Are you a native English speaker?
Yes, I am!
Great! Where are you from?
Seoul, South Korea!
But you’re a native English speaker?
Yes, I am. I went to a US school on the US military base! I am a US citizen.
But you haven’t lived in the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, Canada, or Australia?
I lived in the US for one year as a baby.
Then you’re not a native English speaker.
This is a prejudice I’ve encountered many time. The most recent incident occurred when I applied to be a private tutor for someone, and once they found out I hadn’t lived in one of the so-called native English countries, they stopped contacting me. This is truly frustrating because location shouldn’t determine someone’s language skills! I lived in Seoul practically all my life, but I still attended a US school, where all my curriculum was done in English and I interacted with US citizens. I read English books, watch English films, play English video games, use English operating systems, and browse English websites. Almost everything I do is in English. It is my first language, my native tongue, and while I can speak, read, and write Korean, English is really my stronger language.
But a lot of Koreans here who want private tutors and English teachers do not see that. Even if I were to tell them everything about my English lifestyle, they just see the fact that I haven’t lived outside of Korea. To them, location is very important. Yes, I am aware that people tend to be native speakers of the country they live in, but that’s not always going to be the case. Granted, I am an unusual case, but my location should not determine my language. It should never determine anyone’s language skills. In fact, if location is really important for a language skills, I should be a native Korean speaker, to which I’m not. Korean is my secondary language, and it will always be that, secondary. I am a native English speaker who grew up and live in Korea, and I am as native as I can be with English!
What do you think? Do you think a native speaker of a language has to live where the language is spoken primarily? Have you ever been in my kind of situation?