Should my Teacher be a Native?
This is the big question, right? I often see job advertisements for teachers that specifically state “Native Speakers Only.” Is this something you look for in a teacher? Is it the most important thing?
I’m going to give you my own perspective. My completely subjective and personal opinion is… forget that shit.
Take it easy
Okay, that was maybe a little harsh, but let me explain. I am a native English speaker and have been living in Denmark for almost ten years. I have learned the Danish language so well that I now teach private students both one-to-one and in small groups.
I have a successful YouTube channel and website completely dedicated to teaching the Danish language. Many of my students have mistaken me for a native Dane, and even some natives have been fooled over the past year or so.
Not to say that I go around trying to fool people, but I do like to play with the idea a little. I often hear people say that I am a rare breed, but I know there are more people like me. Many people have a good ear for language and can use this to help others.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a teacher, and there are certainly many advantages to taking classes with a native speaker (we’ll get to that), but let’s think for a second. What are we looking for when we look for a native speaker?
Experience, passion, knowledge, creativity, good pronunciation are just a few things we consider when choosing a teacher.
So, if your teacher has these things, what’s the problem? Does it really matter that this person was not born in a specific location?
In many cases, I end up having a very close relationship with my students, and they feed on my passion for teaching language. They learn, they improve and the continue on to better things.
Now, I’m going to generalize here, but I am also talking from experience. Unless you are super into language and how it is put together, you may not understand the grammatical aspects of your native language.
You have, of course, learned the language in a natural way from your parents and your environment. So with this in mind, if you are learning a language from a non-native speaker, you have to consider that this person has learned the language very methodically.
They have studied grammar and probably have a great understanding of how it works. Again, this is the knowledge we also want to acquire as learners. This is what is important.
What can I get from a Native?
On the flip side, I have to admit…
There are many positives to having a native teacher.
They know the language intuitively. They feel it and sense it a way that non-natives may not.
They know many small nuances and can explain advanced expressions. Not only this, but they have the most authentic accent and pronunciation. This cannot be denied.
I totally understand why this native thing is so important for many, but I guess I just want to help you to see what is really important.
You could easily find a native speaker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a good teacher.
What to do?
If you are sure that you want a native speaker, I completely respect that. Go after it. Follow your heart. But if you are struggling to find a native in your hometown or where you are currently living, then don’t get hung up on it.
Find a good, experienced and passionate teacher, and the rest will come. For me, I feel like there is only so much I can teach a student, and then they absolutely must move on, and in most cases find a native to clean up any small mistakes or pronunciation errors.
But it can be scary to start with a native speaker. They are so self-assured and confident in their language that it sometimes can be intimidating. Another plan could also benefit you. Find a good teacher, native or not, and stick with him or her until you reach a high-intermediate level.
At this point, your language will be so good, that you only need that final, native polish to boost your language to new heights, and when you take the class with the native speaker, they’re going to be blown away by your skills.
Whatever you do. Teacher or no teacher. Enjoy the process and never give up.