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Native speaker or non-native speaker?

You might be thinking about taking private, group, or Zoom or Skype English lessons, but are unsure if you should go with a native speaker or a non-native speaker. I think it doesn’t really matter. Both carry their pros and cons, but there are certain things you might want to think about when choosing your teacher.

Native Speaker

Firstly, just because you’re an English or any kind of native speaker, it doesn’t mean you can teach. A teacher is a teacher. Being able to pass on knowledge to someone else in a way that allows them to understand, take this information, and start using it, is a key skill for teaching that not everyone has. There are certain parts of the world where the idea of a British or American English native speaker really carries weight, and schools are happy to hire them as ‘native speakers’ and not so much as teachers. They usually do various speaking lessons or conversational clubs as they are also known as which are often topical and they give students a chance to interactive with a native speaker. Of course, these native speakers might struggle when asked for a grammatical explanation or might confuse their students when they try and explain a word in an overly complicated way, but they are offering a real experience. If you’re just looking for general English conversation with a native speaker, then this won’t be a problem at all. On the other hand, if you’re looking for more detailed explanations, and better descriptions of things, there are experienced, qualified, knowledgeable native speakers out there who are qualified teachers and let’s face it, we all dream of being a native-like speaker of the language we are studying.


The beauty of being a native speaker is you know what sounds natural and you know what doesn’t. You’re able to give your students language that is used and real. This often includes phrasal verbs, commonly used synonyms, contractions, and if you must… slang. You can be safe in knowing that what you’re going to get from a native speaker is natural language. A good native speaker will also know when not to use out-dated material or language that is often too old-fashioned.

Pick up things

Similar to the above. Students can pick up on certain things you might say and use. Especially how a native speaker uses connected speech. We often pick up things from people and start using them ourselves without realising. Even the bad things.

English speaking country

This makes sense. If you’re going to move to an English-speaking country, then it’s a good idea to find someone from that part of the world for you to train your ear. I guess this probably would be even better to practise with just a native speaker as they probably aren’t going to grade their language as much as a native speaking teacher with years of experience that has developed the art of communication for different levels and situations. It’s also worth keeping in mind though, English speaking countries often have different accents. In England alone the accent changes noticeably every 25 miles.

Challenge yourself

If you’d like to push yourself and see if you’re able to communicate with a native speaker about different topics and ideas, then go for it. Not every teacher speaks another language, so the challenge of being in one language for the whole lesson is a challenge in itself when your teacher isn’t able to translate something that you don’t really get and has to try and explain it in a way that you might understand. It’s an intensive experience, but as natural as you can get. This also would help if you plan on studying abroad where the language is taught in English or the native language of a country.

Non-native Speaker

A non-native speaking teacher can be just as good and sometimes better. Usually these teachers are anglophiles and are very much clued up with what’s going on in the English-speaking world. They’ve worked really hard to get to where they are and have a wealth of knowledge to pass on. But, just like the ‘native speaker’ they might not be teachers and struggle explaining things. One thing to think about is who are you going to be communicating with in English with most? Are you going to be speaking to British, American, Australian native speakers often or is the bulk of your communication going to be with foreign speakers of English? If the answer is the latter, then you’ll be best studying with a non-native speaker.


Non-natives have experience of learning English and other languages. They were in your shoes at some point. They understand the struggles you’re probably going to have because they most likely had them too, so they are well versed in how to deal with the problems you’re likely to face. This can make you feel confident in any problems you might have.


People stay you shouldn’t use translations in an English classroom. I don’t understand why. If I could do it, I would. Translations are great. They key to a good translation though is not necessary word for word, but from phrase to phrase.


There is no question that language levels and teaching is better in certain countries than in others. Some teachers are taught bad habits from their teachers and because nobody has told them it’s a mistake or this is how we say something, they pass these errors onto their students.


Often at language schools if you choose a native speaker over a non-native speaker the price can be more than double. Ask yourself, is it really worth it? Is that native speaker giving me more than the non-native speaker to justify being the difference in price?

Who cares?

As I said at the start. It doesn’t matter who is teaching you as long as you can feel yourself progressing and feel improvements are being made. Depending on your situation and experience you might prefer one over the other, and that’s fine

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