When did you start wondering if you needed any English lessons? Maybe in your last trip to London when you needed some information about a tour, or maybe watching a TV show and decided to turn on the original version and didn’t understand a word?
How can it be possible that you don’t understand any word? You have studied English throughout the school, and maybe, at University later…
Well, what happens is that you are dealing with real accents when you get to the real world. Accents are everywhere: England, Scotland, USA West and East Coast, Australia… and those are only some of the countries where English is the first language. We still need to count the rest of the people coming from other countries speaking in English.
Let’s pop up the important question here
Is it important to have an English mother tongue teacher to learn the language?
In my most sincerest opinion… I don’t think so.
Obviously, this “no” needs an explanation.
Firstly, it will depend on the student’s level. If it is a very low level, it may be good to have an English mother tongue speaker, but it won’t make a big difference. What I mean with this is that, at the beginning, it is difficult to understand accents and the audios are very slow, so the lessons will be more focused on vocabulary rather than on accent or speaking fluently.
Secondly, being an English mother tongue does not assure the student that the professional background is enough to teach a person a new language. Teaching requires a good language level, but it also requires patience, imagination, mastering grammar rules and never giving up.
Finally, I would like to point out that the most important part of learning a language is being able to communicate with a community of people, and that the accent is taking a backseat so that this communication prevails.
Let’s talk about advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages of having a native teacher.
Native teachers are usually at ease and offer very fast and dynamic lessons, as they are speaking in their own language and very rarely they find troubles to get the right word or expression. In addition, the students feel very motivated to talk with them, as they are inside a little bubble where the language is changed from their comfortable own language.
The other and very important advantage is that a native teacher will, obviously, offer a much better pronunciation. I would advise this to levels higher than B1, where this skill becomes more and more important.
Disadvantages to have a native speaker
Not everything is pink in the native teachers’ world. There are also some disadvantages. To name one, sometimes it can be difficult for them to explain grammar, as they grew with it and they never had to face learning problems from a student point of view.
Also, I would like to add that, while almost every non-native teacher out there has a studying language related background, native teachers tend to be non-language students, so their training is more limited in that aspect.
Native teachers around the globe
Native teachers or mother tongue speakers are not always those ones who were born in a country where the language they teach is the spoken language. What do I mean with this? You can be born in Portugal and still be considered a native speaker.
With the correct studies, travelling, growing with a second or third language, you can also become a native speaker. Not everything is in your born country or your parents language. There are many ways to consider a second language your mother tongue language.
In fact, for English, only the ones coming from Britain, Australia, North AMerica and Ireland are considered Native English Speaking teachers. On the other side, people who were born in South Africa, Malta or India are not, even though English is an official language.
The reason for this is that their accent is not as neutral as we are used to, so it may be difficult for a student to understand them. Ridiculous, from my point of view.
To sum up: no, I don’t think it is important to look for a native speaker. It is important to look for a good teacher. Is this teacher a native speaker? It is only a plus.
Marta SAnchez, docente di inglese e spagnolo.
Spagnola, appassionata di viaggi, ha vissuto in Inghilterra ed Australia.