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Native versus Non-Native Teachers of English
by Zainab Albulushy

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What are the differences?
In the English language-teaching field, Medgyes (1992) argues that native and non-native teachers reveal considerable differences in their teaching behaviours and that most of the discrepancies are language related. He also proposes that natives and non-natives have an equal chance to become successful teachers, but the routs used by the two groups are not the same in this case.

Regarding the language competence differences, Medgyes (1994) emphasises that progress in English is determined by various factors of the learning situation among which are the country of birth and educational experience. Thus if born and brought up in an English speaking environment, a person would likely be a more accomplished user of English than if born and brought up in a non-English speaking country. Hence, native speakers are potentially more accomplished users of English than non-native speakers and here appears the difference between the two.

In the teaching situation, however, there exist other variables of teaching skills that distinguish between the two and play a role in the teaching / learning process such as experience, age, sex, aptitude, motivation, training and so on. There are some clear differences explained in the following points (Medgyes 1992: 346):

a) Only non-native English speaking teachers can provide imitable models of the successful learner of English to their students. This will definitely depend on how proficient they are in English. However, one important consideration is that their proficiency in English does not prove their adequacy for being the best learner models.

b) The English language can better be taught by non-native teachers since they went through the experience of learning it themselves. They have definitely used some special learning techniques to help them acquire the language. This makes a difference between them and the native speakers of the language who did not go through that experience and not cautious enough of such strategies.

c) Non-NESTs have more knowledge of the English language than the native speakers. This is due to the processes they went through learning almost everything about the English language and trying different ways to work things out in it. So, they are more informative in this regard than the native speakers.

d) Language learning difficulties are better exposed to and tackled by non-native speaking teachers. Such difficulties become more complicated through experience which allows those teachers to be in a position of knowing how to assist their students face such and try the best ways to overcome them.

e) The continuous needs and problems of learners are better met and anticipated by the non-native speaking teachers. They are constant learners of the language themselves which makes them always in search for strategies and methods. This will play a significant role in making them more sensitive and understanding to their students' problems.

f) Sharing the students' mother tongue is another advantage for the non-native English teachers. The mother tongue in this regard is a helpful tool in facilitating the learning process and it makes things clearer for both teachers and students.

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