'Why native speaker teachers are often a bad thing!' by Adrian Tennant

In this article, originally published in IATEFL Voices. Issue 202 May – June 2008 and republished here with full consent of the author, Adrian Tennant asks if NS (Native Speaker) teachers are, in fact, as fit for purpose as we believe. Adrian’s bio note can be found below the article.

At last year’s IATEFL Conference in Aberdeen, two unrelated events got me thinking about an issue which, in spite of the changing role and face of English in the world, has not yet been resolved: the role and status of native speakers as teachers of English. The first was a chance meeting with a young Korean teacher during one of the evening social events and the second was a workshop that focused on initial teacher training courses.

The meeting with the Korean teacher was one of those unplanned things that can actually be extremely productive and thought-provoking. I was at one of the evening events and we were asked to turn to someone nearby and just start talking to them. Behind me there was a small group of first-time conference attendees, I turned round and we began to talk.

Fairly soon, we got onto the subject of where people worked. At this stage, the conversation took an unexpected turn: one of the Koreans started talking about his frustration with his work context. I was intrigued and decided to try and find out as much as I could. It turned out that his institution was employing a number of unqualified native speakers (NS) to teach (mostly ‘conversation’ classes) and that these ‘teachers’ were being paid twice as much as the local (Korean) teachers who had had 5 years’ training!

The second event was a workshop led by a native speaker that focused on ‘Initial teacher training courses’. Within five minutes it became clear that the courses being referred to were courses such as CELTA and Trinity which are often taken by ‘native speakers’ as a way into the TEFL ‘profession’. It also became apparent that the presenter was unaware that some of his audience were non-native speakers (NNS) and that their courses often lasted up to five years. (I sat at the back and cringed for much of the session).

These two experiences started me thinking about the training undertaken by people entering the ELT profession, the disparity and inequality between the training of many NS teachers and many NNS teachers and the often unequal status and pay.

Unfortunately, there still seems to be the feeling that ‘nativeness’ and the type of passport held etc., is a prerequisite for many positions around the world. But how can a teacher who has taken a four-week course be better (and worth more in terms of pay) than one who has studied for five years? How can someone whose classroom experience might amount to six hours over a fairly short period of time be considered better than someone who has spent six months or more in a school, teaching day in and day out? And, worse still, how can someone with absolutely no training be paid more than someone who has spent years studying both language and methodology?

Surely the questions that need to be asked are ‘How competent is the person?’ not ‘What’s your nationality?’ As ‘professionals’ we have a responsibility to make employers and students aware that where you come from (and the accent you speak with) are not the most important things. Far more important is the question of how good you are as a teacher, and training must be a factor in this!

Another issue we need to consider is whether a course that is only four weeks long can ever be considered appropriate. Of course, length does not guarantee quality, but on the other hand, we have to be realistic about how much can be taught and learnt in a month. In a way, it is not the fault of the course providers, but more the fault of the employers (and to some extent the students) who seem to give more weight to the nationality of the teachers they employ than to their training and resulting competence in the classroom.

In fact, the arrogance shown within the ELT world by many NS and towards NNS is quite breathtaking! Looking at the state school sector in the UK, English-speaking teachers who teach French or German are certainly not paid less than French or German NS teachers at the same school. In actual fact, unless the French or German nationals have a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or accredited equivalent, they are paid less. So, why is it that in ELT someone with no qualification, or after an extremely short course, is deemed a better teacher (or at least given a higher financial reward) than someone who has spent five years studying to be a teacher, but happens to have been born outside an English-speaking country?

adrian tennantAdrian has been involved in ELT for over twenty-five years and now divides his time between writing, running teacher training courses, giving talks & workshops at conferences around the world and working as an ELT consultant. He has worked in many countries and contexts including in Cambodia, Indonesia, China, DR Congo, Senegal, Serbia, Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, India and Sri Lanka.

As a writer he has worked on a wide range of courses for many different publishers from Grammar Books, Primary and Secondary materials and Adult course and also regularly contributes to Onestopenglish.com writing everything from methodology articles to podcast materials.

He has been a member of IATEFL for many years and was on the Trustee Board as Membership Chair from 2007 until 2011. He is currently on the Scholarship Working Party. For many years he had a regular column in Voices the IATEFL newsletter where he examined a wide range of issues in the ELT world.

In his free time he likes reading (travel books and crime novels), hiking, swimming and cooking, but usually not at the same time!

0 thoughts on “'Why native speaker teachers are often a bad thing!' by Adrian Tennant

  1. Rob Western says:

    Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your blog, but I wanted to clear up a couple of things about Korea (I am just finishing up my final contract in Korea, having been here six years).

    I don’t know who this guy is who is making half of what the NS teacher is, but he is not working in the public school system. If he is working for a cram school (hagwon), he is working for a very bad one. New teachers start on low wages and long hours, but after a certain number of years their salary goes up dramatically. I’ve heard conflicting numbers, but most Korean graduates teaching at a public school make a similar salary to a NS and the senior teachers make much more. If he is at a hagwon, his requirements are essentially the same as a NS, that is a BA and maybe a 120 hour teaching certificate. I have just finished my MA in applied linguistics/TEFL and am leaving my hagwon when my contract is up. Between my MA and my TEFL (not CELTA) I am the most qualified teacher on paper that my school has, Korean or native, by a fair bit.

    While the qualifications for working in a Korean are woefully inadequate, you need more than just a tefl certificate. Usually a four year BA and a certificate are minimum. Again, not full teacher training, but more than just a celta.

    A final note on the hagwon system. The hagwon system it is all about marketing. Your assumption that a poorly trained NS is a less qualified teacher than a trained Korean teacher is obviously accurate. However, parents look in to a classroom and see what they presume a NS to be (a blonde kid from California being the ideal) and their child is talking to that teacher, they assume the school is good. That NS “teacher” is an investment.

    As to the NS passport, I can’t speak for all countries, but in Korea they used to hire Russians and pay them FAR less than Koreans because they “looked” like English speakers (still not unheard of in China). Thus the seven holy passports of EFL. I know that is not the only reason, but it is one.

    An entirely personal opinion here, but I would bet that a NS African-American would have more trouble finding a job than a NNS white person in the hagwon system without the passport law, because they don’t “look like” a NS in the eyes of potential customers.

    Please don’t take anything I am saying as an endorsement of this system, just to point out that it isn’t as simple as who is the better teacher, because if it was you’re argument is bulletproof.

    • Adrian says:

      Hi Rob, you’ll have noticed that the article was written over seven years ago, so maybe things have changed. Also, I couldn’t verify what they guy told me, but I’ve seen similar things in many countries around the world.
      I think the issue is more complex than I painted in the article, but I do worry about the whole concept of a ‘native speaker.’ btw – on the TeachEnglish Facebook page (where the article has been reposted) someone has said that a key area NS are better at is pronunciation – well that really depends which kind of NS people might want to sound like (if indeed they do want to sound like one at all)!

      • Rob Western says:

        I agree. I come from Canada and was told by my first employer before I started that he liked how I had a good accent, but could I please spell correctly. By correctly he meant colour without the “u” as opposed to an actual error. My current school is MUCH better, but that idea is still well established in Korea, and from what I understand China and Japan as well. That despite the fact that I would argue every Korean person I have ever met has a Korean accent. I agree the accent argument is bunk.

        But again, in a world run on logic, your arguments are solid and I agree with them. A choice between a NNS with extensive training or a NS with a 60 hour online TEFL? The NNS is the better candidate. They should get the job. If I had just put my family’s financial future in to a cram school in Korea or China, with the mindset that exists here, I would hire the 60 hour online TEFL “certified” NS candidate. Who is going to sacrifice their child’s education or their retirement for an ideal?

  2. jesper says:

    I think Adrian is making a valid point. Non-native teachers of English often have an insight regarding typical difficulties students may encounter that ns with insufficient training may lack. The problem with nns teachers is when the standards set by the employing institutions is too low. In the Balearics self-governing región in Spain, where I live and have a language school, B2 cefr level is considered sufficient to teach a foreign language in state secondary schools. Mind-boggling when you consider that C1 Catalán is mandatory for teachers in public employment.

    • Omar says:

      Well, I’m afraid I cannot agree on your statement claiming that NS with extensive knowledge on English language are much better and qualified than the five-year trained NNS even though NS teachers have greater competence in correcting, adjusting and identifying errors of students (or NNS by far). Teaching is a lot more about How you do it (techniques and skills in managing a whole learning environment) rather than What or how well you do it. It seems to be spontaneous or unsystemic to have fluent English speakers take part in teaching without having been engaged in and experienced how it works outside the box. Even more, well-trained NNS do have, to some extent, efficient potentials to take a young leaner step by step throughout his learning course, making contents more simplified, and less complex. As relatively opposed to a typical NS teacher, whose linguistic instruction is a blueprint culture constructed originally from a native speech, and thus will be hard for learners to adapt to. What I am most importantly pointing to is this difference between studying English as a major with its own rules, complexity and patterns and learning English as a way of life and communication (which is not detailed ) A NS helps build and enforce fluency, accuracy and best language usage indeed, However, he can give by no means a logical, reasonable and comprehensive explanation of the subtle linguistic elements/patterns, even phonetically. This is why syntax, morphology and phonology exist ultimately, they represent teaching language as the mathematical logic/evidence does for engineers/scientists.

  3. Jean says:

    I am a native-speaking English teacher in a mid-level economy country, and yes, I am hired to do conversation practice, and I get paid a lot more than the non-native speakers – and I got into teaching via the CELTA course. The gist of this situation is that native English speakers learn English organically, while non-native speakers do not. Native English speakers with a college education (which is the typical requirement of a training course for native speakers) have achieved a very high level of English knowledge which is typically still greater than non-native-speaking teachers who have studied English for years. In my CELTA course (with the non-native speakers being native Slavic speakers), the non-native speakers consistently had problems with articles (i.e., ‘a’ & ‘the’) and prepositions. They also would say things in such a way that although grammatically correct, sounded a bit off. And of course, there was always an accent of some type and an unnatural cadence. With native speakers, these are not issues at all. Students know what a proper English speaker sounds like from watching movies, and know that their non-native-speaking teachers are not quite doing it right. This is why native-speakers command a much better wage. Of my fellow teachers at the course, there was only one non-native speaker who, except for a slight accent, sounded normal (he sounded like someone who had immigrated to the USA at like age 10); he had spent his whole university career, all the way to a doctorate, in studying English.

      • Anon says:

        I think you raise an important point here about pronunciation. Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are the key components of language competence. Whilst I am sure that many NNS may have perfect pronunciation and accents, I am imagining that risk-averse language schools may feel more comfortable hiring a NS, particularly if the school places an emphasis on spoken communication.

    • typtoptokyo says:

      While I dont agree that minor mistakes or even pronunciation should be an issue, it is. In Korea and other “face saving” countries, oftentimes a teacher who makes noticeable errors would be considered inadequate. And any Korean who gets very advanced at using English will be able to find much better conditions and remuneration in another industry. Actually in the few places I have worked I have found my NS status to be quite valuable in this aspect, nearly everyday I was asked questions about English. From grammar to checking materials they made to checking advertising materials.

      I think if they can be understood well then the actual teaching shouldnt be an issue. If they regularly make mistakes and a student realises it, in some countries, that can be a huge loss of face. I mean this is quite ferocious, I recently lost a student myself because I asked him to translate in his mind a little less and he thought I was dodging a grammar question!

    • Omar says:

      Well, I’m afraid I cannot agree on your statement claiming that NS with extensive knowledge on English language are much better and qualified than the five-year trained NNS even though NS teachers have greater competence in correcting, adjusting and identifying errors of students (or NNS by far). Teaching is a lot more about How you do it (techniques and skills in managing a whole learning environment) rather than What or how well you do it. It seems to be spontaneous or unsystemic to have fluent English speakers take part in teaching without having been engaged in and experienced how it works outside the box. Even more, well-trained NNS do have, to some extent, efficient potentials to take a young leaner step by step throughout his learning course, making contents more simplified, and less complex. As relatively opposed to a typical NS teacher, whose linguistic instruction is a blueprint culture constructed originally from a native speech, and thus will be hard for learners to adapt to. What I am most importantly pointing to is this difference between studying English as a major with its own rules, complexity and patterns and learning English as a way of life and communication (which is not detailed ) A NS helps build and enforce fluency, accuracy and best language usage indeed, However, he can give by no means a logical, reasonable and comprehensive explanation of the subtle linguistic elements/patterns, even phonetically. This is why syntax, morphology and phonology exist ultimately, they represent teaching language as the mathematical logic/evidence does for engineers/scientists.

  4. typtoptokyo says:

    I agree with Rob. As I was reading the article I thought yeah this is a familar story but what are you gonna do about it? You cant replace the unqualified NS with NNS because then your students will up and go to the school just down the road that has 4 NS teachers. Also you might want to check your own stereotypes and about non-qualified NS as some of them do care a lot about what they do and are quite savvy with it. How much do you all know about teaching in Korea anyway?

    Anyway by and large I agree that nationality shouldn’t be what gets you hired or gets you higher pay. This would improve conditions generally right the way around. It’s just in some places the industry is so far gone that I would say the cause is lost.
    A case in point being in Tokyo where we are starting to see NNS teaching more. This could well become a common thing but I could tell you now it wouldnt be in the spirit of improving conditions as much as it would be the businessmen running the how finding a new angle to exploit. So as great an ideal as it is…..

  5. Simon Thornley says:

    While relocating and living in a foreign country are a practical necessities for NS teachers abroad, it only seems fair that they should receive compensation, in terms of salary to compensate for this fact. Additionally, the slippery pole of promotion may not be so clear to NS teachers who travel, whereas the NNS teachers certainly have a clearer path and more certain prospects.

  6. chris says:

    one thing is clear, a non native speaker can never replicate the way a native speaker speaks or thinks, which is perhaps more important. perception of a language is as important as speaking it.

    • Rob Western says:

      How I would define a NS-
      Anyone who grew up speaking the language at home, including in a bilingual environment.

      The definition that matters-
      What consumers (students and their parents) think a NS is.

        • typtoptokyo says:

          Id like to know what qualified and experienced means to you. Presumably NNS have always had to do qualifications and etc to work in their home countries, and yet i have had students of many nationalities (Spanish, Korean, Polish especially) say their public school English education is poor, with terrible teaching. Especially my NNS colleagues have said this.

          Perhaps one thing to address is that the popularity of this narrow view of what a native speaker is stems from most students being unable to really get to fluency until they live abroad, and then replicating this.

          Anyway, what qualifications could we use as a fair measure? seeing as you correctly call out the CELTA as not enough, and so many public school programmes produce so few proficient English speakers.

          • adrian says:

            Unfortunately there are many countries where there are lots of unqualified teachers working, whether they be ‘so-called’ native or non-native speakers.

            As for the quality of teaching … public school education in most countries can be questionable. Try learning a language in the UK school system!

            As for a universal qualification … I’m not sure that’s possible or desirable. However, an initial qualification and in-built CPD which teachers sign-up for … that can be relevant to the country etc.
            There are also a few organisations (the British Council being one) that are trying to put together a framework of teacher levels etc based on qualifications, experience and ability.

        • typtoptokyo says:

          Yes I agree public schools are not great places to learn languages and it is never a straightforward matter anyway. From what I have heard, in Korea the “native speaker” boom began when they started employing traveller-types at the more elite cram schools. This caught on and then parents were demanding a more fair crack at English as Korea modernized, and the NET public school programme was born.

          Ive noticed how in some north European countries, it is particularly tough to get an ESL job as they seem to be able to do it through the public school system, likewise the Phillipines to some extent.

          The thing about unqualified teachers is that they are generally employed in demand-high places. If there becomes a surplus of teachers wanting to go there the entry-barrier goes up, like in the Middle East. This is an area made murky by the fact that many ESL schools are businesses, often with tight profit-margins.

          This is certainly an interesting debate though. What I was getting at before was that you could easily write an article titled “Non-Native Speakers are Usually a Bad Thing” and it would be equally true as this!

  7. victor muzy says:

    I agree with Jean’s opinion to some extent. Many non-native speaker teachers sound really bad and should not be teaching English. However, being a native speaker alone does make you a good teacher either. Most of our students will meet and speak in English with speakers of other languages so the argument that “we have the best accent and acquired the language as children” is not strong enough. How about all the accents the English language has???Kiwi, African, Irish, Appalachian English??

    Most learners have cable TV home and surf the web these days. They can hear to a lot of authentic situations and native speakers, but still, they need a teacher, someone who can really help them to learn or if you will, acquire the language. You need to be a teacher to be aware of their difficulties, how languages are learned and know a little about methods and approaches.

    For beginners, being able to speak and understand their mother tongue makes wonders to their progress. I would say a blend of both would make the best teachers. Native speakers who know all about language acquisition and non-natives who speak Native-like English.

    I’d rather have someone who speaks my first language teach me a foreign one. They have been there and I’m sure they will lead learners to fluency. Most Native speakers don’t know what learning a foreign language is like because they are not bilingual.

    • Rob Western says:

      I’ve heard this argument a lot, that only NNS who have learned English “understand” what it is like to learn a second language.

      I mean this as an honest question. Would you put the importance of personal experience in to another profession? Would you say a doctor treating cancer who has never had cancer is an inferior doctor to one who had? Would you not take retirement advice from someone who was not retired? Does your real estate agent have to be a home owner? Does your veterinarian have to own a sick animal or even be a pet owner? Would you let someone who is not American teach you about American history? If it comes down to first hand experience being key then NNS are undoubtedly better than NS. But then one wonders why anyone laments the lack of training in any context.

    • typtoptokyo says:

      I agree that having a second language helps, but it isnt quite as clear cut as that. For example, if you are Spanish person who teaches English, does your experience mean you are better for a job in China than someone who is NS with say pre-intermediate Chinese?

      Also, another point is why are NS so popular as English Teachers? Presumably there have always been NNS teachers around, so if their experience in learning English is so golden, why do people even need to employ NS in the first place?

      • victor muzy says:

        Well, I would say the best teacher is the one who speaks the learners first language and the one who has a good command of the English Language and on top of that, somebody who has some knowledge of how languages are learned.
        Very few native speakers are bilingual and properly trained to be a teacher. My mom is a Brazilian national and that does not make her a good teacher of Portuguese.

        Once you speak the learner’s first language, you may know what they mean and can help them reduce the amount of interference their first language plays on English. You can also work with pronunciation much better and finally, lead them to fluency faster because you know the features of both languages.

        Advanced level learners benefit more from having a Native speaker as a teacher. I would go for that!!!!!

        Most native speakers get the job and are paid just more because they are native speakers, being “native” does not make you a good teacher. This is so unfair and society thinks this way, they are misled to believe native speakers are the best teachers. Remember that most EFL teachers in the world are non-native speakers and how come more and more people speak English as a foreign language these days???

        Both NNS and NN should be assessed and be paid according to their experience and performace instead of their pay being based on nationality. This is So unfair!!!!

        • typtoptokyo says:

          “Both NNS and NN should be assessed and be paid according to their experience and performace instead of their pay being based on nationality. This is So unfair!!!!”

          Cant argue with this.

          But again, why are NS so popular? Im not asking aggressively I think it is just glossed over quite a lot. In Korea and Japan, the reasons are quite obvious. There are not that many people who can speak it well enough and if they can that is a passport to a better job. Educational culture in both places doesnt lend well to the kind of informality we might need to use to generate speaking. Students might not ever have met a foreigner before so this can be used for inspiration. English teaching isnt a particularly well thought of job, or subject, so they need to add some interest to it. Lots of reasons.

          Im wondering about other places. I know next to nothing about Brazil, what is going on there?

  8. Gustavo says:

    All of the points are interesting. In my opinion what is important how the teacher learned the language. I´m a Brazilian whoes first language in English. I teach English for some 12 years and know the difficulties my students have due to knowing their language and culture, which is the same as mine.

  9. hakim says:

    I am Algerian and I spent thirty years teaching English to high school students. I had NS colleagues when I started my career. My students were a bit reluctant to have a NNS teacher and I had to work much harder to gain their confidence. knowing the language of my students (Arabic) was quite useful, as it helped me with error analyses and the way to get rid of those mistakes (which was so difficult for NS). Besides, knowing the culture of my students proved also very useful.

  10. quazisstepinenglishgrammar says:

    I don’t think native teachers are always bad thing rather everybody should learn English grammar more or less. As a native has chance to have grasped the English grammar most like environment surrounded by English language only that is why their English specially speaking is good, however, somewhere writing has not up to the mark though many non natives are not.

    The quintessence and veracity are many non natives are good at English grammar and language like many natives do. However, discrepancy always prevails when nonnatives are not confident enough for their English as incompetent grammatical phenomena, of course, there diplomatic farce talking or haughty grin and condescend speech may be arisen if the people are not ethically and morally strong–it also happens among non native teachers too!
    Why don’t you have a glimpse over there? Like:

    https://quazisstepinenglishgrammar.wordpress.com/another-drawback-to-learning-english-grammar/

  11. paquivg says:

    Reblogged this on Blog colaborativo and commented:
    Hola compañer@s,
    Aquí os dejo un artículo que me parece bastante relevante para nuestro grupo. Éste hace una reflexión sobre la importancia (en exceso) que a veces le damos a los profesores nativos de idiomas extranjeros frente al profesorado no nativo.
    Espero que os guste 🙂

  12. Jon says:

    Some thoughts:

    1) As you mentioned, it should be about competence and not about whether one is a NS or NNS. However, if a NS is more competent then I guess you can’t argue with the NS earning more. That may sound unfair (“I’ve studied 4 years and this person has only studied 4 weeks or isn’t trained at all”), but we’re learning a language aren’t we and thus isn’t it about how good a teacher you are.

    2) Of course, I think a person who isn’t trained (just a NS) or one who has only got a 4 weeks certificate may NOT be a good teacher, but if he/she can help the students learn better and learn properly, then I think the person should be paid more. While I’m sure there are good NNS English speakers, I haven’t seen a lot of good NNS English speakers from Asia in general – where the Asian languages are very different from the English language. I would assume this is the case in Korea, but it may not be so. Therefore, even if you’ve studied for four years, if you still fumble with the basics and still make a lot of basic mistakes, it’s difficult to justify getting paid as well as NS. But if you do speak pretty well, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get paid as well. In fact, I’d argue, you’d be a greater asset than an NS English speaker as you learned the language from scratch and thus you know what a language learner goes through and you know the 1st language interference, etc.

    3) Supply and Demand. Students generally want teachers who are “white” because of their perception. On one hand, if that’s the case, there’s something to be said about paying white teachers more if that’s the demand (if indeed, having a white teacher may attract more students and thus make the school more money – we’re talking private schools here, I guess). On the other hand, there’s also something to be said about standing up for what’s right and if the teacher isn’t “white”, but capable enough, schools should stand up for the teacher and pay him/her based on his/her capabilities.

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      1. How do we measure competence, though, if not through qualifications and experience?
      2. I think what the problem comes down to is that often NNESTs are not even given a chance to prove how proficient they are, and that they can teach well. On the other hand, NESTs are often a priori assumed to be superior, regardless of their qualifications and experience.
      3. Couldn’t agree more. We need to draw the line somewhere. I don’t see why we should excuse and justify racist and discriminatory hiring policies with market forces. If people had done that in the past, there’d still be racial segregation in the US, to give just one example.

  13. Chris says:

    Some very interesting points here, and it cannot be denied that the pay disparity is often very unfair, as many non-native speaker teachers are excellent, and many native-speaker teachers are fly by night cowboys!
    I’d just like to throw in another question:
    Why should a competent teacher with over a decade of experience be paid less than (or even be completely barred from some jobs accessible to) somebody who has just graduated and has little or no practical classroom experience?

  14. Ghada says:

    simply, because we are in materialistic world. What they admire is showing of and boasting around, no more no less; however, those who are experienced in the class are the only victims cause the hadn’t a chance or even a circumstances never allowed them to have master degree to authorize the organization properly.

  15. dcw6 says:

    Wow, what a conversation! I haven’t read all the comments but what interested me was the question of ‘qualifications’ to teach. One contributor asks, “How do we measure competence, though, if not through qualifications and experience?” ‘Qualifications’, are they really a mark of competence? While writing my dissertation for my Master’s, which was on an aspect of training given to Teachers of EFL, I looked at the routes people took to get into TEFL. Given the first recognised qualification is the CELTA or Trinity, a 4 week course, I wanted to see what subjects were taken at degree. I asked a large number of current EFL teachers which subject their first degree was in to look at how the chosen subject related to teaching English language. Subjects ranged from Archaeology and Computers to Tourism and War Studies. English was a subject taken and represented 23% of the subjects but this included – English & Drama, English and Creative Writing, English and History, English Lang/Lit, English Lit and Philosophy. So, English had been studied to a high level but does ‘Creative Writing, English Literature, English and Drama’ qualify a person to teach English as a language? I then looked at the subjects studied by teachers who had completed a PGDip and Master’s. Again there was a huge diversity in subjects from African Literature, Cultural Studies, English to Politics and Integration in Central and Eastern Europe and World History. It cannot be denied that most teachers are highly qualified and have a lot of knowledge but they are not trained teachers. Unlike the vocational professions of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Law, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, for example, where the degrees gained are specific to the job, in TEFL this is not the case. So perhaps the question we need to now ask is – ‘how qualified to teach is the average NS or NNS teacher?’

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