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Let's say English is not my mother tongue, but I claim in my CV that my English level is "as if" it was my mother tongue?

Is natively the word for that?

As in:

Languages:

  • Hebrew: mother-tongue
  • English: natively

P.S. It's quite paradoxical and funny, asking how to say in English "my level of English is like a native speaker"; if my level was really like a native English speaker, I wouldn't have needed to ask.

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You can say you are bilingual. –  lukas Jun 2 '12 at 12:55
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Just FYI:although some native speakers write as you have here, other native speakers would switch to the hypothetical were in at least one if not two instances. ❶ “if my level were really like a native English speaker[’s], I wouldn't have needed to ask” is the first of these, while ❷ “I claim in my CV that my English level is "as if" it were my mother tongue” is the other. This is because #1 is part of a standard “if were . . . then would” construct, and #2 is part of an “as if/though . . . were” construct. #1 may be more common than #2, but both are unremarkable. –  tchrist Jun 2 '12 at 15:57
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A "native" English speaker would know to not use the word "native" unless you learned English from birth. –  nibot Jun 2 '12 at 19:55
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English is my second language too. Been learning English my whole life starting in kindergarten and spent 13 years in the States. But I'd never called myself a native speaker because I know my native language is another language. You know which one is your native tongue. Just put down fluent if you believe you can communicate well in English. –  tipsywacky Sep 11 '13 at 5:07
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15 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

On a CV you can go with something formal (if you can back it up) such as "ILR Level 5," or something informal, such as "Bilingual Hebrew/English".

As a general rule, a "fluent" speaker can understand and be understood almost all the time, but native speakers can tell the "fluent" speaker is not native. To be considered a "native" speaker you have to have also mastered the accent, idiom, colloquialisms, and cultural references, among other things. As you say, given that you are asking the question, I'd say you are fluent but not native, though what you put on your CV is up to you.

I know it sucks to devote literally years if not decades into learning a foreign language and still not be considered a native speaker. I've spent my life learning American English and still don't come close to being a native British English speaker and it just feels unfair. But it's the truth. I was invited to a party in London and I could never tell if I was being invited to a "barn dance" or a "band dance" or something else, and I could not make myself understood well enough to get an answer. Frustrating all around. I just have to accept that in British I've only achieved ILR 4. Likewise I've known people, even Brits and Indians who spoke English at home as their primary langauge growing up and have lived in the US for 10 years and still only are up to ILR 4 in American English. ILR 4 is quite an accomplishment and the situations where it is not "good enough" are rare and specialized. So don't worry about not being a "native" speaker.

In any case I would not use both "mother tongue" and "native" on the same CV because that would be confusing: why are you making a distinction if you are claiming a "native" proficiency in both? Reading that on a CV, I would just assume that you are exaggerating about "native.".

I recommend

Languages:

  • Hebrew: Native
  • English: Highly Fluent
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I want to express two levels of knowledge - one is "perfect" (mother-tongue), and the other is "really really good, but not quite as good as 'mother-tongue' good". –  ripper234 Jun 2 '12 at 13:22
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@ripper, if you don't want to use a formal classification like ILR levels, then I would go with "native" and "highly fluent." –  Old Pro Jun 2 '12 at 13:28
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highly fluent is a good way to put it. –  ripper234 Jun 2 '12 at 15:36
    
The problem with "fluent" is that it can also mean you speak fluidly, with speedy ease, without hesitation, even if all you can talk about is the weather. –  Jay Bazuzi Jun 3 '12 at 3:46
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@Jay, then you would be fluent in weather, not fluent in English. –  Old Pro Jun 3 '12 at 19:11
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You can use the word "fluently".

You may also say "in British accent" or "in American accent" (if that is what you mean in your question).

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Accent is not relevant here, just proficiency in the language. –  ripper234 Jun 2 '12 at 9:13
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I would write that as:

  • Native Hebrew speaker
  • Fluent in English
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To me it seems that fluently is less than natively. and doesn't really capture the needed concept of "as good as a native speaker" –  Eran Jun 2 '12 at 10:28
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@Xenorose: Unless you grew up truly bilingual, it is not very likely that you're able to speak any other language as well as your native one (and even bilinguals usually have one language they're more comfortable with). –  Jonas Jun 2 '12 at 13:27
    
@Jonas - In Hebrew, the these levels are truly separate. There is "שוטף" (fluently), there is "at native tounge level", which means "practically as good as a native speaker", and a third level of "native speaker". There is a level gap between all three of these. A lot of people use the medium level even though they're not that close to a true native speaker, so its meaning has become something like "speaks English better than 99% of the population in Israel", which is still below an average/decent native English speaker. –  ripper234 Jun 2 '12 at 15:34
    
FYI @Xenorose.. –  ripper234 Jun 2 '12 at 15:35
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It's kind of ironic that the problem here is that since you are a native speaker of Hebrew, not of English, the word "fluent" has different connotations to you than it would to a native English speaker. –  Noah Snyder Jun 2 '12 at 21:14
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'Native Competence' is also used in these circumstances.

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From wikipedia:

Sometimes the term native language is used to indicate a language that a person is as proficient in as a native individual of that language's "base country", or as proficient as the average person who speaks no other language but that language.[citation needed]

Sometimes the term mother tongue or mother language is used for the language that a person learnt as a child at home (usually from their parents). Children growing up in bilingual homes can, according to this definition, have more than one mother tongue or native language.

Seems to me that you have the right choice of words.

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I too would like a citation on that. "Native" means "born", or the language one was raised speaking. –  Mark Beadles Jun 2 '12 at 15:08
    
Yes, it needs citation. It just shows it's not just my opinion (there's at least one more person in the world that thinks so). –  Eran Jun 2 '12 at 16:39
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I think "mother tongue" is probably stronger than "native". In a bilingual household, children acquire the language of their primary carer quicker than that of their other parent. Whether this distinction is lost on most people is moot. –  Dominic Cronin Jun 8 '12 at 20:22
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You could say "I speak English like a native", or "I speak English to the standard of a native speaker".

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The easiest way to get this across is to say that you are fully bilingual in Hebrew and English.

Generally, to say that you are a native English speaker or that your mother tongue is Hebrew carry about the same weight as each other, although it's common for bilingual children to acquire fluency first in the language their mother speaks.

I don't think you can say you speak English natively. You can definitely say you are a native English speaker. In a bullet list, you could say:

  • English: Native

    or

  • English: Native speaker

but I think you should avoid mixing this with Mother Tongue

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"Native language" and "mother tongue" are so nearly exact synonyms that I fear this would be confusing to readers. Remember, "native" means "born", or the tongue you were raised from birth with.

If your fluency is truly equal to a native speaker, you could say "native proficiency".

There is a standard for this, the ILR scale, it may help on such things as a resume or CV:

1 ILR Level 1 - Elementary proficiency
2 ILR Level 2 - Limited working proficiency
3 ILR Level 3 - Professional working proficiency
4 ILR Level 4 - Full professional proficiency
5 ILR Level 5 - Native or bilingual proficiency

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I kind of buy this. But I wonder, is there really a difference between saying "native proficiency" and "native fluency"? The latter sounds more natural to my ear. –  Chan-Ho Suh Sep 11 '13 at 3:38
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I don't think you should claim to be a 'native speaker' of English unless it was actually the first language you learned. There has been considerable discussion on this site ( e.g. Meaning of "native speaker of English" and What makes a non-native English speaker sound foreign?), and the consensus was "Even if you attain a faultless mastery of the language after you're out of the small-child stage of learning, you are not a native speaker; you are a fluent speaker". There's no reason you shouldn't say that you are bilingual; but actually you are not a native speaker, and genuine native speakers can usually tell the difference.

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Native like fluency is also an option.

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Looks like there's not the same distinction in English that there is in Hebrew. So if you decide on a term that isn't descriptive, you're not communicating well to the person reading your CV.

So I'd go for something very descriptive. Like 'Almost native level.' Even if that doesn't sound fantastic.

There might be a better phrase you can use; but you need to explain it in the phrase, simply because there isn't a recognised / well-known term for the distinction you want to make.

Or:

Hebrew: native

English: near-native

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near-native is a fine option as well. –  ripper234 Jun 3 '12 at 9:52
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Native speaker is someone who was born in that country. Bilingual is someone who was raised there. Fluent or proficient speaker is a non-native speaker who can use the language almost as correctly and easily as a native or bilingual speaker while not necessarily as good to 100%. I know that the words are thrown around and are typical for resumes. But the meaning implied (unlike that commonplace assumption) is what I mentioned. Assuming that you’ve mastered the language to the true native level in all its dimensions is not that rare and ends up being just a wild fantasy. Really, no offence, but if your level was as good you’d know what to call it in English, no?

Your view of fluency is not fully correct in my opinion. You said that it’s a matter of understanding, but I’d say you still can be understood while using a language incorrectly at the elementary level. Native speaker’s level is a level when they do not make the mistakes that a non-native speaker would make. It’s a totally different condition of using and understanding your language. Learning a foreign language irrespective of how many books you’ve studied won’t make a native speaker from you.

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Spot on! (forced to add more characters!) –  TrevorD May 13 '13 at 16:17
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If you want to emphasis that you are highly fluent or near native, you could just say that you are fluent in English and then ensure that your CV is so well written that it speaks for itself.

In addition, if your CV includes transferable skills or a section wherein you highlight your attributes, you could highlight your communication, written or interpersonal skills (for example) among others which would be another way of expressing that you have a strong command of the English language.

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You can say "native fluency". Note that this is not the same as saying you are a "native speaker" or that English is your "native language". You are merely saying that your level of "fluency" is indistinguishable from that of a native speaker. I've seen this on resumes and done it myself and it hasn't caused any confusion, AFAIK, although I always clarify my origins too. Some people prefer "native-like fluency", but I find that a bit cumbersome.

Having said that, in your particular situation, it's clear that you do not have this level of fluency. Native fluency is more than just grammar or not having an accent. Most of the time what is meant is a level of proficiency indistinguishable from that of a native speaker. This is actually a complicated issue, since a native speaker might in fact speak the language quite horribly or not even enunciate words properly. Probably if you learned to speak like such a person, in a job-seeking context the hiring manager is unlikely to be impressed.

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Native fluency is in fact misleading if you are not a native: native-like fluency is what a foreigner can gain by study (though, as you say, it may not be desirable). –  TimLymington Oct 10 '13 at 9:30
    
Supposed "foreigners" who grew up speaking English indistinguishably from the so-called native speaker can be reasonably considered to have "native fluency", which is my point. –  Chan-Ho Suh Oct 19 '13 at 11:17
    
If you grew up speaking English as your first language, certainly you have native fluency (sorry if foreigner there was misleading). But if you learned it in school you do not, because your English will never be 'indistinguishable from a native's" (see most of the answers here and those I cited). Fluency or, if you prefer, native-like fluency is all that is needed; but it is not the same thing. –  TimLymington Oct 19 '13 at 16:13
    
Tim, I have no idea what you are saying. There are plenty of people that did not speak English as a first language, came to the US at an early age, learned it as part of their environment (school, friends, but not their parents or home), and now speak English indistinguishably from a native, despite what you claim. –  Chan-Ho Suh Jan 30 at 1:55
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If you can communicate in the same way as a native speaker, sounding like them an all, then just call yourself a native speaker. To me, it more has to do with identity how much ownership you take of the language. There are plenty of cases where someone's started learning another language from birth only to abandlafayette for another language. Are we to say they are not a native speaker of any language? Or that they are a native speaker of a language they no longer speak? A friend of mine's first language is Spanish, and she started learning English at age 5. She is equally proficienty conversationally in both languages, but definitely more proficient in English with academic language. Are we to say she is not a native speaker of English simple because she didn't learn it from birth? Horse-manure! An Italian guy I knew came to the states in his early twenties. He learned English and he speaks it JUST like a native! So, what, because of his age we can't call him "native"? No one was born speaking a language, but we all were born LEARNING a language (or 2 or 3) It could have been any language(s). You got the cards you were dealt. Being so young, you had plenty of time to imitate and pay attention to sound, etc. to develop the identity of the speech community(ies) to which you belonged. As people age, they don't pay attention to that type of stuff. Learning a language and becoming a "native" involves nothing more than intense, focused listening (pay attention to SOUND) and careful imitation, and emotional willingness to "become" somebody else. It's really not that difficult. So, call yourself a native. OWN your language! It's yours; you have just as much a right to it as a so-called native speaker does!

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Oh gosh, proofread!! Sry! Only to abandon that language later in life* ...and yeah, the other mistakes the reader can self-correct. But, my apologies. –  Gigi Oct 10 '13 at 1:10
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"Are we to say she is not a native speaker of English simple because she didn't learn it from birth?" Yes, that is the definition of "native." –  Kevin Oct 10 '13 at 1:39
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