“Brazilian teachers of English are good for nothing!?”

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Dear TESOLer,

I’ve recently been contacted* by an online English school offering their courses…

A – Mr Fernando Guarany, please.
B – Yes, how can I help you?
A – I’m speaking on behalf of *** school. I’d like to be checking (sic) your interest in our English course as we are now offering 50% off.
B – Thank you but my command of English is good enough. In fact, I am an English teacher.
A – So, Mr Fernando, let’s improve your English with our method which is way superior to the ones employed by traditional schools.
B – Why is your method superior?
A – Er … because you will be studying with native English-speaking teachers!
B – Oh, wait! So, Brazilian teachers of English are good for nothing, then!?
A – It’s not that. But you will end up learning wrong English and won’t develop your confidence to speak English in real life… because what makes you develop your confidence to speak English is studying with native English teachers!
B – Whoah! Do you remember I told you that I myself am a Brazilian teacher of English?

(Silence. Call centre noise. End of call.)

* This is an adapted text, not a telephone call transcription 

How do you feel about it?

Fernando Guarany
President

BRAZ-TESOL Rio Grande do Norte Chapter
“Together we’re stronger”

…………………………………………….

Here’s a similar version in Brazilian Portuguese:

Chamada telefônica que recebi recentemente:

A – Por favor, o Sr. Fernando Guarany
B – Pois não.
A – Aqui é da escola de inglês online ***. Gostaria de estar checando (sic) seu interesse em nosso curso de inglês, pois estamos com 50% de desconto.
B – Obrigado. Mas já falo inglês bem. Na verdade, sou professor de inglês.
A – Então, Sr. Fernando, vamos melhorar o seu inglês com nosso método que é muito superior ao das escolas tradicionais.
B – Por que é superior?
A – Hã!? … porque o senhor vai estar estudando (sic) com professores nativos.
B – Alto lá! Os professores brasileiros não prestam, então!?
A – Não é isso. Mas o senhor acaba aprendendo errado e não desenvolve a confiança para falar inglês na vida realporque o que desenvolve sua confiança para falar inglês é estudar com professores nativos.
B – Mas você lembra que eu falei no início que eu sou professor de inglês?

(Silêncio. Ruído de call center. Fim da chamada.)

* Isto não é uma transcrição da chamada, mas um texto adaptado.

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10 Responses to “Brazilian teachers of English are good for nothing!?”

  1. Cary Wasserman says:

    Asking the question in this either/or, binary manner trivializes the issue. And saying he IS an English teacher is not the rejoinder he apparently believes it to be, but instead is evidence of the limitation of understanding of a nuance that is readily apparent to an educated native.

    Like

    • BRAZTESOL RN says:

      Thank you for your comment, Mr Wasserman. But why does it trivialise the issue? Wasn’t that message exactly what the online school intended to impart, i.e., that one can only learn ESOL if one studies with a NEST (therefore implying that L2 speakers are ‘good for nothing’)?

      I accept that not all English teachers have an adequate command of the target language (for teaching purposes) and, yes, there’s always room for improvement, however I did tell the caller my command of English was good enough – and my opinion should have been respected, not ignored. Now your claim about ‘evidence’ is absolutely preposterous – neither do you know me nor my background in education to make that assertion about my understanding of the issue. If you’d like to deepen the discussion into the matter, please feel free to reply – otherwise, go in peace!

      Fernando Guarany

      Like

  2. Absolutely shocking. Wonder which school it might have been.
    I run TEFL Equity Advocates: http://www.teflequityadvocates.com and was wondering if you’d like to repost the dialogue there with a bit of commentary perhaps. Is this a common situation? Are ‘native speakers’ used as unique selling points by schools? What needs to be done for this situation to change?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fernando, I can well believe that you have put considerable time and effort into the process of becoming an English teacher, find it admirable, and am certain you have much to offer your students.

      I don’t know why you think it preposterous that some evidence – demonstration, if you prefer – of your ability beyond just your word for it might be asked. No, I don’t know you or your background, but some verification – test scores, certificates, diplomas, as well as, in a case such as this, examples of speaking ability is customary as an indication of command of the language. The caller may have been remiss in not asking follow-up questions – where have you taught, what levels, where did you study – but probably was really only interested in signing up as many people as possible, likely as payment for the person’s own classes. And it really isn’t uncommon for people (clearly not you!) to make greater claims for themselves and their abilities than are warranted.

      I say it trivializes the issue because not all native teachers are equally good teachers, not all students have the same abilities, nor are responsive to the same kind of teachers, nor do they have the same reasons for learning the language. At some levels, particularly beginners, qualified speakers of their own language may be a much better option. With more experience the balance shifts. But your inference of “good for nothing” is nonsense.

      Writing or saying “I’d like to be checking” indicates need for additional work with grammar. If the Portuguese you provide for that phrase is grammatically correct then there might be other issues that can generate considerably more significant misunderstandings that have been taught by the non-native, that include but are not limited to mispronunciations and false cognates. My students generally have some of these problems, regardless of fluency, that they learned from non-native teachers who were convinced that they were correct, that can prove difficult to overcome. Phrases and expressions in common use that derive from key literary texts such as Shakespeare’s plays or the Bible of his time, or activities not usual for Brazilians, like baseball, can require special attention.

      Like

      • BRAZTESOL RN says:

        Thank you for replying, Mr Wasserman. You are right: I have indeed put substantial time and effort into becoming a language teacher, teacher trainer and competent L2-speaker. Therefore, I take it to heart when anyone makes rather thin and uninformed statements about vital language education issues such as the NEST x NNEST matter.

        As for the caller asking for demonstration of ability, I think it would make things even worse: it was not a job interview; I did not call the school to ask for a job – or anything else. It was the school who rang to offer their services, which I clearly asserted I did not need. If her intention was to convince me, asking for my qualifications (thus putting me up against the wall) would have been the last thing to ever do.

        I am fully aware that the utterance “I’d like to be checking…” (“Gostaria de estar verificando”) is a rather awkward use of both the English and Portuguese languages, therefore I added sic (sic erat scriptum) to indicate to readers that the original text was erroneous from a prescriptive point of view.

        Now as for the rest of your response, rather than invest time in replying directly to you, I will devote energy to writing a full article on the NEST x NNEST, ELF (English as a Lingua Franca), etc issue. In time I will share the piece with the ELT (English Language Teaching) community here and tag you so you can join the conversation, if you so wish.

        For the time being, allow me to leave you a (hopefully) enlightening quote from Levis et al (2016:25):

        “Being an NNEST or NEST is not a critical factor in teachers being effective . . . teachers.” Levis, J. M., S. Sonsaat, S. Link & T. A. Barriuso (2016). Native and non-native teachers of L2 pronunciation: Effects on learner performance. TESOL Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/tesq.272

        Best wishes,

        Fernando Guarany

        Like

      • I look forward to reading your article, Fernando.
        About your “I am fully aware that the utterance “I’d like to be checking…” (“Gostaria de estar verificando”) is a rather awkward use of both the English and Portuguese languages, therefore I added sic,” the sic hadn’t appeared in your text. I can’t comment on whether the phrase is an “awkward use” in Portuguese, but in English it is not awkward, it is wrong, but not in the sense that, for example, “ain’t” was once considered wrong by grammarians but was nonetheless commonly in use.

        What I would hope you and other NNEST folk would address would not be whether your training can make you more effective or even superior teachers but rather a realistic appraisal of the conditions under which each teaching sector might have strengths less commonly found in the other. And yes, as I’ve seen pointed out, there are voluminous materials available to presumably level the playing field, but almost all the students I’ve had have schedules that allow them barely enough time for class, as well as insufficient experience with certain different conventions – such as how information is stored – to be able to determine on their own the acceptable ways to use expressions – separable if multi-word, tense variations, e.g., even including the above use of “check.”

        I would suggest that any reputable English school ought to have at least one staff member who is a native speaker to address such concerns which will inevitably arise, and set aside what appears to be a basic article of faith that even intensive preparation, as it would be for a Portuguese teacher, that material that is second-nature to a native speaker will have been covered in your lessons.

        The issue really ought to be what will be best for assisting the student to achieve their goal of developing some level of proficiency.

        Like

    • Shocking, Marek, that you are shocked! Imagine a business enterprise trying to get an advantage by way of a unique selling point. My observation is that English schools employing non-native speakers are by far in the majority, and have nothing to fear from schools preferring native speakers. In fact they have a unique advantage in being able to fluently and eloquently sell their services to companies and schools in their own language, in addition to legal requirements that make it difficult or impossible for most qualified native speakers to obtain such clients.

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  3. BRAZTESOL RN says:

    Hi, Marek. Thanks for your comment. I’m familiar with the invalulable work carried out by TEFL Equity Advocates and will be pleased to repost the dialogue on your website with further info and commentary. I’m flying back home this evening after attending two important TESOL conferences in Brazil (BRAZ-TESOL Intl Conf in Brasilia and ABCI in Fortaleza). The loud and clear message I heard there was: in many ways L2-speaking teachers are superior to NEST (Ken Wilson and Laura Pastko). Thanks again for your comment and engagement.

    Fernando Guarany

    Like

  4. Hmmmm Fernando. If you serious believe that the message is “L2 speaking teachers are superior to NESTs” than you are as much a part of the problem as native speakers thinking they are superior teachers of English.

    The superior teacher is a black and white specimen, an either / or. Ken Wilson and Laura Pastko, if you correctly heard their message, should be called on the carpet for such an asinine and clearly “playing to the audience” assertion. It does our profession a disservice.

    Like

    • BRAZTESOL RN says:

      Thank you for commenting, Mr Deubelbeiss, but you have misconstrued me. Never did I intend to mean that L2-speaking teachers are superior to NEST simply for being non-native. Nor did Ken Wilson or Laura Patsko intend to imply that, I’m sure. So, let’s make it clear: my full statement reads “IN MANY WAYS, L2-speaking teachers are superior to NEST” (Please do not misrepresent me by quoting only a fragment of my statement out of context.) In other words, NEST and L2-speaking teachers have different strengths and weaknesses in their own ways. Therefore, in that sense, yes, it can be said that both NEST and L2-speaking teachers have advantages over each other in certain aspects and are consequently superior in those aspects! Allow me to quote directly from Ms Patsko’s slides: “Teachers who share the learners’ L1 have a bilingual advantage and are good L2 role models.” (available from elfpron.wordpress.com).

      Finally, Mr Deubelbeiss, your use of “if you correctly heard their message” comes across as a very condescending ad hominem way to imply that I was unable to understand what the speakers said. Perhaps because I am an L2-speaker, Mr Deubelbeiss?😉

      Fernando Guarany

      Like

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