Are there any studies/researches on fields like neurolinguistics(or any other fields) to allow people (can be via drugs, psycho training..whatever) to become a native speaker of another language? Is this kind of holy grail?

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    It depends on your definitions of native speaker and mother tongue plus how old the participants are. Many people use "mother tongue" to mean the L1 (first language) and "native speaker" simply as a measure of proficiency. Also, depending on the definition of "mother tongue" some children can learn a language as late as age 12 and still have it considered a mother tongue. Without descriptions of what you consider "native" or "mother tongue" this is hard to answer.
    – acattle
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 2:25
  • I remember reading a very interesting article about this, probably in a pop science/linguistics book, about a man who had something like 5 or 6 native languages through his life, some of which he forgot totally. Much was due to tumultuous changes in his early life. I wish I had a reference for this. Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 7:00
  • Very close to yours: Is it possible to change your mother-tongue by thinking in another language?
    – Alenanno
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 10:45
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    Sure, through reincarnation.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 19:41
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    Sure, be adopted from birth by parents who speak two different languages to you. For more languages, add in a monolingual nanny or two.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 13:08

3 Answers 3


The term 'native speaker' usually refers to someone who has the language in question as their mother tongue, i.e. it is their first language, acquired as an infant (of course, someone may have multiple mother tongues and so be a native speaker of multiple languages). So under that definition it is not possible to become a 'native speaker' of a language later in life, after acquiring a different language as a mother tongue. However it is possible to reach a native speaker level of fluency in a language which is not one's mother tongue, and this is how the highest level of skill in a language is commonly described in linguistics. So looked at this way it is possible to become a 'native speaker', at least functionally.

Some individuals seem able to acquire a high level of skill in a new language with seeming ease. These individuals are sometimes referred to as 'rapid language learners'. A famous example in the world of linguistics is the late Ken Hale.

  • As Mr Ümlaut said, no, by definition you can't, but you can gain that level of fluency, maybe even surpass native speakers.
    – BillyNair
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 18:51
  • I got the idea. I'm just surprised that there is no scientific studies trying to change that.
    – Daniel
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 13:38
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    @BillyNair I don't think it's possible to surpass a native-speaker level of fluency as that's the highest possible level of skill (notwithstanding the fact that native speakers will have differing levels of skill in expressive use of their language). Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 15:19
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    @Daniel I guess you're thinking that there should be some technological shortcut to achieving complete command of a language? With our present understanding of the linguistic faculty I don't think anyone's got any idea how such a thing might even be achieved. Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 15:22
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    "notwithstanding the fact that native speakers will have differing levels of skill in expressive use of their language" - Gaston Ümlaut. Your statement shows exactly what I was pointing at. I have neighbors here that are native English speakers that would not be hard to beat in a fluency test...
    – BillyNair
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 11:39

If you grow up with two parents who speak different languages, and they both speak their own language to you, then you will start to speak one before you speak the other. However, you will be a native speaker of both languages.

One example is my son, growing up in an English-speaking country. All of his friends speak English, and I myself am a native speaker of English. So he is also a native speaker of English, as much as I myself, or any of his friends. But he gained a degree of proficiency in his mother's language long before he spoke a single sentence of English. So he is the perfect example of someone who had a mother tongue, then became native in something else.

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    There are many examples of kids who grow up as coordinate bilinguals: they have full native speaker fluency in both (or even >2) languages from their earliest years. Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 12:54

Like you're native language is both of your parent's language. For example, a Bollywood actress named Katrina Kaif was born to a British mother and an Indian Father who was a business man in UK. So her native language is English (since her mother is originally from Britain) and Hindi or any language that her father speaks (since he speaks that language) both languages that her parent spoke and grew up with is her native language.

  • In linguistics, the term "native speaker" has a specific meaning, and it's very different from the definition used by some lay populations.
    – prash
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 13:41

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