NS vs. NNS Who cares?

Native speakers versus Non-Native speakers.  People who read this blog either know or must have guessed I am an NNS.  My opinion might be biased.

I am referring to the following: ELTrants and EBEFL.

EBEFL started a discussion on what is a native speaker, and as such, how to define NNS

ELTrants used this opportunity to discuss that making the distinction in itself creates confusion overall.

What does it matter to me?

I have never been taught English by an NS, the closest I came was at University level with a teacher who spent his University years in England.  My simplest conclusion is, you don’t need an NS to learn a language.

Let’s bring this to the Korean situation.  There are 2 goals in Korea that students want to achieve. The first and foremost is to pass the test.  I am convinced that Koreans are the best at what they do to get the kids to pass the test (Suneung (수능) ).  Another test they might want to pass is the SAT test if they opt to go for a University in America.  Go to my post on the $4M to get a glimpse of that market.

The next thing is to have command of the language like a native.  The Korean parents are convinced that the only way to acquire it is by sitting in the vicinity of a NS.  See, therein lies the fallacy immediately.  By already defining that there is such a thing as an NS-NNS, logic prevailing, that believe is immediately discredited.  This is where I follow ELTrants.

The core of the problem is that most people see acquiring another language to be always inferior to the one you learned from your direct environment as a child.  Let me divulge my own past a little.  I am a severe dyslexic, only diagnosed at the age of 28.  I had to struggle through my entire academic career without being aware of this disability.  The tests did show a few remarkable results which the testers didn’t really understand, or could even try to explain.  I have an L1, L2 and an L3.  L3 is English.  L3>L1>L2.

For some obscure reason (I now know why, which is also the basis of my teaching, my secret sauce) English was superior to my other languages.  At that time I did my research on Dyslexia and how the brain works vis-a-vis language, just to understand how I could beat my own disability.  From my own personal, direct, intimate, excruciating experience, I came to the conclusion that the one big differentiator is xxxxxxxxxxxxx.  Yeah, I am not telling you that.

Back to the topic.  It is obvious, from my point of view, that being an NS or not doesn’t matter as an educator.

This is what I would like to see changed in Korea, I would really love to hire any nationality to teach English in Korea.


What I really would love to hire as a teacher are people who have mastered at least more than one language.  Teachers who have gone through the pain themselves, can sympathize far better with the student.  They can teach, not only the language, but also HOW to learn another language much better.  Not only to teach vocabulary, grammar and so on, but also the mnemonic techniques that come along with trying to master a whole new language.  A teacher in a classroom can only teach so much, ultimately it comes down to how much the students is willing to do on his own, therefore they also need to acquire the skills to study on their own.  Sadly, most NS of English have never really mastered a second, or even third language.  Basing your teaching techniques on how you acquired your Mother tongue isn’t really helpful for the people who are learning a different language.  Korea would do itself a favor in the long run by opening up those positions to NNS, and forego the stupid notions that one needs an NS teacher to become fluent, in any given language.

Therefore the whole NS-NNS discussion is moot.  Anyone can achieve a “near” native fluency that could fool most people.

PS: Now this is an article I can comprehend!  And if you are a teacher and you haven’t seen this video.