NNS versus NS: how to make myself unpopular in 320 words!

I think native English speakers who have studied English at university and have then gone on to do a PGCE (or equivalent) are not appropriately qualified to teach English at (Dutch) secondary schools as a foreign language. What do you think? If they then add a Delta or TESOL MA then ok. But even then I’m still not entirely happy. How can you teach a foreign language if you yourself have never had to learn one to a high level? How can you empathise with your pupils and teach them the appropriate strategies without yourself ever having had to try them out? I personally would prefer the native speaking teachers to have studied a foreign language at university and then gone on to PGCE (or US/NZ/SA etc equivalent) + Tesol/Delta. Why? Well, first they know about foreign language learning, second they know about secondary school learning and third they have specific knowledge of English language learning. Or am I asking too much?

But what about the non-native speakers? Well, as far as the native Dutch are concerned the 1st degree teachers (see this post https://louisealix.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/vocab-and-behaviour-issues/) have an excellent knowledge of English (C2 level), and know a great deal about the school system. Let’s just assume that they, on the whole, are pretty well-qualified though as NNS there are those who do lack some of the ‘innate feeling’ for the language and culture and sometimes have a dubious accent. Add to that the new influx of teacher trainees from former East Block countries with, more often than not, thick accents and an entirely different set of didactic skills but with an incredible work ethos and willingness to learn and you’ll see that schools with job openings have a hard time deciding who to choose.

So, imagine you have an opening in your school and you’re hoping to turn the school into an official bilingual school next year. Which candidate would you choose and why?


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