Sihong Chen (Blog post 2)
In China, English native speakers seem to have overwhelming advantage over Chinese ESL teachers. When I interned in New Oriental (an English Institution in China), there were some foreign teachers whose teaching experience and teaching methodology are not as good as Chinese English teachers, but they were more welcome by students and parents. When I was an undergraduate, there were also many foreign teachers in my university’s English department. However, there is a phenomenon and that is that most foreign teachers do not have much teaching experience and what they teach is just the language itself. Conversely, these Chinese professors not only have enough teaching experience but also have deeper understanding of language construct and better research background. After I came to Montreal, I wanted to learn some French so I began to think about the question again. Native or non-native FSL teachers, who is better? Finally I choose the non-native speakers because I think they are more familiar with my cultural background and are easier for me to understand. In different contexts, we may have different opinions about native and nonnative language teachers. My experience in Educational institutions, in both my university and in Montreal, makes me rethink about the identity and ethnicity of native and non-native speaker teachers.
Actually, both native speaker and nonnative speakers have their strength and weakness. Native-speaker language teachers are always considered to be the model. In contrast, non-native speaker language teachers are always discriminated because of the stereotype that native-speaker language teachers are more accomplished language users and more capable of teaching accurate, correct and natural language. However, the identity of nonnative speaker language teachers is not fixed but is developed and accentuated by being compared with native-speaker language teachers (Hogg & Abrams, 1990). Nonnative speaker teachers are given more and more attention. Here, I want to mention that non-native speaker teachers who share the same first language with students may also benefit student in a different way. Their source language and their status as L2 learners are considered to be the advantages to being nonnative speaker language teachers (Norton & Tang, 1997). For example, they may better understand students’ situation and make more suitable plan for their language learning. Their previous L2 learning experience offers them a privileged understanding of the weakness of their students. Furthermore, “their familiarity with local society promises them a unique identity as agents of change in language policy and facilitators of the administrative mechanism in schools” (Norton & Tang, 1997, p. 579). To some extent, they become more empowered and respected but we need admit that it is hard for them to attain the same level of proficiency of native-speaker language teacher which is the root cause of why they are always in a disadvantaged status.
Nevertheless, we should treat the native and nonnative speaker teachers objectively and we need to increase awareness for the equity of native speaker teachers and nonnative speaker teachers in the classroom. In China, it seems that we overvalue native speaker teachers but neglect some other important aspects of language learning and the shortcomings of native speaker teachers. For instance, in some international schools in China, only English native speakers are recruited as English teacher and nonnative speaker will not be given any chance. I am wondering if other countries where English is also the second language also have the similar problem in China, such as Japan and Korea.
Hogg, M. A., & Abrams, D. (1990). Social identifications: A social psychology relations and group processes. New York:
NORTON, B. and TANG, C. (1997). The Identity of the Nonnative ESL Teacher on the Power and Status of Nonnative ESL Teachers. TESOL Quarterly, 31: 577–580. doi:10.2307/3587840