Choosing between native and non-native speakers of English for language teaching will always be a controversy in the world of EFL (English as a Foreign Language). Schools from non-English speaking countries such as Japan, Korea, and Thailand usually hire native English speakers to teach English. They believe that the students can learn the language better should they be taught by someone from English speaking countries. Does this mean that non-native English teachers are not capable of teaching English anymore?
Advantages of Hiring a Native Speaker
There are a lot of advantages that come with hiring native English speakers. First of all, they are more comfortable in speaking the language. They also have a wider vocabulary for both formal and colloquial terms as they use these words all the times for various settings. They will also most likely be able to spot mistakes easily since they can sense if a sentence sounds awkward or not. To top it all, exposure of non-native English speaking students to them will make them easily “imitate” their accent and pronunciation.
Advantages of Hiring a Non-native Speaker
Non-native English speakers are more critical when it comes to spelling and grammar. They have learned these courses on a step-by-step manner starting from grade school until they grow old. This is why they are very particular about the mistakes committed by the students. Native speakers who have no formal language teaching experience can easily spot the mistakes in a sentence. However, they cannot point out the reason behind it or the grammatical rule that could help the learner correct the mistake. Furthermore, non-native English teachers understand the plight of the learners. They have also been on these students’ shoes before. Thus, they are patient enough to understand the difficulty that the students are going through. Finally, if the non-native English teacher speaks the language of the learners then they can easily assist students who have zero knowledge of English at all.
Who is the Best?
Answering this question will not necessarily solve the controversy. For school administrators, the best thing to do is to stop looking at races as the basis for hiring an English teacher. They should look into the credentials of the applicants. Language teaching is not just about having a deep understanding of the language. It is also about one’s ability to teach. A lot of schools commit the mistake in hiring a native English teacher who does not even have an experience in teaching at all. As a result, the content of what is taught is correct, but the teaching pedagogy is messed up. Thus, in hiring a teacher, school administrators should look at the following: Educational Attainment (must have an English related degree or credits in Education subjects); Teaching Experience (at least 1 year of teaching a particular year level applied for); and Excellent Pronunciation (may be determined via interview).
There are a lot of problems related to hiring an English teacher due to preconceived notions. For instance, in Spain, a lot of students don’t want to learn English from a fellow Spanish since they think they will just end up with the same accent and with no improvement at all. In Thailand, most students feel like they can learn more from native speakers who have “fair” skin. However, the real bases in determining a good language teacher include the in-depth knowledge of the language and creativity in teaching the lesson. Thus, both native and non-native English speakers with great credentials to back them up deserve to be hired.