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ESL forum > Techniques and methods in Language Teaching > Native vs Non-native    

Native vs Non-native

Pearly Angel

Native vs Non-native
"Native English-speaking teachers (NESTs) are better are better English teacher than non-native English-speaking teachers (NNESTs)."
To what extent do you agree with the statement above?

25 May 2015      


I don �t. A good non-native English speaking teacher with the right level of English and the correct studies can be as good as a native speaker teacher, and one of the main reasons for me is that, as a learner of the language, I know the difficulties a student with my same mother tongue can find when learning the language, because I �ve been there and I rely on my own experience as a learner.

25 May 2015     


I don �t think so, because it �s different to be a native speaker and to study a language. For example, people who translate a document or a live conversation can know a language very well, but it doesn �t always mean that language is their native one.
I think they can be better at speaking, because we all build an accent according to our native language. But in terms of grammar, for example, I think it depends mainly on the effort and time you spent learning.
I hope this will be useful to you! =)

25 May 2015     

nasreddine Sarsar

That’s a very interesting question. To my mind, non-native English-speaking teachers neither have the linguistics nor the communicative competence of a native English-speaking teacher. However, non-native English-speaking teachers have certainly many benefits in the language classroom.

To start off, they can serve as imitable models of the successful learners of English, thus infusing their students with confidence deemed necessary for their success as language learners. To this end, teachers can use their learning experience in a reflective way to better adjust their teaching practices. Pursuing this further, non-NESTs can use learning strategies more effectively than NESTS just because they are people who have gone through the process of learning a language and accordingly have acquired some learning strategies that can be of good use to their students. Last but not least, non-NESTs are more able to anticipate language difficulties. They know the areas where students are likely to make mistakes and can help their students avoid them in the future.

To sum up, I would recommend that a non-NEST and a NEST co-teach in the same classroom. This method of teaching is implemented in my context, and as far as I can see, the experience is very successful.

25 May 2015     

United Kingdom

Yes, that �s a good question. First of all, I didn �t realise there was an acronym and I am a NEST! The main advantage of that status, I would say, is just that - English is my L1 and so I don �t have to make an effort to communicate in it, whereas when I was teaching French, it was all too easy to revert to English. The downside is that I know what is right, but I can �t always explain why. I think people who have learned English probably know �the rules � better and as the others say, they can anticipate the difficulties for their learners. I would say that a non-NEST, who shares L1 with their students and has an excellent command of English, would be hard to beat.
Having said all that, this consideration isn �t the only one, or the best one. Is the teacher a good communicator? Does s/he like kids?  Does he try to make the learning a fun experience? Does she employ a variety of teaching methods? Does he respond to need and make an effort to differentiate? Etc etc...
In my last post, an Italian national was a mainstream English (not EAL) teacher. She was brilliant: lively, effusive, popular. Everyone loved her accent and the occasional infelicity of expression didn �t really matter. One was hilarious. I was working with her teaching �A Christmas Carol � and she kept referring to the character �Cratchit � as �Scratchit �. When we meet up now, we still laugh about it. The students didn �t even notice. 

25 May 2015     


I don �t think that native speakers make always better teachers than non native ones. I can say it from my own experience. I have already had 3 Spanish native teachers and non of them was a good teacher. The fact that someone speaks a language perfectly doesn �t mean that he or she is good at transmitting  the knowledge.,

25 May 2015     

United States

I think a blanket statement like that shouldn �t be made at all. What I will add to the excellent discussion is one advantage that I see in myself as a native speaker. That is my ability to explain small differences in the language. So, what I would say is that a native speaker can be better for advanced students who are ready for the finer points of the language. Of course, a good teacher with any background will be better than a bad teacher.


25 May 2015     


I wrote that article looooong time ago! 


25 May 2015     

United Kingdom

Interesting question. One thing I �ve noticed is that things come naturally to us natives so that we instictively know when something is right yet the non-native, (mostly Spanish) English teachers I �ve met can walk all over the average native when it comes to grammar. That said, English isn �t really the kind of language you can learn focussing on grammar. Mind you, I have to say, apart from some important exceptions, the non-native English teachers at my school put in a lot more effort on the whole. I think, at the end of the day, some people are good teachers and others not, native or non-native notwithstanding. 

25 May 2015     


Reading this article (http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/what-makes-a-great-teacher/) we understand proficiency as one of numerous requirements for being a good teacher.
IMHO, being a native speaker is just one among numerous characteristics that make a good teacher.

25 May 2015     


I really think that it really depends on the person, their willingness to commit, and sometimes the level of the students. I �ve met natives who couldn �t teach their way out of a box and non-natives that were keen and engaging. That said, and from my experience - (just what I �ve found, and not true for all that I am sure!)  I think a native teacher, who has actually taken the time to learn English grammar properly, is probably better just because they understand the nuances of the language because they have lived and breathed it... No matter how good a non-native is sometimes subtle nuances are missed, expressions may not be used properly in certain situations, they know what is used and what isn �t used in daily lexicon, etc. 
But as I say, the above is only my experience and opinion. I am sure others have had experiences contrary to mine. 

25 May 2015     

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