「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


What's your type?

By Samantha Loong


I spent almost all of Golden Week in the metropolis of Osaka. The effect of living in a small town for several months was pretty clear, with me staring wide-eyed at the tall buildings -- something uncommon in my town.

Riding a train with wall-to-wall advertising is also very rare in my town. Well, riding a train is rare, full stop. During train journeys in Osaka, my eyes were always drawn to the many advertisements trying to convince commuters to learn English from company A, B or C. One in particular caught my attention, with its bold, proud letters exclaiming in Japanese: "All our teachers are foreigners!"

This proclamation raises a few questions: Is having a foreign teacher really a drawcard when learning a foreign language? Or is having a qualified teacher more important? Does being foreign mean you're a native speaker? And does being a native speaker mean you're any good at teaching?

The last question is an easy one to answer. Being a native speaker of any language most definitely does not mean you'll be a good teacher. Native speakers with no training won't always be able to explain why their language is used in a certain way. They take it for granted that what comes out of their mouth is correct. But even the idea of being "correct" is debatable, with what's grammatically correct often at odds with what sounds most natural. And then you have regional differences in English that include spelling, grammar and pronunciation.

Some countries are known for being very strict with their "native speaker" requirement when hiring teachers. And some companies are also known for only hiring people that fit the English-speaking stereotype, in other words -- someone who's white. I've also seen job advertisements that require applicants to be born in -- and have the nationality of -- countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

Such specific -- and in my view, prejudiced -- requirements mean that students are missing out on a lot of excellent teachers. Teachers who have learned the language they're teaching may have tricks and tips to help learners. Teachers who have qualifications from reputable schools have received their qualifications not only because their English was near-native, but because they can also teach. I'm lucky enough to be friends with such a teacher. She's from Germany but speaks like a native, and teaches like a pro. It's my view that students benefit from being exposed to a variety of good teachers, whether they're native speakers, foreign or not.

So, what do you look for in a teacher? Is it a warm smile? Good looks? Or will just being "foreign" be enough for you?



The Japan Times ST: June 6, 2014

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




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