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8 December, 2020 07:08:05 PM
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Everyone can be an English language teacher

Although many language teaching institutions prefer native speakers as teachers, non-natives do have many advantages in language teaching. Most importantly, non-native teachers have a better insight into the language learning process than native speakers have.
Dr. Md. Enamul Hoque
Everyone can be an English language teacher

“Everyone can be an English language teacher” is a very thought provoking comment! A teacher is the one that has the ABILLITY to transmit knowledge no matter being a native or not, fluent or not, and highly educated or not.  Everyone teaches English and passes along what they know, but not everyone is an English teacher.

The first personal quality that an English teacher should hold is being knowledgeable about English language. An English teacher should have the ability to build caring relationships with students. In teaching, knowledge about the subject matter is not enough.  They should be friendly and approachable; otherwise, students will be shy and hesitant to ask any question. The best teachers are welcoming and easy to approach.

Students should feel safe and welcomed. The most important value an English teacher should have is passion. Especially, teachers will be facing students every day having different cultures and styles of learning. Anyone who has done it knows that teaching is one of the hardest jobs; the pay is not good, long working hours, and when you reach home, you are still not finished with work.

The teachers’ academic results and background matter a little. It is also true that the academic results may not reflect the potential of a person. Even, a good student may not be a good teacher in their professional life. A teacher as a person requires a good number of social and academic skills to be psychologically and intellectually engaged in the teaching pedagogy.

In theory, a teacher can be simply one step ahead of a student; teaches what they themselves have just learned. A teacher can be anyone who is capable of sharing their experience and knowledge, regardless of their proficiency. To teach anything, one needs to have the knowledge. If a teacher teaches only primary level, then surely they only need to be one step ahead of their learners – at best at the secondary level.

In primary and secondary levels, we found plenty of one-step-ahead teachers teaching very successfully. Both teachers and students go through the inter-language process. They learn through their whole life making errors and mistakes.

 To teach at tertiary level, one may need to have near-native or advanced level knowledge and skills. Some people say- there is no reason that a teacher needs mastery over the target language AT ALL. He/she needs simply the pedagogical skills to create the conditions for learning it.

Some teachers are very strong with grammatical knowledge; some teachers have a good stock of vocabulary; some teachers have good speaking skills; and some are proficient in writing. Similarly, teachers may have limitations; they may be strong in one area or skill and may be poor in other areas or skills. Many teachers can produce grammatically correct sentences; can teach grammar interestingly; and they can comprehend English text adequately. But, they can hardly speak English to communicate others.

In rural areas of Bangladesh, the teachers of secondary and higher secondary levels can teach grammatical items, vocabulary, and translating the text into Bengali and can become popular teachers among their students. However, those teachers are typically found very weak in speaking English with incorrect pronunciation and very poor skills in listening.

On the contrary, it is also seen a number of teachers who can speak English well but are not popular among the students. The students do not bother at all who are proficient and efficient teachers. The students love those teachers who take care of their students with sincerity, behave gently, and can teach a topic or area of teaching as per their needs and requirements, and personal relationship.

If we let the students evaluate their English teachers, they will certainly not consider only the proficiency or communicative competence of their teachers, but the students will take so many things into account for consideration. Then, who can evaluate the STANDRD of the teachers? Yes, the students.

Teaching English as a foreign language involves teaching pronunciation, word stress, intonation, connotations, innuendos, and so much more than just teaching English. Teaching EFL is a skill. It is a profession. It takes a lifetime to develop. This is not only because language is complex but also because languages evolve. So, EFL teachers need to know what language is now, and also keep up-to-date with how language is changing. It takes a lot of exposure to many teaching skills, classroom experience, methodology, and just simply putting in the hours is often not enough.

A smile from the teacher is worth far more than the time and energy it takes. Smiles help to assuage fears and doubts. Teaching is an art and this art involves special levels of communication with students, based on each student's own learning personality.

Although many language teaching institutions prefer native speakers as teachers, non-natives do have many advantages in language teaching. Most importantly, non-native teachers have a better insight into the language learning process than native speakers have. They can motivate their students by showing that it is possible to achieve high proficiency in English language through learning effort.

Everywhere, we find teachers sometimes lack confidence in their own voice as a source of input. We often hear teachers saying that their learners need to listen to native speaker models in order to improve their proficiency in English. Where does this idea come from? In fact non-native teachers in these contexts are in my opinion usually the best models of English for their learners. They tend to speak a variety of English which is closer to that of the learners and therefore more attainable, and they are also models of good language learning since they have gone through the same process that the learners are trying to achieve.

In conclusion, we need to remember that every student yearns to be successful. Teachers therefore must provide ways to help students achieve their academic goals. We are able to facilitate student success when we return to the original premise of this article: good teaching is good teaching. By incorporating a variety of teaching styles, accommodating instructional delivery, and motivating students to learn, we are best able to help English language learners reach their goal of becoming competent and productive communicators in English.

The writer is research director at EDRC and a teacher educator. Email: [email protected]

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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