The primary aim of this study was to determine if fluent early bilinguals who are highly experienced in their second language (L2) can produce L2 vowels in a way that is indistinguishable from native speakers' vowels. The subjects were native speakers of Italian who began learning English when they immigrated to Canada as children or adults ('early' vs. 'late' bilinguals). The early bilinguals were subdivided into groups differing in amount of continued L1 use (early-low vs. early-high). In experiment 1, native English-speaking listeners rated 11 English vowels for goodness. As expected, the late bilinguals' vowels received significantly lower ratings than the early bilinguals' vowels did. Some of the early-high subjects' vowels received lower ratings than vowels spoken by a group of native English (NE) speakers, whereas none of the early-low subjects' vowels differed from the NE subjects' vowels. Most of the observed differences between the NE and early-high groups were for vowels spoken in a nonword condition. The results of experiment 2 suggested that some of these errors were due to the influence of orthography. Copyright © 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel.