TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language refers to teaching English to students for whom it is not their mother tongue. TEFL can take place in English-speaking regions, for example in language schools or summer camps or before the start of a university degree, but usually occurs in the student&acute;s own country. There, TEFL can be either within the state school system, or private, either in an after-hours language school or with a one-on-one tutor. The teachers may be native or non-native speakers of English. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Taking a TEFL course as a non-native English speaker was a great experience, with a wild awakening. Life has a way of bringing surprises, not bad or good, they become what you make them to be, and the outcome depends on how you embrace them. The awakening came towards the end of the course, the realization that non-native speakers do not have equal opportunities with the native speakers in terms of job prospects.
Larry M. Lynch states that, ?as the need for proficiency in the English language continues to explode worldwide, there is an ever- increasing need for more and more EFL teachers?. All too often however, non-native English teachers find the phrase ?native speakers only? included in adverts and English EFL or ESL requirements. He also states that; ?Unfortunately, most ESL positions in Asia and particularly China specify native speakers only, moreover, they want those from certain countries like UK, Australia and the USA. A non-native speaker?s language and teaching ability may be better than a lot of native speakers but I doubt whether administrators or recruiters will want anyone other than blue-eyed, blonde Caucasians to parade in front of prospective parents and their students.?
I found this realization very intriguing and thought provoking, wondering what message does this convey to the students? That they are to learn a language that they can never be good at or good enough to compete with the native speakers on the job market? Who would want to learn something that they know they will never be good at? That is just not motivating. A non-native speaker would be motivating to the students. They will realize that if a person standing in front of them had to learn the language until they had a good command of it, they can do it too. They will be able to relate the students? problems in learning the language since they went though the same problems learning the language themselves. I believe non-natives and natives should be given equal opportunities according to their competence and proficiency in the language.
One would wonder what the TEFL course entails: What is taught? Though it may be true, it is just too simple to say &acute;English&acute; in answer to this question. We cannot, of course, hope to teach the entire language. It is just too big - not even people normally considered to be native speakers know all of their own language. We must content ourselves with teaching a useful sub-set of the language. This includes both vocabulary and grammar. On the vocabulary side, we teach phrasal, idiomatic and functional language alongside word combinations, or as we prefer to call them, collocations, such as &acute;apologising profusely&acute; or &acute;heavy rain.&acute; On the grammar side, among other things, we teach the parts of speech (nouns, verbs, prepositions, clauses etc) and the English tense system (the present perfect, past continuous etc). We also teach pronunciation, punctuation and the four language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking). Teaching these skills to adults who can already use them well in their own language may seem strange but it is necessary. (Language link)
If at the end of the course, the non-native speaker has mastered the material taught in the TEFL course as much as the native speaker, what sense does it make to prefer one over the other? There are advantages of having a native speaker, as much as there are with having a non-native speaker. Every individual is different, and in generalizing to say any group is better that the other, would be greater loss as we will have great teachers turned down for mediocre (or below par) teachers, just because the are in the wrong group.
The system seems to be hard on the non-native speakers, for although they have the same qualifications as the native speakers, the barrier becomes how the language was acquired, formal teaching as opposed to picking the language up while playing at home. Proficiency, command and all that goes with it come on a golden platter for the native speakers, and no one cares about what the non- native has to offer. This can either break or build you as a non- native speaker. Adverts like ?native speakers only? may be looked as a barrier, a wall that stops you from getting to the other side, or it can be a hurdle that one has to go over in order to win the race. The race is won by those who overcome, over-comers are those who persevere and perseverance is needed when things are not easy. Non- natives should not lose heart. They should tackle the system with gentleness, for it is already fragile, understand that we see things from different angles, not judge the system for they do not know the pressures that led to such decisions, nor do they know what decisions they would have made if they were on the other side.
Life is a journey that we all have to travel, but some get to sit at the rough spot in the boat, for the non-native speaker, the bumps are inevitable, they will get tears as the wind blows into their eyes, but at the end of the ride, we all get jobs. They will have much to tell about the journey than those who had been sleeping most of the way.
1. Language link http://jobs.languagelink.ru/TEFL/introduction.php
2. Larry M. Lynch http://bettereflteacher.blogspot.com/2006/05/do-efl-english-schools- really-needl
3. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language
Author: Bonnie Gape
Date of post: 2007-02-06