Should an English teacher be a native speaker?

by Naomi Simmons

 

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Should an English teacher be a native speaker?

The kids are finally at school and you have now met their teacher. The teacher seems nice, but does it matter if your child’s English teacher is a native speaker or not? A native speaker is anyone who uses English as their first language.

Most people prefer their children to be taught by a native speaker who has English as their first language.  Probably the biggest advantage is that you can be sure that your child will be taught correct English pronunciation. Your child will also be exposed to English that is fluent and grammatically correct.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality of the English teaching will be better. Although native speaker English teachers speak English perfectly, some are not necessarily trained in how to teach it, and are not necessarily better teachers. This is because knowing a language and being able to teach it are two very different things. Learning your mother tongue as a baby is very different to learning it as a foreign language later.  Imagine if you had to explain the use of different tenses in your own language to a student. Unless you have studied grammar, this would probably be difficult or impossible, as you know the language so well that you speak it without giving much thought to how you do so. If you are lucky and your child’s English teacher has studied how to teach English as a foreign language, this will obviously not be a problem.

Non-native English teachers have the advantage that they have personally gone through the process of learning English as a foreign language, so may be more able to guide your child through this process. So as long as your non-native English teacher has a high level of English and has studied how best to teach it, not being a native speaker should not be a problem, although there is some risk of faulty pronunciation or teaching language that would not sound right to a native speaker.

 

For young children, probably the most important factor is that the teacher has lots of enthusiasm, creativity and energy. Great English teachers, whether native speakers or not, make learning English fun and exciting. Their lessons are active, with lots of games, movement and singing.

Even with a great English teacher, largish class site makes it very hard for individual children to get the attention they need. For this reason, many, many parents now choose to supplement the English their children learn at school. Some use private classes, others use online courses such as www.teachkidsenglish.com, or look for DVDs and online videos.  This becomes particularly necessary if the English teacher does not have a fluent level of English, is inexperienced in language teaching, you child is shy or if the class size is large.

Some schools have English taught by your child’s class teacher, who may or may not know much English. Others have a specialist English teacher who moves around the school teaching English to all the classes.

We’d love to know your thoughts and experiences on whether it is important for English teachers to be native speakers. We welcome your comments on this!

Good luck!

Go to teachkidsenglish.com