Native versus Non-Native Teachers of English
by Zainab Albulushy
The spread of English is very fast and noticeable in the world. Pennycook (1994: 7) in his book presents Otto Jespessen's (1938/68) estimation of speakers of English. He states that it numbered four million in 1500, six million in 1600, and eight and a half million in 1900. The number is in a continuous growth throughout the centuries and within different parts of the world, thus by the year 2000 the number was expected to increase up to 700 million or one billion. Nowadays it is much more than what was expected. Those speakers include the native speakers of English, speakers of English as a second language and speakers of English as a foreign language. There are several reasons for such spread of English. One of these is socio-cultural, which relates to people's dependence on English for their well being including politics, businesses, safety, entertainment, media and education. Thus, English has become the language of communication in the world and then appeared the need to learn English to make this communication easier.
Who is a native speaker?
The issue of native or non-native speaking teachers of a language is a controversial one. There are some factors and perspectives that contribute to the issue in one way or another. Crystal (1995: 455) defines a native speaker simply as "A person who speaks a language as a mother tongue". He / she, therefore, is somebody born into a particular language, using this language as an instrument of communication and as a symbol of social identification at the same time. A non-native speaker however is a person who does not have that language as a mother tongue. This leads to put the non-native speaker in the position of having that language besides his/her own mother tongue and acquiring it for some reason at some point in their lives.
The use of the native speaker has a long history in all sub disciplines of linguistics. The study of the native speaker position an influence took a great role in shaping the theories and methods of the English language teaching and learning strategies and methods for teachers and learners. The chief belief behind the native speaker is that s/he can at any time give convincing and firm judgments on his or her language. S/he is talented of identifying ill-formed grammatical expressions in his or her language even though s/he may not be able to explain exactly why they are ill-formed (Chomsky 1965). That is because they acquire the language naturally without being taught the exact rules and regulations of that language. Thus, such rules may not be as valid or accurate with them as they could be with those who study the language to speak it.
The transformational-generative grammar theory well considers the native speakers of the language as mentioned in Chomsky's book of (1965) "ideal-speaker hearer"; in context grammar, Van Dijk's (1977) "P-system" is built on it; in politeness theory, Brown and Levinson's (1987) "model person" is the native speaker; and the bilingualism theories of Bloomfield (1933) and other American linguists focus on native-like competence in two languages. These theories depend on native-speaker desire or naturalness to well-known or extraordinary structures, as well as the different types of mistakes in their own language. This is accepted as authentic because native speakers acquire their languages at childhood with no other language interfering or influencing the acquisition process.
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