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Do I have to be fluent before TEFL?

peteop

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Joined: February 8th, 2011
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Tags: tefl, teaching english as a foreign language, living abroad, english, teaching english
  • Added on: February 10th, 2011
Hey guys, I've been reading through all the threads concerning TEFL and I have pretty paramount question. Although I'm fairly certain of the answer, is knowing the native language before going to teach English in that country a requirement? For example, if I were to go teach English in South Korea, would I have to know Korean first? Or is it possible to start teaching English without knowing any Korean? I just figured it might be hard to teach a foreign language to someone if you can't communicate with them in their native tongue.

Thanks!!

Pete
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Mama-to-many

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  • Added on: February 10th, 2011
When I started teaching English 20 years ago it was in Poland and I couldn't speak much Polish right at the beginning. Linguistically speaking there are arguments both for and against total immersion like that - in my case necessity prevailed, although even once I could speak Polish well, I tended to stick with English.
That said, outside of class I readily engaged with students in Polish as I was making a huge effort to learn their heart language too. Some other teachers didn't. You can guess who was most respected.

Back home in New Zealand, I tutored refugees - they were desperate for English, but this time I used the Polish to *connect* with them (although they were Bulgarian, the languages are similar enough to be somewhat understandable)
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EMH

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  • Added on: February 10th, 2011
peteop wrote:Hey guys, I've been reading through all the threads concerning TEFL and I have pretty paramount question. Although I'm fairly certain of the answer, is knowing the native language before going to teach English in that country a requirement? For example, if I were to go teach English in South Korea, would I have to know Korean first? Or is it possible to start teaching English without knowing any Korean? I just figured it might be hard to teach a foreign language to someone if you can't communicate with them in their native tongue.

Thanks!!

Pete


If that were a requirement, about 99% of english teachers would be out of a job. In fact, some countries believe in the total immersion model and don't want you to speak any of the native language to your students.
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busman7

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Location: Traveling for a while away from Playa San Diego SV

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  • Added on: February 11th, 2011
EMH wrote:
peteop wrote:Hey guys, I've been reading through all the threads concerning TEFL and I have pretty paramount question. Although I'm fairly certain of the answer, is knowing the native language before going to teach English in that country a requirement? For example, if I were to go teach English in South Korea, would I have to know Korean first? Or is it possible to start teaching English without knowing any Korean? I just figured it might be hard to teach a foreign language to someone if you can't communicate with them in their native tongue.

Thanks!!

Pete


If that were a requirement, about 99% of english teachers would be out of a job. In fact, some countries believe in the total immersion model and don't want you to speak any of the native language to your students.


When I took my TEFL in Bangkok last year we were told the Thai schools preferred teachers that didn't know the language.
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peteop

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Location: Columbus, Ohio

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  • Added on: February 11th, 2011
That's what I figured, I couldn't really imagine that every new English instructor in South Korea came in already knowing Korean. Thanks for getting back so quick!
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. -Lao Tzu

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TedKarma

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  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
At my last job at a university in Korea, the native-speaker French teacher was fired for teaching using too much Korean. The issue is that most EFL students have already studied English/French/Whatever language for years - in their native language. Kind of like talking about English - but using Korean, Chinese or whatever. Thus the poor level of English skills many EFL students have even after 4-5-6 years of study.

But - studying a language is a bit like driving a car - you can talk about it and talk about it, but eventually you have to get in the car and drive. With English, you can talk about and talk about it in Korean/Chinese/Whatever, but eventually you have to learn to listen and speak in ENGLISH.

Teachers who use too much of the students' first language actually devalue their worth as a native speaker. Why should the school hire you and pay you double what they pay a local teacher if you are going to teach in Korean? They can just hire a well skilled local teacher instead - usually for half the money or even less.

The issue becomes more important after you spend a few years in a country and begin to gain some facility in the local language. It is important to remember your function as a "native speaker".

Uh . . . just my opinion.
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Fluffy_bunny

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Joined: October 28th, 2010
Location: Erbil, Iraq

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  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
I have been working in Education for the better part of a decade. In that time i have worked in China, Russia, Croatia, Turkey, Spain, Japan, Cambodia, China (again), Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Mexico and now Yemen. Clearly i don't speak 11 different languages. I made in effort in some countries, in others i settled for "hello" "goodbye" and "thank-you". I have met ex-pats who have been living and working in Country X for ages and still can't even say that much.
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