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Ideally, should English teachers at schools in Japan be native speakers? Can non-native English speakers do just as well or better?

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Ideally, should English teachers at schools in Japan be native speakers? Can non-native English speakers do just as well or better?

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I suppose it depends on what's being taught. If it's just grammar and vocabulary to pass a test, a well-versed non-native speaker can do the job. Isn't that the aim of English teaching at schools in Japan?

9 ( +13 / -4 )

In a word, NO! And I am not an English teacher, nor ever have been. So I have no dog in this hunt. The ONLY exception would be folks who were raised overseas for much of their early lives.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

If they're a trained, experienced teacher, then yes of course they can! Just because you are a native speaker, doesn't mean you can automatically teach the language.

28 ( +30 / -2 )

A good teacher is a good teacher, whatever nationality.

In fact, a good teacher doesn't need to do that much actual teaching. His job is to get his students interested and enthusiastic enough about the subject that it becomes their thing and they do it under their own steam.

Study isn't something someone does for you.

You have to do it yourself.

But sometimes a teacher is useful to show you the way and help you over the difficult spots.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Just because you are a native speaker, doesn't mean you can automatically teach the language.

Maria -- agreed. But just because you got a good TOEIC score does not mean you really know how to use English properly, and, therefore, teach it with any real effectiveness. Which is why I said non-native speakers need to have actually lived in an English-speaking environment, preferrably as a youngster, when langauge skills are forming. Teaching English for someone to use on vacation is much different from teaching someone to use it in a multi-national business environment.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

A good teacher who has been through what his students are now going through and has come through with a good level of fluency is likely to have a better understanding of the pitfalls and frustrations than someone with little to no training who is trying to teach his/her native language without ever having had the need to analyse it or look at its structure. That applies whatever the language, in whatever country, and is not restricted to teachers of English in Japan.

But the teacher needs to be able to use the language at near-native level - teaching wonky grammar or horrendous pronunciation won't do. A properly-trained native speaker with experience of learning a second language would be equally good. Being a native speaker in itself doesn't make a person a good teacher of the language.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

I'd argue that a good teacher in Japan NEEDS a solid understanding of the Japanese language. There are many grammatical and cultural nuances in the Japanese language, many of which a native English speaker new to Japan would know nothing about.

And yes, I'm a teacher!

1 ( +7 / -6 )

English is spoken by more people on this earth. I think accents are perfectly acceptable. Being able to teach is what is important. I am a teacher of American English because that is where I am from but people from other countries that have a firm grasp of language and culture are necessary and pasha about the accents.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

For listening and speaking practice I would say the native speaker is best. But for reading and writing, perhaps it is better to have explanations in your native tongue from a teacher who had to learn to read and write in the same way as the student. Then, once a certain proficiency is reached, a native speaker/reader/writer would help bring up the level of the student.

But, that is in a rationale world where people are judged on merits, not bloodline.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If the school can have native teacher and at least one Japanese foreign language teacher (advanced level), it would be ideal. The Japanese FL teacher knows the learners' experience in the foreign language. The problem is that too many Japanese English (or other FL) teachers can't even speak well enough to communicate--especially in junior high and high schools around Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Would anyone ever ask whether a music teacher should also be a musician? Whether one is or is not a native speaker of the language is not the issue. One should be a proficient teacher of the language.

I'm sure it's true that there are non-native speakers who are perfectly capable of teaching English (or any other language they have mastered). Perhaps not hordes, but they exist.

It certainly is true that a great many native speakers are not good candidates as teachers of English. Their speech and writing is riddled with errors of grammar and usage. Please, don't put them into Japanese classrooms just because they come from English-speaking countries.

I'd also like to refute Wooster's dubious claim that a good teacher doesn't need to do that much actual teaching. His job is to get his students interested and enthusiastic enough about the subject that it becomes their thing and they do it under their own steam.

That will happen only if the students are superb students. They will learn in spite of sub-standard teaching. (But they will have been robbed of a full and enriched experience of the subject tailored to their abilities.)

A good teacher, on the other hand, knows how to help a student with learning challenges and/or marginal talent for a subject to grasp it--even proficiently. Along with that, a superb teacher will also impart a love for the subject to the student.

A language (like music) properly taught not only opens up a whole new world of expression to a student, but also a door to a new realm of cultural understanding.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I agree with cleo (I think though she says "a second language, whereas I would say "the...") and sighclops

I have come to think that language ability is more important than nationality. I.e. if the teacher is an English native speaker, it would help for them to be able to speak at least enough Japanese to explain grammar and class room instructions, and that if they are Japanese then they should be able to model the skills that they wish the students to learn because the ability in the other language shows the students that it is possible.

When there are teachers in the classroom of any nationality that have not mastered the other language then it presents a very potent, practical, demonstration that crossing the language barrier is too difficult or too much effort for the students' role model to muster.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Native language is not important, it is the actual skill and teaching method of the teacher. There needs to be more focus on content and foreign language teaching methods across the board. Correct me if I am wrong, but most English majors in University study 'English Literature' but nothing to do with teaching a language. Same with ALT's, they need people who have knowledge about applied linguistics.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I made a point of saying a second language and not the second language, because I don't think it's strictly necessary for the teacher to be able to speak the student's native tongue (though I'm aware that such experience can prepare the teacher for pitfalls speakers of, in this case, Japanese, are more likely to be prone to). A good teacher can make himself understood in the target language without needing to slip into the students' language, and having a teacher who you know does not speak your language, who you have to speak to in English, is a great stimulator. If students feel they can lapse back into Japanese when English is 'too hard', they will do.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Usually, native speaker is best, but this is not ironclad (although I think it is in Japan, sadly). Many people speak English as their second or even third language and are as good as any native. Those people are not from Japan, but from India, Africa, the Philippines, and other usually English or American former colonies. In my brief stint teaching in high schools, my Japanese partner (a woman, Bertie...not all teachers are guys), had spent years abroad thanks to her husband's job and she was more than qualified, although she explained everything in Japanese (students listened), then in English (students returned to sleeping).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think non-native, but fluent and most importantly well-trained people can make fantastic teachers. Such an individual is surely preferable to a native but not-well-trained individual.

My German professor in university was a non-native speaker, and he was a great teacher.

The most important thing is that the teachers are well-trained and knowledgeable.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Don't need to be a native speaker to teach a language but it might be preferable. although teachers of Latin (for example) can clearly not be native speakers while at the same time being excellent teachers....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Look, countries in south east Asia can't afford native English speakers, so they hire locals who have degrees in English. You go there and speak English to random people, more people are able to understand and speak English back at you than in Japan, where there are many native English teachers. Seriously, when it comes to language, it is less about native or not, more about how often do you get exposed to it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Any native or non-native speaker can be effective assuming he or she:

A. is sufficiently fluent in the target language

B. is sufficiently fluent in the local language

C. possesses the teaching skills necessary for fostering an effective EFL learning environment

Assuming the teacher in question meets the above requirements, native speakers (read: foreigners) have the benefit of intimate knowledge of cultural specifics behind their native language usage that they can explain more clearly and comprehensively.

However, non-native teachers (read: Japanese) have intimate knowledge of the home team's difficulties in grasping some of the more baffling aspects of the target language, so can better smooth over difficulties in comprehension.

It's a six of one/half-dozen of the other proposition, with the devil lying in the details. But IMHO, without the above A, B, and C requirements, any language teacher will not be as effective as he or she could be. It just makes sense to me.

To that end, simply being a native speaker of a given language does not a teacher make, something college grads looking towards Japan for their first post-graduation job would do well to remember before submitting that job application. This applies also to those foreigners who possess teaching experience back home, but in subjects other than English as a Foreign Language. Yes, being a successful biology teacher is impressive. But it means nothing in the context of teaching English in Japan if you didn't teach that biology, say, in Japanese to and all-American classroom. The skill set for teaching language and biology has many intersecting points, but they aren't an exact fit. Each possesses and requires different disciplines and aptitudes.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One of my biggest arguments against non-native speakers is their poor pronunciation (in general) and as a result, their inability to judge whether the students' pronunciation is correct or not. They could be the best teacher in the world and still not get that right. I once prepared a young lady for her high school entrance English test/interview. We prepared relentlessly and she was so ready. Everything was spot on. Come test time she did not do well. The non-native interviewer could not understand her 'perfect' , non-katakana English. What a joke!

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

...their inability to judge whether the students' pronunciation is correct or not.

Whose ability to judge whose pronunciation? Someone who is "going to school to die" or someone who is going to school today? There are numerous ways to pronounce English.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Can non-native English speakers do just as well or better?

Most definitely, YES, as long as they have the knowledge of English, skills in the language and good pronunciation (non-native is not absolutely necessary sorry 'Genki English' Brigade) they can make far better teachers than the droves of, even qualified, native speakers that (used to) come to Japan. A Japanese native understands the difficulties and can relate not only to the language of the learners but also the culture, and presumably,the culture of the countries of the target language, or at least one on them.

The ALT job was fun (and profitable) while it lasted. Now it just isn't really necessary, especially when you can get all the native language you want online - even live language guides.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

philly1 Wouldn't the difference between 'today' and 'to die' imply that the teacher is a native English speaker? I understand that. I don't understand " The dogu and cato wento the ribrary becauzu they wantedo to reado."

0 ( +4 / -4 )

A Japanese native understands the difficulties and can relate not only to the language of the learners but also the culture...

It depends what you mean by this, Fukuppy. Do you mean those who help turn Ford into Fo-do and otherwise make the English language more palatable to the Japanese? If so I'd beg to differ.

That's just the sort of thing that leads NHK World correspondents to file reports that "Putin crapped down on protesters." While they may not be wrong, it's not (strictly speaking) good English either. Japanese people are less inclined forgive those who order a building instead of a beer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is a great value to being able to work with a native speaker in any language. This enables the student access to the language i(in all dimensions) rather than the subject of the language.

My long experience with "fluent" non-native teachers has been disappointing at best.They are rarely fluent as advertised. My experience also shows many native speakers don't teach very well but....

The attitude and individual efforts of the student is the most important factor in any learning situation.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Most of the job postings online I visited last time required the applicants to be a native speaker! Pathetic! What's with all the hype on native speakers? They think the U.S., U.K, Canada and Australia can only do english?! I demand a legislation to ban this kind of discrimination.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I'm undecided on having full time native English speakers as the main English teacher in Japanese schools, but something needs to be done about the 'lesser' status of ALTs and the amount of Japanese that Japanese English teachers use in the classroom. A lot of English classes I've attended as an ALT are more like social studies lessons with a little bit of English thrown in (while the ALT stands in the corner like a naughty child). No wonder so many Japanese people still can't speak English! No doubt I'll get an off the point message from the moderator now...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@ LFRagain

I agree! You said it better than I did.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No no but yes..The Education Of Ministry should recruite both ..students should have the exposure that English is not spoken just like this but also like that...iirrespective whether native or non, teacher must be dedicated and able to teach out of the text book too. They should be able to give guidance and make conversation with students...communication is part of learning any language....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cleo Sama, I really like this.

"A good teacher who has been through what his students are now going through and has come through with a good level of fluency is likely to have a better understanding ..."

The problem is that many native speakers don't know their own language, and also have never known what it's like to get good at a foreign language.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Instead of focusing on the native vs non-native issue, we should look more closely on qualifed vs unqualified. In ESL, the more effective teacher will be the one who is most adept at teaching. Someone who is trained, can communicate clearly and is familiar with education. Learning a language by birth or in school is not necessarily a license to teach it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A qualified teacher doesn't necessarily mean a good teacher though does it? Plus there's a lot to be said concerning training and how much of it is relevant. I've attended enough meaningless training courses over the years to know that. As an employer myself, I usually lean towards experience and actual teaching skill when I recruit, though obviously some basic qualifications are usually necessary for any job.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I've met plenty of Dutch, Germans, and Scandinavians who could speak better English than a lot of native English speakers. They also have experience of learning other languages, which will also stand them in good stead as language teachers.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I once prepared a young lady for her high school entrance English test/interview. We prepared relentlessly and she was so ready. Everything was spot on. Come test time she did not do well. The non-native interviewer could not understand her 'perfect' , non-katakana English. What a joke!

Perhaps you should have prepared your student to pass the test rather than training her to mimic your 'perfect' pronunciation.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

there have been many native english speakers hired as english teachers in Japan since forever, but very few students can speak properly (i am not saying fluently). the question is not native or non native speakers, but how the students are using the language.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I've met plenty of Dutch, Germans, and Scandinavians who could speak better English than a lot of native English speakers. They also have experience of learning other languages, which will also stand them in good stead as language teachers.

This is so true. For native speakers of English it's something they take for granted but for Europeans to study another language apart from their own and become good in it is actually quite impressive. Having experienced studying English as their second or even third language, they have already been in the shoes of the students before and know the difficulties of learning a foreign language. So, being a non-native English teacher shouldn't be an issue so long as the person is qualified and has received proper training to teach.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If they covered in six years what they now do in three - i.e. take it twice as slowly, that would go a long way. High school English is just too hard, especially when the average student can't put a sentence together out of material based on the first year of Junior High. Get Japanese teachers to teach and have native speakers to practice with. As for native speakers, many Japanese will end up speaking English overseas to non-native speakers anyway, so they'll have to get used to speaking with others with accented English.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

100% with Cleo. Being a native speaker means nothing if you don't know how to teach - as is the case of many, many native speaking "teachers" here. Add in that many non-native speakers can explain grrammar rules and test taking skilles/methods, more bang for the buck - as long as they can speak the language. Japan suffers from know nothing native speakers and unable to speak Japanese teachers. Knowing and using a language are two different things. One needs both to be effective.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I think the accent of the speaker can also affect the level of ability that is passed on to the students. For one, my cockney accent when I speak would be no good for the students in a business environment. However, I can speak 'standard English' but I sometimes lapse into my cockney accent this may confuse students.

So, I think a non-native speaker who has only learned to speak standard English would be a better choice to teach students English as a foreign language and once the students have learnt the language to an acceptable (fluent/native) level, they can more easily understand the different accents that are a part of English.

Kind of like how when learning Japanese I was taught the standard or formal way of speaking it. However, when I moved to Osaka I still understood the Osaka-ben and have found myself occasionally slipping into it when talking. If I had tried to assault myself with both ways of speaking Japanese I probably would have overloaded myself.

What I'm getting at is, it's not whether they are native or not, it's whether they can teach you the right 'type' of English or not.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If I were just going to roll the dice, I would get a continental European. So many have a great grasp of really useful, simple, but understandable English grammar, phrases and vocabulary. Native speakers tend to get hung up on complicated precision, single use expressions, or the slang of the day.

That said, I would never roll the dice on hiring a teacher and choose simply by native or non-native. I would access their abilities beyond anything else.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

learned to speak standard English

Define "standard English" and the "right type of English" please. You might like to read up on "world Englishes" as frankly, you're on a slipperly slope with your comments and many have claimed classism and racism for these type of comments.

Your average Japanese English speaker isn't using English with a native speaker. They're using it with non-native speakers so exposure to accents is good - which is why TOEIC, many other tests and textbooks are now using various accents and dialects in their listening passages.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

'What I'm getting at is, it's not whether they are native or not, it's whether they can teach you the right 'type' of English or not.' If you're talking about British English, I'm not sure what you think that standard should be. Plummy? Home Counties? Estuary? Would you teach 'hat' or 'het'? How about the 'w' in power? The different pronunciations of 'garage'? I'm pretty sure that most native teachers speak with an accent, if in some cases modified, far more intelligible to the rest of the world than most Japanese teachers and students would benefit.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Well, if you want the japaneese children be able to understand, english native, it would be better for the teacher to an english native language.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A good teacher is a good teacher. A bad teacher is a bad teacher. Could be a million reasons for why good or bad, depending on circumstances, personality, and individual students' needs. Nationality does not make the right teacher.

As for Japan, though, they need to get over this grammar translation/ Uni entrance exam problem. To do that all the teachers who went through what the student is going through, as Cleo or someone above said, really need to radically change their concept of what language is. That concept is shaped by the J education system, and over-confirmed in ppl's minds by the absolute universality of that system in this country. Further exacerbated by the fact that no other languages are taught here (on a significant scale), thus preventing the attaining of perspective on language that experience w/ many languages would bring to a population. (I am thinking especially of Korean which is so close to Jpns, and Chinese which shares so much vocab w/ jpns that acquisition of these languages would be rapid, leading to high fluency rates, and different ideas about what it means to "use a language".)

Would foreign teachers get over that problem faster/ better? Maybe, but not all the partially trained half-professional people.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Jerseyboy

In a word, NO!

Which is joy to the ears of backpackers the world over. Trained teachers are what counts, especially if you're talking about state level education.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If they can speak English fluently and have the proper language-teaching documents then why should they be a native English speaker? I see Indian and Pakistani people born overseas who can speak better English than some native British people. Also, being a Japanese person the students would have more of a rapport with the teacher, and there would be fewer misunderstandings with Japanese staff thanks to language barriers, as I've heard from some western people who taught English in Japanese schools.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese schools should hire professionally qualified and licensed English teachers from overseas. The Japanese teachers albeit but a few are just not up to it... They over teach grammar and confuse students with errors. Spoken English should bevtaught by either Jspanese that have been abroad and spesk fluently or natives English speakers brought in to teach communication. I know many schools in Japan where the Japanese teacher cannot even dpeak English yet he/she is teaching English... It doesnt work.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Only if the mom-native English teachers have spent time abroad immersed in English. otherwise their efforts will be fruitless. In the absence of that, native English teachers are ideal.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Native English speakers can present problems - as in the differences between Proper English and American English. There are many differences between the two and it could become confusing.

Example: I have a friend who was taught English by an American, and she uses words like sidewalk, oftentimes and vest for waistcoat. My ex was taught English by a British teacher and she uses vest to mean, well, a vest (rather than an undershirt), and would say pavement rather than sidewalk. She doesn't even know what oftentimes means... to be honest neither do I.

Then there are the accents of native speakers - British, Aussies, Canadians, New Zealanders and Americans all sound different, and there are regional accents for each country... it could be confusing. Ideally a native would be the perfect choice, but language and accent differences could be barriers.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

My French teacher at school wasn't French. I didn't leave school a fluent speaker but that would have been an unrealistic expectation anyway. What I did learn was how to conjugate verbs and enough working vocabulary for basic conversations. True, I could only converse slowly, but I had the basics. As a true beginner, I didn't need a native French speaker and heaps of idioms, and I benefitted from explanations in English. Same goes for the Japanese school system.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The Nepali, Indians, Filipinos, and Africans here in Japan are the ones with the worst reputation. They are not native speakers but they know english and its law. They are knowledgeable but are often criticised by their employers and native speaking co-workers. Their wobbly heavy ACCENT are often looked at as a demerit for being a good english language teacher. The discrimination doesn't stop right there. One principal I know doesn't only hire native speakers but employs Americans and Canadians ONLY. No other nationalities! Not even from the U.K.. It's absurd! This mindset about "Native speakers" as the ideal teachers is completely WRONG!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I'm not native speaker of english or japanese and I have never had a native teacher of those languages. That being said, I agree that a native speaker could be better at some point because the cultural background that teacher could teach besides the language itself. Ideally that teacher could explain more things about the culture (American, British, etc) than a teacher that have never been to or lived in a english speaking country. About accents... if you hear enough people speak in english you may notice their accents and there are differences. As long as your accent is not really heavy for making the word you are trying to say completely understable, it shoulnd't be a problem.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The real elephant in the room here is that Japan fails to train fully competent language teachers, may it be English or any other language. Plus the methodology of teaching and fixation with entry tests.

I believe it's not necessary if the teacher is native, especially in the beginning years. But in Japan, as long as the system doesn't change it might be helpful.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

philly1 Wouldn't the difference between 'today' and 'to die' imply that the teacher is a native English speaker? I understand that. I don't understand " The dogu and cato wento the ribrary becauzu they wantedo to reado."

Onniyama: Aussies pronounce today as to die which really threw a Japanese friend of mine on her first exchange to Australia after several to Canada.

I don't want to die at school, she thought. Which is on par with what Jimizo and others point out. Which accent is the standard? English is a varied language due to the reach of the language at the height of England's colonial powers--never mind it's own regional variations within the Mother Country.

At the primary and secondary school levels it's important to enjoy conversation and songs and simple films designed to engage students in a way that is enjoyable. At the secondary level this should continue in a more sophisticated way with greater attention given to the benefits of having a solid foundation in a second language (not just English), its grammatical elements, and in more sophisticated conversation.

Then if students have a need for English (or another language) in their work place they can go on to acquire what they need as adults. (Paying for instruction will likely increase their motivation, too.) To think that students will be proficient in a language not their own after a bit of (sometimes substandard) schooling is ridiculous.

Linguists will tell you that there are two reasons people succeed in learning a second language fluently: 1)Their desire to learn it and 2) The opportunity to practise speaking.

Many Japanese students now in English classes have neither. Some also have poor teachers. All are assessed in their proficiency by misguided measures (tests) of what it means to know English. Until that changes and the insular island mentality of the nation toward the outside world changes, nothing much is going to change. Welcome to Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@philly1

A Japanese native understands the difficulties and can relate not only to the language of the learners but also the culture...

It depends what you mean by this, Fukuppy. Do you mean those who help turn Ford into Fo-do and otherwise make the English language more palatable to the Japanese? If so I'd beg to differ.

No, that's not what I mean. I mean a Japanese person will understand, for example, the grammatical concepts that differ in the target language, and having overcome them himself/herself will be in a better position to explain them to someone of the same linguistic background who is just learning them. A native English speaker may wonder why some concept (let's say use of articles for instance) is causing so much trouble, yet the Japanese speaker who has mastered their use in English from a Japanese speaker's viewpoint will know why, and will probably be able to explain the idea better to the Japanese students. Remember also, that a lot of places want their native English instructors/ALTs etc. to speak ALL English ALL the time, making understanding of concepts even harder for the learners.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't understand " The dogu and cato wento the ribrary becauzu they wantedo to reado."

A clear understanding of epenthesis and how the characteristics of a mora-timed language (L1) intrude on a stress-timed language (L2) would help here, as would a clear understanding of the importance of suprasegmental and segmental phonology in language learning - but there's no guarantee that either the NS or the NNS would have this.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The vast majority of staff in my department speak English to non-native speakers. Some of the prouder members claim to find the pronunciation of Indians, Chinese, Malaysians etc. difficult to understand due to the poor pronunciation of the speaker while I generally find it perfectly intelligible ( although I can understand the difficulty in some cases ). Exposure to different pronunciations must be beneficial in improving language skills. I speak with a modified but still recognisable Liverpool accent and these prouder types claim to enjoy listening to my 'Queen's English' although I've often told them otherwise. Japan's students will very probably be speaking English to even fewer native speakers as business increasingly moves even further towards other Asian economies and understanding various 'Englishes' will be very useful.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

That's a false debate. There are good and bad ones in the two categories. Even categories are artificial. So many people have never been monolingual. have gone further in a second or third language. Native is not a level, it's a cliche. The problem in Japanese schools is both "native" and "non-native", senseis and ALTs, have not the useful skills. Add to this that their management and curriculum also suck. 90% wouldn't pass TESOL and JLPT 3/ get average TOEFL score, even if you gave them a few months to prepare. They waste tax money and students' time with fake lessons.

A qualified teacher doesn't necessarily mean a good teacher though does it?

Any standard tests would be a first level of screening because J-universities graduate the best and the worst students the same way. TESOL, TOEFL or JLPT3 are really the lower step. If you fail at swimming 200 meters, how can you do the swimming class that aims at making the class swim 5 km ?Japanese education has low standards and has no plan to change. In most countries, from the 60's, they have "cleaned" their pools of language teachers, those that used to teach English like a dead language, those that couldn't speak have been retired/given administrative work to do. They are now recruiting language teachers at a bilingual level, with a master degree obtained in a foreign uni for the target language. Many are putting in place exchanges so subjects like science, humanities, art, sport, can be also be taught in the second language, while teachers get opportunities to live abroad and refresh fluency in another language. Chinese cities have made the jump in 10 year time, now they are getting millions of young English speakers that smoothly pass from public high school to foreign unis. Japan is staying in the 50's. And you can see all the fuss about foreign nurses whose Japanese is never good enough... Obviously you need less fluency to teach a language than to clean a wound.

if you want the japaneese children be able to understand, english native,

They want to be able to understand most of what is said by English speakers. And 90% of them over the world are not native speakers. Anyway, if you acquire a good base in the language, that will serve in all situations, when you go to Mumbai, to London, to Shanghai... and to read Japan Today.

My long experience with "fluent" non-native teachers has been disappointing at best.

Many failed language learners take the accent and other imperfections of their teachers as a pretext. After what 6 months, 2 years, 10 years, you haven't memorized the names of the months and of the basic colors and you think it's due to the teachers ?

Study isn't something someone does for you.

Clearly, but students are prisoners of the school and the teachers most of their awaken time, if the teaching is bad, that can prevent them from studying anything. I'm not a big fan of school systems, the concept of making a group progress at a unique pace is contrary to human nature. But as long as they rule, the classes have to be optimized.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would argue that a non-native English teacher (someone with higher education in the english language) knows more about english than a native speaker. This applies to all languages. A person high higher education in Portuguese (my native language) is better than me, simple because, the only thing that I know about my language is how to speak and write. All the grammar its reasons for being are foreign to me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I see no reason why a non-native can't do just as well or better than a native English speaker. I mean, I'm Engish, but that doesn't mean I'd be good at teaching the language. For a start, I don't have the skills or the qualifications for it. Nor do I have enough of a grasp on other languages to teach them how to speak English, to translate between languages. As long as you have the skills and qualifications, it doesn't really matter if you're a native speaker or not, as long as you have a good enough grasp to work with. As long as you have the fundamentals worked out, you can apply the knowledge you have to figuring out what you don't already know.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'd say that a more reasonable requirement is that one should be bilingual, with one of your languages being English. I've met far too many "English teachers" in Japan who only speak their second language so poorly that they're almost incomprehensible. Whether that second language is English, French, Spanish, Japanese, or Swahili I don't really care. I just don't feel that someone who hasn't been able to master even a single additional language is in any position to be trying to teach kids how to learn a second language.

Far too often these teacher try to teach English in the same manner that they (imperfectly) learned their own second language, with the predictable result that the students learn bad habits and bad learning strategies. I know that the old saying is, "Those who can't do, teach" but it really shouldn't be this way.

At a minimum anyone wanting to be an English teacher should be able to display at least conversational ability in one or more languages in addition to their home language.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Lots of agreement AND disagreement here, but one common idea is that teachers should know how to teach a language. That means (duhh!) stop hiring untrained people, no matter how little they will work for. From what I've seen they do more harm than good. The lousy ESL system in Japanese schools isn't going to change quickly, but how about online pre-hiring interviews that also test teaching skills? Seems like a no-brainer.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There are good and bad teachers on both sides, but I would say overall the native speaker is better. Non-native teachers of English(especially Japanese) tend to use gramatically correct, but rather awkward phrases from time to time.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I agree with Cleo's statements. I feel that teachers - especially at the "beginner" levels of a language - are best when they're non-native speakers of that language. Fluent, but not native. Here's why:

I studied Japanese with two professors. One was a native speaker and was excellent at teaching the pronunciations, but wasn't fluent in English and couldn't answer a lot of my questions. When I wanted to ask "Why do they do this?" the answer basically came down to "because that's how it is". But the other was an American who had lived in Japan for 10 years (he was fluent in Japanese), and he was one of the best professors I ever had because he would stop to explain why something was the way it was, from the perspective of an English speaker. He knew all those answers.

My French studies were under native speakers only, but I feel the same way. I struggled with the comprehension a bit, but since the pronunciation is such an integral part of meaning in that language, having a native-speaking French professor was a necessity. My native-Japanese teacher was wonderful at teaching us correct usage and pronunciation, and I liked that a lot, but my comprehension of the language didn't open up till I studied under the non-native speaker.

So if you have levels of the language, my opinion is that a non-native speaker who has studied another foreign language and knows how to answer the "why"s is best for the lower levels, where you're learning vocabulary and how to navigate the language. Naturally they do need to be fluent in that language though, because you don't want to run into problems with students learning things wrong and having to be retaught later. But higher levels benefit more from someone who was born in that language/culture, who can fine-tune pronunciation, be more strict with saying things correctly, and turn out students who comprehend both the mechanics AND the meaning.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Non-native speakers of English can be excellent teachers. Japanese teachers who are no good at teaching English (most of them) have other problems that disqualify them. For starters - most dont know how to speak English themselves. Second, no one in Japan (especially at school) really wants to speak English or really even needs to. English should be an elective taught by people who know how to teach.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don't understand " The dogu and cato wento the ribrary becauzu they wantedo to reado."

A clear understanding of epenthesis and how the characteristics of a mora-timed language (L1) intrude on a stress-timed language (L2) would help here, as would a clear understanding of the importance of suprasegmental and segmental phonology in language learning - but there's no guarantee that either the NS or the NNS would have this.

LOL - thumbed down by three backpacker teachers who can't be bothered to do the research. If you don't like katakana pronunciation and genuinely want to do something about it then your solution is above, and no, I'm not being a smart-arse.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wow I got thumbed down three times for pointing out the obvious... triffic.

I took a TEFL course, passed it and gained the certificate... but there is no way I would teach Japanese students English. My grasp of Japanese is at beginner level (was higher but lack of use has made me forget a lot of it) meaning that if the students were stuck on something and couldn't express themselves in English I'd be stuck myself.

I still think what you need is a fluent English speaker who is also fluent in Japanese, and the English used needs to be standardised throughout. It's no use having learners using British English, Aussie English or American English. Just ask a British person what a fanny pack is and you'll have them rolling on the floor with laughter. The students would need to learn that an American word for a person's rear end is a vulgar term in the UK for a part of a female's anatomy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thunderbird2Mar. 05, 2014 - 08:08PM JST

I still think what you need is a fluent English speaker who is also fluent in Japanese, and the English used needs to be standardised throughout. It's no use having learners using British English, Aussie English or American English. Just ask a British person what a fanny pack is and you'll have them rolling on the floor with laughter. The students would need to learn that an American word for a person's rear end is a vulgar term in the UK for a part of a female's anatomy.

With all due respect, I beg to disagree on three points:

The teacher need not be fluent in Japanese. All too often I see this simply leads to excessive translation and commentary, as well as spurious comparisons between English and Japanese grammar that lack any real validity. While a second language is essential it need not be Japanese. I understand your comment about students becoming "stuck", but who's doing the learning? The student is. If you allow them a quick and easy "out" by translating then the student knows that when they get stuck the teacher will translate. Believe it or not, but frustration is a valuable learning tool. In the real world students won't suddenly find that the businessman they're talking to is actually fluent in Japanese and has just been speaking English to irritate them (I kid you not, but many Japanese actually DO believe this).

Standardizing to one type of English is the wrong move. Sure, it'll help the students understand their textbook, but the moment they get out into the real world and encounter Singlish or Indian English or even Irish English, they'll be completely incapable of understanding, because from the word go they've been taught that there is only one type of English. I meet many so-called "native" speakers of American English who whine about European English accents as being incomprehensible. I find them easy to understand and charming. Hell, there are people from the U.S. who find it difficult to understand people from other states. The entire idea of "standard" English is a dangerous fallacy.
-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Crazy question. Of course not. They should be good teachers. Being a native speaker has no direct connection with that. No-one ever says you have to be Albert Einstein to be a good physics teacher or Alex Rodriguez to be a good baseball coach. Being an exponent of an art and being a teacher of it are fundamentally different skill sets.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

100% with Cleo. Being a native speaker means nothing if you don't know how to teach - as is the case of many, many native speaking "teachers" here.

True, but at what point did the Japanese ever demand that their 'teachers' could teach? It seems to me all they want is 'fun' lessons with a smiley blond gaijin dancing around, and that isn't just in ele, but also in conversation schools. Adults want to have a bit of a laugh with/at a hen na gaijin.

The dogu and cato wento the ribrary becauzu they wantedo to reado.

Funny thing is, once you've been in Japan long enough, you understand this kind of English without any problem. The fact is, most Japanese will never use English outside their own country - they even go abroad in groups all speaking Japanese - so it doesn't really matter anyway. English, to most, is just an annoying subject they have to do and a test they have to pass. For the older generations English is (or should I say 'was' now money is scarce) a fashion accessory like a tiny handbag with a minature chihuahua inside. Bottom line - English doesn't matter in Japan, so it doesn't really matter whether the teacher is a native or not. That's my take on it anyway.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In Japan, the phrase "Native English Speaker" is really an euphemism for excluding applicants who do not happen to be White. In many cases, the usage of this phrase might actually be unrelated to linguistic abilities or skills, and is an interesting way to mask a "racist preference or bias" in a way that might sound politically correct to the uninitiated.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Can non-native English speakers do just as well or better?

I can't agree with the premise. Seriously, with the huge amount of romaji-based "English" that is already in Japan's everyday discussion, it's next to impossible to correct the errors such a system ingrains into any would-be teacher's speech.

"Kurasu, purisu open yoa bukusu to chaputaa sebentiiin, "She-kusupia's Sannetosu".

Such a teacher would be thinking they were doing great, while further reinforcing seriously bad English. This goes above and beyond your usual "accent" argument".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In the real world students won't suddenly find that the businessman they're talking to is actually fluent in Japanese and has just been speaking English to irritate them (I kid you not, but many Japanese actually DO believe this).

Have you actually met any Japanese people? Most Japanese people seem to believe it is a miracle when a person who is not Japanese can say two words in Japanese.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The question is completely moot and irrelevant anyway. The teacher could be an Amazonian pigmy for all the good the way English is taught here helps students. Everyone obsesses in Japan about "Native Speakers" but it doesn't matter who your teacher is, it matters how they teach you. Having a native speaker in Japanese classrooms is a hindrance not a benefit. You don't need 2 teachers in a classroom. The whole thing is ridiculous and anti-pedagogical. The only reason for ALTs is to make schools look good and improve the future benefits to Japan's economy by having more well disposed westrerners.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'd argue that a good teacher in Japan NEEDS a solid understanding of the Japanese language. There are many grammatical and cultural nuances in the Japanese language, many of which a native English speaker new to Japan would know nothing about.

I think the same, I'm A native Spanish speaker you see, and whenever my friends tell me that they have difficulty learning a new language (particularly English) I always tell them: you should worry to learn Spanish properly, that way you can easily learn another language

1 ( +1 / -0 )

English, as with any other language, should be the purpose of communication. And to add, there are native speakers of a language who can't even really communicate. Maybe they prefer to communicate with someone they feel comfortable with. I see a lot of parents of students who seem to somewhat prefer to have their children learn English from someone who is caucasian rather than other teachers. If I was a parent (being Japanese), i would have my child learn from all kids of teachers. To see all kinds of faces, gestures, body languages, vibes. Each person brings with them a history and an essence. Its real and universal. I think Japan really needs this. Maybe some native people in western countries could use this also.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The best Japanese teacher I ever had was an American. Japanese tend to teach their own language the same way they teach English, even abroad. So, yes, a non-native speaker can get the job done as long he or she is fluent and has spent sufficient time abroad in an English speaking nation. As others have mentioned, a Japanese teacher will have better insight into grammar and usage issues.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

English teaching in Japan has been a failure. Stop teaching English period. Japanese don't learn it. If they want to learn it then wait until they want to learn it, then pay for it.

This will reduce the Japanese replacements, and maybe Japanese will want to keep their own language. Then when they learn another language (like English, but it doesn't have to be) they will be confident already in their own language and stop "fixing" language to sound Japanese. Learning from respect will mean it will no longer be a failure.

Fix two problems at once for the same if not less cost

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Jeff HuffmanMar. 11, 2014 - 03:12AM JST The best Japanese teacher I ever had was an American.

Problem for native born American teachers is that only 10% can speak a second language, compared to over half of European Union citizens. The ability to speak a second (or third) language is clearly important for becoming a global leader, as English may be the most essential language for global business success at the moment. Indeed, even in China, more people are currently studying English than in any other country. An incredible 100,000 native English speakers are currently teaching there.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I really believe that English teachers must be native speakers. Beyond anyone else, they have the mastery of the language, which they could seamlessly pass on to their students. If you are looking for a native English speaker, this website http://preply.com/en/skype/english-native-speakers can help you out finding the right tutor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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