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Are non-native teachers second class teachers?

Written by Alina Graur

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More often than we may think, companies and several students prefer native language teachers when it comes to learning a new foreign language. The native speaker fallacy persists to some extent in different parts of the world. Does it mean they are better teachers? In this new article we will try to answer this question.

Walkinshaw and Oanh (2014) report the findings that in Asia native English teachers, for instance, are more highly valued than non-natives. The main reasons refer to their pronunciation, perfect grammar and the ability to share cultural information from their country. 

It does indeed appear from different studies that native teachers considerably increase students’ speaking and listening abilities. Not to mention the extended vocabulary which can certainly help in acquiring and improving a new language (Florence Ma, 2012).

Although it is difficult to disagree with these statements, can’t non-native teachers provide similar value?

Non-native teachers have spent several years, if not decades, in learning a language. 

Consequently, “their formal learning helps them develop language awareness and enables them to provide adequate linguistic information about the language to learners” (Florence Ma, 2012, p.282).

Because of their personal experience, they can also be empathetic when it comes to the challenges of learning a foreign language. They can become role models too in terms of showing what one can achieve if dedication and persistence are always present.

Both native and non-natives teachers have been criticised in research and on the world wide web. 

Natives could struggle with explaining why certain grammatical rules apply in a specific context compared to another one. They may know what is correct but not how to justify it. 

On the other hand, non-natives may make errors from time to time and not be aware of it. Accents are also heavily mentioned (International TEFL and TESOL training, 2019). 

“In conclusion, it is not that some teachers are good, and some teachers are bad. I see it differently. Some teachers are experienced, and some are inexperienced. You must be patient when you start out. But as you gather more experience, you will feel more confident in your skills and ability to teach, no matter if you are native or non-native” (International TEFL and TESOL training, 2019).

If you are interested in becoming a language teacher whether you are a native speaker or not, you may find this resource helpful.

While you are here, take a look at our social media channels to find out more about Sanako’s project to help language teachers in developing countries!

References

Florence Ma, L. P. (2012) ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Native- and Nonnative-English-speaking Teachers: Student Perceptions in Hong Kong’, TESOL Quarterly, 46(2), pp. 280-305.

International TEFL and TESOL training (2019) Advantages and Disadvantages of having a non-native TEFL teacher. Available at: https://www.teflcourse.net/blog/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-having-a-non-native-tefl-teacher-ittt-tefl-blog/

Walkinshaw, I. and Oanh, D. H. (2014) ‘Native and Non-Native English Language Teachers: Student Perceptions in Vietnam and Japan’, SAGE Open, 4(2), pp. 1-9.

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/N_aihp118p8


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