27 February 2011

Who is Native Speaker?

The first time I learn English, the term native speaker is familiar to me. At that time, what I know about a native speaker of English is he/she who was born in that language. But, after reading McKay's book I found that it is not that simple.

Someone is called native speaker not only because he/she was born in that society. Davies (1991) mentioned that a native language is the first language learned in which he/she achieve high degree of competence and linguistic intuition. However, related to competence, someone who was born in a certain language may not attain a high level of proficiency. In addition, someone who comes from Outer Circle can achieve a high level of proficiency through personal motivation and effort.

According to Rampton (1990), some features of native speaker are:
- it is inherited, through genetic or birth into specific social group
- can speak it well
- it is or not the mother tongue
- having comprehensive grasp of a language
- being a citizen in one country

However, an individual can belong to more than one social and it means he/she can acquire more than one languages in her/his childhood. An individual who moves from one group to another group may also change his/her native language.

Then, Rampton suggested to change the term 'native' into 'expertise'. There are some advantages in his view, such as:
- Experts don't have to feel close to what they expert about. It is different form identification
- It is learned, not innate
- It is relative, you can be an expert on something which another person's fool.
- It is partial
- To be called an expert, an individual should go through certification judged by other people.

However, it also raises question. What are the basis that is used to get the certification? How to access the expert?

Cook (1999), then, suggested the term 'L2 user' to distinct from L2 learner. Pakir (1999a) had same idea. He preferred to call they who use English alongside with another language as 'English-knowing bilinguals'. It emphasized the idea that they are not in the process of learning.

Well, what are you? Can we call ourselves as bilingual user of English? Or bilingual teacher of English?


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