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Can you be a native speaker of English if you were born in another country?

August 6, 2019 , by Dr Julian Northbrook

Here’s a question: “Can you be a native speaker of English if you were born in another country?”


And if you think you can, you simply don’t understand what the word “native” means.

Watch this video:

From Your Dictionary:



Native is defined as someone born in a particular region or something that grows naturally in a region.


The definition of a native is a person who was born in a particular location or a person who lives in a particular location.



(plural native speakers)

A person who grew up with a particular language as their mother tongue.

When people learning English speak of “native” English, what they really mean is nativelike English – i.e. high proficiency in the language.

Yes, you can attain a nativelike proficiency in English regardless of where you are (or when you start) providing your willing to put in the time and effort. But that won’t make you a “native” of the language. Nothing in the definition of the word “native” denotes proficiency in the language (and there are plenty of native speakers who can’t use their language well for shit… but that’s a whole other kettle of fish). So “native” or “non-native” really means nothing other than whether English is your first or second language. How well you speak it is irrelevant.

Now, I say, “No” but I guess there is an exception:

If you were born in, say, Japan or Sweeden or wherever and you moved to the UK or, say, Australia, at a very young age and “learned” English ask your first language (along with all the cultural conditioning that goes with that).

But that’s a totally different thing…

Now, I can’t help you to be a “native” speaker because that’s impossible.

But I can help you to become a nativelike speaker (providing you’re willing to put in some serious time and effort).

The first place to go is here, and add yourself to the notification list for my MEF Accelerator course.


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