Native-speakerness vs pedagogical expertise: which do efl students value more highly?

Ian Walkinshaw

This presentation critically examines the premise that learners of English as a foreign language prefer to learn from native-speaker English teachers rather than non-native speakers of English. To test this premise, 50 Vietnamese and 50 Japanese learners of English were asked to evaluate the importance of native-speakerness compared with seven qualities valued in an English language teacher: Teaching experience, qualifications, a friendly personality, enthusiasm for teaching, the ability to teach interesting and informative classes, understanding of students’ local culture, and advanced competence in speaking and understanding English. Our research found that contrary to the above premise, both the Vietnamese and Japanese sample ascribed higher value to all but one of these qualities than to native-speakerness, although the two samples’ ratings sometimes diverged. The only outlying quality was that of advanced English competence: A number of Vietnamese and Japanese respondents selected innate native-speakerness over this quality because they perceived that native speaker pronunciation was the most appropriate model for their own. In sum, our findings build on a growing body of research which contests the notion that native speakers are the ideal teachers of English. It is hoped that these findings will advance the status of capable, qualified and linguistically competent non-native speaking English teachers