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Native in a 2nd Language?

I've been told by many 'Polyglots', websites, and language teachers that no one can ever be native in a 2nd+ language.

"One can be fluent to an extent, but not perfectly, so not native" - Highschool French Teacher

Well, I'm one of those poor college kids as of this year, and decided to look for a language-based job. Most of them required you to be native in two or more languages. Only a few asked for "business proficiency", most stated "native".

Did I need to grow up with the language to be Native, or is it a level in the business field?

Any opinions or facts would greatly help.

September 25, 2017



Hmmm. I have a friend who speaks English as a second language, and she speaks it as well as she speaks French. However, she says French is her native language... I've always taken native to mean the language you grew up speaking, and I don't think the people who created those job requirements used the word correctly... I think its pretty clear though that they meant you had to be very fluent. :)


technically you could be native in 2 languages if you were raised bilingual. i see native as a language you're raised with and taught from birth. I don't think it's ever a level you could reach but fluency is.


I was raised bilingual but stopped using one of those two mother tongues after moving out of the country as a teenager, now I consider myself more fluent in English which I started learning when I was already a teenager but that I have been using every day for more than ten years of my adult life... So "native" doesn't mean much (compare a typical teenager and an English literature college professor, who are both native English speakers, and I think you'll see my point).
When they put "native" in the job requirements they often just want you to have absolutely no problem communicating in that specific language, so they basically mean "very fluent".


I have the same view.


You don't have to meet 100% of the job's listed criteria to interview for it. That's something I've learned from watching some of my friends. They are good at going out and getting jobs whenever they move or when the economy drops and they get laid off. They don't wait to find a job they are perfect for. If someone has a stronger application than you, that person will probably get the job. But, if you end up being the strongest applicant, you'll get hired.

Where my friends get hired and aren't a perfect fit, the jobs often provide skills training or gives them time to learn through experience where they are allowed to make some mistakes so long as they are putting in a lot of initiative to train themselves with resources on hand and outside resources to fill in gaps in their knowledge.

If you're worried about your interviewing skills, try what my friend does. Several times a year, he applies for out of state or far away jobs and gets phone interviewed. He gets several offers. But, doesn't necessarily plan to move out of state. (Though, he did finally move for one of those jobs.) All of his interview practice and research into how to interview has built his interviewing skills and reduced his interviewing performance anxiety. :)

As for requests for a "native" speaker, not every job that lists it is looking for the same thing. My friend is a native speaker in both Spanish and English. But, there are people who have learned Spanish later in life that have developed stronger Spanish skills than she has. Again, I would encourage you to interview for it if it is a job you really want. You don't have to lie during the interview.


No one can quantify whether or not you're "native." That description is really strange. If you're C2 proficient in a 2nd language then you're as "native" as some one born speaking the language.


If you're C2 proficient in a 2nd language then you're as "native" as some one born speaking the language.

I believe this to be an overstatement. Many well-educated immigrants achieve C2 status (and may well have obtained it even before immigrating), but they still make many usage errors a native speaker would for all intents and purposes never make.


My father was native in both Scottish Gaelic and English, learning them simultaneously since childhood, so yes - it is possible to be a native speaker of two languages. I am sure there are people out there who are native speakers of more than two.

For a learned language, some people manage native-equivalent levels, but the biggest tell-tale of these people is that they tend not to make the mistakes that native speakers do make in every-day speech (but avoid in formal situations).


My mum is Chinese and my dad is white. I grew up in Canada, but my dad wasn't home a lot, and my mum usually spoke to me in Chinese (and whenever my grandma would come from China to visit she would only speak to me in Chinese because she doesn't know English). My first 2 languages were Mandarin and Shanghainese, which I'm fluent in both, but when I got to the "kindergarten age", then I was building up the English knowledge that I already had. In short, I am definitely fluent in those 3 languages, but fluent has different definitions. For example, an English major in a high performing university will understand more unique English words than me, and they too are fluent, and even though I know less, I am still fluent. So I do think that you can become fluent in another language, especially if you grew up with it. I supposed 50 years of practice for example, in French, could certainly have perfected your French skills, especially if you live in France for many of those years.

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