Are native speakers the best language teachers?

Posted by:
December 11, 2021
Reading time:

So you’ve decided to learn or improve a second language. Congratulations! Foreign language skills are likely to give your academic and professional career a boost.

Now you may have already taken to Google looking for ‘native English teachers online’ or ‘native French tutors near me.’ However, before you rule out non-native language teachers for yourself, your family, or your business, let’s dive into it and see whether native language tutors are really the best option for your needs.

Language tutors: native vs non-native speakers

As you can imagine, there’s no rule of thumb when it comes to choosing the right English or foreign language tutor for you. There are some pros and cons to hiring a native or non-native speaker (we’ll go into more detail further down) but of course, every teacher has different expertise to offer. 

And since we’re speaking of it, experience is key. In most cases, what you really want isn’t a specific passport or language degree but someone who’s truly passionate about their job and has been teaching your language level for quite a while.

Let’s take our language GCSA or A level tutors, for example. They know the ins and outs of academic tests and boast extensive experience in helping language students with anything from vocabulary to revision and exam nerves. Moreover, they’re are up to date with the latest developments in education and can count on a library of past papers to help you prepare. In short, they can help you hack the exam, not just the language.

On the other hand, our English, Spanish, and French business language instructors are used to working around busy professional schedules and tight deadlines to reach specific language goals. They also know that confidence is crucial when you need to use your target language in a professional setting.

Matching you with the right (native or non-native) tutor

As you can see, it’s all about finding a language instructor who understands your goals, needs, and level of language fluency. That’s why at My Language Lab, we run free assessments for all prospective students to make sure we understand your level and expectations. This way, we can match you with the best teacher to help you reach your language objectives as fast as possible.

Advantages of hiring a native language teacher

Of course, there are advantages to having a native English or foreign language tutor. In many cases, their vocabulary is more extensive so they can really help you get the nuances of choosing a word over another.

They’ll also have a good instinct for how sentences flow and sound in your target language, so they can help you step up your game when you’re at an advanced level. Want to speak English like a native? An experienced English native teacher can help you get there.

And let’s not forget that language is also culture. Someone who’s spent many years living in France will be better equipped to help you understand French culture (whether that’s pop culture, literature, manners, food, etc.) and master sociolinguistic skills so that you can adapt your French to the situation you’re in. This is true for both native and non-native French teachers. 

You may want to specifically choose a native speaker if:

  • You already speak a high level of English, Spanish, French, or other target language
  • You want to master the lingo of a specific professional or academic area
  • You are trying to learn a specific accent in your target language (for example, Australian English, Scottish, Cockney, etc.)

Advantages of hiring a non-native language teacher

What some language students don’t know is that non-native speakers have many advantages too

To start with, teaching and language skills aren’t the same. Yet, many native speakers are hired to teach English and other languages just because, well, they’re native. This doesn’t happen with non-native tutors who often have a harder time finding employment and must really polish their teaching skills.

Remember that first language natural proficiency? While it can help you sound like a native, it sometimes means that native speakers don’t spend as much time diving into their language. Therefore a grammar rule, word choice, or expression is preferable ‘just because’, something you’ll hear non-native teachers (who spent years studying their subject in depth) say very rarely. It may sound counterintuitive, but non-native English teachers often have a better understanding of English grammar, which makes them extraordinary at explaining it.

And since we’re on the topic of English speakers, it’s a fact well known that they’re among the worst language learners in Europe. Non-native speakers, on the other hand, are often polyglots and have extensive experience as language learners before becoming teachers. This gives them the ability to empathise with your learning journey and struggles.

You may want to specifically choose a non-native language teacher if:

  • You feel motivated by learning from someone who’s become an expert in their second language 
  • You’re a beginner and need someone who can also speak your mother tongue


Should I hire a native or non-native English teacher?

Whether you want to speak English, French, Spanish, you’re preparing for an exam or want to move abroad, the best advice we can give you is to find someone with the right expertise for your needs and who makes learning fun (chemistry is very important to keep lessons interesting!) These are crucial factors, way more important than whether your teacher is a native English speaker or not.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Contact us today and we’ll match you with the right English tutor.

When is it preferable to have a native language teacher?

Although teching expertise and style are usually more important, there are some cases when a native language tutor can really make the difference. Native speakers, for example, will help you best when you need to refine a specific accent, or when you need to master the lingo of a professional or academic field. Each case is different so you can get in touch so we can help you find the right language instructor.