Probably the single biggest message I want to get across to all of you reading my blog is that
Native Speakers are not the best Teachers
It is one of the biggest myths about learning a foreign language, together with the myth that the only way to learn a foreign language is to go to the country where the language is spoken.
These two are basically two sides of the same coin, the idea being that when you go abroad you talk with native speakers
A very costly myth so I'm going to do my best to dispel it
Why native speakers are not the best language teachers?
A couple of points I need to clarify:
The first thing I need to clarify is that I am talking about All native language teachers, not just Native English-speaking teachers.
The second clarification I would like to give is that,
when I talk about learners, I mean you, a person over 18 years of age, an adult, a person watching this video, a person with Internet, an independent thinker.
There is one more thing that needs clarification,
the word Teacher
Cambridge Dictionary definition:
Teacher = a person who instructs or trains others, esp. in a school, and if you don't mind, I’d like to add: a person who gets paid to instruct or train others.
Now, the first thing you need to ask yourself as a paying rational customer, the first question you need to ask yourself is:
What makes a good language teacher, a good any teacher for that matter.
What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of a good language teacher?
A person with the best pronunciation, in the case of English, would that be a Brit or an American or perhaps Canadian or Australian?
Is a good language teacher someone who knows and teaches you a lot of cool words and natural expressions and slang and idioms and say doesn't focus too much on grammar
Or someone who is very good at explaining grammar and complex language and is even able to explain things in your native language when necessary.
Is a good language teacher someone who is kind and funny and lenient with you when you make mistakes
Or is it somebody strict, correcting every grammar or pronunciation mistake you make.
And one more question to consider: how many lessons do you need to take with your perfect teacher in order to master the skill or knowledge you are trying to acquire.
Your ideal language teacher!
Of course I will give you my answer but it is very important that you answer those questions first!
Let me start by saying that:
it is 99% your own effort, and 1% teacher,
So what is the 1%?
Learning a foreign language is an extremely complex thing, there is nothing like it. And when I say learn, I mean master, as I said English is not a hobby, you can't go about learning it half-heartedly, you gotta go all in, English is not a hobby. Mastering English will most likely be the most difficult skill you will ever learn as an adult.
Mastering a foreign language is an extremely complex thing, however there is a difference between something being complex and complicated.
Complex things have structure, patterns, the different parts are arranged and organised in a coherent system, there is structure, there are patterns, there is order in the way language is organised.
Let me ask you a simple question:
Do you see structure in your native language, do you notice patterns in the way you speak?
No, why would you? You understand everything you here in your native language, words come out of your mouth naturally and spontaneously, without thinking, there is no effort.
How about when you try to speak a foreign language?
The mind starts searching for words, you start worrying about grammar, pronunciation and everything. Totally different from when you speak your native language.
And why does this happen?
Because you lack structure, you learned English in a haphazard way, the information you have is scattered around your brain, not organised
When you look at a source code, all you see is a jumble of letters, numbers and symbols, but not to a high-level programmer, he sees order, he or she sees structure, predictable patterns.
When you look at a musical score you see scribble, but a composer hears music, all in perfect harmony.
When you look at a chess board you see chaos, but to a chess grand-master it is all patterns, they see a limited number of winning moves and
the job of a good chess teacher is not to give you the next best move but to teach you how to see those patterns and possible combinations by yourself, to see simplicity in the complexity.
The role of a language teacher is to help the adult language learner become independent, by giving you a logical and sequential approach to language learning that will save you time, money and stress.
It is 99% your own effort, it is about self-studying, the teacher needs to teach you how you can learn by yourself.
Language teachers are not to be used as human dictionaries, they are too expensive for you to be using them as dictionaries.
Pronunciation, spelling, definition, you have dictionaries for all that, free online dictionaries, you want British pronunciation, sure, ask Longman and Cambridge, you want American pronunciation, no problem, same dictionaries, for free.
What about grammar and mistake correction,
Every grammatical question you have has been answered 100 times over on the Internet:
If you can ask it, you can google it, for free
As I said, the good language teacher will give you a method of studying vocabulary and grammar, will show you the structure of the foreign language so you learn how to self-study and more importantly, how to self-correct,
Correcting individual mistakes without understanding the cause of those mistakes or without explaining the big picture is a piecemeal approach to language learning, quite ineffective.
Now, let me ask you again:
if I came to you and asked you to teach me your native language, would you be able to give me a systematic, A to Z method of learning your native language, how to work on my reading, listening, and writing by myself?
Think people, think!!!
No native speaker can give you a comprehensive, A to Z method of how to learn their native language. Don’t confuse chatting with teaching, chatting fees are significantly lower than teaching fees
Only a non-native person who has learned say English as an adult can give you a proven method of how to learn English, that is what a language teacher is supposed to do, in my humble opinion.
As the old proverb goes: "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime."
My proven how to learn English method is in my book Virtually Native