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'Anyone Can Teach English'

Popularity 10Viewed 5381 times 2016-8-22 19:15 |Personal category:Education|System category:News| English

I'm involved in a project here in the USA in teaching English teachers how to teach the language to non-native (ESL/EFL) English speaking students. One assumption that I was asked to address and is often made (especially in China where native English speaking teachers are only required to have bachelors degree in order to teach) is that, 'anyone who can speak English can teach English.' In my opinion, this is very wrong. Let me tell you why.

First, most schools teach the alphabet to new English students in order to teach them the phonetic sounds that are made. Their process is to first teach writing, beginning with the alphabet and progressing into teaching single words. So, they teach students to write which naturally leads into teaching them to read.

In your mind, go back to the time that you were a child. How did you learn to speak your native language? In fact, how do children around the world learn their native language? Well, all children learn their native language by listening to their parents talk to them. They get familiar with the sounds that come out of the parent's (mostly, their mother) mouths. They watch the movement and shapes of their mother's mouth, then, they tried to imitate. Their mother takes her time to carefully pronounce words while looking directly, face to face, with their child. They first learn the word 'momma'.

The child is in an environment where they are also passively listening to language all of the time. They are listening to their native language when the television is on. When they begin to watch cartoons, they are watching and listening to the sounds that the cartoon characters make. Everywhere they are in their daily environment, they are hearing their native language being spoken. This process is called 'environmental language immersion.' Immersion is a word that means one is put into something like water and they are completely covered in water. As we say, they 'go under the water' and are thus 'immersed' in the water.

The natural process for the child is to then try to repeat or mime what they hear. First, they listen or hear the language. Then, they try to copy what they hear. Later on when they are 5-6 years old, the process of teaching them to read and write will begin. They go to school or kindergarten and the teacher builds their language skills from the foundation that the parents and the environment have already established. Can you imagine a kindergarten teacher trying to teach a child who has never heard or attempted to speak the language? It would be nearly impossible.

This is just one example that supports my belief that just because a person can speak a language that they aren't qualified to teach it. They need to closely examine 'how' language is acquired in order to teach it. There are many other examples that support the need for a teacher to receive training when taking on the task of teaching others their language.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)





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Reply Report Swifty55 2017-8-10 19:39
Pay in China for the cost of living is great at the University level and completely free apartment.So do away with 5 years and make it no experience.But need to be a certified English teacher or may as well just use the Chinese.

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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


Recent comments

  • Can Chinese Education Change? 2018-5-16 10:53

    I think foreigners are advanced on writing (working)style that we could see if we compare the dictionary of English and Chinese with each other! Chinese scientists and teachers must tell stories in plain words to children and leave more free space for the latter to do logical thinking all by themselves. That is the direction of Chinese education-reform. We must first realize our disadvantages on schooling and then do some operations for changing and improvement!  Never copy foreign things on appearance!
    For more, please check my recent writings on education!

  • Can Chinese Education Change? 2018-5-14 18:19

    Should tell them the truth about public education in the USA.It has become the joke of the world. Any real teacher in the USA knows they are doing nothing to make the difference in a child's education. I have spoken as a speaker to thousands of educators and they when honest agree with me 100%. Leaving China for the poor education you get for your money is not worth it. End of story.

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