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What is the role of a native speaker?
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sid



Joined: 02 Feb 2003
Location: Berkshire, England

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2003 4:19 am    Post subject: What is the role of a native speaker? Reply with quote

Not in the habit of starting threads but I couldn't find a relevant topic to put this on! Some of it is a little trite but, anyway, it's good now and then to think about what it actually means to be 'teaching English'. You could also make the connection to recent debates about 'preferred accents' and so on if you wanted Wink


Learners need 'natives' to guide not dictate

The evolution of 'global' English will challenge the way we teach. Now is the time to adapt, says David Hill

Thursday May 15, 2003
Guardian Weekly

The vast majority of English spoken in the world today does not involve a native speaker as an interlocutor. Every communicative act among the users of English is an act of negotiation as to the future of the language. However, this state of affairs seems to have had a negligible influence on our teaching, at least so far.

Teachers of English cannot afford to ignore this development with the excuse that emerging "global English" is still unknown, and so unteachable. Global English is likely to present ELT with its greatest challenges in coming years, so I would like to share my proposals for how we respond in class now and in the future.

Error correction
It is a truism of the "communicative approach" that we should focus on successful communication, not on "failed" grammar. So, given that we are not, and cannot be, aware of the nature of the emerging English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), this rule is redoubled in force.

ELF is, by definition, a pidgin. It is a third language used as a communicative bridge between those who do not share a common first language. A common feature of pidgins is their simplification and regularisation of both lexis and grammar: the removal of meaningless inflection, for example.

So if your learners do not remember to insert the "s" in he/she/it simple present, so what? It is one of the last acquired language features even among "native speakers", and it carries no meaning. You may be well-advised to let such "errors" go, as they may be the norm in the very near future - a future in which "native-speaker" English will be seen as just a quaint, archaic dialect.

Materials
If publishers won't include texts, written or spoken, by "non-natives", force them to. Make the publishers produce such materials or, failing that, make the materials yourself. For example, record your pre-intermediate class carrying out elementary-level tasks, and use the audio to teach your elementary class. You'll find it is motivating for all concerned, and surely better than a group of actors talking in received pronunciation (RP) in a studio. If publishers to the global market don't include such material, then they are not providing learners with the input that will be of use to them in the real world.

Pronunciation
If your student doesn't pronounce the two "th" phonemes, for example, remember that neither do most people in Ireland or the Caribbean. Standards such as RP and "Queen's English" are laughable in the modern world. Optimum global intelligibility may be a better standard. And if you can't tell the difference between a "tree" and a "three", then the context must be weird indeed. Global understanding is the vital thing.

Culture
In order to be aware of and show reciprocal respect for the students' first language and first culture background, all "native" teachers should study the language of their host communities. Employers should provide language lessons as part of teacher-development programmes. There will be a pay-off in terms of teacher performance: understanding L1-interference is invaluable.

Discourse
Patterns of discourse (written and spoken) are culturally determined. Unless she wishes to study in an anglophone environment, don't expect the Hindi student to follow quasi-Aristotelian conventions of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, and don't dismiss her as illogical if she doesn't. It may be her convention to start and finish an essay with quotations from the classics. Recognise diversity and allow its expression through English.

Learner goals
If the student wants to live or study in an English-speaking country, then first-language users will provide a useful model. If the student wants to communicate internationally, optimum global intelligibility is called for. "Native-like" use may even be a disadvantage - in a multinational setting, it is the "native" who is most likely to misunderstand and to be misunderstood. Indeed, English-speaking countries may suffer irreparably if they don't start running courses in effective international communication for their own business people and academics.

Recruitment
Teachers who are "native speakers" are better paid and command greater respect than their locally based colleagues. Yet they have not passed any examination to verify their proficiency in the language, have not achieved the distinction of having learned English successfully themselves, and may therefore lack a certain empathy with their learners. Moreover those who have actually studied the language and achieved hard-won excellence in it may provide a far more constructive model for learners to aspire to. Shouldn't we value the teachers according to their professionalism, not their place of birth?

Politics
English is global for highly dubious reasons: colonial, military and economic hegemony, first of the British, now of the US. This is a fact that we must live with, as well as the fact that we have a global language that is not exactly tailor-made for the role. We need to be aware of how teaching can have a political dimension, such as the act of insisting that "native-like" language use is the only correct type. If we are not to be imperialists then we must help our students to express themselves, not our agenda. Only then will the empire talk back.

Corpus linguistics Be aware of the emerging patterns of usage from such corpora as the University of Vienna's Voice corpus, comprising ELF data. Teach accordingly. Unless teaching in an ESL context, place less emphasis on obscure and idiomatic "native" language. If the language is global, it belongs to the world. If 80% of English used is "non-native", then "native" is a pretty meaningless term, and must be clumsily framed in inverted commas until we start to use an alternative expression. "First-language user" may fit the bill. Let your learners take the language and make it their own. They are doing so anyway. The best we can hope to do, as first-language users, is to guide. If we attempt to impose our values and norms on the world, then our students may well turn their backs on us.

David Hill works as a teacher and teacher trainer for the British Council in Istanbul
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Homer
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2003 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will venture a guess..

The role of a native os to speak "native"....
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yodanole



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
Location: La Florida

PostPosted: Tue Jul 15, 2003 10:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Being a pidgen or creole language does not threaten a sub-dialect's validity as a language. Nor are poorly educated, grammatically incorrect native speakers not still native speakers, each fluent in their own sub-dialect. Language is fluid and constantly evolving. Each year, the English language finds approximately 18 words slipping into the status of "archaic usage" or changing in meaning (How many people remember that originally "ham" meant thigh? or "Anyone remember when "gay" meant happy? (TV:Al Bundy)), while English gains approximately 26 words from technology and other sources each year. "Ain't" is now in the dictionary.
Sometimes, new words or even new lexis and syntax emerge from sub-dialects. And don't you go be telling me that it ain't so. It do be so! To a linguist, these and many others are well known facts.

When anthropoligists first encountered the natives of New Guinea, they originally thought that there were around 2000 different languages. Subsequent analysis revealed that there were only 2-3, each with 1000 sub-dialects. New Guinea is very mountainous, making linguistic interaction between isolated populations difficult. Linguistic drift occurred, rendering peoples which were once native speakers of the same language effectively unable to communicate. Of course, we all know that 2000 years ago, English and German were only one language.

A few years ago, I read in one of the local Korean English language newspapers that a dictionary was being compiled on the usage of "East Asian English". Never heard what came of it. I recognize that there is a certain validity to realizing that Japlish, Konglish, Ebonics and Spanglish are linguistic entities with their own internally consistent grammar, lexis and syntax, but Ebonics and Spanglish do not mangle the English language in the same way that Japlish/Konglish do. So if my Korean businessman student wants to communicate with his Italian business partner, it may be best to stick with learning one of the basic forms of standard English (as best possible) instead of finally getting an "I speak Jive" translator(Movie:Airplane). Or (as actually happened to me), the student can ask his "native speaker" teacher to call Italy to negotiate for him.

So, if the teacher advocates or encourages forms of speech which deviate from "standard English", but in no way resemble the speech form deviations of other parts of the globe, they will have educated "English speakers" who cannot communicate with other "English speakers". There is always the business letter. The Chinese do it. The primary purpose of an international language in these times is for business communication on a global level. Talking business means talking money. We all know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to discuss money through imperfect linguistic communication. So, unless the author of the above article wishes to come teach my classes (and give me the paycheck), I'll just try to muddle through teaching relatively standard English as best I can. After all, I'm an American southerner (call me Foghorn Leghorn, that is), so how could I possibly speak or understand "standard English?

What is the purpose of the native speaker? In hopes that somewhere, somehow or someday a Korean will emerge who does not go into hysterics at the sight of blue eyes, white skin and hair that is not coarse and black, foreign teachers are being employed in Korea. Until that time, call me "Sideshow Foghorn" and "Suck 'em up the Primo".
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2003 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A native speaker's job is to clown around and keep the kids happy, so that they don't winge to their parents, so that they don't winge to the director, so that he doesn't winge to the native speaker.
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Butterfly



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
Location: Kuwait

PostPosted: Thu Jul 17, 2003 8:55 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the role of a native speaker? Reply with quote

sid wrote:
Recognise diversity and allow its expression through English.



I really like this part, I have seen too many EFL teachers in Korea thinking it is their duty to 'educate' the Koreans. Let them function in English and continue thinking and feeling whatever it is they want. Different cultures can contribute to English and truly make it a global language, in essence, they dont have to 'be' American or British to communicate in English, they can express their own cultural mind.

Those arguments that persistently say we are here to be clowns are misguided. You can hire a Korean clown probably much more cheaply and with a quarter of the hassle of a potential whining foreigner on your hands. We are hired for our teaching methods and our attitude towards education.
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you butterfly- English can only become a truly flexible world language as it absorbs new and different influences. It will change and adapt. Where there is no English word available to suit local conditions, English will expand and grow..
regarding the role of the English teacher- I was told at my CELTA course that we are "enablers" more than teachers or lecturers. The idea is to enable students to open their potential and encourage them to speak and learn.
Too bad that in Korea the hagwon system hardly assists or provides goood conditions, for a foreign teacher to do this.....
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BTM



Joined: 20 Jan 2003
Location: Back in the saddle.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was saying a lot of the same sort of things that sid quotes from that Guardian article at the bar the other night!

Although my slightly foggy memory tells me it was (of course!), I somehow don't think it was quite as coherent or well-argued, though.
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some waygug-in



Joined: 25 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2003 8:36 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the role of a native speaker? Reply with quote

Those arguments that persistently say we are here to be clowns are misguided. You can hire a Korean clown probably much more cheaply and with a quarter of the hassle of a potential whining foreigner on your hands. We are hired for our teaching methods and our attitude towards education.[/quote]

I don't think he was intending to say that we "should" be clowns, but often in Korea that's what we end up being. It all depends on where you work and what sort of attitude your school has towards you as a foreign teacher.

Where I work, I am there for little more than advertising. As long as the hogwon has a foreigner on staff, they can advertise that fact to potential clients. I am given very little leeway as far as my approach to teaching, simply because the students see me as a clown, so anything I do with them is not taken seriously. (not all classes, but most) If I try to be strict and enforce rules, invariably a student or some students will complain, and I will be taken aside and told, "you must be nice teacher".

Of course this means that a lot of what I do is just wasting time, and as a teacher I don't feel good about that, but I have to survive until I can get out of here and find a decent job where they will allow me to really teach.


I don't know why Koreans have this attitude that foreign teachers are better, often the reverse is true. It depends on a lot of different factors.
If the school is one that supports foreign teachers and allows them to discipline classes, or at least have a team teaching system so that the kids can not simply run wild, then perhaps they can be good teachers.

But if, as in my case there is no teacher support, no discipline, only constant whining and complaining on the part of students and parents, then a foreign teacher is pretty much useless.

In the really bad classes, I can't even get them to take out their books. If I try to kick anyone out or force them to do anything productive, I am sure to be in big trouble with the director the following day.

The Korean teachers on the other hand, have little trouble with discipline. The kids sit down when they are told, take out their books and do the tasks that are asked of them. So in a school such as this, the foreign teachers really are nothing more than clowns.

I really wish they would hire a Korean clown to replace me. Let me go somewhere where I can actually teach something.

Sad but true.

Cheers
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Homer
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2003 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Speak native I say..speak native...

Its not that complicated folks
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Son Deureo!



Joined: 30 Apr 2003

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2003 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Homer wrote:
Speak native I say..speak native...

Its not that complicated folks


I agree. This David Hill guy sure seems to be setting the bar pretty low. Don't teach the difference between "l" and "r" sounds? Plurals? WTF? This may be the end result of the worst students' best efforts, but not what we should be aspiring to teach.

If they want to learn an easier language they can learn Esperanto. If they want to learn to speak English, it's going to take some work.

If they want someone to teach them Konglish, they'd better not hire me.
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whatthefunk



Joined: 21 Apr 2003
Location: Dont have a clue

PostPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2003 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Teaching monkey. We have furry arms to give the kids hours of entertainment. We jump around and do funny things. When the kids see us on the street they are amazed that someone has let us out of our cage and that we actually do other things besides 'teach.' They poke us up the ass to check for tails. When monkey learns how to speak a little korean, they applaud and laugh and wish that monkey had a replay button. There will soon be a teaching monkey exhibit in the zoo.
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luvandfeelins



Joined: 02 Jul 2003
Location: US

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2003 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[whatthefunk] "They poke us up the ass to check for tails. "

I was wondering why they did that.


Nevertheless, I undersand much of what David Hill was pointing out. One of the biggest problems that most non-native speakers have is the confidence to speak out and communicate in this foriegn tongue. it's not necessarily the confusion with its complicated grammer, nor a limited vocabulary, these disabilities can be overcome. I think that encouraging the students to speak out and explain themselves is the most important aspect that the teacher should address. Whenever possible, I try to engage a student in some form of communication. one of the benefits of being a monkey teacher (there's not that many) is that my limited grasp Korean forces them to use all of their limited knowledge to communicate.

some waygug-in, try starting a bad class with by practicing your Korean Vocab on them. I have a school where i can discipline, but unfortunately beating a kid doesn't really help the situation. learn some Korean, that's one reason they listen to the Korean teachers, because they like to hear something familiar. find something in common, in one class we spend part of the time talking about computer games.

[/quote]
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whatthefunk



Joined: 21 Apr 2003
Location: Dont have a clue

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2003 2:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

luvandfeelins wrote:


Nevertheless, I undersand much of what David Hill was pointing out. One of the biggest problems that most non-native speakers have is the confidence to speak out and communicate in this foriegn tongue. it's not necessarily the confusion with its complicated grammer, nor a limited vocabulary, these disabilities can be overcome. I think that encouraging the students to speak out and explain themselves is the most important aspect that the teacher should address. Whenever possible, I try to engage a student in some form of communication. one of the benefits of being a monkey teacher (there's not that many) is that my limited grasp Korean forces them to use all of their limited knowledge to communicate.

some waygug-in, try starting a bad class with by practicing your Korean Vocab on them. I have a school where i can discipline, but unfortunately beating a kid doesn't really help the situation. learn some Korean, that's one reason they listen to the Korean teachers, because they like to hear something familiar. find something in common, in one class we spend part of the time talking about computer games.



All my attempts to speak korean just lead them to spend the next hour trying to get me to do it again, so i avoid that. Also, they seem to think that if I know how to say 'anyeonghasayo' then they can jabber away in korean and i will understand them perfectly. But, what works for some doesn't work for others. I wish i could disipline...Im the 'special teacher' (aka teaching monkey) so i can't make the kids angry by disiplining them.
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rapier



Joined: 16 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2003 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've found that as a surrogate parent to so many korean kids, the key is to have a friendly, cameraderie approach to the kids. At least feign interest in their little lives, their card collections and computer games, and the English will follow naturally. Don't worry too much at how noisy your classes are (as long as its in reasonable bounds of order). Make sure they're enjoying themselves and always have some English in front of them. Gradually they pick it up. Its a huge impetus for them to learn English if they laugh and joke with their teacher, if they can argue why Korea is the best place on earth or whatever.
This is the best way to "teach " in korea,- the big brother/surrogate parent approach.
If you think about it, children learn naturally in a family environment. If you re-create this to some extent, you're ahead of the game. Of course, it's much easier with small classes...
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some waygug-in



Joined: 25 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2003 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thank you for your advice. I have tried using some Korean in class, and while it does get their attention, I, like "whatthefunk" , have to spend the rest of the class trying to evade their pleas , teachaw... hangul mal hae bo sayo. Mad

The only thing I can add is this. I have spent the last 10 months trying to figure out what works with these kids, and often nothing does. (at least nothing I've tried)
I ask myself why some classes are OK and why the kids in those classes will do what I ask and behave more or less how I want them to.
What is the difference? same teacher, same approach, same books.

The only thing I can come up with is that in the good classes the students (or at least the majority of them) have made the decision that they want to learn and they will put forward at least a minimal amount of effort.
In bad classes, the students, (or at least the majority of them) have not made that decision. They are simply there because their parents send them. They have no inate desire or interest in learning English so no matter what I do with them, they are not going to try very hard.

Sure, I can play games with them and try to get them using some English vocabulary, but beyond that.....?

Anyway
cheers
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