Episode transcript below:
Hey, awesome Go Natural English Learner! What’s up? How are you doing?
I get a question several times… I’ve gotten this question so many times: should I learn English with a native speaker or is it okay to learn with a non-native speaker? So, there’s a lot of pros and cons. And I realize that, depending on where you live, depending on your budget, depending on a lot of things, you might be looking at a native versus a non-native English speaking teacher. So I want to share with you my viewpoint. You know I’m a native English speaker; I’m from the United States; I’m a trained teacher. And one of the main points here is: regardless of if your teacher is a native or non-native speaker, you have to realize the difference, first of all, between a teacher and a conversation partner.
So this could be a-whole-nother episode. But a teacher is someone who is trained to teach you the English language. So this teacher knows how to explain if you have a question about a specific grammar point or how to express yourself clearly; that person knows the answer, or they know how to quickly find the answer for you. They’re trained. Whereas a conversation partner is someone who’s willing to chat with you, they’re willing to practice, but you should not go to them with specific grammar questions or things that you might learn better from a teacher who can explain to you. A conversation partner is really more beneficial for practicing the things that you learn with a teacher, or perhaps things that you learn on your own. And we know practice makes perfect, and it’s really important to do both, to learn new things and then to practice them.
But anyway, let’s talk about the question at hand: should we learn with a native English speaker, or a non-native English speaker? And I welcome your comments and your opinion, what you think, what is best for you.
But here’s what I think: Let’s start with native English speakers. So, what’s good about working with a native English speaker? Well, clearly, we have a huge repertoire of vocabulary, idioms, phrases. We’ve been using English our whole lives, right, as native speakers, and so we’ve learned English through school, through social settings, with family, through our professional lives: in many different ways, many different settings. So, a native speaker will be able to help you, especially if you’re at an advanced level and you need to learn a lot of vocabulary.
Also, a native English speaker should have near-perfect pronunciation. What is perfect pronunciation? Well, maybe there’s no such thing as “perfect” but you want to have someone who shows you a clear way to say words. There are different ways to say words, depending on where we’re from. So you could learn the perfect American pronunciation, or the perfect British pronunciation, or the perfect Australian, or the perfect Kiwi or the perfect South African – or many different countries where we speak English as the official language. So what is perfect for you? I think being able to say a word clearly so that basically anyone can understand it – that’s perfect. So, if you learn with a native speaker, they’re going to be more confident; you may be more confident in learning pronunciation from that person.
Also, it’s not just about pronunciation. It’s about rhythm; it’s about intonation; it’s about stress. Sometimes the little things, that are not so little, they really make a huge impact on your English communication skills. So, learning with a native can be really important.
And I get another question that’s related; I get this a lot: which kind of English should I learn? Should I learn British English, should I learn American English? Well, I think the best thing is to choose one and go with it. After you develop your confidence in one kind of English, one region of English, then you’ll be more confident and ready to learn different ways of pronouncing words, different slang, different idioms, different rhythms perhaps.
So, my advice for you is just choose one and do it. Make a decision! Of course, you know, I’m from the United States, so I can help the most with American English.
Learning with a native English speaker is really great for practicing conversations. So it’s great if you have a native teacher, it’s great if you have a native conversation partner. It’s really great to understand the flow of conversation as you’ll have it with other native English speakers. And with a native speaker, you’ll have access to learn about the culture of the country where they are from. So, if you’re learning with Go Natural English, you’re going to learn about American culture. If you’re learning perhaps a different kind of English, you’ll learn more about that culture from someone who’s from that country. Culture is something that we grow up with. We experience it in many different ways: with our families, just growing up, maybe going to school in a certain country, with our jobs – just living and experiencing the culture. And so if you’re working with a native English speaker or learning English from a native English speaker, they’ll be able to share more of that with you and you can ask them questions and they should know the answer, or know where to find the answer, or to show you some examples of where you can learn more about the culture as well.
So, there’s a lot of good reasons to learn with a native speaker. I learned Spanish with native speakers, but also with non-native speakers. I found it helpful to learn with native speakers when I already knew Spanish at the intermediate level. Same thing for Portuguese – I found it really helpful to practice my conversation skills when I was already at the intermediate level of the language that I was learning. I already know some grammar, some vocabulary. I already knew something about the culture. And I was ready to practice, I was ready for a new challenge. So immersing myself in native Spanish, native Portuguese was really helpful, and learning with a native tutor has been really helpful for that as well, both online and face to face. I’ve tried out just about every way there is to learn a language, so I can tell you what’s worked really well for me and what I think will work well for you.
Let me talk about some instances when you would probably want to work with a non-native English teacher. As I said, in my own example, I learned Spanish from a non-native Spanish teacher through school. For me, classes were frustrating. I didn’t feel like I could build my fluency, but it wasn’t my teacher’s fault. It was the classroom environment. But I think that it’s really important to learn the basics. You can do that with a non-native speaker and often it can be easier. For example, when I was learning Japanese, I had a native Japanese teacher explaining Japanese grammar to me in Japanese, and I was so lost! I was so lost! My Japanese was so bad and it took me forever to understand the basics because I was trying to learn something complicated in Japanese and it was just too much for me. So if you’re a beginner in English, I would actually recommend working with someone who speaks your language and can explain English to you. That’s what worked for me with Japanese and with other languages, too.
Working with a non-native English speaker can be beneficial if you’re just starting out with English as well because they can often break down the information and just give you a small lesson at a time. Just one small little thing, and step by step, little by little, you’ll increase your fluency to the intermediate. Once you’re at the intermediate level, then you’re ready to learn more and more and more, more quickly.
So, I think that you can figure out what my opinion, but what’s your opinion? I want to hear your stories. Have you learned wit ha native English speaker, or a non-native English speaker? What was your experience? What do you think English learners should do? If you could go back and learn again, what would you do? Or in the future, what’s your plan? Who do you want to learn with?
Well, I hope that you’ll continue learning with me and the Go Natural English team, and actually I have a free course that you can join to learn more about the Go Natural English method of learning English fluently. You can find that and sign up for free at gonaturalenglish.com/7steps. So I hope to see you inside that course. And if you’re not subscribed already, make sure that you subscribe to Go Natural English on YouTube. And if you’re listening to the audio on the podcast, subscribe to the podcast.
Alright thanks so much for watching Go Natural English, and I hope to see in the next episode and inside the 7 Steps course. Bye for now!