TEFL for non native english
speaking teachersEnglish is the most widely spoken language by non-native speakers in the world (it is estimated that there are nearly 1 billion english
-learners by now). It is an international communication tool in business, science and virtually all fields of humanities. No wonder that there is an increasing number of people of all nationalities and professions that want to learn this language. It is therefore inevitable that it will not be always possible for students to be taught by the native english
speaking teacher (NEST).
Alternatively, students can be taught by a non-native english
speaking teacher (NNEST) who can also know their mother tongue, but that does not have to be a case. Such situation can set certain difficulties for both, teacher and students, but can be also mutually beneficial in many respects.
An obvious downfall of NNESTs is that they will never achieve a fluency equal NEST, with its language subtleties, rich vocabulary or clear accent and melody. Unless NNEST is bilingual or lived in Anglo-Saxon country for years, he/she is likely to have a fairly strong native accent, give in grammatical and lexical slip-u.s.
or even say things incorrectly in english
, following grammatical rules of his/her mother tongue. Moreover, even if NNESTs mastered certain parts of grammar that do not exist (or are completely different) in their mother tongue, they are very likely to make mistakes repeatedly, if not focused properly.
Even more importantly, teaching foreign language is not only about teaching grammatical rules or more or less specialised vocabulary. It also means teaching certain culture, way of thinking; showing given country’s ambiance, if you wish. Here NNESTs is basically useless and can provide very little knowledge in this area.
Nevertheless, there are some fields were NNEST can easily challenge NEST or even gain some advantage. NNESTs had to learn english
themselves so are a living example that this skill is possible to achieve. This fact alone can be very motivating to students. Thanks to their experience in learning a foreign language, thy can not only appreciate the effort that students put into learning process and their progress, but also can provide students with useful hints and tips how to easier/quicker/better master a given part of material. It can help even more if NNESTs speak students’ mother tongue – then, not only can they foresee what material can cause some confusion or difficulties to students, but also by comparisons, similarities or analogies to their mother tongue they can guide students through more challenging grammar or vocabulary. Finally, to my experience, NNESTs are far more conscious of grammar rules, so do not only follow their “gut feeling” about e.g. word order, but also can explicitly explain to students why they said things in certain way.
However, teachers’ nationality does not say much about their skills as teachers, how they can motivate student, manage a class or make lessons engaging and interesting. There are no rules here and obviously all shortcomings can be compensated by other skills or improvement in failing areas. So NNESTs should exposed students (and themselves) to english
language (spoken by english
native speakers), culture and… people as much as possible. They should not only focus on grammar tests, but also on understanding this living and developing language. On the other hand, NESTs could put some effort to understand their students’ mother tongue – its structure, grammar rules and philosophy, if I can put it this way. In ideal world, they should also try to learn a foreign language to better understand the struggle and some natural tendencies in making mistakes, like incorporating native grammar rules in a foreign language or making up words that do not really exist!
We never end up with ideal circumstances and situations but we can make best out of what we have. I am positive that as long as there is room for devotion, determination and a mutual interest in improvement, things can never go wrong.