Learning with a Native Speaker or not?

This post is also available in: Русский (Russian) Español (Spanish)

Choosing between Native Speaker and the teacher that speaks your native language

When you are a complete beginner, you don’t really have a choice but to study with a teacher that can explain stuff to you in your native language. I first came to the US when I was 16, having graduated from a school known as the best school in town that teaches English. All I could understand for the first 6 months is “jujujujuju”. Native speakers’ pronunciation was indiscernible to my ear since I studied with an English teacher who had never lived or been into an English-speaking country. Can you really learn English from the person that doesn’t “really” speak it? I don’t consider myself to be a native speaker, but I think that to be able to teach how to play piano, you must be able to play piano. Best coaches don’t always come from the ranks of the best players, but they could hold their own.

You don’t have to be a mechanic to drive a car

Oftentimes, we want to understand the nuts and bolts of what we are learning and, hence, it’s more effective to do it in your native language. However, the child who is only 4 or 5 years old speaks amazingly well without knowing any grammar rules. How does he do it? Just like when you learned how to drive the car you, didn’t have to pass the test on all the parts in the engine and how the gears shift. You don’t need to know all the rules and terminology about the English grammar to become effective at speaking.

Complete Immersion

Forget about nuts and bolts and focus on immersion. Spending most of the time during the lesson in your native language is counterproductive. Learning a language is not at all like learning math or science. You twist and turn your brain until all of the sudden it starts thinking in a foreign language. It’s almost like magic, you grind and grind and you feel very stupid for a long time, but then, out of nowhere, your brain stops translating. You may even feel a little light headed or confused, but this is the ultimate goal. You might be tempted to show off your intelligence to your teacher, but even a little bit of time spent speaking in your native language during the lesson delays that moment of finally starting to think in English.

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