Learning a second language is challenging for everyone, though some more than others. Something that I have always wondered in learning a second language is the difference between being taught by someone whose mother tongue is the language, and someone who learned the language in a classroom like the students. In learning Spanish, I have been taught by people in both categories, and they both have pros and cons.
Being taught by a native speaker can be very hard in an immersion setting for students at any level. This is because the native speaker has an accent that, depending on how thick it is, can make understanding more difficult. Another factor is the fact that native speakers tend to be, understandably, faster speakers than the teachers who learned the language in classroom. This is due to their comfort in the language, and even though they would think they were speaking slowly and clearly, in reality, it is much faster.
A native speaker can also have difficulty in explaining some of the basic concepts in the language, such as verb conjugation for example. The teacher would simply know the conjugations and be able to rattle them off without difficulty in remembering them. This can be frustrating for students who are still tying to grasp those same conjugations because they aren’t naturally knowing the rules and tricks.
The benefit of having a native speaker as a teacher is that students are exposed to “real life experience” in using the language. Outside of the classroom, speakers will have accents and speak fast, and this gives the student a chance to practice hearing and understanding the language that way. As well, these teachers would be able to show the students a more colloquial version of the language to go along with the classroom version, such as slang or abbreviations.
Having a teacher who learned the language the same way the students do has a lot of benefits as well. They would teach the students based on their own experience in learning the language. They would know to speak slowly and clearly, aware of the time it would take to process the language at first. They would remember which words they struggled with, and perhaps know to emphasize them, or explain their significance more in-depth. In the the example of verb conjugation, the teacher would be able to provide acronyms or rhymes that the student could memorize in able to be able to learn the endings of the verbs.
What it “boils down to” is that a native speakers gives the student a real life version of how the language would be used, whereas a teacher who learned the language is able to give the students more guidance on confusing rules or concepts. Personally, I believe the best option is a combination of the two. Students need the reassuring, clear guidance of a teacher who learned the language like they did, but they also need the exposure to accents and speed that the native speaker gives them in the classroom.
What do you think? Is one better than the other? Are there pros and cons that I haven’t pointed out that are important? Go ahead and chime in!