Native or non-native English teachers

(Native or non-native English teachers was first published on the Sls Hallam blog on 15th December 2014. I meant to rub it off but then decided to keep it on this new website because of its relevance.

For the teachers’ blog please visit POPPIES.ES)

Back in 2010-11

As many of you will probably remember, about four years ago Madrid Autonomous Region was waging a bitter war against teachers in general and Spanish English teachers in particular.

Lack of necessary skills?

In the case of Spanish English teachers and other teachers of various subjects at the so-called “bilingual” schools, the argument went, they lacked the necessary skills to teach in English and so the Education Authorities, directly or via some organisation or other, hired native-speakers to teach subjects such as P.E. or science.

You need to be linguistically competent to be a teacher

Now, do not get me wrong: I do agree with the Education Authorities in that a few English Language teachers and probably quite a few of those Spanish teachers teaching their subject in English are not competent –much less fluent– English speakers and should not be teaching their subject in English    –or should not be teaching the way they do.

I am familiar with the stories some English assistants –and many competent and fluent Spanish English teachers have to tell in this regard. The snag is that it was those very Education Authorities who appointed them as English teachers.

Why I object to the Education Authorities’ recruitment of native English speakers

Discrimination against both native and non-native English teachers resident in Spain

Besides, my objection to the way our EAs did things was mainly due to the fact that residents in Spain, both native and non-native English speakers and teachers, need to do the competitive exam in order to teach at a State school, even as “interinos”

A definite welcome to language assistants

Only language assistants, who are here for a short period of time, are exempt and this is because they are here only to “assist” the language teacher.

Against recruiting non-Spanish residents

Yet, these other teachers, who are not Spanish-residents, enter the system at least for a year and are often responsible for the whole department, without having to go through any examination. This, to me, seems unfair competition, to say the least.

who do not speak Spanish

And to make matters worse, they speak no Spanish whatsoever. Nor do they know anything about the Spanish education system.

But, what do they need Spanish for? you may ask.

  • To deal with the parents, the headmaster or headmistress, the other teachers and any other issue concerning the students, I’d reply.
  • And because Primary and Secondary Education is not –should not– be about teaching a subject in isolation: one is part of the Education community and should know about it.
  • And because those teachers who live in Spain –both native and non-native speakers– are requested to know.
  • And because in the Official School of Languages –even though it is for teenagers and adults– English teachers who are not Spanish and are teaching English need to pass the Spanish language exam at level C1.

Is Spanish necessary at the OSLs but not at Primary and Secondary schools? That’s something which baffles me.

Teaching Spanish in the US

In a recently re-published and updated Poppies’ post, I reflected on the advantages of flipping the English language classroom in our schools here in Spain.

Flipping the Spanish FL class

To do so, I summarised a Spanish teacher’s experiences when flipping her Spanish classes in the USA.  As a matter of fact, it was watching her what prompted the reflections I have just expressed.

by a Spanish teacher who is a non-native Spanish speaker

Now, this teacher is a non-native Spanish-speaker, has a strong English accent and makes mistakes when speaking Spanish. In other words, her Spanish is far from brilliant.

The good work of non-native speakers

Yet, I am just as positive that she is a very good Spanish teacher as I am that the Education Authorities in her state do not question it. On the contrary, they probably give her all the support she needs.

I also know first-hand of the brilliant job many Spanish English teachers are doing at our Secondary schools. I myself am a non-native English teacher.

I prepare candidates for the Competitive Exam to get a permanent job as English teachers and am designing/have designed the POPPIES platform to this end.

Globish as the lingua franca

 I also teach people in various professions.  Some of them use it to speak to both native and non-native English speakers. Others,  use it mainly with other non-native speakers. English or Globish as the Lingua Franca.

What are your views on the matter?

Does being a native-speaker make you a good teacher?

Or if you prefer: Should English teachers —or Spanish teachers, for that matter— be native speakers?

Interestingly, today, 10th September 2017 when this post is re-published, I received the following post in my in-tray by Scott Thornbury 

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