Chap. 35: How to teach a language that is not your mother tongue

There are a lot of conflicts associated with figuring out who is or should be allowed to teach a foreign language class. On the one hand, a teacher whose first language isn’t the language being taught would have a better understanding of the challenges a lot of new learners’ experience, thus being able to recommend more relevant tactics. On the other hand, the non-native teacher may also make mistakes, not comprehend the contextual use of certain expressions at its full spectrum, and promote a specific accent different from that of natives.

Regardless of the controversy, it is still unfair, even unethical to assume that a native speaker would be a better teacher. Like they say, it’s not so much what you have than how you use it. For those teaching or wanting to teach a language that is not their first, here are some tips to keep in mind to help you have a smoother experience when sharing your linguistic passions:

1) Prepare well in advance

By this, I’m not only talking about lesson planning, but also reviewing key concepts or points before a class. During this preview time, make sure to predict any questions (like counter-arguments) that may arise during class time. Even though it’s unfair to assume the teacher is the principal source of all knowledge, it is still their role to be as accurate as possible in their lessons since unlike other subjects, languages are used for communicative purposes. Any incoherence will impair all further understanding of one another’s needs and wants. If you do make a mistake, just remember to keep your tone confident and state what you think. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes because at the end of the day, you’re trying to provide them with the right skills to express themselves in the target language, not prove to them how expert you are at it.

2) Keep learning

Mastering a language takes a lifetime (and beyond). It’s a muscle that constantly needs to be trained. There is always something to learn. So never stop keeping up to date with colloquial expressions by watching shows or reading articles in the target language. You will also engage in the language in a passionate way like you did when you were first learning it. Teaching is about sharing a love for a topic. Don’t let that spark die! Your enthusiasm has a huge impact on the motivation of the students who receive your teaching.

3) Be open-minded

There will come times where you will make mistakes and that’s completely normal. During these moments, it’s important to laugh along. This will allow the students to feel comfortable with making errors throughout their journey. While we don’t want to fossilize an intermediate level of a language that is not grammatically correct, we also don’t want to create unnecessary anxiety for the students when speaking. Be kind and warm. Build a safe space for each individual. Always remind yourself at the end of the day that you’re there to help them.


Teaching a language that is not your mother tongue is a very daunting task as your insecurities can get out of control. Nevertheless, it is a fulfilling move to commit to when you see not only how far your students have come, but also yourself.

Don’t ever let others’ doubt eclipse your confidence.

You definitely have what it takes to train others to become effective communicators in the target language like yourself.

May your day be filled with glorious moments of gratitude and inspiration! ❤




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