Can we become a biligual speaker?


Ms Ando is probably about 32 or 33 yr old now. She recently has moved to New York to study English. At the school she attends, one of the instructors said “it is too late for you to become a bilingual speaker” and, as you might imagine, it was a shocking remark for Ms Ando.

でも、同時[どうじ]に(= at the same time)、「でもバイカルチュアルにはなれますよ」と言[]われたそうです。その先生[せんせい]によると、バイリンガルというのは、ネイティブ・スピーカーと同[おな]じように発音[はつおん] (= pronunciation)も文法[ぶんぽう] (= grammar)もきちんと(= properly)話[はな]せる人[ひと]ということだそうです。バイカルチュアルは、勉強[べんきょう]している言語[げんご]を使[つか]って、その言語[げんご]の文化[ぶんか]もちゃんと理解[りかい]して(= to understand)生活[せいかつ]できること、ということだそうです。若[わか]くなくなってから言語[げんご]の勉強[べんきょう]を始[はじ]めると、やはり(= as you expect)、発音[はつおん]などはとても難[むず]しいです。でも、文化[ぶんか]を理解[りかい]して、スムースなコミュニケーションができるようになる、ということは大丈夫[だいじょうぶ]だと思[おも]います。

But. At the same time, the instructor said “it is NOT too late to become a bi-cultural person”. According to him, a bilingual person is supposed to speak exactly like a native speaker; so the pronunciation has to be perfect and no grammar mistake is made. On the other hand, a bi-cultural person is the person who can reasonably speak well and live in the culture of the target language with proper understandings of the culture, protocols, and so on. If you start studying a foreign language when you are not so young, it would be difficult to master the perfect pronunciation like a native speaker. But it IS achievable to become a bicultural person!
Ms Ando decided to study English as well as American culture. So what did she choose?—she decided to study food culture in America. And this means, to her, studying cuisine of vegetarian and vegan! Certainly this type of cuisine is some sort of foreign culture to us, Japanese people. It does sound interesting!
If you want to know more about Ms Ando’s adventure, here is the site (in Japanese…) she has written about her life in NY (this page seems to get updated twice a month).

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