Employing both NESTs and nNESTs benefits students and improves business

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NEST – Native english Speaking Teacher

nNEST – non-Native English Speaking Teacher

I would like to share with you an interview with Andrew Davison, the founder of Learn English Budapest, in which we discuss why Andrew has decided to change his recruitment policy and also take on nNESTs

The website was setup after Andrew had spent some time in the city and seen how hard teachers were finding it to advertise themselves for private lessons. Seeing that students wanted an alternative to language schools he setup the website as an easy way for students to find teachers. After filling in a form on the website Andrew personally matches them with one of the teachers on his team based on their learning needs. Lessons then take place somewhere mutually convenient and teachers get paid directly by the student.

Originally, Learn English Budapest only worked with native teachers but as the business grew Andrew discovered that students that were looking for intensive grammar tuition, or students who were at beginner level learnt better with nNESTS and at this point Andrew started welcoming them onto the team.

Since its launch, the business has grown and helped many students find teachers. There are now over 30 teachers on the team and while most of them are native, Andrew is actively looking for more non-natives to join the team, especially those with advanced linguistic qualifications. Recently I have also written an article for Learn English Budapest’s blog in which I tried to show that nNESTs can be as good as NESTs and there is no valid reason for discriminating non-native English speakers. You can read the article here.

When your sts are asked about the qualities of their ideal teacher, which ones do they mention most often? Is being a NS among them?

Being a native speaker does often feature in the list of ideal qualities for a teacher however just as common are things such as “patience”, “strictness”, “motivated” and “willingness to give homework” – the last one always makes me laugh a little! Overall the picture that I see is that students want a teacher that is going to work hard for them and really push them to learn English. Many of our students report having bad experiences with language schools or with teachers that their bosses bring in at work – they feel like they didn’t get the proper attention and this is why they are seeking out a private teacher.
Why did you decide to also work with nNESTs?
While their are plenty of excellent native English teachers in Budapest there are also plenty of bad ones. Simply put, their aren’t enough good ones to supply the demand I’ve had and I was forced to look at why I wasn’t including nNESTs on our team. I admit that at first I was sceptical that nNESTs could match the quality of natives but overtime I’ve seen first hand that I’m wrong. Out of all the student’s we’ve matched with nNESTs there haven’t been any complaints.
If there is a market demand for NESTs in Hungary, where do you think it comes from?
I wouldn’t say their is a huge demand for them specifically. Some students certainly do need convincing as they have negative perceptions of nNESTS or have had bad experiences with them in the past. However, with beginner students and those that specifically want to focus on improving their grammar it’s quite easy to persuade them of the benefits of working with an nNEST over a native teacher. In some instances a student will decide to work with two teachers; a nNEST to help them with grammar and a native to help them with pronunciation, accent and overall conversational skills. This has worked very well.
Does the industry always have to give in to the market demand, or can it shape what their customers want and need?
I would say the market could be shaped, but only if the market works together on this issue and the cynic in me sees it taking a long time for some language schools to change their minds on nNESTs. However from my point of view, I’m only interested in making sure each student that comes to Learn English Budapest ends up matched with the best teacher based on their needs. Whether that is a native or an nNEST is not important and in fact I’m actively working on more ways to get students more interested and aware of the teaching skills nNESTs have. It will take some time though.
What qualities are you looking for in a prospective teachers?
As we match students and teachers together for private lessons rather than acting as a typical language school – one of my biggest demands is that they be reliable and proactive at making first contact with the new students and really taking time to find out what they want to learn and planning lessons around this. On top of this, teachers need to motivate and engage their students. as well as be willing to look at all sorts of techniques to help people learn. No student is the same.
What advantages do you see of having a mix of NESTs and nNESTs in the staffroom?
Having both NESTs and nNESTs on the team means we can really offer our students the best range of teachers to choose from. Everyone that comes to us has different abilities and skills they are looking to improve. Some of these skills – particularly grammar for example – I find are often better taught by nNESTS, while NESTS are great for helping people with their pronunciation. Also, having nNESTS has meant we can dramatically increase the level of support we can give to students at the beginner level. Having teachers that speak Hungarian means we can now offer lessons to those that may only speak a few words of English. Finally, and less on the business side of things, just having my NESTs and nNESTs mixing together has helped both sides learn new teaching techniques.
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