LEARN ENGLISH FROM A NATIVE SPEAKER

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.

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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…

Thomas Baker
Native Speaker
Teacher of English as A Foreign Language
Santiago, Chile

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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4 Responses to LEARN ENGLISH FROM A NATIVE SPEAKER

  1. Aiysha Jebali says:

    Jeez, I didn’t realise I was quite so famous! Yes, I am Aiysha Jebali and YES, I AM A NATIVE SPEAKER. I am also TEFL qualified and I have quite a few years experience under my belt, so by all means, let’s “get people talking” about this so-called issue…

    I was reading this with my temperature going up a notch with every quote, but somehow not knowing whether to laugh or get more annoyed lol!

    But, like you – I love studying and learning, as well as teaching. You are right, I do have a passion and a gift for teaching and regardless of what cynical/misinformed articles like these may portray; I AM QUALIFIED and very employable. Thanks and good day to you, sir.

    Aiysha Jebali

    Oh, and F.Y.I, you have a grammar error in paragraph 14… Tut tut, with all those years studying that ELT Pedagogy you were boasting about… I’m disappointed.

    Like

  2. Hi Aiysha,

    Thank you kindly for your post. Yes, you seem to have become a celebrity, or, as they say, it’s your 15 minutes of fame.

    I’d like you to know that my post does not aim personally at you, rather, it tries to contribute to demythifyinf a myth that has been in existence for more than 140 years, The Native Speaker Myth.

    As you may have gathered by now, the myth states that the best teacher of English is a native speaker, any native speaker at all, even an untrained one.

    I am glad to know that you have a TEFL certification. It confirms my belief that you have natural talent, an enjoyment of teaching, and as a consequence, took steps to become more professional. I applaud your efforts.

    Thank you most kindly, again, for your post. I greatly appreciate your coming forward to voice your side of the story.

    I make my Blog available to you for any other contributions you would like to make. I am sure the reader(s) of the blog would find your story fascinating.

    I wish to be clear Aiysha: your story is an illuminating one in regards to this issue: the discrimination of the Non-Native English Speaking Teacher. for this reason, it was chosen.

    I was most pleased to accept your friendship request on Facebook, and look forward to collaborating with you in the future.

    Best regards,
    Thomas

    Like

  3. Aiysha Jebali says:

    Hey, I agree with you. There are many native speakers that, well, can’t speak nor read or write English, correctly… Believe me; I’ve encountered more than a few!

    I was helping my friend with her essay assignment from her teaching assistance course and I had to almost scrap the whole thing. There was zero structure and it was supposed to be an essay. Not to mention, she had confused: they’re/there/their issues and the two/too/too… I couldn’t believe it because she would end up passing on these bad habits to the children she was going to be assisting. I had to sit her down and teach her. Literally, drum it into her before we could continue with her assignment.

    And, when I was in India, half of the other volunteers didn’t bother with lesson plans or have a clue about P/P/P. Some of them didn’t even know their phonics and had been teaching the children just how to say the regular alphabet. I mean, how are children meant to learn how to read and write properly without knowing both sounds for each letter? And, the rules for the change in sound, for example the ‘magic ‘e’’…Ridiculous! I’m glad my team was very good but many of the others were clueless and didn’t seem to care about this fact.

    Many “teachers” also don’t even consider the difference between slang/old language and proper English, either. There were Londoners’ throwing the “innit” word all over the place or using slang sentence structure but still being under the impression that this was acceptable to pass on to the children. If those children speak to a native speaker from anywhere else bar London, they will not be fully understood.

    The same goes for Scotland. I have a Scottish accent, but when teaching – I do not use Scottish words. There is a difference: we have an old original language called Doric that has mixed in with the English we speak, thus creating almost something else entirely. We have completely different words for many things, it’s not just a case of annunciation – it’s just different words. However, we do learn and use both, so in my opinion there is no excuse when teaching. Again, as a teacher, if I pass random Doric words on to my students, then no other native speaker will understand them fully.

    I do believe that there should be language tests given to native speakers before they are given a job teaching. At the very least, to ensure that they know their basic grammar, structure and some important teaching techniques. I think it is the very least they could ask for, considering the fact that they are putting children’s futures’ in the hands of these people at the end of the day.

    Aiysha Jebali

    Like

  4. Thank you Aiysha for your comments. Enjoy your holiday season.

    Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

    Best regards,
    Thomas

    Like

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