Are native English teachers better than Vietnamese English teachers?

This is the subject of debate in every ESL teacher forum I have ever visited. Logic would state that, yes, when it comes to teaching something, those who are experts are better qualified, and who could be better qualified to teach English than those who have learned it as their native tongue? But the answer is not that simple. Many native speakers have no idea how to teach although most of them think they are good at it - teaching that is. Even some expats with University degrees and teaching certificates are poor instructors.

On the other hand I have never met a Vietnamese English teacher who could speak English properly (sometimes not at all) but almost every Vietnamese English teacher had superior grammar knowledge.

It seems quite simple to me; every student should have some instruction from a native English speaker to improve their pronunciation.

As an ESL teacher with a career spanning over 26 years now I can tell you that you are correct on almost every point you have made here.

For the past 12 years I've been teaching in Brazil, before that in Canada. I know literally hundreds of Brazilians who teach English and they are all good teachers. What they lack is a strong knowledge of the culture of English speaking countries, unless they've actually lived in one for an extended period of time. Every language is effected by the culture of the people who speak it. This is why when there are several correct ways to say something, one of those ways is generally chosen by the vast majority of speakers and others are not chosen as often.

Also there is a great tendency to lack in an "acceptable" pronunciation. I say acceptable because there is absolutely no such thing as a "correct" pronunciation. British speak the language with their own pronunciation, spelling and phrases; Americans yet others, Canadians, Australians and those from the Caribbeans yet another still. We all understand each other despite the regional differences.

From my own experience here in Brazil, and I think it probably holds true worldwide. Local teachers seem to have one small advantage with students, in that students seem to understand the spoken language much better when they hear it spoken by someone from their country, because it's spoken with the same "accent" as the students are accustomed to hearing. I know there's absolutely no doubt that Brazilians understand spoken English much better when spoken with a Latin accent.

That said, I think that far too many come into teaching languages that have few real qualifications other than the fact it's their mother tongue. They've grown up with the language but they really haven't studied it. They haven't, for the most part, graduated as teachers; but rather they've taken basic ESL teaching courses and get certifications which really mean little. Teaching is not a profession to them, it's just a job in order to earn money. So this kind of explains that local teacher (and sometimes the local students) may even have a better grasp of English grammar than the native teachers.

And correct speaking/listening must be done everydayin correct tones to achieve competency. But how would you arrange that?

I am letting my nephews listen to all kinds of youtube videos with English of different nations to build up his ears. Boy already speak better English than his parents. But that is a solution not easily applied to adults.

Not sure if that's a serious question... The vast majority of local public school English teachers is not able to obtain an FCE, and the Ministry's 2020 deadline for all Vietnamese teachers to exhibit that level of English proficiency is said to be unrealistic (see: … -standards).

In my personal (and, admittedly, anecdotal) experience, many of the local teachers are theoretically able to string a sentence or few together, but fail miserably at actually making themselves understood. How can they teach a language if they can't even make small talk about the weather?

Also, I've met English teachers that work in public schools whose English abilities are limited to miming. The reason they were chosen over hundreds of applicants? Connections. Being a teacher at a well-regarded public school is a good way to establish a lucrative private after-class practice. How that's even legal I have no idea.

The really bright ones that speak decent English end up at private schools and academies, teaching reading, grammar, and listening. There's a reason native speakers are chosen to teach pronunciation, speaking, and writing... it works.

A group of local Vietnamese that teach English are heading to Malaysia for 3 weeks next week.  I guess that's how they get cultural exposure to English outside of Vietnam.

Agree 100% dear sir.

Re-visiting the topic what is a native English teacher? Because here in Vietnam it seems to be white looking. I can barely speak Vietnamese but I'm fluent in English as that's my first language. I can hear and understand someone speaking Vietnamese. But I'm considered possessing non-native English language skills. In essence I have no language!?

Why do classrooms with teachers that can't speak or understand Vietnamese have a Vietnamese person present to translate? And classrooms with Vietnamese teachers have just the teacher only.

There lies my answer who is the better teacher and it includes Jame's point of " lack... a strong knowledge of the culture of English speaking countries".

The better teachers with all teaching skills being equal would be on average the overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu's) that live in countries with English as the official language.

One skill of teaching is understanding your students. It's easier for a Vietnamese to understand a Vietnamese. Simple logic but there is always exceptions to the rules.

Of course you can't teach a student if you don't know how to teach properly. Skin colour doesn't automatically give you magic powers. 

Then there's prestige powers but that should be reserved for it's own separate topic.

In my opinion, native teachers of English are more advantaged than their Vietnamese counterparts in the field of teaching skills, especially listening and speaking. However, regarding teaching grammar or writing I don't think there are  any big differences in capacity, least to say that in some situation Vietnamese teachers of English outrun their native counterparts.

It depends. If you are after grade and techniques to pass Ielts exam for further education then local English teachers are better, whereas if you want to practice speaking/listening skill and to know the common words for everyday life, native speakers are definitely the ideal choice.

How to learn speaking English? Could we have a meeting?

Listen to western talking radio channels online, repeat the sentences spoken by the DJ to let your brain get used to the pronunciation. Stop watching/listening Vietnamese movies/songs until you become fluent in this newly acquired language. Pick a part time/volunteer job that allows you to meet native speakers to practice your English.

I don't believe either group is absolutely better than the other or even that either group is automatically competent at what they should be best at.

I recently walked into a class for my turn and noticed that the VN teacher had just spent their time teaching models. You know- can, will, shall. I once walked by a classroom where a foreign teacher had hastily scrawled 'cat' on the blackboard in really big letters and was yelling 'cat' at the students who gleefully shouted 'ca' back.

Some foreigners teach IELTS and other tests. Some VN teachers have quite good pronunciation.

IMHO if one is just randomly plucking teachers from the available pool then it seems best to have the VN teacher teach grammar and vocab in Vietnamese followed by a foreigner who helps with pronunciation and practice using the target grammar and vocab. And hope for the best. 

Absolutely ideal would be the VN teacher being present when the foreigner teaches to control the class and learn themselves. I actually see this a lot. IMHO this leads to the best outcomes for the students.

When it comes to speaking, definitely a native speaker. Grammar and sentence structure, a local,as they are obsessed with this.

I agree with you in general but if you have ever seen the tests and worksheets passed around between public high schools you will have seen many errors in sentence structure.

L2 speakers lack that sixth sense that an L1 speaker has about their own language. This will show up in writing as well as speaking.

Havent been involved in the public system, but I have worked with numerous teachers in private colleges that were very good.

So have I and I agree with you there. Local teachers at private schools tend to be quite good.

I have seen some in the public sector and even language centres that I thought would do well and even excel in the private school system.

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