“Are You a Native Speaker of English?”: Exploring What It Means to be a “Non-Native, Native Speaker”

By Wai In Chan

Awhile ago, when I read Van Herk’s (2012) chapter on language and place, I noticed the chapter (3) started with an example (p. 25) that really resonated with me. In addition, our discussion in class on “native speakerism” (the idea that native speakers are more qualified to teach a language than non-native speakers) and ethnicity, really got me thinking about my own language situation in Canada. It made me think of the following two reverse scenarios that happened recently in my life.

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Native vs non-native teachers: Accents and culture

Simon Desmarais – Blog post 1

Over the course of my life, I have devoted a lot of time to learn languages. I come from a small town in Québec, so my first language is French, but since about 2009 I have been living my life mainly in English (as a result of frequent traveling and studying at McGill). I have also spent some time learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese. Even though by linguistic definition I am a L2 speaker of English, I am now at a point where I consider myself even more than near-native: I have a slight accent, but I possess the same language intuition as native speakers.

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Reflecting on my Language Biography

Maxime Lavallée

Hello! Having grown up in several countries and spoken different varieties of the same languages in different places, I decided to begin with a brief timeline for some context.

  • Born in Quebec to French-Speaking parents.
    • Native speaker of French.
  • Moved from Quebec to California at the age of nine.
    • Became a minority language speaker of French.
      • No prior knowledge of English before moving to California.
    • Went to primary school in English.
    • Continued on to high school in English.
      • Became indistinguishable from native speakers of English.
      • Adopted Californian vernacular and accent.
    • Moved to Australia at the age of sixteen.
      • Had to adapt to Australian English.
        • New vocabulary, sentence structure, cultural norms, spelling, and more.
          • Over time, adopted Australian vernacular and accent.
    •  Moved back to Quebec at the age of twenty-one.
      • Had to acclimate myself to Montreal English.
        • New vocabulary and cultural norms very different from Australia.
      • Found a job and made some serious improvements to my stagnating French.
      • Began to learn Spanish.
      • Adopted Montreal English vernacular and accent

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