Is it better to learn English from a native or a non-native speaker teacher?

Essay, 2017

5 Pages


Is it better to learn English from a native speaker teacher or from a non-native speaker teacher?

For decades, there has been a widespread assumption in the field of English language education that native speakers are better teachers (TESOL 2006). They are said ‘to speak “unaccented” English, understand and use idiomatic expressions fluently, and completely navigate the culture of at least one English-dominant society […]. As a result, nonnative English-speaking educators have found themselves often implicitly, and sometimes explicitly discriminated against’ (TESOL 2006: 1) native speakers of English. Around the world 80 per cent of English language teachers are non-native speakers of English (Canagarajah 2005). But native speakers of English are usually given more value: they find it easier to get a job as an English teacher and get in general better payed (Cook, 2008). They are seen as belonging to a higher professional status than non-native speakers. It is said that as native speakers grew up speaking English they are more acquainted with the language and with that provide a better language education to their students (Reis 2011). Doerr (2009) describes three questionable ideologies characterising the concept of a native speaker: (1) there is a close link between being a citizen of a country and being a native speaker of the language spoken in that country, (2) language is a homogeneous system with a homogeneous speech community and (3) native speakers of a country automatically own a high competence in their first language. But ‘[b]eing a native speaker does not automatically make you a good teacher’ (Cook 2008: 1870). Piller (2001: 14) speaks of a ‘useless’, ‘debilating’, and ‘unfair’ idealisation of the native speaker which should be banned. Especially ‘[i]n recent times, the attributes of the nonnative speaker teacher have been recognized as a positive model of the successful language learner and as more in touch with their students than the native speaker teacher’ (Creese et al. 2014: 938). This can be explained by the fact that English native speakers never had to learn English as a foreign language themselves and might therefore lack language awareness and skills to teach their language as a foreign language. Moreover ‘in many instances the expat native teacher is less trained than the local native teacher’ (Cook 2008: 187). That is why it has to be questioned if the native teacher is actually worth more than the non-native teacher or if this is a wrong idealisation. The essay will show that bothnative and non-native teachers have advantages and disadvantages and that non-native teachers are better able to translate from the mother tongue of the learners and might therefore be more suitable for teaching beginners of English whereas native teachers might be more suitable for advanced learners as they can teach accurate pronunciation, vocabulary and sentence structures.The essay will firstly show that native speakers of English have on the one side in general a higher level of English language proficiency but on the other side might lack language awareness and pedagogic skills as well as learning strategies. It will then stress that native speakers are better able to teach sociocultural competence but often do not know the language and the culture of their learners. After that the essay will point out that even though the native teacher might not be perfectly acquiainted with the language and culture of the learners he can teach his own language and culture in a very confident way. Native speakers are not able to solve as a model for a successful second language learnernevertheless they can be a positive model for a native speaker of English. The final paragraph of the main body questions the pervasive ideology of native speakerism concerning that there are lots of varieties of English that are sometimes more far away from Standard English than the variety of a non-native speaker.

First of all native speakers of English usually have a higher level of English language proficiency than non-native speakers of English. As they grew up in a fully or partly English environment (Medgyes 1994) they should be able to pronounce words, and to distinguish in which situation to use which vocabulary or grammar (Merino 1997) and have the skill to understand and produce written and verbal language in a correct and fluent way (Medgyes 1994). Therefore they could be able to teach their language without of any language errors to their students as they have a high level of English language proficiency (Medgyes 1994).


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Is it better to learn English from a native or a non-native speaker teacher?
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english, native speaker, native speaker teacher, non-native speaker teacher, teaching, foreign language, L2
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Clara Winterfeld (Author), 2017, Is it better to learn English from a native or a non-native speaker teacher?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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