Pop Quiz: What languages have you studied?
Hey there, skeptical scholars!
I got a bit of exciting news this week, as the school at which I took Japanese classes a couple of years ago has invited me back to join an intermediate class (my own cohort all dropped by the end of our first year, so the class was cancelled going forward).
I really enjoyed taking the classes, especially as they served as a welcome change of pace from my usual work, so I’m glad to get the chance to go back. I even downloaded a fancy kanji app to my phone to brush up on characters and stroke order!
As much as I enjoyed taking the classes though, I have always had a bit of a paedagogical quibble with the way this particular language school runs things: they employ only native speakers of the target language as teachers–something they advertise with pride–but I’ve always felt that not only are the benefits of a native speaker mostly lost on beginners (aside from matters of pronunciation and accent), native speakers also come with the drawback of never having had the experience of learning the target language as an outsider. This often means that, unless they have a great deal of specialised training or experience, they are not usually as well equipped to deal with the special problems beginning students often have, and sometimes have fewer effective tips or strategies to overcome these difficulties when compared to a teacher who did not grow up speaking the language.
This problem is particularly evident in cases where the teacher does not have good command of the students’ primary language and thus has some trouble explaining details of basic grammar in a clear and precise manner (since it is usually not possible to conduct these discussions in the target language with beginning students).
In my opinion it is best in the vast majority of cases to leave beginning students to non-native teachers, while reserving native speakers for intermediate and advanced students who can derive much greater benefit from their interactions.
What about you? What languages have you studied or taught? Do you prefer native speakers for beginning levels? Why or why not?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.
Featured image: Erin Silversmith