must eat so many lemons, ’cause I am so bitter

Today was my last morphology class, and up until today, I’ve found it to be a completely enjoyable, albeit disorganized course.  Completely noncontroversial.  Today, however, was “talk about anything” day (okay, well, every day was that).  Somehow or another, language acquisition came up, and I found out that I have a pretty strong opinion about language teaching that is pretty much in direct opposition with all of the vocal members of the conversation today.  Now, I can certainly see how a native speaker of a language can be beneficial as a teacher, but why such animosity towards the nonnative speakers? Sure, I’ve heard the claims before, but to have so many people I more or less respect respect basically assert that it is completely detrimental to have a nonnative speaker teaching language was… startling.  Perhaps my own language learning is not sufficient enough to draw conclusions from–Esperanto being Esperanto, and Latin being a dead language, and Polish being taught by a native speaker.  I can, however, reflect on some frustrations of learning from a native speaker:

  1. He is not a native speaker of English.  My questions posed in English are not always fully understood, and some of his explanations fall short.  And he assumes that when we use French words that English has swiped, the words retained their French meaning.  Ha.
  2. When questions are understood, it isn’t always clear why I’m asking them.  Because teaching when to use the genitive is a lot different from just knowing when to use it.  Which is something that is unrealistic at a basic level, but comes from knowing the tongue from birth.
  3. He doesn’t understand some mistakes/difficulties that come up specifically as a speaker of American!English learning Polish.  A native speaker of American!English who learned Polish later on would be able to use his experience to anticipate tricky bits of the language and help to
  4. If you were ask me about English grammar rules, I could have told you freshman year of high school after Campbell’s English class, but since then, I can only tell you when things seem wrong or right.  Same story with other folks and their languages.
  5. et cetera

I am not at all saying that I dislike him as a professor, or that I’m not learning.  If he weren’t a native speaker, I’m sure I’d complain about his accent or lack of knowledge about Polish customs or something.  I’m just saying that a native speaker is not the secret to learning a new language, and just like every American is not meant to be a teacher of English, not every X-an is mean to be a teacher of his native language.  Telling me that the only good teachers of a language are native speakers is like telling me that the only good mothers are those who had baby dolls as children or that the only good drivers are those who played with hotwheels (although I am an excellent driver and I played with hotwheels…)




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