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The importance of being Native
Thread poster: meladui
meladui
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
+ ...
Mar 8, 2006

Hi, I'm looking for some advice / help with this issue:
I am a qualified teacher of English as a Foreign language, but my application has been rejected by a few schools on the ground that I am not a 'native' speaker.
I was born in Italy, have an Italian passport, and did my schooling in Italy up to the age of 16; however most people, when they hear me speaking English, think that I am from the UK, as my English is as good, and maybe better, than that of many British people. This is not taken into consideration because I don't even get to the interview stage. My application is rejected 'on paper' by people who haven't spoken to me and communicated by e-mail.
My question is then: can I say that I am a Native speaker on the grounds that 1 they wouldn't be able to tell and 2 did any of you speak any language the very moment they were born?


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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 16:04
English to Russian
The good school is still ahead of you. Mar 8, 2006

It is one thing to use the language; it is quite another to understand how it works. (Antony Burgess, Joysprick)

I would also add that being a non-native is a major advantage because you know all the difficulties people have learning THE language.

I would advise all such schools to hire native alcoholics etc.
This concept is very popular in Russia, where they waste a lot of time and money on classes lead by incompetent native engineers, housewives, cooks and all sorts of nice people.

Don’t give up. There are many morons on this planet, it would be incomplete without them.
Good luck
Alex
(Among other qualifications, a teacher of English and French as a foreign language)


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Abdellatif Bouhid  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:04
English to French
+ ...
Voice CV Mar 8, 2006

You may want to attach a 3-5 minute tape reading some text (from Madame Bovary would be a killer) or jus talking about yourself. You may mention that you have achieved mother tongue level proficiency and leave it up to them to ascertain it in any way they would like.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2006-03-08 23:31]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
+ ...
You shouldn't say you're a native speaker Mar 8, 2006

- it would be a lie, and they'd find that out as soon as they actually got to the point of hiring you. I think Abdellatif's idea is excellent - I'd go with that, or alternatively (or additionally), *ring* the schools to ask for an interview and ask if you can speak to one of their current (native) teachers to demonstrate your language skills.

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:04
French to English
Mistakes on your CV? Mar 8, 2006

If you are using the same CV as is available under your profile, you may want to correct the 5 errors it contains if you wish to create the best possible impression.

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Jerónimo Fernández  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't lie Mar 8, 2006

Hi Meladui, I totally agree with Marie-Helene: it's always a bad idea to lie about your abilities. The second they find out you've lied (and they'll find out), there's no way they hire you.

Good luck,
Jeronimo


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carly  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
+ ...
students demand native Mar 8, 2006

Hi there

I teach English in a language school in Italy and I know that it is more often the student (or rather, the customer) who demands a mother tongue teacher.


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 20:04
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
Come to Indonesia, you'll be a NATIVE alright, if you have blond hair and blue eyes :) Mar 9, 2006

meladui wrote:

Hi, I'm looking for some advice / help with this issue:
I am a qualified teacher of English as a Foreign language, but my application has been rejected by a few schools on the ground that I am not a 'native' speaker.
I was born in Italy, have an Italian passport, and did my schooling in Italy up to the age of 16; however most people, when they hear me speaking English, think that I am from the UK, as my English is as good, and maybe better, than that of many British people. This is not taken into consideration because I don't even get to the interview stage. My application is rejected 'on paper' by people who haven't spoken to me and communicated by e-mail.
My question is then: can I say that I am a Native speaker on the grounds that 1 they wouldn't be able to tell and 2 did any of you speak any language the very moment they were born?


Hi, funny this topic, so if you want to be considered a native, (no negative vibes here intended) just come to Indonesia.

I'm just sharing something here. At one place I was teaching English (the place was an international English Franchised language school) there was a Dutch guy with blonde hair whose English was English with a tint of European accent, yet he was considered a Native here, by the school. And there was another Dutch person, who was "labeled by the school 'as a native speaker'" both of these people whom I personally know and got on well as co-workers, didn't mind since it did get them cash. Also there was a woman with HongKong passport married an Indian-Indonesian national, yet she was also considered (well sold to by the school as) a Native.

I guess all of this boils down to "perception, images projected by people". So, I would say DON"T WORRY you'll be rewarded in some ways, just persist a little bit longer.

And, on that topic I read a book by an English teacher of Hungarian nationality, if I'm not mistaken, who was awarded something by the British Government because of this issue of Nativeness yet this person was...how would one say, a non-native defender of English as a language.

Well, I guess for your no.1) it's the product that counts and 2 the answer is yes I did actually speak some language "the moment I was born" it's called 'body language'...hahaha

Again all I'm saying is in a good friendly sharing way NO "bad" things intended.

Keep up the spirit. Cheers.

[Edited at 2006-03-09 00:25]


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meladui
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good point, but... Mar 9, 2006

Good point about the CV. However, I haven't used the one you downloaded in a long time. I have changed it after reading your message, however. Thanks for reminding me.

Jeronimo, we are not talking about abilities, here. We are talking of the definition of being a Native speaker. It's like saying that if you were born in Engliand and all of your family was English but your mother was Spanish, your Mother-Tongue would only be Spanish, and not English.

The same goes for being Native. Do you actually have to be born in an English speaking country? and what country in Europe is not "English speaking"?

In sociology there is the expression "going native" which means integrating yourself with the society you are studying to the point of becoming one of them. Well, I wouldn't say I was 'studying' the Brits, but I suppose I did integrate with their society.


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John Walsh  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 15:04
Member (2004)
Italian to English
You shouldn't put false info in your CV Mar 9, 2006

Hi,
I assume you're talking about private schools. I'm sure you know what you need to be hired by the state.

There are two important issues here:

1 - Students go to private schools to find native English speakers. That doesn't mean they always find trained EFL teachers, much less "good" EFL teachers, but they are native English speakers. Good schools can't "sell" non-natives as native speakers.

2 - You might know the English grammar system better than most untrained native speakers but you probably don't know it better than most trained native speakers, and grammar is far from being the most important part of English teaching. As far as speaking English better than many British people...., well, perhaps, but you don't speak it better than most educated and trained British EFL teachers.

I'm not saying you're not a good EFL teacher, but there are many qualified British EFL teachers who want to teach in Italy so your competition is very stiff.

I noticed in your profile that you also sell translations from Italian to English. Most Prozians would consider that a no-no. There are many bilingual people out there but few with two mother tongues.

There are schools in Italy who hire non-natives but they are usually second rate. I suggest you try a school like Wall Street or Inlingua. Personally, and I don't want to sound too harsh, I would never hire a non-native EFL teacher. Sorry.


[Edited at 2006-03-09 09:59]


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meladui
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
well well... Mar 9, 2006

Mr. Walsh, I don't think you should comment on my language skills as you don't know me. As far as translating is conerned, I am not a translator. I am planning on training as soon as I have enough money to pay for the course, I joined this community to learn the job.
As far as English teaching is concerned, I have compleated the Cambridge CELTA, and I assure you that I coped with the work better than some 'native' English speakers with language related degrees.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 18:34
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Pardon my hair-splitting but.. Mar 9, 2006

meladui wrote:

The same goes for being Native. Do you actually have to be born in an English speaking country? and what country in Europe is not "English speaking"?




I must clarify first that I am not a native English speaker either, but I think in the above quoted sentence, a native English speaker would have used the pronoun "which" in place of "what". Correct me if I am wrong, native English speakers.

It is such nuancic details that non-native speakers of any language miss and it is because of this that such a premium is attached to native-speakers of any language.

Having said that, I would like to add that English is rapidly turning into a language of non-native speakers. According to some surveys, in the coming decade itself, people for whom English is a second language will far outnumber those for whom it is the first language, that is, it is a native language.

May be, then people will put a premium on being bilingual in English and another language.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 08:04
German to English
Native speakers vs. trained teachers Mar 9, 2006

Being a native speaker gives an EFL teacher certain advantages, but we should also not overlook the importance of training. Here's an article that should be of interest.

Mexicans are often better English teachers than native speakers

Story by: Gerry Mugford
Some excerpts:

After all, a native speaker must be better than a Mexican at teaching English. Right? The answer is often an uncomfortable "No," which may surprise you. The jury is still out, but there is a lot in favor of the Mexican English-language teacher.

... you might be asked whether you have a teaching certificate. Why would you be asked if you have a teaching certificate if you are a "perfect" native speaker? Answer: Speaking a language and teaching it are two very different things.

So for foreigners aspiring to teach English in Guadalajara, perhaps it's not a bad idea to take a teacher-training course, of which they are many departments around the city on offer by prestige language institutes and universities.

http://www.guadalajarareporter.com/fullstory.cfm?section=language&id=84


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Lakshmi Iyer  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:04
Italian to English
+ ...
The "native" issue Mar 9, 2006

Hi there,

The "native" question has been discussed before in the forums and you might find it interesting to read through previous posts on this subject.

For what it's worth, I am NOT a native English speaker in that I was born in a country - India - where English is only one of several official languages and where only a small percentage of the population speaks genuinely fluent English.

That said, I translate into English for the simple reason that it's the language I grew up with and am most comfortable with. English was the language most commonly used at home and I was sent off when I was six years old to an excellent public school where we studied everything in English. I grew up reading and writing exclusively in English, to the extent that I have unfortunately "lost" what would technically be considered my mother tongue, a South Indian language called Tamil.

Nevertheless, I always make it clear when applying for translation jobs that I speak English "to native standard" and then leave it to clients to decide whether they wish to give me a job. Fortunately, I've managed to build up a small base of loyal clients - French, Italian and British - who seem happy with my work.

In your particular case, I can't help wondering if being an Italian in Italy (I'm assuming this is the case) diminishes your chances of being taken seriously as someone whose English is "just as good as the natives". I agree with Carly's point that it's often the students themselves who want a "native" - as in British, American, Australian etc. - speaker to teach them. Language is so tied up with culture that many students might not be happy learning English from someone who, as far as they can tell, is as Italian as themselves. Students learning English might well be eager to learn about British or American customs as their grasp of the language improves: what's a typical English Christmas like? - that sort of thing.

As Abdellatif and Marie-Helene suggested, try ringing them or sending across a demo tape. Perhaps you could also suggest that you'd be willing to teach beginner level classes to start with: if the students are grappling with "Hello" and "What's your name?" it shouldn't make much difference whether they're being taught by a native speaker or a non-native with good English.

If you enjoy teaching English and are good at it, hang in there and keep trying. Something will turn up, as one of my favourite Dickensian characters was wont to say.

Apologies for this rambling - but hopefully useful - post.

Good luck,

Kaveri


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 06:04
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Great point Mar 9, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:

meladui wrote:

The same goes for being Native. Do you actually have to be born in an English speaking country? and what country in Europe is not "English speaking"?




I must clarify first that I am not a native English speaker either, but I think in the above quoted sentence, a native English speaker would have used the pronoun "which" in place of "what". Correct me if I am wrong, native English speakers.

It is such nuancic details that non-native speakers of any language miss and it is because of this that such a premium is attached to native-speakers of any language.

Having said that, I would like to add that English is rapidly turning into a language of non-native speakers. According to some surveys, in the coming decade itself, people for whom English is a second language will far outnumber those for whom it is the first language, that is, it is a native language.

May be, then people will put a premium on being bilingual in English and another language.



I've started a similar thread last month... And it's good to see that this discussion will never end, because there is always something else to add to this pot...

The point that Balasubramaniam makes is interesting. Yes, "which" would be more correct as far as grammar is concerned, but we cannot assume that all natives are excellent speakers!

Time after time, I've correct my husband (who's a Californian) when he says "I should of did it." He's the native, so does that mean that I should follow his example? The big difference here is that natives who are not linguists "don't care" much about the intrinsic details WE, as translators/teachers/interpreters must pay attention to, regardless of the fact of being a native speaker.

It's hard to establish a rule. If you've been living in an English-speaking country for xxx years, you're a native speaker! If you're an ESL teacher, you're a native speaker! If you've been to university in an English-speaking country, you're a native speaker!

The three statements above may be true for some, but are not enough recommendations when it comes down to familiarity with and proficiency in the language... Unfortunately, this is a very nuanced subject indeed!

[Edited at 2006-03-09 16:27]


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