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The native versus non-native speaker debate rages on……

In a previous post, I discussed native speaker English teachers (NS teachers) and non-native English teachers (NNS). The title of the post ‘Can non-native speakers of English become good TEFL teachers?’ was, as some people pointed out, potentially insulting towards non-native speakers .

My reason for choosing this particular title was because many people involved in the English language teaching industry (governments, ministries of education, businesses, universities, schools, academies, Director of Studies, teachers, students, parents) hold the view that native speakers are more effective in the classroom than non-native speakers, and many teachers are hired primarily because of their nationality.

Other factors, such as experience, qualifications, and their passion for teaching, seem to be less important  for many people. This is a perception that , most of us agree, needs to change.

Anyway, I’d like to thank all of you who read the post and give a special ‘pat on the back’ , a ‘seal of approval’ and a ’round of applause’ to all of you who took the time to comment – it’s very much appreciated.

So, here are 20 quotes taken from your comments which, I think, identify the key issues:

I love having non native speaker teachers in order to train more my listening. What about if I have to talk to a Japanese or an Indian girl?

English is a live language that is under evolution, nobody can say they are perfect, not even native speakers because, who can know everything?

If students reproduced English sounds simply by listening to their native teachers, they wouldn’t make any mistake, which is not the case. 

I am against natives who are hired and teach English without being qualified. 

Having access to IT tools enables us to expose our students to real native accents.

Why shouldn’t a German speak English with a German accent, as long as it doesn’t interfere with understanding?

I think for adult learners it can often be an advantage up to C1 to be taught by non-native speaker teachers, purely because they have usually learnt English in the same cerebral way as the students are, not acquired it during childhood.

A non-native speaker can be a better teacher if he speaks good English, because he has gone through the learning process himself and he’s quite aware of the difficulties the learners face and he can help them overcome those obstacles.

Non native speakers know how to teach grammar to foreign students.. And native speakers can help with natural sounds.

I think that non-native speakers of English can make good TEFL teachers because these days language learning, and its resources are not restricted to native speakers only.

Regarding the usage of a second language, details attached to culture or very specific vocabulary words for certain issues, there is no other option but to live in an English-speaking country.

 Native speakers know how to speak and they can give us a proper cultural background which will enrich our lives; however, that doesn’t mean they know the language itself and how to explain it.

Many native- speaker teachers use the language, but don’t necessarily understand how it works, or what it is.

A good English teacher is the best to be taught by an English teacher and in the same way a good Spanish teacher is the best person to teach Spanish.

 A non-native teacher who knows what he or she is doing is almost always better than a native teacher who doesn’t. 

Native speaker teachers are often better equipped to deal with students above F.C.E level, where vocabulary and idioms are of greater importance.

A good teacher must speak good English, with good accent, but first of all, must know how to TEACH.

In order to teach a language you MUST first be trained to do so; otherwise you will not be of good help to the students.

Native speakers might use the correct words and phrases but, would they be able to teach students how to structure an essay and teach second language learners how important the use of sentence connectors is in order to write effectively?

 I believe that if a student wants to learn an English, American, Australian, Irish, Scottish, or whatever accent then find a teacher who can help but it isn’t usually important – being understood is important.

Here are a couple of comments that made me laugh out loud!

The difference is the sound, when you hear an English teacher speaking, it is just like listening to a great piece of music, when you hear an American teacher speaking, it sounds terrible.

When facing the difficult decision between a British English speaker and an American English speaker; considering all the strange accents, idioms, spelling and bizarre speech impediments; simply have an epiphany and choose the perfect speaker of the English language. A Canadian!

As you can see, most commentators agreed that being a non-native speaker teacher is no barrier to becoming an effective teacher of English. The problem, however, is that this view is not always shared by people in positions of influence.

I decided to save my favourite comment until last as it encapsulates a profound insight in a most memorable way:


Food for thought! 

Thanks to David Domínguez de Poch for the great comment.







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