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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Native or Not?

Is it more beneficial for students to learn from a teacher who speaks English as a first language or from a teacher who speaks English as a second language? 


This debate has been going on for decades.  There is one school of thought that believes native speakers of English naturally are the best teachers of the language.  They have a better understanding of the language itself, especially idiomatic expressions and cultural nuances.  They don’t have “accents” and demonstrate natural pronunciation to their students.  Also they force their students to strive harder to understand lessons, as the teacher is unable to communicate in the students’ native language. 


On the other hand, non-native speakers of English often have a stronger understanding of English grammar than native speakers and can anticipate grammatical confusion that their students may experience.  They also are able to empathize with their students more easily, as they have at one point been learners of English.  Additionally, if they speak the same language as their students, non-native English teachers can sometimes quickly explain a point that might have taken an native English speaking teacher a longer time to explain adequately to their students. 


Both native and non-native teachers have a lot to offer their students.  Can one group really be deemed better than the other?


POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 11:36 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Get a Job!

Finding a topic to give students to research on the internet is sometimes as daunting as the internet itself. 

Giving students assignments that involve researching countries or events is difficult sometimes because of the sheer volume of information available on the internet.  Or students will rely on websites in their native languages for information. 

Why not try researching a more specific topic, such as an occupation.  Some governments have websites that offer very detailed information about occupations.  One excellent example is the province of Ontario, Canada’s  This website examines many occupations in detail.  It lists the usual job titles and employers, duties of the position, required education, and prospects for employment, typical income and links to other websites that offer additional information about the occupation. 

There are endless possibilities for student assignments using a website such as this.  Some possible assignments include:

1. research one occupation in Canada and compare it to the same occupation in their home country
2. compare two or more occupations they researched from the website
3. research and choose a new occupation for themselves and explain why they chose this occupation
4. research an occupation they don’t find appealing and after researching it decide whether their have changed their opinion about the occupation
5. design a entry for their own occupation to be put on the website
6. debate the usefulness of such a website and offer their opinion on the value of such a tool
7. design a brochure of the top 5 most appealing occupations
Students can work alone or with a partner, or in groups.  The possibilities are endless! 
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 1:45 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's September - Happy New Year!

In August I always feel like an old year is ending and a new one is beginning. 
I know we celebrate New Years in January, but to me September is the beginning of a new year.  I think a lot of people feel the same way I do—students, educators and parents; we all start something new in September.  There’s a certain amount of excitement in September that is missing in January.  It’s a fresh start, new classes, new teachers, new students, new schools, a new season and new adventures. 
In January it’s just a continuation of our old schedules after a long break.  We return to school wearing the same old winter clothes and going to the same old classes with the same old classmates.  What’s new about that? 
But September is fresh; it’s like being given a blank page that needs to be filled with new experiences.  Very exhilarating indeed!
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 5:35 PM   1 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, September 09, 2007

Non-teaching teacher

About 15 years ago I worked with a teacher in Japan, who insisted on teaching only students who “could speak English”—only higher-level students.  He believed that it was easier to teach students who had a greater skill in English.  He was not a trained teacher; he had fallen into teaching as a way to finance his travels in Asia. 
All the staff at the school mocked him.  We called him the English teacher for English speaking.  Management was happy to honour his request, and give him only higher-level classes because he was a good-looking, charming man, who was popular with the students and ironically considered to be a good teacher. 
I don’t believe that there was any teaching involved in his lessons.  He was merely acting as a conversation partner for the students.  He was giving them the opportunity to practice using language that they already knew. 
Students do need to find ways to practice using English so he did provide a necessary service.  He did explain new vocabulary if it came up in conversation, but he never planned a lesson in advance.  He never thought about what grammar or pronunciation points the students needed to be taught.  He didn’t know the difference between an adjective and an adverb.  Yet, he was very popular with the students and therefore considered to be the best teacher.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 10:03 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Native or Not?
Get a Job!
It's September - Happy New Year!
Non-teaching teacher

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