I was speaking at a conference on Saturday morning (WHAT?! Saturday morning is for sleeping, surely!) and I got asked a question which, incredibly (if you know how much I usually talk…), left me lost for words.
A bit of background… (and excuse the hubris) usually at conferences, people come up to me and say that they liked the talk and ask me what I think about [X] matter and I’m very happy to talk away about it, happy that my session has been well received.
Saturday’s had a twist to it though!
One of the delegates asked my why I’d used some phrases in Spanish in my talk (I do it to foster rapport – my Spanish is, frankly, hilarious) and, didn’t I think I should be using English all the time, as I should be helping local non-native speaker (NNS) teachers (of which the conference was mostly made up) improve their English?
The question evolved into: didn’t I think that local NNS teachers should have a level of English that was at least as good as NS teachers such as myself?
After a little thought, my answer was “no”, which was received with shock.
I said that, while any responsible English teacher should always be learning English (I’ll never stop learning, I’m sure!), a NNS did not have to have an NS level to be able to teach the language.
All the NNS teachers I’ve encountered here tend to be at least (if not more) dedicated and keen to improve their skills as the NS teachers are.
I don’t think NNS teachers should have the same level to NS teachers. All this also depends on WHAT we think an NS is… are they British? North American? Would Indian English not be just as qualifiable as NS English, given that it’s the lingua franca of India (they have so many languages, that the national news tends to be in English)?
My point was (is) that NNS teachers don’t have to be “as good” as NS speakers to teach – if they have the level to teach even basic English, the ability, the enthusiasm, and they strive to improve (as NS teachers should!) isn’t this enough?
Or was my speaking in the L1, at a conference primarily for NNS teachers, irresponsible?