Why are such big differences between us? Why adults cannot get original accent of native speakers while the children can? Are we able to achieve that? And how we can get it?
I have been studying for a year the French language in a University for foreigner students in France. I can speak communicative French. What I’m trying to tell is that my niece was only four years old when she started school in France. Now she is six old years only and she speaks French as being native speaker. According to her my French accent is not at all in proper way. That for me is the contrary. While I’m speaking to her in French she find my accent French very ugly and she correct me. I try to say words as she says. And I can’t make any distinguish of pronunciation as she can!!!
During my stay there I tried as much as I could to stay with French people in order to get the original accent but I never managed it.
The same thing I’m trying to do with English language but still my English accent is too far away from native speakers. As much as I imitate them it gets much more bad.
I’m wondering how children can get the distinct sounds of the words in such original way? Is it something to do with our skills or our brain or what else? Should we continue to speak no native languages in our own manner or we must struggle it to reach the original accen
> Why adults cannot get original accent of native speakers while the children can?
Because you have practised to pronounce certain sounds in one way and you cannot easily change this unconscious habbit. Another thing is that adult's brains are more tuned to perceive their mother tongue. It makes easier for adult to recognize words spoken in their native language. In fact, adults use much smaller area of their brain to recognize sounds and do it better than chidren because their brain are highly specialized for their native language.
> Are we able to achieve that?
Well, it is possible but it gets more and more difficult with every year after age 7. I think the age at what you began to listen to a foreign language for the first time may be very important, even if you do not understand it at all. Most people who have strong accent even after long time living in the country of the language usually do not hear the difference between their pronunciation and native speakers clearly. As result, the unconscious mechanism of improving through listening does not work for them well.
> Now she is six old years only and she speaks French as being native speaker.
I read one study that marked age 7 before that acquiring authentical pronunciation is not a problem.
> As much as I imitate them it gets much more bad.
Perhaps, you do not hear sounds right, so when you think that you are trying to immitate native speakers, actually you move in the wrong direction.
> I’m wondering how children can get the distinct sounds of the words in such original way?
They naturally use much larger area of brain to distinct sounds and do not have a habbit to move their tongue and lips in only one way.
> Should we continue to speak no native languages in our own manner or we must struggle it to reach the original accen
Slight accent is not a problem, but bad pronunciation is. You should judge your pronunciation by native speakers ears, other criteria are not very reliable.
> Why are such big differences between us? Why adults cannot get original accent of native speakers while the children can? <
Adults can acquire native proficiency as well. Nothing changes after childhood that prevents this. But adults are less motivated and have less opportunity to acquire languages than children do, so it usually takes more time for them to become highly proficient (assuming they even wish to do so).
> Are we able to achieve that? <
Yes. Listen to Tom on this very Web site, and you'll have proof.
> And how we can get it? <
Study and practice!
> I have been studying for a year the French language in a University for foreigner students in France. I can speak communicative French. <
That's about right for a year of study.
> What I’m trying to tell is that my niece was only four years old when she started school in France. Now she is six old years only and she speaks French as being native speaker. <
No, she does not. It may sound that way to you, but rest assured, she doesn't speak like a native. Even the natives don't speak like natives at that age (it takes children many years to become proficient in their native languages).
> According to her my French accent is not at all in proper way. <
She's probably right. Most adult learners place a low priority on eliminating their foreign accents.
> While I’m speaking to her in French she find my accent French very ugly and she correct me. I try to say words as she says. And I can’t make any distinguish of pronunciation as she can!!! <
She gets a lot more practice than you do, and she is more motivated, and probably less inhibited and more open-minded as well.
> I’m wondering how children can get the distinct sounds of the words in such original way? <
> Is it something to do with our skills or our brain or what else? <
Nothing changes in the brain, despite persistent popular myths to this effect.
> Should we continue to speak no native languages in our own manner or we must struggle it to reach the original accen <
You need to pronounce well enough to be understood, which means clearly pronouncing all phonemic differences. It is not necessary for you to eliminate your accent, unless you want to.
I think it's not only about listening skills. I know exactly how native English speakers pronounce a certain word, I can hear it clearly in my head, but I can't produce the same sound out loud because I can't move my tongue, lips etc. in that particular way.
Practice, and you'll eventually be able to do so. Study phonetics; it helps a lot.
I agree with that we can hear sound clearly, but why we can't say clearly?
Because the brain operates differently adults, adults have to work much harder than children to map foreign sounds to their "neural nets" in order to acquire and maintain them. Adults have to contend with using already active parts of the brain to do this: the storing and manipulation of these foreign widgets occurs almost inharmoniously with other unrelated processes that share the same "brain space". New fine motor skills (tongue, lips, etc... for speech) also have to be developed which makes this an even greater ordeal.
On the other hand, in children, the brain is used far more efficiently via the deep motor area for acquiring the skills necessary. It doesn't take children long to acquire and assimilate new sounds into their speech permanently.
Most of this is mythology. Nobody has ever proved a physiological change in the brain that makes language learning different (or more difficult) for adults than for children; and there are many alternate explanations for the observed differences that linguists stubbornly refuse to consider.
This is unfortunate, because the myth that "adults can never learn a language as well as children" is very widespread, even though it is baseless. The myth discourages many adult learners from even trying, since they assume that it's impossible for them to ever attain native proficiency. But it's not impossible at all. It's just not easy (but it's not easy for children, either, despite appearances).
<<It may sound that way to you, but rest assured, she doesn't speak like a native. Even the natives don't speak like natives at that age>>
If natives don't speak like natives, who does. I think she meant that she speaks like a native speaker of her age. Forgive me for saying so, but I'm quite sure she realized that her niece did not speak exactly like an adult. That is the same in any language. I don't mean to be confrontational, but it seems as though you believe that ana can not distinguish the difference between adult and child native speakers.
It's OK Adam because I was confronted. ;)
But you're right: the point is, overall, her niece speaks and has the accent of a native adult. You can't expect a child to have the vocab of an adult.
It's no myth and these ideas don't essentially come from linguistics; these explanations are given by neuroscientists who understand it better than us.
The brain's potential might be the same at most ages but the key is the way in which the brain is utilised: this is what is different among adults and children. The article suggests this, as adults are better suited than children at doing certain cognitive activities while children's brains are more specialised for language acquisition, for example. Children don't only look different physically, but they think and behave differently to adults. Considering the physiological aspect in terms of hormones (be they levels,distributions...): we can see differences, as groups of adults compared to children grouped, respond to stimuli differently.
Of course, adults have the same potential for learning language as children but it's evident that adults don't, because, well, they don't. The proof is manifested all around you in everyday life: it's easy to pick out the migrant from the crowd and you won't meet a migrant without an accent.
There's nothing unfortunate in it unless you use it as a crutch for discouragement; like it or lump it, that's life. Life wasn't meant to be easy and it's not as easy and as rosy for adults as it is children. There are way more miserable adults than there are children but don't let that discourage you either.
I'm sorry for being confrontational, it just bothers me when someone speaks in a belittling way to someone for no reason whatsoever.
Adults probably find it harder to learn a foreign language than the children do, not only because their brain is somehow different, but also because they have more things to think about, they are not careless like children, they worry about some everyday problems etc. Besides, it is normal that we learn faster when we are young. When we get older, we don't remember things that easily anymore. But when it comes to the accent, I can't achieve a native accent at the age of 25, because I have already learnt to move my lips and tongue in a certain way and now it is hard to change it.
That's what I mean by children having a easier and rosier life. If you could balance the situation between adults and children by taking away the everday worries of adults, it still wouldn't be an even playing field. As an example, take foreign teachers teaching a second language who devote n time to their craft. After decades of learning and teaching their second language, they still retain their original accent. If they truly want to adopt a new accent, they have to devise elaborate methods and regimens which seem very artificial; for children it's more natural and less structured.
<<< Most of this is mythology. >>>
It depends on what you call by 'this' here. If you refer to "adults can never learn a language as well as children", then I totally agree; but I cannot accept with your assertion:
<<<Nobody has ever proved a physiological change in the brain that makes language learning different (or more difficult) for adults than for children.>>>
There are more than enough evidence that children, especially at age 5, do not learn a second language as adults. Whether it is more difficult to learn a second language or not depends on definition what is 'difficult'. Becuase adults and children follow different strategies, the straight comporision is impossible.
I think there are two main reasons why language learning considers more difficult for adults than children.
First, the language gap between two adults who speak different languages is much larger than between two children. Establishing relation with peers is a very important in language acquisition. Obviously, it is much easier for children than adults because of the smaller language gap.
Second, adults use a lot of conscious efforts to learn a second language, that makes them feel that it is difficult, while children unconsciously pick up the language, so they do not perceived it as a difficult mental task.
On the other hand, adults have their own advantage. They can use their ability to abstract thinking to deal with the formal grammar. It gives them significant advantage in the beginning, especially in writing, where there is enough time to consciously use the rules of grammar. Even if adults use only a few basic grammar rules consciously, it may be still a significant improve their writing compare to those who do learn these rules consciously and have to wait until the corresponding grammar items will develop naturally. Another significant advantage of adults is that they have better memory than children and, in general, can remember more complex paterns of speech and put them to use immediately.
Unfortunately, many adults overestimate the importance of grammar rules and do not pay enough attention to receiving authentic input, which needed to develop unconscious grammar. Proficiency that one can reach through conscious following grammar rules is very limited, so many adults find they stuck at some level and cannot move forward. They try to learn more grammar rules and do more exercises, but it seems do not work, and they become discourage.
There is another serious problem -- some ESL teachers grossly misinterpret neurogical data in the way that adults cannot pick up a second language as children do. It is wrong, of course. All what adults need is meaningful authentic input, which is more difficult to find for adults. The reason for that is that adults got used to communicate using more complex and abstract thoughts and their meaning often cannot be guessed from observing environment as it is the case for children. Also the larger language gap makes more difficult for adults to find friends among native speakers, which is an important factor in a language in the natural way. There are some other factors too, for example, time -- adults are more busy with their bussness and carrying about threir children, so acquiring a new language is not high on their agenda as for children, which are unconscious driven to integration in a new environement through acquiring the language.