I was reading a teaching-related blog the other day, and saw a post from a native Spanish speaker who teaches Spanish. She said that even if a non-native (gringo) teacher has good pronunciation, it is counterproductive for him or her to teach Spanish if they don’t sound exactly like a native speaker. Counterproductive. That means having the opposite of the desired effect.
Is it better to learn beginning-level language from someone who has grown up speaking it? My native language is American English. I have taught Spanish and English as a Second Language. Which one do you think is more difficult for me to explain to beginning students? My native language, of course. I grew up speaking English without learning any of the rules first. I heard it being spoken for thousands of hours, and gained a feel for what sounds right. That’s the case for every native speaker of every language.
If a person has had to learn a second language, and s/he is now fluent in that language, s/he understands what an English speaker goes through in learning that language. That makes it much easier to explain the second language in an understandable way to others native English speakers who are beginning to learn the same language.
What about the teacher’s accent? Let me ask you this: which accent are you referring to? Do you mean a Mexican accent, an Argentine accent, a Spanish accent, a Peruvian accent? The English language equivalent is a typical accent from Boston, New Jersey, Texas, England, California, Wisconsin, etc… Can you recognize a difference between them? Of course. If you learn to enjoy speaking Spanish, and just get good enough for a native speaker to understand you, you can develop your accent the more you practice. The accent you will develop depends on the accent of the people you are listening to. Would it help you more to learn beginning Spanish with a Mexican accent if you are planning to work in South America or Spain? No. It wouldn’t necessarily be worse, but it certainly wouldn’t be better. It probably wouldn’t make a big difference either way. I think the whole idea of a native speaking teacher being superior for beginning language learners because of his/her accent is far removed from what’s most important. The skill of the teacher or quality of the e-learning program is what matters.
Do you agree or disagree with this opinion?