Fossilization: Ways to Overcome
The message I get from reading this site is that once you start speaking a language, the way you speak the language when you start speaking it is the way you generally will always speak it. In general, once you start to be able to speak the language on a practical level, you generally won't be able to change the way you speak. If you speak like a native, you will continue to speak like a native; if you don't, then it's unlikely you ever will.
I have someone I know who is native Chinese and is teaching here in America, but she admits her accent isn't the clearest. And it is relatively thick, but it works on a practical level. She seems to agree with the Antimoon founders that she was already speaking the language and that she got interested in listening too late and she was speaking too soon. Now, she is living and working in an English-speaking country, so I had to tell her that I didn't know anyway for her to improve. I thought that perhaps if she could refrain from using English, she could unlearn the way she was using it before and listen and then learn new ways. But she's able to do it practically now, and it seems it would be difficult for her to change.
She does have a large English vocabulary, though.
It is POSSIBLE to improve and change. I was thinking about Steve K, and Krashen, but I don't know if I buy this listen, listen, listen stuff. I recommend doing an accent reduction course and shadowing if accent is the problem area.
If we really dug in and looked at language problems what would we find? Are people continuing to work on the areas that are easiest for them? If grammar or reading is easy, do they keep their focus there?
I think we have to look at our weak parts in language acquisition and make serious efforts in those areas where we AREN'T as good.
If you want to you can overcome it, though there are a lot of people who find practical to be enough and that don't bother. It's not that they can't , it's just they're satisfied.
I agree with K. T. Some people do seem to get it right with just listening, but most of us have to work on it at some point. I think that shadowing (or echoing) is an excellent method. Pick a recording or an announcer you like, and follow that as closely as possible. Pay attention to the intonation, not just the sounds. Record yourself and compare, to see where your weak points are.
In addition, you might take a look at a textbook which describes the sounds in the language. Some people (especially experienced polyglots), can pick up the sounds just from listening, but if it is something unusual for you (e.g., the retroflex sounds in Mandarin, flapped 'r' in Japanese), it pays to read about how the sounds are produced. But I'd do this AFTER a lot of listening--the explanations will then make more sense.
And by the way, it is definitely possible to improve. I had a professor who originally had a strong Hungarian accent when he came to the States. His accent now is almost indistinguishable from American-born English speakers.
Immersion in your target language country is the best way to improve your accent. All of this shadowing, accent reduction techniques don't cut at an adult level. I have done all of this and I improved a little. Learning a language on your own can be tedious after a while. I think people like Tom and Michal are an exception to the rule and in general people can not get impressive results as far as speaking with a native like accent is concerned.
Immersion is not the best way. I know people who've lived in America for 30 years yet retain a strong accent.
Hmm, I think a lot of people here are forgetting what Antimoon's founders are saying: If someone produces output too early it'll limit how much they can improve.
I do wonder, however, if there aren't ways around it.
How about singing lots of songs in English to get a better hang of the sounds and intonation?
>>If you speak like a native, you will continue to speak like a native; if you don't, then it's unlikely you ever will.
It also happens to my linguistics prof. who sounded like... excuse me, really, like a duck and Mr. Bean. I think he's kind of joking, but he seems to have got stuck at the intermediate level and, despite having a native wife, he did admit his accent was kind of fossilized. (so, actually, he was joking with the same intonation... it sounds like a laowai trying to try Cantonese on us with an intended funny accent...)
and during discussions, he hinted that one of the things he used was Teach Yourself and Colloquial Cantonese. It's been somewhat unfortunate for me to "have" this language. British and American books alike tend to butcher Chinese into some weird romanizations... now that we have pinyin, the worst butchered is Cantonese. If I do it, I'd probably rely on older r's too, but ultimately you should go without r ... or use Jyutping/offical romanization from time to time.
Unlike Mandarin, Cantonese is a rather WFC language (yeah, I say), no exams for quali. whatsoever, so the two r's I recommend above are also pretty much limited to academic use. This is just like learning, for example, Sichuan-style Mandarin. You'd have no pinyin and, if you want to sound native, you should only listen.... since all these are largely oral only.
>>I recommend doing an accent reduction course and shadowing if accent is the problem area.
If you've read the above, then you know why our African American friend is right. What did he say? "People keep on making lame excuses".
Apart from the various accents I've written about, I personally find it true that, as some linguists put it, "parents don't teach children their language. They only correct them when they say things wrongly." If you see a horse, which has a long neck and four legs, your parents say "horse" (with their native accent, in English, I suppose). But when you see a deer as well, which has a long neck and four legs as well, you just can't say "horse" because your parents know it must be a "deer", so you say deer from now on.
And thru the years, in your country, you learn from natives who correct you for information, rather than accent or grammar. Even if I meet you and we are good adult friends, and even if you and I are patient and rather long-winded (imagine I'm talking like in this written form), chances are I find it troublesome to dissect a single phrase .... natives aren't usually expected to (long-winded) teachers.
>>All of this shadowing, accent reduction techniques don't cut at an adult level. I have done all of this and I improved a little.
On one hand, I suspect that I have good AS WELL as patient ears for shadowing. But on the other, I, too, find it difficult to sound native enough - I'm either under- or over-doing it.
In my best "foreign" language, I still sound like a southerner, though not the stereotyped southerner. I should be picking up multiple accents and aim for the CCTV accent, but the latter is "too" standard for me. I don't speak as "standard" as my relatives too...
haha, I think I wouldn't like RP as I'm me and even if I were a Brit. There are certain accents to be imitated, if you like them, and some others only to be understood.
I'd also say fossilization is an artificial academic construct, but can be explained practically in real practice. For one thing, parents (at least mine) don't correct (at least my) pronunciation. For another, people want to save face by not letting others to lose their own, so personally I never really correct others... probably except that I want to tell them some new words (new small talks, i.e.).
How do couples teach their children to speak? If I wouldn't be a teacher of my language, I'd probably..... just do it without any instructions.
Random comments on your post.
'>>I recommend doing an accent reduction course and shadowing if accent is the problem area.
If you've read the above, then you know why our African American friend is right. What did he say? "People keep on making lame excuses".'
What African American friend do you mean, Xie?
"If you see a horse, which has a long neck and four legs, your parents say "horse" (with their native accent, in English, I suppose). But when you see a deer as well, which has a long neck and four legs as well, you just can't say "horse" because your parents know it must be a "deer", so you say deer from now on."_Xie
I got 馬鹿 reference. I don't use this word in Japanese. Instead I
say "kaba no sakadachi" 河馬の逆立ち as a euphemism.
About Shadowing: It works for me. I don't use it all the time, but I'll do it if I have a tough word or phrase with many syllables. I will also listen to difficult passages as many times as it takes for me to nail it. This doesn't happen often, but it does happen to me with longer words in Russian.
Advice to Xie:
Don't be too colloquial with your abbreviations or cultural references. Just because we're native English speakers does not mean we are experts in Orwell. Most people will look at you strangely if you mention "newspeak" in a conversation. Even if we have read the book we've probably forgotten what it was all about.
That is friendly advice by the way. Please don't just shrug it off or make excuses. I'm trying to help you improve your writing skills.
"For another, people want to save face by not letting others to lose their own, so personally I never really correct others..."
This is real issue in language and culture. Smart learners will ask for correction.
This is only specific to this forum, so I won't bother... let us save words by having an understanding. When u know what that is, I don't have to put it in multiple words.
But yes, thanks for pointing this out. there is certain vocab I won't use to certain natives, and in certain situations... Very often, intolerant are the people who never try to be understanding and bash others behind them... I find it one of the principal reasons of learning a language well for social reasons, but I've met far too many language "students" who treat ppl far worse than animals - this is another proverb, actually. We say someone is treated worse than a dog when s/he is being treated very badly.
I know, I know, there is certain hypocrisy among self-proclaimed cultured people, and I'd say there is some such in myself too, but I've always had a grudge against quite a few wannabes ... I'd admire successful learners for their work, no matter what else they do that has nothing to do with me, but they are far outnumbered by guys who claim fluency after a few Pimsleur lessons.
(that's chit-chat, ignore it if you dont like; never read my things from start to end)