Why Non-Native English Teachers Can Be Great Teachers
2019-03-18 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
Nowadays English has become a common language that helps to facilitate the communication between people from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. English may not be the most widely used language in the world, but it is the official language of 53 countries and it is used by around 400 million people worldwide. As a result, being able to speak English does not only mean communicating with native English speakers, but it also means opening the door to new international chances and opportunities.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Hadjar B.
Therefore, being an ESL teacher can literally mean making a difference in someone’s life. But is being a native speaker an absolute must for teaching English? Can a non-native English teacher be as good as a native English teacher? These kinds of questions can cross your mind while surfing the internet looking for English teaching jobs abroad; in research made by Peter Medgyes in 1994, which aimed to conduct an international survey to study perceptions of native speaking language teachers and non-native speaking language teachers.
In this pioneering study, they gave questionnaires to 216 teachers from 10 countries to verify whether native speaking teachers (NSTs) and non-native speaking teachers (NNSTs) perceive differences in teaching and how their perception influences teaching behaviors. It was concluded that both can equally be good teachers regardless of native/non-native division, further details about this survey can be found in his book ‘The non-native teacher ’.
It has become almost impossible for a non-native EFL teacher to find a Job abroad due to the fact that his not a native English speaker which can be described in most cases as an irrational reason. In order to distinguish whether a non-native EFL teacher is worth hiring or not we must mention the most common strengths and weaknesses points of a non-native EFL teacher:
3 Key Strengths of Non-Native ESL Teachers:
1. They have a better understanding of the difficulties and challenges faced by their students.
All learners that English is not their first or sometimes not even their second language face just about the same challenges when it comes to learning the language; which can be a great advantage for the non-native English teacher since he is more likely to be qualified when it comes to better relate to the difficulties each of his students is facing, and he would sometimes even know exactly what needs to be done. After all, he was an English learner himself once.
2. They are more precise when it comes to pronunciation and spelling.
It might sound strange but the fact that the non-native teacher has an accent can be a privilege, it can make him or her better at teaching spelling and pronunciation. Because a non-native teacher might doubt their own pronunciation, they will be more accurate when it comes to teaching pronunciation to their student. Now, of course, that can also be a double-edged sword and end up being a disadvantage in some cases.
3. They are bilingual.
A non-native English teacher is bilingual and even sometimes multilingual and that by itself can play a big role in the way they teach since they understand the process and have a better understanding of how to motivate the students and get their attention during the class.
3 Most Common Weaknesses of Non-Native ESL Teachers:
1. They might have a thick accent.
In some cases a strong accent can be a big problem for the learners and can cause understanding difficulties or learning hesitation. Therefore, it’s the teacher’s duty to try to speak as clearly as possible.
2. They might not feel suitable for spelling classes.
As mentioned before, this feature can be a double-edged sword. This means, it can either make the teachers more accurate and hardworking when it comes to spelling classes or make them avoid having one, which can deeply affect the learning process of their students.
3. There might be a discrepancy in language proficiency
Non-native English teachers might find their English less competent than native speakers and have a lack of interest for Western cultures, which might have a bad emotional impact on their confidence as teachers.
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As a conclusion, the teachers must be the judge of their own abilities and achievements rather than their identity and origin. A lot of surveys have been done in this matter with all settling down on the same conclusion: It doesn’t matter if you’re a native English speaker or a non-native English speaker. Being a teacher requires a lot more than that. It requires having the spirit of a teacher.
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