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Native or non-native English teacher?

A free professional blog to support English teachers


When I was training to be a teacher, it was widely accepted that those with the top degrees from the best universities, didn’t always make the best teachers. 


The best teachers were those who have had to break down difficult subjects to learn them piece by piece. They were the teachers who understood the learning process and could simplify ideas in the same way for their students. 


This blog post is a love letter to the non-native teachers of English, who I argue are often better teachers than native English speakers. 




The misconception is that native speakers of English are the best. This myth is exaggerated by private schools who advertise their native English speaking staff as proof of their exclusivity.


However, as Kenneth Beare explains, ‘This is purely a marketing decision made by the schools… Just Speaking English doesn't make a teacher qualified.’


We at The English Classroom agree 100%.


There are many online qualifications a native speaker of English can take, which qualifies them to teach English in schools. TEFL is one example. I argue that although these ‘teachers’ do have a solid grip of the language, they do not necessarily have the ability to teach others how to speak it. (Please know that I only refer to some because there are others who are amazing and committed!)


Like my reflection at the beginning of the post, doing an online course does not mean that the teacher can break down difficult concepts for students to understand. These teachers also miss out on education surrounding teaching students with learning difficulties, classroom management, and so on. 


Isn’t it better that a qualified teacher with English as a second language teaches these students instead?


Same starting point


Maybe it is a positive thing that non-native teachers have English as their second, third or even fourth language. 


Non-native speakers, especially those who come from the same base language as the students, understand the difficult grammar points, the sounds that need more practice, and how the languages are different.


As Charlotte on European Language Jobs writes,  'If you were to go on a long and treacherous journey would you rather have a guide who had the map, or the guide who not only had the map but had done it before?'


I would rather have one who had done it before!


Social advantage


Finally, I would like to make a point on the social aspect of having native English speaking teachers. 


School students are constantly forming their ideas about the world and their place within it. What are we teaching the students if we tell them that native English teachers are better than their local ones?


What happens to their role models if we remove teachers who look like them, sound like them and come from the same town as them. But we replace them with US or British gap year students who are looking to teach English whilst exploring a new city, only to leave next semester and be replaced by an identical, new native English teacher?


We need non-native English teachers who can form long-lasting bonds with their students. To act as role models and to guide them through their English journey. Every step of the way. 


At The English Classroom, we have built tools for existing local teachers, who now have the support they need to teach high-quality English education in schools. Designed for those who have already mapped the way.

Find out how it works here.


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Written by Jennifer Gardner

Owner of The English Classroom


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