The native speaker fallacy

Welcome to Verbalists Education, a world’s leading language network. Our YouTube media channel Speak Your Mind!, features opinions and interviews with celebrities and professionals about education, languages and communication skills. Today, Thom Jones, a well-known language trainer from Great Britain, speaks his mind about the native English speakers’ supposed superiority over their non-native counterparts.

The native speaker fallacy Education Beyond Borders Podcast

Native Speaker vs. Non-native Speaker

Okay….here’s a question: Why does our industry still do that ridiculous thing of defining a language teacher by where they are from? The Native Speaker Fallacy can’t still survive…can it? Does speaking a language qualify one to teach it?

The idea that you can ONLY learn from someone who CAN…rather than someone who has LEARNT to. Surely, that learning ability is what education is!

Can you swim? Were you taught to swim by a fish? No. Because fish may be excellent swimmers…but that’s no guarantee of teaching skill.

So does our industry do this because it’s truly a qualification? Or because it’s selling a well-past-it’s-sell-by-date cultural imperialism about learning English being connected to England, the USA…or anywhere else? Is it the cheery racism of assuming a white, blond, blue-eyed person is the only one who can teach English? We all know that sells. As an industry are we too lazy to educate the market? To eradicate that kind of thinking?

If we’re teaching English it’s a Lingua Franca, it no longer belongs to any one culture. We all have accents, I do. Mine is British, but that’s no better or easier to understand or…preferable to anyone else’s. It’s not a Downton Abbey audition. Come get me!

About the Author

Thom Jones, Verbalists Language Network
Thom Jones

Thom Jones has over 25 years living in 12 countries, delivering training, conference plenaries and consultancy in more than 70 countries. He is a visiting lecturer at four international universities. Tom regularly trains and speaks internationally on subjects as diverse as: business travel for profit and pleasure, stress management, people, history and music…

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One Reply to “The native speaker fallacy”

  1. Yes, yes and yes! There’s a myth that just doesn’t want to go away that native speakers are the best teachers of a language and language schools are running to find native speakers to boast with as if being able to fluently speak a language somehow makes you a great teacher also…. As with your example of the fish, the entitlement of native speakers is irrelevant especially with English as it has become a ‘Lingua Franca’ and English speakers come with many accents anyways so what’s the point?

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