Published 5th December 2017

The native vs non-native English teacher (or NEST vs NNEST) debate is a controversial one which has gained momentum in English as a Foreign Language circles in the last few years. While many teachers would not argue that a non-native teacher is any less qualified than a native teacher, job advertisements all over the world have been known to advertise specifically for native speaking teachers, thus discriminating non-native speaking teachers out of jobs.

Let’s now take a closer look at non-native English teachers and discuss why we think there are a number of advantages to being a non-native English teacher.

They have learnt English themselves

Non-native English teachers have had to learn English themselves. English is not their first language so in order to become fluent they would have had to go through the process of learning the language. This means that they have done the exact same thing their students are doing.

They will understand how their students are feeling, what problems they may be having and how to keep them motivated. Having a non-native speaker as an English teacher is a sure way to up the motivation levels in the classroom as students can see that learning to speak fluent English is possible.

They have a good grasp of the language

What this also means is that they have learnt English the way their students are learning it. Native speakers don’t learn English grammar at school, where they focus on style and literature instead. Many native speakers need to brush up on their grammar when they become TEFL teachers. While native speakers have a natural feel for the language, non-native speakers are better able to explain grammatical rules and concepts to their students.

Non-native speakers are bilingual

Non-native speakers are bilingual and sometimes multilingual while many native speakers are monolingual. Being bilingual gives these teachers the benefit of understanding the process necessary to learn another language. They can offer support and guidance to their students better than someone who has not learnt another language.

They can speak the students’ language

At the same time, their mother tongue might be the same as their students’ if they are teaching in their home environment. If this is the case, they will be able to make use of appropriate translation techniques to enhance their teaching, which wouldn’t be available to native speakers.

The controversy surround native and non-native English teachers is set to continue for some time. Many students prefer to have native English teachers because they feel they are better able to teach the language. However, as we can see here, there are numerous reasons why being a non-native English teacher can be advantageous in the English as a Foreign Language classroom.