There is a figure in Language Teaching that should be studied in depth. You will be happy to know that you have an added value as a native teacher in most countries. But don’t worry if you are teaching a language that is not your native one… there is still hope for you.
I have been on both sides of the fence myself. Technically speaking, and broadly generalizing, the local teacher should be better for the initial steps of the language learning process. He represents the figure of someone who has acquired a good level in a foreign language and will be able to show you how to do it yourself, as opposed to a native teacher. That lucky fellow was already born with it… he doesn’t understand how difficult it is for non-natives or which parts are the hardest for you and for me. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Well… it’s not so easy.
The local teacher has an extra advantage only if his native counterpart doesn’t know the local language. In other words, if I had to teach Spanish to an A1 group of students in Burundi composed entirely of Kurundi speakers (meaning that I couldn’t make use of my limited French), I would have an incredibly low performance and I would ultimately be light years away from the results of a local Burundi teacher, with my head lowered in shame as his students perform much better than mine. However, if out of pure determination I decided to learn Kurundi and reached a B2 or C1 level, I could go back to the country and apply my new abilities to take my students of Spanish to unimagined heights of academic prowess. Without the local language I would be crushed like a bug… knowing the local language I can transmit much more knowledge than a non-native. Why? Because I would technically have decades of advantage, experiences, conversations and real-life situations that he probably never had 😮
With my imperfect English I recognize that if I have been successful teaching it, it has had much more to do with my pedagogical strategies, materials and abilities as a teacher than with a total knowledge in every single area of this beautiful language. I have had successful groups of students in seminars about Military and Medical English. However, I am neither delusional… nor ashamed to admit that I must depend much more on the materials and textbooks. I would be clearly unable to add as much extra value as a British Officer from the RAF who doesn’t need to check terms on a list, because he has heard them all a hundred times while serving.
So my advice to non-natives would be: Prepare yourself, study, get better and better… but know your limits and pick your battles carefully. If you are offered a C2 Medical English course and you know a Physician with an EFL certification, you should elegantly step aside and let the experts do their thing 😀
My advice to natives would be: Improve your teaching skills, learn the language of your students and understand the difficulties they have. Otherwise the local teachers will outperform you and your students every single time.
Could a native teacher with all the teaching diplomas, a PhD in his language and years of experience teaching, be outperformed by anyone? NOT A CHANCE. I enjoy teaching English but I enjoy teaching Spanish even more. I love to be the ultimate figure in my field: The Specialized Native Teacher.
See you in the next post! 🙂