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Poll: Have you ever been mistaken for a native speaker of your second (or third, etc.) language?
מפרסם התגובה: ProZ.com Staff

ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 12:09
צוות האתר
Aug 15, 2018

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Have you ever been mistaken for a native speaker of your second (or third, etc.) language?".

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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 12:09
חבר (2003)
מספרדית לאנגלית
+ ...
Yes Aug 15, 2018

Rarely now, but when my husband was alive and we spoke Portuguese at home and with friends, many people mistook me for a native speaker.

 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
דנמרק
Local time: 21:09
חבר (2003)
מדנית לאנגלית
+ ...
Assumed rather than mistaken Aug 15, 2018

It does not always occur to people that I am not a native speaker, until I tell them.
I am sometimes asked where I come from, and they guess an area they don't know. They are often surprised when I say I am from England.

A former classmate told me at a school reunion recently that I sound just as I did 50 years ago (speaking English) - is that good or bad??


Natalia Pedrosa
 

Teresa Borges
פורטוגל
Local time: 20:09
חבר (2007)
מאנגלית לפורטוגזית
+ ...
Yes Aug 15, 2018

Rarely now that I’m back in Portugal, but when I lived in Belgium I used to visit Paris quite often and people there mistook me for a native speaker from the North of France…

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
ספרד
Local time: 21:09
מספרדית לאנגלית
+ ...
Yes Aug 15, 2018

Quite often. But whenever I go back to the UK, my Scots accent gets stronger and it takes me a while to become more "Spanish" upon my return.

Natalia Pedrosa
 

Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
צרפת
Local time: 21:09
חבר (2007)
מגרמנית לצרפתית
+ ...
It happens Aug 15, 2018

Not a lot, not rarely. But it depends on the language. Never happened (and is never going to happen! ) in English. Used to happen in German. Happens quite a lot in Russian. But it depends as much on the person listening as on the person speaking. My Russian is by no way that of a native, but I came to the conclusion that it is so unusual to Russians that a foreigner speaks their language more or less colloquially that they can't b... See more
Not a lot, not rarely. But it depends on the language. Never happened (and is never going to happen! ) in English. Used to happen in German. Happens quite a lot in Russian. But it depends as much on the person listening as on the person speaking. My Russian is by no way that of a native, but I came to the conclusion that it is so unusual to Russians that a foreigner speaks their language more or less colloquially that they can't believe it when it happens. I also wonder if the Soviet area melting pot makes them more open to regarding people speaking a fluent Russian with a strong accent and/or some mistakes as natives...
Again about "the person listening": I happened to be mistaken for a German by some "common Germans", but I also remember a translators powwow in Munich: I'd been here for a while when a fellow translator joined: I only said a couple of words to greet her and she said straight away: "you're French!" Er... I must admit I was a bit piqued She was herself French, so maybe it was something else that let her guess, my way of moving/dressing/acting or whatever, but nonetheless: she was a much more attentive listener than "a common German".
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Natalia Pedrosa
 

Catherine De Crignis  Identity Verified
צרפת
Local time: 21:09
חבר (2012)
מאנגלית לצרפתית
+ ...
Regularly Aug 15, 2018

Americans tend to assume I’m British, Indians (living in India) will simply not believe I am not British until I’ve shown them my passport, whereas elderly (!) English people think I’m from South Africa or Zimbabwe. Londoners often place me somewhere near Sweden, but since I don’t look Swedish, they end up asking where I come from - only the nosy ones
Only those brought up speaking both French and English guess I’
... See more
Americans tend to assume I’m British, Indians (living in India) will simply not believe I am not British until I’ve shown them my passport, whereas elderly (!) English people think I’m from South Africa or Zimbabwe. Londoners often place me somewhere near Sweden, but since I don’t look Swedish, they end up asking where I come from - only the nosy ones
Only those brought up speaking both French and English guess I’m French, especially now I don’t speak English every single day and am more likely to say things like "semi marathon" instead of "half marathon".
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Laura Nagle
 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
גרמניה
Local time: 21:09
חבר (2009)
מאנגלית לגרמנית
+ ...
Yes Aug 15, 2018

The Dutch find it hard to believe that I'm not American (so do quite a few Americans, too).

A few years back an American friend of mine brought along one of his Irish friends. When one of my German friends joined us, knowing very little English, she and I spoke German, whereupon the Irish man seriously and in all honesty asked: where did you learn to speak such good German?


Natalia Pedrosa
 

Laura Nagle  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 15:09
חבר (2009)
מצרפתית לאנגלית
+ ...
Occasionally Aug 15, 2018

When I meet native speakers of French, they sometimes think I'm a native speaker with an accent they can't quite place. Having spent time in several regions of France and a few different cities in Québec, I think my spoken French is a real mish-mash of influences at this point, which suits me fine!

 

Jan Truper  Identity Verified
גרמניה
Local time: 21:09
חבר (2016)
מאנגלית לגרמנית
Yes Aug 15, 2018

As a German living in the U.S.A., quite a few people assumed that I hailed from South Africa.

 

R-i-c-h-a-r-d  Identity Verified
ברזיל
Local time: 16:09
חבר (2006)
מפורטוגזית לאנגלית
+ ...
Sometimes, but very rarely. Aug 15, 2018

As a native English speaker living in the north of Brazil, I sometimes get curious questions along the lines of "you're not from around here, are you?" in the usual Brazilian warm and friendly way, which never offends me. I've been asked if I'm from Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, USA - people can't quite grasp my accent, but they know I'm not "from around here". However, if someone I know well criticises my accent, I sometimes retort with "you should hear yourself, mate", which can be quite rude. Th... See more
As a native English speaker living in the north of Brazil, I sometimes get curious questions along the lines of "you're not from around here, are you?" in the usual Brazilian warm and friendly way, which never offends me. I've been asked if I'm from Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, USA - people can't quite grasp my accent, but they know I'm not "from around here". However, if someone I know well criticises my accent, I sometimes retort with "you should hear yourself, mate", which can be quite rude. The fact is, certain languages do not transition well into others, and the later you learn to speak a foreign language the more pronounced your accent could be. That's what makes us who we are though, and I can still identify a Scandinavian, German, Portuguese, French, Australian, American accent, etc, at the swish of a lamb's tail. There's nothing wrong with that.

[Edited at 2018-08-15 15:41 GMT]
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Alexandra Speirs  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
מאיטלקית לאנגלית
+ ...
Yes Aug 15, 2018

And as a northern Italian, having picked up the local accent.
Unlike other native English speakers I know, who still sound as though they just arrived ....
But some people have a facility for assimilating the language.
I have an Indian friend who has lived in Manchester for 40 years and sounds just like a local, whereas her husband has not.


Natalia Pedrosa
 

Vanda Nissen  Identity Verified
אוסטרליה
Local time: 05:09
חבר (2008)
מאנגלית לרוסית
+ ...
Correct Aug 15, 2018

Sophie Dzhygir wrote:
I also wonder if the Soviet area melting pot makes them more open to regarding people speaking a fluent Russian with a strong accent and/or some mistakes as natives...

Yes, that is correct. Generally, Russians are tolerant to different accents especially when your grammar is good.

I have a distinctive Slavic accent but people mostly think I was born in Poland (including Polish Australians when I speak Polish).


 

Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
ברזיל
Local time: 16:09
חבר (2014)
מאנגלית לפורטוגזית
+ ...
Used to Aug 16, 2018

This used to happen a lot when I studied in American schools (1979-1986) and when I worked in Canadian companies (2008-2013). Since I quit WorleyParsons in 2013 and became a full-time freelance translator, it never happened again.

 

Sophie Dzhygir  Identity Verified
צרפת
Local time: 21:09
חבר (2007)
מגרמנית לצרפתית
+ ...
Reverse mistake Aug 16, 2018

Thayenga wrote:

A few years back an American friend of mine brought along one of his Irish friends. When one of my German friends joined us, knowing very little English, she and I spoke German, whereupon the Irish man seriously and in all honesty asked: where did you learn to speak such good German?

Oh, yeah, I had that too! Some years ago, I used (as a hobby) to go on tour with a Russian choir, and I would make several speeches along the show to explain who they are, what they sing, and so on. At the end, people would come and congratulate the singers, and not rarely did they congratulate me for my so good French. Er, sure !
I think it happened in other situations too. The mindset of the listener is very important. When you're in a setting where the listener has a reason to think you might be a foreigner, they sometimes begin to believe they hear a foreign accent in your talk - whereas there's none.


 
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