Whether non-native English teachers match up to the natives is a conversation that has been the subject of heated debate over the past few years. Statements like “non-native English teachers are better than native speaking teachers” and “Teaching English abroad is practically impossible for non-native English teacher” are common conclusions of either of the debating parties.
There are many reasons why non-native English speakers can be just as skilled and competitive as the native speaking teachers – and can even pass on knowledge to students in ways that native speakers never could. Unfortunately, most non-native speakers still doubt their ability to teach English abroad.
As an organization that has trained non-native teachers on practically every course, including the English Language, we believe non-native English teachers can match up their native colleagues, and in some situations, better than the natives.
Therefore, this article aims to discuss the reasons why non-native English teachers can be as effective in the classroom as the natives and dispel the myth that teaching English abroad is practically impossible for non-native English teachers.
This article is for you if you’re looking for some motivation as a non-native speaker or looking for an English teaching job abroad. When you’re done reading through, you’d realize just as valuable as the native English teachers you are.
Just as exposed to the English Culture as the natives
Most people think native speaking English teachers know the English culture best since they grew up in it. They often argue that native speaking teacher could explain what’s considered appropriate and polite in different settings.
They are right! Their arguments make total sense but ignore the fact that it also applies to non-native teachers. In this information age, culture and information are shared across the world through the internet, movies, and television. Hence, a non-native teacher that grew up listening to exactly same rock or rap music or watch the same Hollywood series as a native speaker can match up to the natives regarding exposure to English culture.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, as a non-native English speaker, you might even have a better understanding of English Cultures. A non-native speaker that had a pen pal from the United Kingdom, studied in Australia and listened to rap and rock music from the United States will understand three unique cultures and perhaps, be able to speak a vast variety of English slang.
Therefore, non-native English teachers can even give their students a comprehensive guide to living in an English-speaking country better than what native English teachers would ever be able to. Unlike a native English teacher, non-native English teachers will know what part of English is confusing and give appropriate advice to overcome those learning difficulties. This indeed is valuable for students who might not know anything about the English Cultures already.
When it comes to being a perfect model for TEFL students, non-native English teachers match up with their native English speaking colleagues. Native English teachers can demonstrate English Accents, pronunciation and intonation that a non-native doesn’t have mastery of but being a role model for students isn’t just about perfect knowledge of the English language.
In many ways, a professional non-native English teacher is a more helpful model for students learning the English language, especially if the teacher shares the same language background with the students. In addition, non-native teachers that have been through the process of learning English have a natural feel for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to learning English. This can really be particularly important for beginner students who require more direction in their studies. Taking a non-native English teacher as a role model for students perhaps is the best way to assure themselves that they can also achieve fluency if they just work at it. In the long run, a local, non-native teacher may be the best role model since they represent the fluency that English learners want to achieve.
In addition to being able to handle language appropriately, non-native English teachers also demonstrate a genuine passion and desire for teaching. While there are native English teachers who make whole-hearted and concerted efforts to teach at the highest level, there really exists no definitive distinction between the non-native and native English teachers.
Most non-native speakers possess a thorough knowledge of English
In most countries around the world, English is often adopted as a mandatory foreign language. So most non-native English teachers have been exposed to teaching and learning of English from a young age. While native speakers who learn by mere interaction with other people in the society, non-native English teachers have to study the language in detail before being able to speak it. This often means non-native teachers possess a much better understanding of English Language topics, especially when it comes to rules and exceptions.
Obviously, learning English comes naturally to native speakers, but they occasionally lack the knowledge as to why some rules are why they are and do not understand the reasons behind exceptions. Non-native English teachers generally study the mechanics and grammar of the English language in a more focused way. They know the rules, syntax, and exceptions and know how to bring them across to students in a way that they will understand and remember.
This is a clear-cut advantage for non-native English teachers. Hence, the reality that qualified and well-read non-native English teachers can teach the English language just as well, if not better than native speakers.
Accents And Number Of Languages
The accent of the English teacher might very well affect the understanding of English lessons by students. If non-native English teachers are teaching in their home environment, their mother tongue may be the same as their students’. In this case, unlike native speakers, non-native English teachers will be able to make use of proper translation technique to enhance the teaching and learning of English in their domain. The more comprehensible the teachers' accent, the more preferred the teacher is by the students.
Some students who are about to start learning English will prefer native English teachers since they feel they are better to teach the language. Sharing the same accent as the learners make non-native English teachers more suitable to teach the English language in a non-English speaking environment.
Furthermore, while many native speakers are monolingual, non-native speakers are bilingual and sometimes multilingual. Non-native English teachers know what it entails to learn another language since they’ve gone through the same process. And this without a doubt, is an added advantage for non-native English teachers when it comes to teaching techniques.
Since non-native English teachers understand the process necessary to learn another language, they are in pole position to offer guidance and support to their students better than native speakers who have not learned another language.
Non-native English teachers have learned the language themselves, and they know precisely what non-native English students struggle with the most and how best to tackle the problem. Native speakers are edged out in this area because they often don’t know the part of English language that non-native English learners are having problems with.
Teacher/Student Interaction and Classroom Management
Regarding teacher and student relationship, when it comes to classroom management and classroom interaction, non-native English teachers are equally as effective as their native colleagues. In fact, a recent study found out that non-native English teachers are more connected to their students. And this is so because non-native English teachers understand the students better, easy to communicate with and provide the students with good feedback and tips that can help them learn the language.
Basically, classroom control and management all boil than to other factors and skills that include whether one is a native speaker or not. Teachers interaction with their students depends on such things like teaching style and techniques that are used to interact with students whether one is a native or non-native.
Fundamentally, it all boils down to the fact that there will always be good and bad teachers irrespective of their first language or culture. Therefore, teachers’ ability to motivate students and their effectiveness in providing them with the platform to develop their English skills are more important than the teachers’ origin. Are you ready to take a TEFL course now? Come to TEFL Madrid and begin teaching English in Spain. It will be, the best year of your life!