LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||04/NOV/2005 7:41 AM|
|Assunto:||Continuando o debate - Prof. nativo ou não nativo|
In 2002 and 2003 I took courses leading to a certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at the University of California – Riverside. Less than ten percent of the students were native speakers. About ninety percent were Asian teachers of English who spoke the language to varying degrees of success and were already teaching English, but they wanted or needed an American credential. In my opinion, the average non-native speaker among my classmates did a much better job of explaining grammar than the native speaker. On the other hand, the explanations given by the non-natives were often given in substandard English!
The native speaker has several advantages among which are years of hearing words and phrases in various contexts, native pronunciation, an extensive vocabulary, and an in depth knowledge of the culture in which the language is spoken. A fairly common weakness is a difficulty with which grammar is explained. His ears, eyes, and brain tell him that something is right or wrong, but he may not be able to explain why.
The non-native has an advantage that the native will never achieve; the non-native used to sit where his students are sitting now. The problems of his students were once his problems too. He has insights that are often unattainable by the native. On the other hand, the non-native often teaches his mistakes and shortcomings to his students. He may be able to parrot grammar rules, but his English may still leave much to be desired. It is like learning from a book how to drive a car. Well, he read the book, and now he is teaching.
Being a native or a non-native has nothing to do with the ability to teach. A native speaker can be a terrible teacher and a non-native can be terrific. And vice-versa.
Many emphasize only speaking to students in the language being taught. The object seems to be to expose the student to as much of the spoken second language as possible, of course. As others have pointed out, however, this practice leaves some students completely lost and frustrated. As a teen in California, I studied Japanese at a school where few teachers spoke English. I know firsthand what it is like to be unable to ask even simple questions because the teachers and I did not share a common language. The more the student speaks the second language, the more the teacher should speak to him in it. When explaining grammar, it may well be best to make the explanations in the student’s mother tongue.
Why do some native speakers make NO effort to learn the language of their students? That’s another $64 question.
Some believe that native speaking teachers should teach only advanced courses. Others believe that having a native speaker teach the beginning students gives them good pronunciation from the start. Instead of having to re-learn what was not learned correctly initially, they are learning correctly from the start.
A few months ago I complained about a gathering of the Associação de Professores de Inglês do Rio Grande do Sul at PUCRS. A number of professors were introduced as “experts” in this and that field, but many made one mistake after another, not understanding the meaning of terms (not just slang expressions), not knowing when the terms could or should be used, etc. Instead of bringing in non-native speaking “experts”, why didn’t they bring in native speakers? There were certainly native speakers in the audience.
Many books written in Brazil about English contain glaring mistakes. For reasons best known to the authors and publishers, they were not proof read by native speakers before being printed. I pity the students who buy these books and accept as correct the mistakes of the authors.
Opinions are like noses; everyone has one. This one is mine.
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