Are Non-Native English Language Teachers no Longer Needed?
Nowadays there is an increasing tendency of hiring more and more native English speakers as ESL or EFL teachers. Being a native English speaker and belonging to a certain number of English speaking countries is a required qualification for teachers or graduates who want to work abroad, especially.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Irina P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Of course, nobody can contest that a person who is born or lives in a certain country has the chance to possess accents, pronunciation or intonation that a foreigner cannot have mastery of. But a language teacher is more than a person with a native accent. One should have a University degree and a teaching certificate to teach a school subject. English is a school subject like all the others, not just an automatically acquired skill. Taking this into consideration, there should be no difference between a native and a non-native English teacher.
But, in the majority of cases, the students and their parents prefer to have a teacher with a native ââauthenticââ accent. They are paying more attention to the nationality of the teacher, considering it the most important qualification. But is the native accent a qualification? Is it something that one has studied or has prepared for or a reason for getting a better salary? Or itâs just a non -elective matter, rather than a linguistic issue. Nevertheless, it should not be perceived as proof of being a more intelligent or a superior teacher/person as many learners and employers might think.
What makes a successful teacher depends on the individual, of course. It is a matter of personal competences, personality, vocation and oneâs exposure to the English culture. In this regard, we can say that non -native teachers have the same access to the English and American culture and information like the natives do, as they are shared all across the world through the internet, movies, and television.
One possible factor that might explain the learnersâ preference for native teachers is the fact that teaching a second or a foreign language has lately been more focused on conversation and fluent speaking rather than on grammar. This is why many native English speakers are hired to teach English but they donât possess the knowledge to explain the linguistic rules. They are there just because they are native, not because they are truly qualified teachers.
An advantage of the non-native qualified and professional English teachers may be the fact that they know what parts of the English language and culture might be difficult or confusing for the learners. Therefore they can help the students more appropriately and comprehensively, as they have studied the language themselves. Sometimes even the pronunciation of the non-native can be more intelligible than that of the natives.
Coming back to the bitter truth that native speakers are preferred for the English teaching jobs worldwide, is it still worthwhile for a non-native speaker to study the English language to teach it in a foreign country? It is understandable for young learners and their parents to opt for a native teacher, especially in private schools where they are the clients who can demand what they want. But does an adult learner need to struggle to imitate a native accent? After all, there has always been easy to identify a foreign/non-native English accent. This is usually seen as a nice and normal thing. These are recognizable accents of people who work in lots of different fields. They are the learners who need to understand and to speak/use the English language. They donât need to sound like British native speakers, do they? So non-native teachers can very effectively explain the rules and exceptions of the English language, as they have thoroughly studied it before.
Now there are certain countries where English teachers who have the respective nationality are still hired in a very large number. This is a good thing because they have the same mother tongue as the learners and their accent may be more comprehensible. There is also the advantage of choosing the most suitable teaching techniques, as the non-native teachers have already gone through the process of learning one or more foreign languages. Not to mention that the interaction with the students and classroom management have nothing to do with being native or non-native.
In conclusion, a native teacher may be the ultimate choice for most of the learners, but one should take into account that not only the accent counts. We are referring here to the most learned and spoken language in the world, not some unknown unpopular language, which only natives can master.
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