Sunday, August 17, 2008

Non- Native vs. Native English Teacher

Often, I am asked, "Is it possible for a non-native English speaker, who speaks English well, to teach English?" First off, the answer is YES. World-wide, the majority of English teachers are non-natives. While I will admit that a lot of schools/a lot of regions in the world are ideally looking for native English speakers as teachers, they do often hire non-natives. This is due to the fact that there are simply not enough native English speakers in supply to meet the demand for English learners around the world.

The question is not, "Is it possible for a non-native speaker to teach English?" the question is "Where are the best places/regions for non-natives to find a job teaching English?" I'll start with the parts of the world where I think it would be most difficult.

1. Japan, Korea and Taiwan are not possible because in order to get a working visa to teach English in these countries you must hold a native- English speaking passport. Conversely, if you happen to have the native tongue of a language that is in demand in these countries, you can teach that language. So, if you are French, for example, you can get a job/visa to teach French.

2. Native English speaking countries could be very difficult. There is a decent supply of Native English speakers. However, I would'nt say impossible simply because in the England and the U.S.,at least, there is a huge need for ESL teachers but not enough nationals interested in taking the posts. So while I deem them difficult, its definitely possible. You'd most likely have to look for jobs teaching asylum seekers and such.

3. University work could be difficult as well seeing as they often have a lot of pesky requirements and are usually not desperate for new teachers.

Now, lets get to where I think it is possible;

1. Your home country. Even if you come from a country where job ads call for native speakers, chances are they are not getting enough to meet the demand. As a national, you will be desirable because visas and paperwork are not an issue.

2. Any big city in any country (that I didn't mention as difficult) where there is a demand for English that can't be met. I'll give a few examples;

In France, in many regions, they will only take native English speakers. However, in Paris, Toulouse or Marseille, they can't find enough native English speakers so I have graduates who work in these cities who are non- natives.

In any big city in China, there is a demand for English that will never be met. Again, even if they are advertising for native English speakers, chances are they are not finding enough so apply anyway.

In the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the same rules apply. You should still send out your C.V. to job ads requesting natives as they probably are'nt getting enough applicants.

Of course after saying all this, your dream of teaching English is not going to fly unless you have a TESOL/TEFL or CELTA certification. Certification legitimizes your efforts.


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marinews said...

I think it is better to teach your own language because you know better what you are doing. However, I think non native teachers are necessary because they have gone through so much effort to understand, write, speak and teach a second language,that probably they will be more understanding with their students. The know how to appreciate better the effort of their students because they know that it is not so easy to become bilingual or multilingual.

marinews said...

In my opinion, non-native teachers have a better rapport with non-native students than native teachers. They know the effort that they have to do to be able to understand, speak, write, and read a second language. Of course, native teachers have more lexicon, idioms and every-day language that comes out naturally. That does not mean that non-native teacher cannot teach English properly.

Anonymous said...

First, it depends on what we mean by “speaking English well”. “Well” the word is too vague to denote language competence. In other words, what’s ‘well’ for some isn’t the same for others. I think English competence is in the first place supposed to be assessed by how close it is to the native’s level. The fact that the majority of English teachers are not natives doesn’t by any means give them an excuse for their poor English command. The only advantage of a non-native English teacher is that they can explain English basics in the language spoken by student. That’s why I think bilinguals would do the best of English teaching than just non-natives or natives. But since it’s really hard to always have a true bilingual person at hand, to make your English really adequate I strongly believe you at a particular level can’t ignore native speakers. And if you have an opportunity to take classes with a native speaker (while already being able to speak and use English somewhat) it can help you out that much as to make you finally sound fluently.