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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: http://tuoitrenews.vn/education/21048/s … -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.

Exactly right. All the students I know learned correct grammar from a Viet English teacher but still pronounce School as Schoon Pool as Poon and cannot differentiate the different sound of the letters P and B. They all know this and all are anxious to be taught pronunciation by a native speaker.

Edziu :

Exactly right. All the students I know learned correct grammar from a Viet English teacher but still pronounce School as Schoon Pool as Poon and cannot differentiate the different sound of the letters P and B. They all know this and all are anxious to be taught pronunciation by a native speaker.

what about coon vs. cool? lol...

My center very effectively used local instructors for the very basic adult courses (CEFR A1-A2) and native speakers after that.  I taught some of the B1 classes and I can say that those instructors did a good job.  Properly managed, there is a place for them in the system.  The school also employed several Filipino teachers who taught younger children on weekends.  Filipino teachers is another whole topic but the ones at my center were excellent and professional educators.  At the public middle school that I taught at, the local teachers ranged from poor to excellent but all but a few of them took their work seriously and did not hesitate to come to the native instructors with questions.

I do think that native speakers are most useful with respect to a few things.  One is culturally based idioms.  Of course there are obvious differences between British and North American English but they are not that far apart and I have found that the students can adapt to the differences.  I always told students that they did not have to use many English idioms but they had to be able to recognize and understand them.  The other area that people have alluded to here is final consonants.  Personally I feel the final "S" is most critical as it imparts meaning; plurals and 3rd singular.  As most of the meaning in Vietnamese words is carried in the vowels, Vietnamese even elide final consonants while speaking their own language.  I have found that students may express the final consonant when saying the word in isolation but then go right back to dropping it in a sentence.  For that reason, simple repetition of the word alone will not work.  My method was to have them repeat sentences but pause slightly after the problem words.  It seems to work. 

Of course there is a pronunciation teacher on TV every night.  It's called the Disney Channel.  As atrocious as it can be, it is effective.  One of my most fluent students never took a single class in a private language center.  She spoke with a "valley girl" accent that she learned on Disney.  The accent is somewhat jarring even to Americans, but she expressed all her final consonants.

YouTube is the best teacher out of them all.

QuidProQuo said, "YouTube is the best teacher out of them all."  I often visit different English language posts on YouTube and Facebook and the number of mistakes on-line is amazing. I think most sites are authored by non-native speakers, although a novice could certainly benefit from the many sites. English students should never pay for instruction on-line, there are lots of quality free offerings. I have never met an English fluent Vietnamese teacher but have met some pretty good English speaking students so there are some good ones out there. QuidProQuo should have said, "YouTube is the best teacher of them all."

I do believe :

QuidProQuo said, "YouTube is the best teacher out of them all."  I often visit different English language posts on YouTube and Facebook and the number of mistakes on-line is amazing. I think most sites are authored by non-native speakers, although a novice could certainly benefit from the many sites. English students should never pay for instruction on-line, there are lots of quality free offerings. I have never met an English fluent Vietnamese teacher but have met some pretty good English speaking students so there are some good ones out there. QuidProQuo should have said, "YouTube is the best teacher of them all."

Sure, I could have written what you wrote but I chose not to. Just as some people choose to say 'your instead of you're'. As long as my point is made thats what matters.

QuidProQuo :

YouTube is the best teacher out of them all.

Perhaps a little cumbersome but still grammatically correct.

QuidProQuo :

...... some people choose to say 'your instead of you're'. As long as my point is made thats what matters.

On the other hand, your and you're are entirely different words and thats is just a spelling error.

English has three disciplines:
Grammar and vocab are pretty much the same as far as teaching is concerned.
Listening comprehension
Speaking (Pronunciation and interesting use of English)

The first can be drilled by anyone competent but the latter two really require a native speaker, one with some serious get up and go.

Listening comprehension is a skill built up over time, years of listening to INTERESTING lessons delivered in a fun but relevant way, but these should be delivered by a native speaker with nice pronunciation, piles of energy, and lots of imagination.
For those who are unaware of the top genius in the field of being great in a classroom, find out who Allen Davenport is, attempt to copy his style, then become a great teacher (If you manage).
If you see a conference with him as a speaker, make sure you go and you'll see what I mean - That bugger has more energy than a nuclear bomb.

Those wild lessons, all designed to stretch the students' abilities and imagination, look after the speaking part and, if the teacher is any good at their job, means the kids learn not just about the use of the language, but a lot about the history and culture that drives it.

I loathe grammar with a passion, I'm crap at it and, most importantly, I find it extremely boring so I never attempt to teach it.

Finally, click the link, watch the video, understand what Fry talks about, then teach passion as well as words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7E-aoXLZGY

I take it using double negatives ain't kosher with you grammar police either since ain't nobody gots time for that, eh?

Even the U.S. POTUS isn't immune but we all get what he's trying to say, #covfefe.

Another recent Tweet...

QuidProQuo :

I take it using double negatives ain't kosher with you grammar police either since ain't nobody gots time for that, eh?

I try to limit my grammar criticisms to topics where it is relevant; teacher qualifications in particular.

THIGV :
QuidProQuo :

I take it using double negatives ain't kosher with you grammar police either since ain't nobody gots time for that, eh?

I try to limit my grammar criticisms to topics where it is relevant; teacher qualifications in particular.

This forum is populated by non-native speakers trying their best to communicate in a foreign language, and loads of native speakers with no intent to teach grammar.
If their grammar is poor, so what?

When a poster with crap English is looking for a job as a teacher, it becomes reasonable to point out their English is rubbish, native speaker or otherwise.

It is my considered opinion, native speakers with energy and imagination are essential when it comes to conversation and listening comprehension, but not so for the other skills.

Fred :

This forum is populated by non-native speakers trying their best to communicate in a foreign language, and loads of native speakers with no intent to teach grammar.
If their grammar is poor, so what?

I agree absolutely with this.  I may have come close to the edge of my criteria here but the topic is about teacher qualifications.  QuidProQuo never said he was seeking a job although he did assert his opinion about qualifications.  In fact he appears to be a native speaker, but just a little sloppy with words.  Notice that I actually supported his grammar on the first point.  However, he did not make a mistake with your and you're but made a positive assertion that they were the same.  That is just plain incorrect and should not go uncontested.

THIGV :
QuidProQuo :

I take it using double negatives ain't kosher with you grammar police either since ain't nobody gots time for that, eh?

I try to limit my grammar criticisms to topics where it is relevant; teacher qualifications in particular.

Do you teach? If so, what do you think of other people who teach at your center/school? Are they qualified? I'm asking because I've met people who claim they're English teacher and I feel sorry for the kids who have to learn from these guys.

QuidProQuo :

Do you teach? If so, what do you think of other people who teach at your center/school? Are they qualified?

I do but am no longer in HCMC.  As a teacher, as opposed to a supervisor, one has limited opportunity to observe other teachers but you can develop an opinion based on discussions of in-class experiences and techniques.  In general, I feel that the teachers at my center were certainly qualified in terms of knowledge of English.  This includes the Filipino teachers who mostly taught young children.  I can recall a few native speakers who were not good teachers but this was mostly a matter of temperament and lack of teaching experience rather than English knowledge.  Those people did not last long at all.

THIGV :
Fred :

This forum is populated by non-native speakers trying their best to communicate in a foreign language, and loads of native speakers with no intent to teach grammar.
If their grammar is poor, so what?

I agree absolutely with this.  I may have come close to the edge of my criteria here but the topic is about teacher qualifications.  QuidProQuo never said he was seeking a job although he did assert his opinion about qualifications.  In fact he appears to be a native speaker, but just a little sloppy with words.  Notice that I actually supported his grammar on the first point.  However, he did not make a mistake with your and you're but made a positive assertion that they were the same.  That is just plain incorrect and should not go uncontested.

I'm well aware of the difference between 'your' and 'you're' when they're written. However, when you're (your) saying the words they sound exactly the same. This is what I was trying to point out in my previous post. There are other words that can sound similar such as effect/affect but again often get used interchangeably. Here's another one that people commonly get mixed up, regard vs. regards. Seen this one so many times but again if you get what the person's trying to say you, or at least I, don't really care so much for which one should be written down.

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