Audio:Are Native Speakers Really Better Teachers?TREVOR:
Awe yeah, welcome to another Real Life English Podcast. The only podcast guaranteed to increase your English teaching abilities to that of a native.
So I’m here today with the founder of Real Life English, the visionary, the man who puts the LIFE in Real Life English, the man who started the project, who keeps the train runnin’. Justin, how ya doin’ today? JUSTIN:
I’m great, how are you doing today, Trevor? TREVOR:
I’m doing alright, doing alright. So how’s your Friday going? JUSTIN:
It’s going pretty well. Just had some Açai.TREVOR:
Awe yeah, love that acai. If you’re at the Real Life English house, always feel better after that, especially since it’s been so HOT.JUSTIN:
Very hot. Not as hot as in other parts of Brazil, but…1:03TREVOR:
So this podcast is about your article for English Experts, and English Experts is actually the name of our internet (wifi signal) provider, or whatever, how would you say that? JUSTIN:
It’s our internet signal, or I mean, what we put that the neighbors see (it’s the name of our wifi signal).TREVOR:
Yeah, so that anyone that lives around us sees English Experts as our internet signal, so do you wanna explain that? JUSTIN:
So, the story is that we chose a name for Real Life English, for our project, which was, at the time, a community (English speaking) and a small school (in Belo Horizonte). We were doing some small events, and the first name we came up with was English Experts. And…TREVOR:
Yeah, great name…JUSTIN:
And then we decided to change names (to Real Life English), and later we realized that there was a blog called English Experts, and this would—became one of the first blogs I read a lot about, I read a lot….TREVOR:
Yeah, it’s a really cool blog. Do you wanna tell us how you first got into contact with English Experts and with Adir and Alessandro.2:03JUSTIN:
Ahh, just, actually I was just a fan of their website and their community and I really respect their ability with blogging and community building and I wrote an article about them (English Experts- along with two few other blogs).
So I really looked into their project and into Alessandro’s story, and… and then we became friends with Adir. We started communicating with him, and I chatted with him on Skype, and recently I’ve just chatted a little bit with Alessandro. He’s a really nice guy.TREVOR:
Cool, yeah, I look forward to chattin’ with him as well. JUSTIN:
They also have a great podcast, which I’ve listed to, and they have a lot to teach. TREVOR:
Cool! Alright, so lets move on to the article itself. So, you wrote an article about Are Native English speakers really the best teachers? And so, you wanna tell us your inspiration for this article?2:53JUSTIN:
Well, just the longer I live here, I realize that people have this idea that native (speaking) teachers are just way better, they’re way superior, and…TREVOR:
It’s like they have a halo above their heads, like AHHHHHHHH (sound of God shining down) Native Teacher. JUSTIN:
And there’s nothing we can do to wrong, to be wrong in this sense, and in some sense, I don’t know if this is the best image to have. It’s benefited me a lot, it’s been good for me.TREVOR:
Yeah, it’s good for us, so…JUSTIN:
We get lots of students, people always want to study with us, but TREVOR:
So, in a way, like, we’re actually losing credibility by doing this podcast, or we’re making it harder for the rest of our native English teaching friends. JUSTIN:
But the more you meet Brazilians who really know how to teach, non-natives, you realize that they know a lot, they’ve learned- they’ve learned so much through their own processes that it’s really easy for them to pass that on to their students. TREVOR:
Right, so what I understand is, like, your main inspiration for writing this article was to give credibility to Brazilian or other non-native English speaking teacher. JUSTIN:
To give credibility and recognize the differences because there are differences.TREVOR:
Right, and the faults with the native-speakings—speaking teachers.JUSTIN:
Exactly, because I think there some are—there are some areas which native speakers are generally better teachers. TREVOR:
Naturally, but not all areas.JUSTIN:
Cool. So, we’ll talk about those today. So, what- just making the broad, general statement, what is the most important characteristic of any English teacher. 4:19JUSTIN:
Well, the best—the most important characteristic of any teacher is you have to care about what you’re doing, you have to be professional, be organized, and--TREVOR:
And that’s like with any job you have- that’s one of the most important things- you have to care. JUSTIN:
Absolutely, and there are some people who are obviously better teachers than other people, natives or non-natives.
It’s just a question of wanting to teach and I think you have to recognize as well that – teach to a certain level you don’t have to be the most fluent person in the world to teach beginners, for example, you might actually be a better teacher if you’re not that fluent ‘cause you understand them more. TREVOR:
Yeah, you understand the process they’re going through. You’ve been through that process more recently than someone who’s maybe an expert who kind of is disassociated from the beginning processJUSTIN:
Absolutely. That’s it. So, umm, this is the one thing that people should recognize. I find that people come to me and they don’t really ask about me about my methodology that much, they don’t ask me about those elements of dedication- approach- which are very much more important.TREVOR:
Yeah, so that’s definitely something to look for when you’re finding English teachers: do they care?JUSTIN:
Cool. So, are there any more advantages of being a Brazilian or a non-native English teacher, besides the beginner phrase-- phase?5:33JUSTIN:
So I started this article. I wrote- I wrote about the advantages of being a Brazilian first because I feel like maybe Brazilian teachers aren’t given the credit that they deserve, so I liked to write about that first and then just basically cover those areas.
Like I said the- the understanding of the language- it’s much easier to explain a process that you’ve been through. Like, you and I, we inherited the language from our parents. And, sometimes it’s really difficult to explain grammar points—and I have to go look in a book or—on the internet.TREVOR:
Yeah, something that’s like really easy and natural for me, it’s like maybe I don’t know how to describe it to someone else, or like, I think it’s easy, but they don’t understand. And so, because I haven’t been through the same process, it might be difficult for me to explain it to them.JUSTIN:
Absolutely. So, that’s the first one.
Another one is CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING. I think, umm, I think because Brazilians are much more able to teach the language using their culture. The example I gave in the article was TEACHING THE TH SOUND- (Justin makes TH sound). In Portuguese, Brazilians…TREVOR:
Brazilians’ favorite sound…JUSTIN:
It’s not an easy sound to learn, but there’s a joke, actually it works quite well, that Lula, Lula says “Bra-TH-ileiros.” The way he speaks with that TH accent is…..TREVOR:
People from Spain speaking Spanish.6:50JUSTIN:
Yeah, so that’s a really good… it’s just a small example.
Another example (point in the article) is that, generally, like natives, native speakers, they come here, they’re not (necessarily) professionally trained (in ESL) a lot of times. They don’t have, like, an extensive list of experience.
Like most Brazilian teachers I know are really dedicated to it-- they’re really-- it’s something that they’ve thought a lot about, and they’re really passionate about dedicating their lives to this, whereas, it just becomes a convenient choice for a lot of native speakers. TREVOR:
Right, a native can be, like, it sounds like a good idea at the time. You know, I could do that, that’s easy, I know English.JUSTIN:
It’s really your best option here. And some people, you know, get passionate about it once you start teaching, like you and I, but other people, I think, umm, they never really find that much enthusiasm in it.TREVOR:
It’s a low barrier of entry, whereas for a Brazilian teacher, they need much more practice and credibility and the process is much more refined, whereas a native can come here and just be like, “oh yeah, I’m from America, let me teach you,” so they might not have the background, or even like the drive, or the passion of teaching English, like a Brazilian or another non-native would have.JUSTIN:
Yeah, it’s absolutely right. 8:05TREVOR:
Alright, cool, so moving on, so what are advantages of being a native-speaking English teacher?JUSTIN:
Umm, I’d say, I mean, there are many on this side too, but it’s important to balance them out, like I said, one of the most significant advantages-- I’m sure people realize this—is IT’S REALLY EASY FOR US TO PLAY WITH THE LANGUAGE. To…
Because we’re very comfortable and relaxed. I think we’re comfortable making mistakes with our own language too, I think we recognize that we’re not always going to speak perfectly—the slang, that’s an aspect that is really hard to map. TREVOR:
Yes, definitely. Yeah, and going back to what you said about playing around, not taking it so seriously- since we don’t need to learn grammar- we kind of just inherit it, we don’t really focus too much on it, so that can lead to more natural flow of conversation, whereas some other people can kind of get too stuck on grammar, and it can get kind of ruin the natural, just, coming out of the--JUSTIN:
Yeah, that’s actually- I didn’t mention that in the article, but that’s an area-- I feel like maybe native teachers when you’re-- Native speaking teachers—when I watch a Brazilian who speaks confidently and making mistakes, I don’t even notice those mistakes sometimes, whereas a Brazilian standing there would notice those because they learn through structure and grammar (generally).
And so, maybe that might, that might, when it’s exaggerated, that might be kind of negative, bad-TREVOR:
And maybe even the grammar mistakes- grammar mistakes- are actually colloquial English- like, it’s been changing so where it’s actually accepted as normal, as like normal English, like using they as a per—as a non-specific gender of a single person.
Like, they has changed from meaning more than one person—every time—to now it can mean a single person who you just don’t want to label as a male or a female- and so, by having this recognition of how the language is evolving, we aren’t too, like, focused on grammar.
And, so like an example of this from our blog is that someone said that they had some problems with speaking, they would always freeze up when they were talking, and they said, because they were so—when they were learning in school, they were so focused on grammar, grammar, but he said with after learning from Real Life English, it’s really helped him relax, not worry so much about getting it—the grammar cor—perfect, and just more focused on the communication part of it.
And so that was really cool seeing how that’s really helped him, and that could be one thing that a native- natives tend to just naturally do, because we aren’t too focused on grammar since it comes naturally.10:36JUSTIN:
Another thing, today, nowadays, I think that EE is really good about emphasizing this, umm, it’s much more—it’s much easier to find those opportunities to sort of see English for what it is, and it’s in a different context, so, on the internet with technology and it’s much easier to learn like that, ummm, that- like Alessandro wrote a really good guide in there about self-taught learners- who- you know, just a guide sort of how to do it by yourself, which is possible- you can- it takes hard work, but it’s possible.TREVOR:
Yeah, practicing every day helps a lot.11:07JUSTIN:
Another- Another advantage to being a native speaker is just a more extensive use of vocabulary and slang, which I think goes after the playfulness of the language- so I’ll just sort of run through that quickly.TREVOR:
Also, as well as vocabulary, knowledge of expressions, and different meanings for the same words and stuff like that.JUSTIN:
Although, there is some impressive exceptions, like I have some friends- some friends who like- they’re just like walking dictionaries, thesaurus’, they’re just full of knowledge, full of so much information, and they’re teaching me words.TREVOR:
Right, so it’s definitely not like a Brazilian couldn’t reach that level, but it’s just…JUSTIN:
It takes a se—special type of person. TREVOR:
Right, yeah, it’s probably someone who’s been studying every day for a long time who really loves English and makes it a part of their everyday life. JUSTIN:
Yeah, I think reading, reading is something really big in that sense. Vocabulary.TREVOR:
Definitely. Reading and listening to podcasts. 11:59JUSTIN:
Yeah, so, in that sense, I think, like, there comes a point with some people, who, they actually get- get to those really difficult to learn aspects of the language, like the slang, and the unstructured parts of the language, which we just talked about.
And they-they can actually use those, and almost imitate a native- and those are really special, gifted people, and I think they’re, as I mentioned in the article, those people are beyond the native or non-native question because they probably know how to explain these things much better because they learned them step by step themselves.TREVOR:
They have the learning process down. They have a different perspective on it. JUSTIN:
But few books talk about that, or any books really, because I don’t think those people are writing books. TREVOR:
Yeah, that’s very different than the academic type of atmosphere, which tends to not change as quickly, whereas as like slang and stuff changes so fast that it’s kind of hard to publish on book on it because it’s going to be outdated pretty soon. JUSTIN:
This is where blogs like English Experts and Real Life English really shine because we cover those new, dynamic parts of the language, and the real life aspects where textbooks and the academic approach would never touch that. It would be more difficult for them because it gets outdated.13:13JUSTIN:
Yeah. So, another advantage about native speakers is that- and this has nothing to do with the proficiency of the Brazilian, but, the students generally feel more comfortable speaking English with a native English speaking teacher because there is something that just draws them to speak English, because they know that the teacher does not speak their native language, or if they speak it at all, they know that they don’t speak it as well as they do.
So, there’s something that triggers a reaction in the student that just wants to speak English. TREVOR:
Yeah, like especially the time before and after class. Where they’re much more likely to greet you in English because you’re a native English speaker, or like after class where it’s over and you still communicate in English, whereas maybe if it was a Brazilian, they’re more comfortable talking in Portuguese because that’s what they’re used to doing. 14:00JUSTIN:
Although that’s a very—thing you could get over—with just some practice, definitely.
But, um, the final advantage which I wanted to talk about, which most- most Brazilians seem to think like native teachers just pass this, they transmit a perfect pronunciation, but I wanted to talk about that a little bit because I think upper intermediate, intermediate and advanced students probably benefit much much more than beginners from that. It’s really difficult for beginners to learn pronunciation, in my opinion, from--TREVOR:
Definitely, it’s not like where you need to focus either as well. It’s more focused on like the communicating. As long as they can understand what you’re saying as more important for the more beginners.JUSTIN:
And then once you have the structure and the use, like later on, then it’s like you- I think a native teacher- native speaking English teacher can be much more beneficial for the student than early on in the process.TREVOR:
Right, and not just the pronunciation, but also the rhythm and the flow of the language as well, which can be a lot more difficult to for a non-native to learn and incorporate.JUSTIN:
Absolutely, where to cut the words, where to run the words together, listening skills…TREVOR:
So, but, that’s about it.
So, in summary, that was- the main inspiration of this article was to give credit to Brazilians who know how to teach and jus- just say that there are a lot of native teachers that don’t know how to teach- native speaking teachers that don’t know how to teach- and there are a lot that do.
It’s an advantage in some ways, but it’s a disadvantage in other ways, so because people should just try to understand the situation a little bit more, and I think this article is a good start.TREVOR:
Yeah, just being more aware of the different factors in play whereas being a native doesn’t mean everything. Yet, it’s good in some ways, but also that’s like a warning to be careful in other ways, like make sure they’re actually dedicated, they actually care about what they’re doing, and they’re not just doing it to make a quick dollar. JUSTIN:
Yeah so, and also to just value good teachers for good teachers.TREVOR:
Because regardless of what they speaking (language is.)JUSTIN:
Because I think you’re gonna learn English really really well with a good Brazilian teacher, just the same as with a good native teacher. You just have to find a good teacher.TREVOR:
Yeah, that’s the most important part.
Alright so, thank you for listening to our Real Life English podcast. You can find more of our podcasts at RealLifeBH.com/podcasts. And so we just wanna give a shout out to Alessandro. Thank you for having us. Thank you for the guest post. We look forward to doing more for English Experts. Alright so thanks again, and we’ll see you next time! JUSTIN:
Take care guys!TREVOR:
So now we’re going to play you out with Tim Maia called “Rational Culture.”