Uploaded by Tasneem Jamaludeen

Opinion Column

Natives or non-natives?
Many language teaching industries subscribes to the assumption that native Englishspeaking teachers are the gold standard of spoken and written language, whereas
non-native English-speaking teachers are inferior educators because they lack this
innate linguistic skill. But is this premise still applicable in the 21st century?
A native speaker is defined as someone who both speaks English as their first
language and is a citizen of one of the following countries: USA. UK. Ireland. Canada.
Native English-speaking teachers are not only regarded as the ideal model for
language production, but are also valued as repositories of cultural information. This
in fact is the loophole that is missing in non-native English-speaking teachers. They
are seen as deficient speakers with imperfect grammatical knowledge, poor
pronunciation, and have little to no knowledge about foreign cultures. The demarcation
between native and non-native English-speakers have caused many distress for not
being able to apply for jobs that require native English-speakers. This is the case in
many teaching industries.
Indeed, native English-speakers have a higher level of proficiency in speaking their
first language. Having them teach in schools helps expose students to quintessential
pronunciation and proper language use. In addition, it also exposes students to the
English culture through the acts of the native English-speaking teacher that reflects
his English culture. This view is often favored by the Anglophone culture for it
expresses the language just the way it was originated.
However, speaking the language proficiently does not equate to teaching it perfectly.
Native English-speakers may falter in explaining grammar as they find these rules
innate in them rather than being theoretically taught in books. This creates a conflict
between teachers and students as the latter find it challenging to understand the why’s
and how’s in the English language. This is where non-native English-speaking
teachers fill the gaps. Non-native English-speakers are more experienced to teach
grammar as they too were taught through theory. These teachers also have the ability
to leverage on the students’ first language when they find difficulties in explaining
some terms. This imparts a deeper understanding in students on the English
language. Although non-native English-speaking teachers’ pronunciation is deemed
inferior to native English-speaking teachers, their elocution are more comprehendible.
Another key factor found in native English-speakers that is absent in non-native
English-speakers is their cultural knowledge. Native English-speakers are regarded
as those who are brought up in English countries such as the US and UK. Hence, they
are exposed to the English culture and are able to reflect them through their teachings.
Ensuring that the teaching of a language is constantly coupled with its culture is pivotal
as it gives context that exhibits the right meaning to each word. Understanding cultural
differences also means less misunderstandings with native speakers.
Non-native English-speaking teachers do not have this bonus as they are brought up
in a foreign country. However, this acts as an advantage for them to interact with
students easier because of their shared culture. This makes the learning environment
more engaging and enjoyable for foreign students. Conversely, native Englishspeaking teachers often face tensions because of their different cultures. Foreign
students may find it challenging to adapt or understand the culture of a native Englishspeaking teacher due to its vast differences.
In conclusion, I stand with the view that there is no need for a demarcation between
native and non-native English-speakers in the teaching industry as both have their
own advantages depending on learners’ proficiency and the skill being taught.
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