Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

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Babbsagg
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Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-11, 12:02

I'd like to know if some of you have made bad experiences with non-native language teachers. After learning a lot about English I believe I've acquired a reasonable understanding of the language, and I'm embarrassed by German teachers trying to teach English. I hate to blow my own trumpet, I usually avoid it at all cost, but in this case I'm afraid there's no way around complaining that my teachers had a worse understanding of the language than I have.

It's not only school teachers, who I might forgive to some extent because they teach on a basic level and it's only one of several subjects they teach. But now I've taken a course for acquiring a LCCI certificate (a London Chamber of Commerce and Industry certificate as a proof of language skills to help with job applications), and the English skills of some of the teachers were, frankly, shocking. In a way that I always had to try to ignore what they said to not be confused. And teaching English on a professional level is actually their job.

The boss of that English-teaching company was actually the worst, having one of the worst German accents I've ever heard. Like saying "vonderfool" instead of "wonderful" (with a deep /uː/ that I believe is nonexistent in English). She generally confused W and V ("adwanced", "wery", "vorld") and made mistakes like "leaded by" instead of "led by".

Another one was better, having lived in the US for 20 years but she still taught us BS. For example, she said simple past is used for events in the past and past perfect for events in the distant past, which is totally not the point of past perfect. In fact, usage of past perfect is even the same in German and English, which makes it even more confusing that she taught us that. She also told us that the difference between "will" and "going to" is that "will" means maybe and "going to" means certainly.

I was delighted whenever I had a native speaker as a teacher because they were leagues above and I knew I could trust them. Have you made similar experiences with non-native-speaking teachers or have I just been unlucky?
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-11, 15:47

Babbsagg wrote:made had bad experiences

at all costs

a LCCI certificate (a London Chamber of Commerce and Industry certificate as a proof of language skills to help with job applications)

I would say "an LCCI certificate."

I personally can't recall having such experiences with non-native teachers, but I know some people have. I've seen teachers in India teach rules for English that seemed odd to me, for example. I also recall a professor of Malayalam (OK, not an English teacher or anything, but still) asking me once whether, in English, I preferred active-voice constructions such as "I kicked the ball" or passive-voice ones such as "the ball was kicked by me." I said the active-voice one, then he was like "so in English, you'd say 'the ball was kicked by me', right?" (Um, no...I mean, I get what he was trying to tell me, i.e. that the passive-voice construction doesn't really exist in Malayalam, but I don't think telling someone who knows English better than he does the rules of English grammar is a terribly intelligent way to go about it :P).

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-11, 19:55

Thanks for the corrections.

vijayjohn wrote:
at all costs

I was wondering about that ("cost" seemed more natural to me), and according to dict.cc that's legal. Now I searched and realised that most dictionaries seem to only allow "costs", but a few apparently allow "cost" too (e.g. Cambridge) :hmm:
Well I guess with "costs" I'll be on the safe side.

I would say "an LCCI certificate."

As would I. Oops.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Prowler » 2017-03-12, 0:01

Every language teacher I've had at school was non native. And I've had English, German and French classes when I was a kid/teenager and a different teacher almost every year. All of them Portuguese.

I don't think the whole "hiring a native speaker of said language" is a thing here... at least not at public schools, since they don't "hire" teachers. At private schools you probably can find that. And, ofc, at language institutes and courses.

Some were alright, others not so much.

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby księżycowy » 2017-03-12, 0:40

All of my language teachers (for French in high-schools, and German in College), where not natives. Much like Prowler, you don't find too many native speaking language teachers in public schools in my area.

I never had a bad experience with any. They seemed quite knowledgeable in the language they were teaching, and had a good enough accent. I never made it above an intermediate (B1~2) level though. Mostly because I only took a year or two of any particular language.

I haven't had a language teacher in years (not counting Biblical Hebrew and Greek).

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby kevin » 2017-03-12, 21:46

Babbsagg wrote:I was delighted whenever I had a native speaker as a teacher because they were leagues above and I knew I could trust them.

It's not like native speakers are perfect as teachers, they just have different problems. They usually know how to say something, but they can't necessarily explain why. Just knowing what feels right doesn't mean that you really know the rules. And it has even happened to me before that when I made a native speaker think about the rules, the theory confused them so much that in that moment they convinced themselves that some example was right even though it was actually wrong.

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Luís » 2017-03-13, 9:49

Native speakers can be the worst teachers at times.
I'd say that for intermediate/advanced levels, it's useful to practice with a native speaker, but if you're a beginner it doesn't really matter that much and a non-native speaker will probably be able to explain how the language works better.

For instance, when I studied Chinese at university, the teacher was from China and didn't speak a word of Portuguese. It was hard for her to explain how things actually worked, not to mention she had a non-standard accent. Later on they brought another teacher who was Portuguese but had studied and lived in China for 5 years. She understood perfectly our problems and explained how the language worked in a clear way. Ironically her pronunciation was actually better in some aspects (not mixing sh/s - zh/z - ch/c all the time :P )
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Car » 2017-03-13, 12:09

I only had native language teachers at uni and the problem was that the level was either far too low or far too high for us. There were many problems with one of the non-natives (who apparently had spent years in the US and you wouldn't have been able to guess that), but they got the level right. Well, that one non-native maybe didn't do that well in that respect either, but she didn't go from having ridiculously easy courses for most of our degree to being too difficult and didn't expect us to see everything from a British POV or have an unrealistic knowledge of all things British.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-13, 12:24

That kind of reminds me of my French teacher in high school. She was a native speaker, and my brother and I were possibly the only people there who didn't hate her guts (and openly admit to hating her that much).
Luís wrote:It was hard for her to explain how things actually worked

Yeah, my Chinese teachers were all native speakers and had trouble with this as well. The other problem was that they all emphasized different aspects of the language, and their grammaticality judgments didn't always agree (and don't always with other native speakers, either), which would occasionally affect our homework grades.
Ironically her pronunciation was actually better in some aspects (not mixing sh/s - zh/z - ch/c all the time :P )

You probably know this, but it's very common in both China and Taiwan to merge those sounds, just not the standard Beijing-based pronunciation. :)

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-13, 16:41

kevin wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:I was delighted whenever I had a native speaker as a teacher because they were leagues above and I knew I could trust them.

It's not like native speakers are perfect as teachers, they just have different problems. They usually know how to say something, but they can't necessarily explain why. Just knowing what feels right doesn't mean that you really know the rules. And it has even happened to me before that when I made a native speaker think about the rules, the theory confused them so much that in that moment they convinced themselves that some example was right even though it was actually wrong.


That's true too. A non-native may be more aware of the rules and know better what learners need to know. Maybe it was because in recent years when I was having a few English classes again I was on an advanced level already, and could learn much more from native speakers because what I wanted to learn was more subtle and in-depth stuff, and conversation practice.

However if a teacher has a poor grasp of English and doesn't understand some basic rules, they're bad for everyone, and probably worse for beginners than for advanced students.

Thinking about it, I think I do know more rules of English than of German. I've also noticed that some people I've learned English from thought of a few things as general rules which seemed to be rather local usage. Similar to how I tend to tell things about German which in some cases may be just local usage.

I wondered about my correction that it's rather "sauweh" than "mordsweh", things like this can be just local. However in this case, I later googled it, "sauweh" returning 27,800 results and "mordsweh" 151, so I guess I wasn't far off after all. Still these are cases I should be cautious correcting.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby linguoboy » 2017-03-13, 16:58

Babbsagg wrote:That's true too. A non-native may be more aware of the rules and know better what learners need to know. Maybe it was because in recent years when I was having a few English classes again I was on an advanced level already

Speaking of subtlety, the TAM usage in this sentence sounds slightly off to me, though I can't find anything ungrammatical about it. Other natives want to weigh in?

In any case, this has been my experience as well. Native speakers can tell you what they say. They can't necessarily explain why they say that or how common it is to say that or any one of a number of other things you might want to know. I've learned to be very humble when offering instruction in any language (native or otherwise) since there's a great deal of variation out there and nobody can learn all of it.

I've also had the experience that a non-native instructor is sometimes better at sorting out the difficulties a learner is having than a native speaker, either because they've made them themselves or they simply have for a better feel for how speakers of that language approach the target language. Like it might not occur to a native German-speaker than an Anglophone is merely equating werden to will and using it in German wherever they'd use it in English since this is something it would never occur to them to do.

Babbsagg wrote:Similar to how I tend to say things about German which in some cases may be just local usage.

I wondered about my correction that it's rather "sauweh" rather than "mordsweh", things like this can be just local.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-13, 17:26

linguoboy wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:That's true too. A non-native may be more aware of the rules and know better what learners need to know. Maybe it was because in recent years when I was having a few English classes again I was on an advanced level already

Speaking of subtlety, the TAM usage in this sentence sounds slightly off to me, though I can't find anything ungrammatical about it. Other natives want to weigh in?


I was struggling with the sentence too, about whether to use simple past or present perfect, and perhaps in which order. It feels a little dissonant to me as well, but I can't put my finger on it.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby linguoboy » 2017-03-13, 18:18

Babbsagg wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:That's true too. A non-native may be more aware of the rules and know better what learners need to know. Maybe it was because in recent years when I was having a few English classes again I was on an advanced level already

Speaking of subtlety, the TAM usage in this sentence sounds slightly off to me, though I can't find anything ungrammatical about it. Other natives want to weigh in?

I was struggling with the sentence too, about whether to use simple past or present perfect, and perhaps in which order. It feels a little dissonant to me as well, but I can't put my finger on it.

"Having class" is throwing me off a bit. Classes are normally something you "take".

It's not wrong to use "was" in the main clause, but it sounds better to me with "is". This sort of clause tends to be timeless. The reason is the reason regardless of when the situation you're referring to took place.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-13, 18:37

You're right. I think I said "was" because I was referring to a problem I had at that time but don't have anymore since my English classes are over. The first (really bad) ones were compulsory in my current training, the later ones were mandatory for the LCCI certificate I decided to acquire. I almost forgot, the LCCI course's teacher was not a native speaker but was really good (although I couldn't help but notice she had an ever-so-slight German accent and mixed up BrE and AmE a few times). But I'm getting very nitpicky now.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby kevin » 2017-03-13, 21:56

Babbsagg wrote:However if a teacher has a poor grasp of English and doesn't understand some basic rules, they're bad for everyone, and probably worse for beginners than for advanced students.

We can probably all agree to "good teachers are good, bad teachers are bad". Though I'm not sure if this is surprising or helpful or anything ;)

Thinking about it, I think I do know more rules of English than of German.

Definitely used to be the case for me. Strong and weak declension of adjectives? Never heard of it at school.

I'm not so sure if it's still true today. I've probably forgotten half of the theory about English grammar and replaced it with what feels right, and at the same time I know a bit more about German grammar now.

I wondered about my correction that it's rather "sauweh" than "mordsweh", things like this can be just local. However in this case, I later googled it, "sauweh" returning 27,800 results and "mordsweh" 151, so I guess I wasn't far off after all. Still these are cases I should be cautious correcting.

I'm not surprised that "sauweh" is more common. I just wouldn't correct "mordsweh" because it sounds completely acceptable to me, even if it's rarely used. Anyway, I kind of like these regional differences, they make sure that even as a native speaker, I can still learn something from the German discussions here. ;)

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-13, 23:35

kevin wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:Thinking about it, I think I do know more rules of English than of German.

Definitely used to be the case for me. Strong and weak declension of adjectives? Never heard of it at school.

I'm not so sure if it's still true today. I've probably forgotten half of the theory about English grammar and replaced it with what feels right, and at the same time I know a bit more about German grammar now.


Very true, while in principle I'm aware of most of the rules, usually I just say/write what my gut tells me to. Most of the time it works well, but on this forum, I try to be more accurate and learn what I may haven't understood entirely. Elsewhere, what I write can be more colloquial, which means sometimes not strictly correct.

I wondered about my correction that it's rather "sauweh" than "mordsweh", things like this can be just local. However in this case, I later googled it, "sauweh" returning 27,800 results and "mordsweh" 151, so I guess I wasn't far off after all. Still these are cases I should be cautious correcting.

I'm not surprised that "sauweh" is more common. I just wouldn't correct "mordsweh" because it sounds completely acceptable to me, even if it's rarely used. Anyway, I kind of like these regional differences, they make sure that even as a native speaker, I can still learn something from the German discussions here. ;)


Yes, that's the beauty of this. I start researching preterite and Perfekt and all that shit to get a better understanding of my own language and its varieties. For example, I have difficulties separating the two because the preterite is not used where I come from, but it's great to learn that it's different in other regions and to learn about the differences between the two (over here, you use Perfekt for past events, and you don't use preterite except for basic words like "be" and "have" and "want", end of story).
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby kevin » 2017-03-14, 8:45

Babbsagg wrote:(over here, you use Perfekt for past events, and you don't use preterite except for basic words like "be" and "have" and "want", end of story).

Which seems to become the compromise for colloquial language in more or less all of Germany.

Do you happen to know if this is the traditional use in your region or whether it was imported only recently? Here around, the preterite simply didn't exist even for the basic words, but with the invasion of all those Reigschmeckte a few preterite forms came to us. ;)

(I hope you don't mind my derailing your thread... :D)

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Antea » 2017-03-14, 19:08

I don't mind if the teacher is not native, if he is able to speak the language easily and correctly. Especially in basic levels, and provided he is able to explain clearly the basic grammar rules, and speak the language. For me it's very important to hear the language, so if he can do it, I suppose it's Ok.

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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-14, 20:46

kevin wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:(over here, you use Perfekt for past events, and you don't use preterite except for basic words like "be" and "have" and "want", end of story).

Which seems to become the compromise for colloquial language in more or less all of Germany.

Do you happen to know if this is the traditional use in your region or whether it was imported only recently? Here around, the preterite simply didn't exist even for the basic words, but with the invasion of all those Reigschmeckte a few preterite forms came to us. ;)


Well I thought this was pretty much the same for most of Germany. I was aware (or so I believed) that the preterite is still used in parts of East Germany, but I wasn't aware there's also a north-south divide. Or at least that's what Wikipedia says:

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberdeuts ... tumschwund

Note that it says this can be traced back to the 13th century. If asked, I'd have said it's typically German to drop the preterite entirely except for copula.

Over here (Frankfurt) the preterite is pretty much nonexistent (as is the genitive, it's almost always "dem sein"/"der ihr").

(I hope you don't mind my derailing your thread... :D)


Absolutely not, you're very welcome. In fact, I'd like to learn more and know which region you are from. I'm always happy to learn more about my language, and especially about local variations.

My father is from Siegen, and from his parents I've learned Sejrlännr Platt. He moved to the Odenwald, and there my half-siblings grew up with Odenwälderisch (if that's a thing, not sure). In any case, I find dialects very fascinating in both German and English.
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Re: Non-native language teachers--rubbish?

Postby Aurinĭa » 2017-03-14, 21:22

Babbsagg wrote:pretty much nonexistent (as is the genitive, it's almost always "dem sein"/"der ihr").

Could you give an example of that? I'm curious how that construction works in German.


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