English language teaching qualifications – do you really need such a thing if you are a Native Speaker?
Teaching the English language – the crucial role of Native Speakers
No one would argue that the success of teaching the English language depends largely on the teacher. A good teacher can teach English to even the most hard to reach students, whilst a bad teacher can discourage even the most motivated. International schools and English language courses, especially those with prestige, entice customers with the promise that all or most of their language teachers are native speakers (NS), therefore they are in constant need of foreigners from English-speaking countries. It is believed that a native speaker can quickly set the correct pronunciation and teach students a lively conversational language. There is a logic to it. A “Mr. Brown” who was born into the language and received education in it supposedly knows it better than a native speaker of another language – even one with a talent for languages and a good educational background.
However, that expectation too often meets with disappointment. It is not true that simply any “Mr Brown” is able to intelligibly explain to his students what he himself knows. Language competence and English language teaching competence are two closely related but different things. In other words, knowing your mother tongue does not mean you can teach it. It is a fine skill that requires good basic training. It is a head start if a person has an aptitude for teaching the English language. However, it is even better if they have the appropriate education – linguistic or philological. But what if he has neither?
TEFL course – professional qualifications for English teachers
Most of us are familiar with the education and qualifications that a local English teacher receives. Far fewer people know about the education of English teachers who are foreigners, despite the fact that a high professional level of teaching is a guarantee of high quality education. Worldwide about 2/3 of all English native speaker teachers have no qualifications at all. They have neither pedagogical training nor international certificates.
Well, the first one is difficult to obtain if you are an expat in a country, wanting simply to use your “innate” knowledge to earn your living or get some extra cash. Let’s stay then with the second choice. Which makes the next question: what certificates are there for you?
There are several options to consider, but we recommend the international TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Why? The British Council – indisputably a world authority in that field – makes the TEFL a minimum requirement for those who wish to teach English to speakers of other languages, and the certificate has now become a standard for employers when filling teaching positions.
Before taking the examination (and getting a job at a more demanding and better-paying language school), prospective teachers should take the TEFL course. They are taught many aspects of effective teaching, for example, how to make up a lesson plan, which scheme to follow for each lesson, how to communicate with students without using the students native language. They learn about the differences in culture and mentality between people. It is one thing to explain English grammar to a Pole, it is another thing to teach a Japanese student. After all, even the same gesture can mean a threat in the East, and a greeting in the West.
In brief, you’ll get a very strong foundation in teaching methodology, being able to hold the attention of a multilingual audience, and, even working with groups from scratch, to teach the English language without using a single word in local language. Not only will you become a professional English teacher, but you will be recognized as such by potential employers, thus increasing your chances in this promising but by no means easy labour market.