Steve Edwards' website

The native speaker and the bilingual.

Be wary of the native speaker, and don't bother with the bilingual.

One might imagine that the strongly-bilingual could be the most helpful in learning their language. In fact, they are nearly useless.

More helpful is a person who can barely understand at all — if at all.

While the bilingual are helpful upon specific technical questions, the fact is that you cannot communicate in the language that you are trying to learn with an adept speaker of your own language. The primary impulse to communicate will always automatically switch conversation into the language of greatest facility. This effect may be particularly strong when one is speaking to an adept bilingual speaker of the lingua franca.

Unless you are speaking with a superlative habitual teacher (or paying someone to teach,) there's no point expecting the bilingual to help.

In fact, the bilingual speaker can be an impediment, and even a real pain in the ass — even if he says he wants to help.

The bilingual, where people of mixed ability are together, will almost always be "too helpful" — not helpful at all. They will tend to habitually "jump in" to rescue you from awkward pauses, and will save you from having to think.

The bilingual can, even, be offensive — almost always presuming that you do not understand ... or, worse, "testing" you — sometimes to show others your ability, sometimes to dismiss your efforts.

People will tell you all sorts of crazy things about their own language. I can see two main causes of this.

• Cultural chauvinism

Most people seem to believe that their language is more difficult than yours. It's an appealing idea, simply because it would imply that you have not faced a challenge equal to that of the other. It's also an idea that is impossible to refute (though not to dispute: the concept is ridiculous, which is clear by how many languages are "more difficult" than others.)

There is, in any case, no measure of such an assertion, an opinion which is based upon an infinite complexity of influences upon the individual's tutelage. And, all complexity aside, there is not a human being who can judge the relative difficulty of the language(s) that one has learned from infancy, compared to anything that one has learned at a later time.

• Lack of perspective caused by proximity

I asked A Romanian speaker, competent in English, what does the word "o" mean. He told me it's not a word. But it's common. It is, in fact, ubiquitous.... I was confused.... "O" is one of two indefinite articles. If it's not a word, then "word" is redefined.

Nobody but a native speaker would make such an irrational statement with such confidence. They're not to be trusted.