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There is an open and often frequent debate about whether native speaker teachers or non native speakers teach better.
There are complex explanations behind this debate supported by research but also some very subjective opinions.
Let me explain why Kingsgate made a choice for all of our core teachers to be native English speaking teachers.
Parents Demand Native English Speaking Teachers
When we speak to several hundreds of potential new families the key question parents always ask is “Who will be teaching my child?” Malaysian parents overwhelming demand that their children be taught by teachers from countries such as the UK, the US, Australia and Canada. They want their child to adopt an accent that they consider to be “native” in style and they want pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar to be equivalent. Before we get into the debate about whether this rationale is right or wrong, let’s be clear that Kingsgate is satisfying a very strong and clear demand. Parents ask for it and we provide it.
Are Native English Speakers better English teachers?
Being a native teacher provides a number of advantages.
1. They have better language proficiency
2. They have a more extensive vocabulary
3. They are better at explaining cultural issues in the target language
4. They are more flexible in their ability to adapt language across different topics.
There is no doubt that learning a first language is done automatically for native speakers. Initially, it is the only language they speak with one set of grammar rules, vocabulary and conventions. By default, they become good at it.
Native English Speaking Teachers are excellent in the use of spontaneous language for various settings. They can teach conversation in a very natural and proficient manner. Pronunciation is accurate and clear and they serve as strong role models for students in all characteristics of language.
Language is also a social process. When you are teaching a language you are also teaching culture and language within a context. They are not just words or phrases with simple technical functions. They also bring shared cultural understandings with embedded values such as idiomatic expressions, slang words, what to ask and what not to ask in different situations. Colloquial expressions, idioms, and phrasal verbs are more extensive and richer for native verse non-native English speakers so they can answer any questions more easily.
Are there advantages to being taught English by local teachers?
The advantages of being taught by non-native English speakers is the fact that both teachers and students share the same culture. They sometimes explain grammatical rules better as these rules often guided their understanding about how to use the language. Native speakers learn through complete immersion. Native speakers understand grammar rules but in their case it can be explanation of “why” rather than the rules that guide actions.
Non-native speakers also serve very well as role models for successful language learning. “This is how I learnt best.” The teacher can also explain English language concepts using students first language when students encounter problems and draw connections, similarities and differences between the languages.
Personally, I don’t agree with “English only” learning environments. Zero tolerance ignores the advantages non-natives have of discussing some concepts in their native tongue so that learners develop a more complete conceptual understanding.
Teacher competence is not driven by our native tongue or cultural background but in truth the accreditation and certification requirements for teaching in the UK, USA, Australia and Canada are more rigorous than many countries. Also, above and beyond base line certification teachers from these countries keep learning, improving and developing far beyond these foundation levels. Career teachers with several years of experience also have several years of additional training and development in schools that operate at high standards. International schools are emulating or exceeding these same standards. Non-native speakers can definitely achieve these same levels of teaching competence and standard and often do but to generalise, less non-natives have this same opportunity and career pathway.
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