What should I do to sound more like a native speaker?


Tip-of-the-week6Wanna sound more like a native speaker? Oh, I’m gonna say this over and over again ’till you do it:

1. Work on your pronunciation.

Use linking sound and reduced speech form when you’re speaking – like I just did: wanna, gonna’till are the examples of reduced speech form.

2. Learn idioms (common English expressions).

3. Learn collocations.

I’m going to focus in this article on the problems most ESL learners may have with vocabulary use, particularly with the appropriate use of the word combination.

Collocations are words that normally go together in written and spoken English. They make your English sound more natural and native-like. When you use the wrong collocation, the native speakers would say – “Well, it doesn’t sound right, we don’t say it like that in English…”

The tricky part is that there are no English grammar rules can tell how and when certain words go together, you simply have to develop “the feel” of how words are naturally used. The native English speakers intuitively make the correct collocation, based on a lifetime’s experience of hearing and reading the words in set combinations. The non-native speakers have a more limited experience and may frequently collocate words in a way that sounds odd to the native speakers.

We may say “high mountains” and “tall trees”, but never tall mountains and high trees. Similarly a man can be tall – “tall man”, but never high – high man (except in the sense of being intoxicated: smoking pot or taking drugs!). We “get old” and “get tired”, but we “go bald” or “go grey”. We “get sick” but we “fall ill”. “A big house”, “a large house” and “a great house” have the same meaning, but “a great man” is not the same as “a big man” or “a large man”. You can “make a big mistake” or “make a great mistake”, but you cannot make a large mistake. You can be “a little sad” but not a little happy. We say “very pleased” and “very tiny”, but we do not say very delightedorvery huge. And so on … and so on.

So you think learning collocations is so darn difficult, huh? 😀 Well, it’s not that difficult, but it’s not that easy either. My advice is to listen more to the native spekers: how they pronounce the words and how they use the words or phrases in their sentences. You might be wondering how do I do that? I don’t have native speaker friends. Simple! Watching English movies and listening to English podcasts are good ways of doing that. Check out this article. It has a list of 10 English websites that have numerous of listening podcasts.

See if you know the correct collocations in answer to the following questions:

1. The opposite of strong tea is weak tea. What is the opposite of …

– strong cigarettes

– a strong wind

– a strong smell

2. What is the usual way of describing someone who smokes a lot? Choose one from the list.

a big smoker

a strong smoker

a hard smoker

a heavy smoker

a furious smoker

3. What is the opposite of sweet wine?

4. The following collocations are incorrect. Can you sort them out?

– to get in a building

– to get on a car

– to go in a ship


2 thoughts on “What should I do to sound more like a native speaker?

  1. Actually I’m not really sure with my answers. I have no idea for number 1. Number 2, the answer is a heavy smoker. And number 3, I dunno the opposite even in bahasa. And the last , Get in the car. Is that true?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Difiya! Thank you for trying. Here are the answers:
    1. The opposite of …
    – strong cigarettes — mild cigarettes
    – strong wind — light wind
    – strong smell — faint smell
    2. a heavy smoker
    3. The opposite of sweet wine is dry wine.
    4. to get in a car; to get on a ship; to go in a building


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