Why does it seem foreigners speak English better?

VCraft

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"I learned from playing video games on PS1 and Gameboy, I wanted to know why Barret in FF7 had no chill"

Almost the same here :) I started to learn English to understand the story of lots of different rpg games, including Final Fantasy Tactics. Lots of RPG games simply were not available in my native language - Russian. I remember how I was making translation notes to every new word and phrase during the first playthrough, and then, to my surprise, most of them pop-upped in my memory without dictionary during the second playthrough.
Meanwhile I started to learn the grammar to understand the logic of the language (for example it's hard just to remember without a rule why English speakers say "I go, but he goes", at the same time " I can, and he can", etc.).
Then I applied the same learning method to books. I was making notes of every new word that I read, and then lots of them pop-upped when I started reading the same book for the second time. Though, I guess I will not recognize some of them today since it's hard to read or to hear some of English words outside of English literature.

At any rate, I can confirm that it's possible to learn a language mostly through entertainment (video games, movies, youtube, books) + by learning some rules to understand the logic of the language.
Currently I speak and write without issue, even though I do mistakes sometimes, it's enough to understand each other and that's the most important thing.
 

Touchfuzzy

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So, one of the things I'll say is that with working on the RPG Maker team, I've worked with a lot of people all over the world.

My English is good. I can write well. I mean, a large part of my job is just getting ideas across to people with the written word.

And a lot of people I've worked with have various levels of English proficiency. But even among the non-native speakers who have the absolute best English, I still get asked to go back and edit their work if it is going to be a public facing post.

The reason is that communicating in English is not just getting things GRAMMATICALLY correct, there are also a million small rules that native speakers use that no one ever talks about. It's just how we talk. We use bits of slang, we shorten certain ideas, etc.

There are even some ways of organizing your thoughts that are 100% accurate grammatically that no native speaker would actually say.

In my experience, people who speak English as a second language don't speak it better on average. The ones who studied it well will tend to have a much less intuitive but more structured understanding of English grammar. but they don't tend to know the rest of what makes the language flow.

Also, another point on this subject: In a place like this, that is an English forum, you are seeing a selected subsection of people who don't speak it natively: People who speak it well enough to feel comfortable here. I imagine there are plenty of second language English speakers who would never come here because it is hard on them as they don't have the proficiency. (Having been to Japan, I can tell you despite the fact that they learn English in school, I still ordered most of my food by pointing at the menu and smiling. The occasional person spoke enough to communicate an idea, but it was fairly broken. That said, good for them, I can't speak any Japanese at all).
 
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TheoAllen

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My best guess is that native English speakers don't need to speak it "well" because let's be honest, you can largely completely mangle a sentence in English and still understand what it's meant to say.
This is an interesting take, but hear me out as a non-native.
If I were to read a grammatically broken text from a fellow non-native, I would still understand them. So that statement is also true for two non-native talks in English to each other.

But when people keep pointing out that your grammar is broken, we have no choice but to get better at it, or at least at the grammar/structure level.

When I hear foreigners speak English, it tends to be an overly formal version of the language, not how natives talk to one another on a daily basis. So, foreigners aren't speaking English better than natives, they're just using the language differently, often very formally.
This is also true in our language. The textbook and online tutorials are often used the formal language of our language while we do not even use that on a daily basis. Someone actually talks to me using a formal language with the help of google translate and it feels so weird. I guess English suffered the same thing huh.
 

Bandito

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Nobody has told me that...ever. But Americans have told me that I know some "complicated" words, but most of the time it is because they use these strange phrases (or idioms?) to call stuff.

An example is conjunctivitis vs pink eye. The "pink eye" term (phrase, idiom...?) doesn't exist in Spanish, so I learned the "right" way to call the disease.
 

Finnuval

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My secret as a non-native english speaker?

Well my parents had a lot of native English speaking Friends (britts, Americans, Irish, Scotts, etc) who visited frequently. So i learned to speak and understand english pretty Young. Different accents aswell.

Then i also watched a lot of BBC as a kid since they had the better cartoons lol

And it was mandatory in school,so... Yeah
 

Bandito

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I basically learned English watching cartoons lmao
My secret as a non-native english speaker?

Well my parents had a lot of native English speaking Friends (britts, Americans, Irish, Scotts, etc) who visited frequently. So i learned to speak and understand english pretty Young. Different accents aswell.

Then i also watched a lot of BBC as a kid since they had the better cartoons lol

And it was mandatory in school,so... Yeah
 

Liny_An

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To be honest, I don't think non-native speakers are better at English. I think it's more of a psychological bias where we know it's not their first language, and we are impressed that they still can speak it properly. So in our mind, by comparison, we come to the conclusion that they speak better English, when in reality it's just that they have a really good level considering it's not their first language.

I've also seen a lot of non-native speakers apologize for their English when they haven't made any mistake, because they are not very confident with themselves and don't want someone to misinterpret what they said. So when we see that they apologize even though their English is more than correct, we end up thinking they're better than a native who wouldn't apologize for potential mistakes they made while writing.

PS: I'm non-native
 
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VCraft

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There is also one more factor to take into account :smile:

If you see someone communicate in English as a non-native speaker - most likely their level is at least intermediate and they keen to learn, keen to be educated. Such people give a positive impression even if their English is far from prefect, simply because of polite and educated manner of speaking.

polite cat.jpg

Most likely you will never experience how non-native thugs and bandits speak in English simply because of their unwillingness to start learning a foreign language.
 

HarlekinLehl

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It just happened... Learned basic english in school, found the language cool as a kid. Daily internet activity helps too. Nowadays I play every game in english language and watch movies in english as well sometimes. Sometimes people correct you. You can always learn. If you try to say something but don't know how to say it you can always google.
 

Arctica

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This doesn't only apply to the English Language, it's just more noticeable because it's the 3rd most spoken language in the world and the first among all second languages spoken. What tends to bug me is some ESL speakers being posers(trying to act american), yeah don't do that, just be yourself.

Anyway, SL speakers are taught languages differently than native speakers. There's higher emphasis on grammar, leading them to adhere to the rules more than the spoken version that natives adhere to.

I can say though that I know at least one person who does speak it better than me and so well that it may as well be her second native language. Sometimes I forget that her L1 is Finnish. Yes, you can achieve such a high level that it is equal to that of your native language.
 
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