Today I ran across a video entitled, “Learn English From A Native Speaker”, on YouTube. I thought I’d take a look and see what it was about.
The video began, “Do you want to learn English?” Would you prefer to be taught by a native speaker?
OK, I thought. Here comes the rationale, the explanation why the native speaker is better. I continued listening. And then I heard this, “I offer one to one lessons via Skype or you can buy my video tutorials and receive them via email.”
I thought, “So where’s the qualifications”. The training. The experience. Or is the only qualification going to be, “I’m a native speaker.”
I didn’t have to wait long. The following information came next:
“My name is Aiysha Jebali”.
I thought, “WTF. You’re a native speaker?” Admittedly however, the speaker spoke a well-enunciated variety of Scottish English, so I continued to listen.
Aiysha: “My teaching experience began when I was 16 years old. I assisted in 2 hours of Maths and English classes each week. Then, at 17, I had my first crosscultural experience. I went to visit my family in Tunisia for the first time in 7 years. They could not speak English but were desperate to learn. I spent nearly 2 months there, teaching to family and other locals. I taught from age 7 to 45 years old, and at All levels, right from beginner to advanced. This was when I knew I needed to be a teacher.”
Here I thought, “OK. She has a gift, a talent for teaching. So, what is she going to do next?”
Aiysha: “After returning from Tunisia with a clear goal in my mind, I decided it was time to get as much practice teaching and assisting as possible. I taught Intermediate level EFL on a one to one basis with Polish women. I was granted an EFL assisting placement at Aberdeen University (Scotland) which was very successful. I taught various nationalities there from intermediate to advanced level. I also returned to Tunisia again and gained another month’s experience.”
By now, the famous line from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, had come to my mind, “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark”. A healthy skepticism had begun to form in my mind. Still, as it was a short video, I kept on listening.
Aiysha: “I then went on to teach English to some of my friends whom English was their second language. And recently I returned from a trip teaching English in India to 5-7 year olds. Here are some pictures from my teaching experiences,” she concludes.
As I looked at her pictures, my skepticism turned to cynicism, and then to utter disbelief… and then it hit me.
What? Well, Aiysha has what appears to be a native speaker, Scottish accent. She’s young, charming, charismatic, bold, and a good story teller. She is determined to teach English. OK, so what am I trying to say?
Well, if Aiysha came to Chile, no school in the formal education system would consider hiring her. She lacks the proper teaching education qualifications. But at a private language institute, she’s worth her weight in gold. She’d be hired immediately, because the Native Speaker Myth would work to her advantage…
She personifies all that’s wrong with the Native Speaker Myth. The myth says she’s the best teacher. The notion that you need to have a native speaker as a teacher, because otherwise how will you hear the language you’re learning as it’s really spoken in its country of origin? Indeed, if you learned it from a nonnative speaker, wouldn’t that be learning it wrong? Consequently, a 4 to 6 year’s university education in ELT Pedagogy would be worthless when competing against Aiysha for the same job.
Again, she would be hired immediately, and any teacher-trainer could give her the necessary basic classroom survival tips in 3 to 5 days. Let her observe an experienced teacher teaching, teach her the P-P-P, all lessons have a beginning, middle, and an end. Voila, Aiysha is ready to “teach”.
This is the current state of English Language Teaching. The question is not whether or not it’s economic discrimination. We know the answer to that. The question is: What are we going to do about it?
Share this blogpost with your friends and colleagues. Let’s get people talking about this issue…
Teacher of English as A Foreign Language