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The ‘native speaker’ myth: vocabulary

The other day when I was scrolling through FB, I came across this post by Hugh Dellar:

It reminded me of the assumption that many students, but also teachers and recruiters, hold; namely, that:

a) any ‘native speaker’ knows more vocabulary than any ‘non-native speaker’ can ever hope to know

b) as a result, any ‘native speaker’ makes a better teacher of vocabulary.

So when discussing this issue on-line, you might come across comments like this:

Intuitively, it might seem rather plausible, perhaps even common sense, that a ‘native speaker’ will know more lexis. That they will have an intuitive feel for the language. An innate knowledge of idioms and phrasal verbs.

It might then be argued that a ‘native speaker’ would also be the best teacher of vocabulary. After all, who would explain the nuances and intricacies of the language better than a ‘native speaker’? Who would be able to provide better real-life examples of how a given word is used in context?

  • So are ‘native speakers’ by definition expert informants on vocabulary?
  • And does this make them expert instructors too?

Before you dive in and watch the video below where I examine this issue, let me also make it crystal clear here that I am by no means arguing that by definition ‘native speakers’ are worse teachers. Nor am I suggesting that by definition ‘non-native speakers’ are better.

What I am suggesting is that the nativeness is irrelevant. That what matters is the teacher’s pedagogical preparation and ability to do the job.

So, what do you think?

Which arguments did you find convincing?

What is your view?

Let me know in the comments section below.

If you’re a ‘non-native speaker’ I hope this post has helped you feel more confident about your own abilities. But, if you’d like to take it further and learn how to…

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Shannon
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Shannon

Cacchinate wasn’t even in my very fat dictionary; I had to find it online. Then when I started to type this post, my autocorrect tried to change it to “machinate”!

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