Why Non-Native English Speakers Can be Good TEFL Teachers
As a Belgian born citizen, I was brought up with different languages. Belgium is officially a trilingual country: French, Dutch, and German are all official languages. Dutch is my mother tongue, I have been learning French since primary school. Later, in high school, German and English were added to my curriculum and in college, I extended my language skills by taking a Spanish course. This means I have been studying foreign languages since primary school until my university degree when I was 25 years old. This made me decide to write on the following topic: why non-native English speakers can be good TEFL teachers.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Roel S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Teaching qualities important for English students
Although a native speaker is generally considered to be the best role model, other factors besides mother tongue are also important in the value judgment of a teacher. The most important value a native speaker teacher adds in a learning environment is a better language competence. He or she is a better assessor of correctness in the language, will be less insecure in the use of the language, and enjoys certain respect of the students. This makes a native speaker a stronger language model in general. The advantage of the non-native speaker consists of the fact that he or she has consciously gone through the same learning process as the student. So the non-native speaker can be seen as a learning model that is stronger specifically in grammar education.
Also Read: 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy Your TEFL Course
Understanding students’ needs and challenges
Non-native English speakers, like me, can see the students' needs and problems clearly, as they studied the language themselves, and can anticipate these needs and difficulties. They understand why it can be hard for a student to compose a sentence grammatically right, or how to order nouns and adjectives, amongst other things. Non-native speakers have hands-on experience of what it’s like to learn a foreign language and by reason of this because the onion of grammar is likely to be pretty solid. Furthermore, having in mind my own experience the non-native English speaker might have developed good study schemes and can share their knowledge of what worked best for them when learning new grammar rules. They can use their experience to work out the best tactics to improve language skills promptly. Additionally, a non-native speaker is likely to present classes in an understandable way that matches the students' level. The teacher-student conversation would probably be the typical native speaking conversations and this is the situation in which the majority of English learners will use English: to other non-native English speakers. And last, the non-native English speaking teacher can be a role model for the students. The students can consider the non-native English speaking teacher as a learner of the language, like them, and maybe just further along in the journey of language learning. For this reason, the student can feel comfortable with a non-native English speaking teacher and this can improve the connection on an individual level. The non-native speaking English teacher can take advantage of this to build a good rapport with his pupils.
My personal approach to teaching
In practice, I will certainly make use of the advantages of being a non-native English speaking teacher. I will start by making my students feel comfortable in the classroom speaking a foreign language, making clear that making mistakes is part of the process and that they shouldn't be afraid nor shy to speak a foreign language. In my own experience, I know that fear can be the biggest obstacle in learning a new language, and therefore I would like to start with eliminating this element as far as possible. Furthermore, I would relate to my students by telling them I have been in the same situation as they do now.
As I aim to give English classes in Colombia, I will tell them about my experiences of learning the Spanish language. Besides, as discussed above, I would share my study tactics to learn English grammar. For example, I have always been using a self-made structured summary to learn and comprehend the English tenses, so I would apply this study tactic in my lesson planning. Finally, I would let my students speak English as much as possible during my classes as I have experienced myself that this is the way to go. You can have as much grammar and exercises in the classroom, if you hardly apply this knowledge in oral activities, you will never be able to speak the language. This may seem evident, but I have had many language classes that were purely focused on grammar and writing exercises. I would use my former experiences with learning a foreign language and combine them with everything I have learned through my TEFL course.
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To conclude, non-native speakers have certain capabilities and advantages because they know how it is to learn a foreign language. The non-native speaker should take his experiences and knowledge into the field of language teaching and allow the students to look from a different perspective on English language learning.
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