Need is greater than ever before

ELT forums like http://www.esl-jobs-forum.com/ , blogs and web pages like http://www.eslbase.com/ across the internet almost continually post comments, advice and varying opinions on the viability of native vs. non-native TESOL, EFL / ESL English language teachers. Native English-speaking teachers couldn’t begin to fill the myriad of TEFL English teaching positions continuing to develop worldwide. The need for competent, non-native speaking English teachers is greater than ever before. Let’s follow some commentary that identifies some typical problems and their possible solutions.

There are some problems

“Be wary of errors, not mistakes.”, I always tell my EFL students in business and university classes. But either can cost the non-native English teacher seeking a position. Note this ELT forum comment. A non-native speaking English teacher “may have stellar qualities regarding their teaching abilities and they may be charismatic mentors to their students. However their first impression to a prospective employer, in most cases an email or other written form of communication, can determine the employer’s decision to consider you or not to consider you for the job.” So, the first thing I would do, is to improve my written grammar skills. Minimize the reasons the employer may have to NOT consider you.

Other commentary advises non-native English speaking EFL English teachers to emphasize your knowledge of the cultures of the many English-speaking countries. That may include personal experiences, interesting anecdotes, including the origin of a word or phrase. “I also feel that employers, parents and students want the “whole package.” So non-native English speakers need to maximize the reasons the employer has to hire you.”

Another commenter indicates that “…you don’t have to be a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, “white” person (or pink person) to get the job. The employer is not going to see you anyway as they read your first correspondence. That gives you time to present yourself in a very appealing way.”

Be Honest With Yourself

“As far as non-native speakers teaching ESL/EFL, especially in an English-speaking country, it is important to be brutally honest with yourself.”, comments another ELT professional. Ask yourself these questions responds another ELT forum commenter:

o Do you speak English intelligibly with little or no mother-tongue (L1) accent?

o Can you speak and write grammatically correctly? Remember, you are your students’ model. If you cannot pronounce the words they need to learn correctly, how can you expect them to?

o If you don´t speak and write grammatically correctly, how can you expect them to?

These are drawbacks for any non-native speaker teaching in another language.

A Bit of a Sticky Wicket

Culture is an integral part of English or any other foreign language teaching. What about those language, cultural and idiom situations which come up in class? Questions about local sayings, events and customs? How do you handle these? One commenter noted, “…I have taught all different levels and I have found that students have questions that I know a non-native teacher would not be able to answer.”

He continues making this point, “…I have come into contact with some awesome non-native teachers, but in general the native speakers were just better… I listened to some of the teachers ask me questions that were just obvious and use idioms incorrectly in an attempt to sound like they were better than they were.”

While the need for competent non-native English-speaking TESOL English teachers will continue to outstrip the supply, teachers do need to careful in putting their best foot forward. For further ideas, information and commentary be sure to read the companion article, “Do EFL English Schools Really Need Native English Speaking Teachers?”

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