Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Do EFL English Schools Really Need Native English Speaking Teachers?

The Need for Native English Speakers

As the need for proficiency in the English language continues to explode worldwide, there is an ever-increasing need for more and more EFL teachers. All too often however, non-native English teachers find the phrase “native speakers only” included in adverts and English EFL or ESL requirements. But, do schools really need native-speaking English teachers? On ELT forums like http://www.esl-jobs-forum.com/ , blogs and web pages across the internet, commentary flies back and forth at a fast and furious pace. Here are some opinions regarding native vs. non-native English speaking EFL / ESL teachers:

A Problem for Non-Natives

When a prospective non-native English teacher posted about his inability to gain an ELT position in his native country, his error-filled post was responded to as follows:

“…I counted around thirty mistakes in your message. If I was a school owner, why should I hire someone whose written English skills are poor, or who writes so sloppily it looks like they couldn't care less? Alright, so some of your mistakes may be due to the way we have become used to writing on forums, "dumbed down" if you like, but if you want to show people you have the skills that you claim to have, then why not show them by at least writing in proper English?”

The Whole Package

The ensuing comments give some insight as to why schools would “openly” target native English speakers only, when they say:

“Unfortunately, most ESL positions in Asia and particularly China specify native speakers only, moreover, they want those from certain countries like UK, Australia and the USA. A non-native speaker’s language and teaching ability may be better than a lot of native speakers but I doubt whether administrators or recruiters will want anyone other than blue-eyed, blonde Caucasians to parade in front of prospective parents and their students.”

“As has already been mentioned, the reason people want native speakers is that they want "the whole package". Someone who can talk about odd British sayings, what Americans eat for breakfast, differences between UK regional accents; things a native speaker will know instinctively, things a non-native speaker may not. Or simply the chance to talk to "a native speaker."

Not Everyone Agrees Native Speakers are “Best”

But not all necessarily agree that a native speaker is always the best option. Consider this alternate opinion posting:

“…it's more often than not better for the students if their teacher is a non-native speaker (providing of course that you CAN use English as good as a native speaker). That is because you had to learn this language as well as your students do, so you know exactly which things will be difficult and how to explain them most efficiently.”

Need For EFL Teachers is HUGE
The Need for EFL / ESL Teachers is HUGE Right now. It would be foolish to think that only native speakers can fill all the positions available worldwide. Non-native speakers should look for jobs in less discriminatory areas and countries after ensuring that their English communication and teaching skills are honed to their best. Non-native speakers will usually find that their best allies in their quest the native-speaking English language teachers.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" or "7 Techniques to Motivate Your English Language Learners and Make Your Classes More Dynamic" by requesting the title you want at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com


Unknown said...

So is there really any hope for non.native speakers to teach English? Could anyone provide some link on this matter? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm an English teacher from Venezuela and I can tell you that I have found that same "discrimination" you speak about. I think that if you ask students what they want, they would certainly say that they don't want "an American, Canadian, Jamaican, Trinidarian, South african,Irish, Scottish, British or Australian". Why? someone would ask, and their answer would be: "They have weird accents". On an international level, hiring native English EFL or ESL teachers is counterproductive because they precisely they have differentm accents that confuse students, but non-natives have little or no accent which makes them perfect for jobs in schools and corporations