Native Speakers vs. Teachers with Instructional Methodologies

If you get a job as an English Teacher in Peru (Cheap Flights), or if a Peruvian gets a job as a Spanish Teacher in the US, you’re inevitably going to run into the battle of who is the “better” teacher: the native speaker, or the non-native speaker who has a degree in instructional methodologies.
To put the question another way: would you prefer to be taught by somebody who actually knows the language, or by somebody who “theoretically” has been taught how to teach?
The answer is obvious, you pick the native speaker.  However, it’s amazing how many people will sit there and fight you tooth and nail with a bunch of ridiculous pseudo-scientific jargon claiming that the knowledge of Instructional Methodologies is more important than actual knowledge of the subject.
Honestly, I’ve run into this program so many times that I decided to take a course to get my “official” teacher’s license, and I’m hear to tell you once and for all: instructional methodologies are a load of bunk.
Actually in Peru, they understand that, at least in the work place where they’re far more inclined to hire a native speaker.  The reason isn’t necessarily out of a belief that native speakers make better teachers, however, it’s done because of some absurd aristocratic notion of class (they instantly put you in with the highest possible class in the Peruvian social structure if you’re white…it makes no logical sense…but if you’re white it works to your advantage).
Now, I’m willing to admit that a completely non-dedicated native speaker isn’t going to do as good a job as a dedicated non-native speaker.  But when it comes right down to it, pronunciation is a HUGE part of foreign language acquisition and non-native speakers don’t have perfect pronunciation!  You can’t “make up for it” with cassettes of native speakers.
Let me put it simply:
However, here in the US, they stress methodologies over…well, innate competence in your field…and thus my wife with her 10 years of teaching has to go through a $10K program before she’s “allowed” to teach here (I love how they pretend that they give a shit about the students…it’s all about making money…it always is).
Well, I guess there’s a reason that the US educational system lags behind basically the whole rest of the industrialized world in terms of education.  Seriously, I think the whole system should be thrown out and rebuilt…based on the advice of competent professionals and not “educators” (education is not a science people…quit trying to fit a round peg in a square hole).

I guess the point of this article is that if you’re good at what you do, you’ll more likely get a job in Peru  (LAN Flights) than in the US.

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1 Comment

  1. AlexQ

    This is a great post and I completely agree with your assessment. I've worked with a lot of professionals (mostly physicians and researchers) from Peru who have both learned from ICPNA and Britanico. Most of them speak English OK, but it is obvious when they have not had much experience speaking with native English speakers. My fiance is currently taking English at ICPNA and has not had a native speaking professor once in the past year and a half. Her friends at her university that have recently completed the three year ICPNA program (and some even are basic instructors there) can hardly have a reasonable conversation with me in English, mostly because they have poor pronunciation and are lacking vocabulary.

    It is not necessarily these programs though, since I've observed something similar in some of my language programs at my undergrad and graduate universities. Even when students have native instructors and lack a language immersion experience, I don't think they will ever obtain a permanent level of fluency, and even their proficiency will be limited.

    My parents are a good example of this. My dad took tons of Spanish in college and did quite well in all of his courses and was considered at least proficient by the time he graduated, but he never had a language immersion experience and hasn't ever really had to speak Spanish much. He can still read Spanish and write it, but can't speak it very well and doesn't understand it almost at all. My mom, on the other hand, spent nearly 4 years in Bolivia as a teenager while my grandfather worked on a agricultural projects for USAID in the late 1960s (he was once arrested there because the town thought he was Che Guevara!). My mom had classes there as a teen and also minored in Spanish once she got to college. While she hasn't used her Spanish too much since, she can still call it up fairly well to have a decent conversation and can understand a normal conversation.

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