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Native Vs Non-Native, English-Speaking Teachers

Native, English-speaking teacher or non-native, English-speaking teacher?

Does it matter? 

I think not.

The end? … Well, not quite. I guess I have to explain myself. I can’t just go around throwing opinions out like animal feed at a petting zoo.

This topic is always interesting because so many language schools and businesses condition parents and students to believe they can only learn good English skills from native English speakers. They use the phrase “native English-speaking teachers” in all of their advertising thereby conditioning potential students to think this is important. 

But how important is it really?

Let’s first come up with the basics of what makes a good English teacher a good English teacher.

1. A good English teacher needs a solid understanding of English grammar and vocabulary.
2. They need to be able to understand, read and write English well.
3. They need to speak slowly and carefully to help the learner understand what is being said.
4. They have effective instructional and lesson management techniques.
5. They are passionate, enthusiastic and creative when teaching English.
6. A good English teacher is flexible, caring, empathetic and fun.

So there you have it. What does being a native English speaker really have to do with being a good English teacher?

Not much if anything.

You know what I think this debate is really about? 

Two things:


1. Prestige.
2. Pronunciation.

Prestige in this case is nothing more than the desire to learn English from someone either from the United States or England. Period.

Prestige (noun)
: standing or estimation in the eyes of people; weight or credit in general opinion; commanding position in people’s minds

Pronunciation also plays a large role in the desire to learn from a “native English speaker”. I have had many students tell me they are unable to understand native English speakers from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland, etc. 

While, I can certainly appreciate the validity of the claim for some, I think prestige also plays a part in this claim as well. If you are already conditioned to think it is more desirable to be taught by an American or English teacher, you will unconsciously reject what you hear coming from a native speaker from another English-speaking country and even more so from a non-native, English speaker regardless of their qualifications to teach the language.

Native English speakers are guilty of the same behavior. 

So where does that leave non-native, English-speaking teachers?

It leaves them in the same boat as those native speakers from countries other than the United States or England.

A good English teacher will speak slowly and carefully so that the learner can understand what is being said. This should have nothing to do with whether or not the teacher is a native English speaker (re-read “what makes a good teacher a good teacher”).

It’s important for English learners to stop limiting themselves to native English speakers. There are some excellent non-native, English-speaking teachers who often have a better command of the English language than native speakers.

As far as accent and pronunciation goes, don’t be a snob. An English learner should focus on accuracy and clarity. You can have both even with an accent. 

I’d love to have an Irish or Jamaican accent. You couldn't shut me up if I did!


Are you willing to learn from a non-native, English-speaking teacher?

Let us know in the comments below.



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Senior English Trainer and Ruby on Rails Developer who has worked for over 20 years in the Information Technology industry. I have worked in IT departments at some of the largest companies in both the world and the United States such as JP Morgan Chase, Hewlett Packard, Raymond James Financial, Bank of America, IBM, AT&T Wireless, Sprint, etc. I am also an avid reader, writer and lover of the English language. 

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