real possibilities
speaking and understanding is the hard part.
accept you will have a thick accent.
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Old 11-13-2007, 10:36 PM
Location: Dayton OH
5,763 posts, read 11,367,944 times
Reputation: 13564
Yes, it is possible to learn a new language like a native speaker if you are living in the country where the other language is spoken, and you are surrounded by people in your daily life that speak that other language. You have to become fully committed to learning the new language, and be willing to work at it. If you can stop using your native language on a daily basis for a year or so to the point that the new language becomes the only language that is rolling through your brain day and night (even in your dreams), it is possible to learn a foreign language like a native, even as an adult. It takes almost total immersion to achieve that, and some persons will have greater success than others. If a person speaks two or more languages fluently before they become an adult, I think the brain becomes "wired" on how to learn additional languages even after they become an adult.
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Old 11-14-2007, 06:02 PM
Location: Holloman AFB, NM
115 posts, read 471,427 times
Reputation: 42
Yep it's possible
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Old 11-14-2007, 10:28 PM
Location: In a room above Mr. Charrington's shop
2,916 posts, read 11,077,142 times
Reputation: 1765
Yes, definitely. It's particularly true if learning a third or fourth language. I'm completely fluent in two languages, speak both as a native, and am told that my annunciation of words and phrases in other languages is quite good. I've spent a fair amount of effort in learning Spanish as my third language, and of the little that I can speak, it has often fooled native speakers that I either learned Spanish as a kid or lived for a long time in a Spanish-speaking country. Neither is true. I would say it's harder to ultimately speak as a native when learning as an adult, simply because adults and children learn languages in different ways, but not impossible.
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Old 11-15-2007, 03:45 AM
Location: in the southwest
13,395 posts, read 45,017,299 times
Reputation: 13599
I wonder if some people are predisposed to accept new languages, and if they get the opportunity, the acquisition just comes naturally?
Riffing on what recycled says, maybe everyone is born with the ability--but growing up with more than one language helps an adult be more receptive. Dunno.

My older son has received (from French people) many compliments on his French, which he began studying in high school. He said he never really *learned* much until college, and did not become fluent until his junior year abroad. He's the only American in his office, so he must be doing okay now.

The one time I was immersed in Spanish, it was only for 3 months, so I will never know how well I might have progressed. I was dreaming it for awhile, but I lost most of it since then.
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Old 11-15-2007, 04:23 AM
Location: Oxford, England
13,026 posts, read 24,625,061 times
Reputation: 20165
Definitely. I am French and only really learnt English "properly" whilst living in the US. I was thrown in at the deep end after a few years of "School English" and in order to survive had to learn as there were no French people around. I read in English, watched tv in English, listened to English on the radio and could only socialised in English. Within 1 month I was pretty much fully conversant, in 3 fluent.

When I moved to England, British people thought I was American, because of my accent, now they think I am English , but because I have no regional accent and speak what is called "BBC English" ( received pronunciation) they always think I have gone to private school ( which I did) !

I have a reasonable aptitude for languages, I think a lot of it is having an ear for sounds and being able to mimic them. Also reading is absolutely crucial as the brain starts to identify patterns in grammar and the way the language flows. Learning parrot fashion IMO is the worst way to learn, total immersion is the only way. You have to start thinking differently basically. A good cultural awareness also really helps. Also I love learning different languages and do not see it as a chore !

I am always amazed at anyone who has spent years in a country and does not speak the language or still has a really heavy accent. How can that be ?!
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:56 PM
Location: Dallas, Texas
3,589 posts, read 4,147,531 times
Reputation: 533
I have a talent for languages and can still fool native French speakers sometimes; I started studying French at 14.

My degree is in French, but the concentration was in applied linguistics. Very few people can attain native fluency with no accent in a foreign language after adulthood because of the way languages are acquired; the brain simply isn't as elastic as you age and the ideal age to acquire another language is in very early childhood. Once you pass a certain age it's practically impossible to become fluent in a foreign language.
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Old 11-16-2007, 11:43 AM
45 posts, read 194,666 times
Reputation: 34
I learned French as an adult (age 21) and could eventually fool French people for the first few minutes of a conversation then they always ended up trying to figure out where I was from. I'm American but no one ever guessed that... so I did OK living there for 4 years, but after being back in the States for 10 years, the American accent creeps in again. It's something you have to continually work on.
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Old 11-16-2007, 01:01 PM
4,273 posts, read 15,251,717 times
Reputation: 3419
It will be tough but I doubt impossible. I think it also depends on your native language and the language you are trying to learn. I am of Chinese heritage so I've met plenty of adults from China trying to learn English and it is tough for them, especialy the R sound. My parents lived in the USA for 20+ years and could never get past conversational (though they weren't surrounded by the language). My bros came to the states in early teens (I was a baby) with bilingual in Porutuguese and Chinese and they speak without accents. My SIL bro came in his early 20s and speaks English pretty well - though still with an accent. I have a friend from school who moved to the States at 18 from Latvia and she speaks English with a slight accent (she's 28 now) but not very noticeable.
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