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Non-native speakers of English who are English teachers make mistakes

Non-native speakers of English who are English teachers make mistakes. Yes, that is true. Now, we are going to look at two aspects of this matter: why they make mistakes and how bad is that.

Why they make mistakes

Teachers of English who are not native speakers of English are learners of English. They make mistakes; and they make mistakes because English doesn’t make sense for them.

In order to make you understand what I mean by “English doesn’t make sense for them” we are going to take a look at an example.

Let’s take as example the following sentence: “I’m going to take a shower.” (Or, to sound more native-like, I should say “I’m gonna take a shower”.)

A Romanian learner, such as myself, would be tempted to say “I go to make a shower” or “I go to do a shower” because this is how I, for example, would say it in Romanian language.

A Vietnamese learner will say “I go shower”, so “take a shower” does not make sense for him.

Since “take a shower” doesn’t make sense for a Vietnamese learner of English (and that might be a Vietnamese who is a teacher of English, “to do a shower”, the way a Romanian learner will say, won’t make sense neither. He won’t copy and make any other mistake but the mistake that makes sense for him.

This is the main reason why learners of English make mistakes when speaking. For sure, both Vietnamese and Romanian learners understand the meaning of “take a shower” when they are hearing it but in order for them to use it in their own speech they have to use English on daily basis, hear many times the correct version so they will be able to speak like they hear. It is ideal to be able to practice English with someone whose English is better than yours but if that is not possible then the internet offers great opportunities to listen to good example of English (YouTube for example).

How bad is making mistakes when speaking as an English teacher

As an English teacher, making mistakes when speaking in the classroom is definitely bad. I am not talking about those teachers who make ten mistakes in a sentence but I am talking about those who sometimes make mistakes. How does that affect the learner’s English?

The short answer is “it doesn’t”. Nobody will know that you made a mistake but if the learners are somewhere at the advance level maybe they will recognize your mistakes. They may forgive you for making mistakes if your teaching techniques are good and they are always engaged in your lessons.

Although I work as an English teacher, I am a learner of English too; I do try to improve my English on daily basis, and I don’t practice English with native speakers of English (and that is because at the moment I don’t have a friend who is native speaker of English). I have never studied English with a native speaker of English and all of my teachers at school were Romanians.

So, for those who are concerned about learning English with a non-native speaker of English, you shouldn’t be because the amount of time you spend in the classroom with your teacher is less that 5 percent from the total time you spend for studying English. That doesn’t mean your teacher shouldn’t speak good English! He should! There are so many more things that make a good teacher but all the language centers care about, at least here in Vietnam, is to find an American teacher, even if he is a simple backpacker who doesn’t give a damn about the learners since he will be gone in six months.

So, as a non-native speaker of English and teacher of English at the same time, making mistakes in the classroom is not good but that has little to no effect on the learners and is just one out of 100 things that make a good teacher.


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