Selecting English teachers is my job.
For over 25 years, I have been recruiting language teachers for the English Academy. I admit that the selection process is not always easy. We nonetheless commit ourselves to finding the best English teachers available so that our students can realise their goals and dreams. The reputation of our language school depends on it. This means that we must be very strict with the selection criteria we apply.
Your success depends on your choice of a good English teacher.
You have taken the decision to take up English language lessons? Excellent. But how do you select a teacher who can live up to your expectations? There are many candidates for the job of English teacher. How to make the right choice? Do you base yourself on word of mouth or on your intuition? The wrong choice of a teacher will lead to the loss of your time, your money and of your motivation to learn English.
Here, I share my experience as a manager of a language school.
If you realise the importance of finding a good teacher (or a language training centre that takes recruiting seriously), you will find this article particularly useful.
Below, I have selected 5 key features that a great English teacher must possess. These features can also be checked by someone who is not specialised in language training. I strongly advise you to pick a language coach with these five characteristics. Doing so will considerably enhance the chances that you will achieve your goals.
So, without any further ado:
Here are the 5 characteristics of a great English teacher.
1. English must be the English teacher’s mother tongue.
The very first selection criterion is the need of our language teachers to be native speakers. They come from the United Kingdom, Ireland or the USA, where they were raised by English-speaking parents.
If you really want to make progress, nothing beats English teachers who have a complete command over their mother tongue. A native English teacher will interact with you in English only. Such an immersion allows fast progress and an almost instinctive mastery of the language.
And what about pronunciation? A native speaker is a guarantee to learn the language with a genuine English accent. If you need to use a specific accent, you should choose a teacher of the country in question.
Every teacher who teaches their mother tongue can also inform you on the culture of his native country. Every language is intertwined with the culture in which it has its roots. A teacher who can reveal the cultural references of certain expressions and make you understand the mentality of your foreign interlocutors, is an advantage that cannot be neglected.
2. The English teacher has pedagogical qualifications.
Many English teachers do not have a teaching degree, such as a TEFL, a CELTA or a DELTA. They might have experience teaching but they lack specific training for that job. They have got a good knowledge of the target language, but they are no linguists.
I interviewed many would be language teachers who were native speakers without pedagogical references. I then asked them questions as if I were a student myself who didn’t understand a certain topic. Often, they themselves were surprised to notice that they were not able to clearly explain the grammar and the mistakes of non-native speakers.
Before one can teach a language, one must have studied it thoroughly. One does not become a linguist overnight.
Qualified language teachers are also trained to use efficient didactical tools to obtain a better interaction with the students. Being a good educator is something that needs to be learned.
3. A relevant experience in teaching English as a foreign language.
Next to having English as a mother tongue and possessing a linguistic diploma, experience is essential to be an excellent English teacher. Or do you agree to be a guinea pig for an inexperienced teacher?
At the English Academy, we expect our candidates to have at least two years of experience before they can teach for us. We have been able to observe that this experience makes a big difference for the results of our students.
If you have basic or fairly general needs, the experience of your tutor is a mere advantage. But if you are looking for a language coach to learn for instance business English or to coach you for an official English language exam (Cambridge, IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC), then the selection of a teacher who has specific experience in that field becomes a necessity.
It also goes without saying that an experienced teacher has a better knowledge of the didactical material that is available. Someone who is very familiar with the vast resources for teaching English as a foreign language, is obviously better suited to choose those resources that best match your needs.
4. The choice of a specialised language coach.
I have already mentioned business English lessons and preparation for official English exams. This requires specific knowledge that not all language trainers have. If you have such distinct objectives, you must make sure that your teacher has the qualifications that these objectives require.
You also understand that teaching adults and children is not done in the same way. The methods are different.
One cannot be specialised in everything. That is why you need to check not only the general experience of your language teacher but also the specific field of his expertise. A good grammarian will not always be of great help preparing your meetings in English. Some English teachers are very polyvalent but certainly not all of them.
5. Evaluation of the English teacher by his students.
If you consult an online platform of language teachers or if you contact a language school, you should always check if the evaluations of the students are being taken into consideration.
Most online platforms let you access the feedback that is given by other students. This will allow you to form a first impression.
At the English Academy, we send a request for detailed feedback to every student at the end of the language training. This allows the management as well as the teacher to verify what went well and what possibly could have gone better during the training. These comments allow an ongoing monitoring of the quality of our services.
Whatever solution you choose to improve your English, always verify that a similar feedback procedure is put in place. It guarantees you a higher quality standard.
5 characteristics of a great English teacher: conclusion.
An English language course is an efficient solution to learn the language. But it is essential to find a really good teacher. Now, you should be able to find a great teacher with our 5 criteria, that we will quickly resume to conclude.
The English teacher you are looking for is:
Native English speaker. Someone who know his mother tongue thoroughly can truly immerse you in it, can speak with a perfect accent and can inform you on the culture.
Qualified. Make sure your teacher has a diploma as a language teacher. This indicates that he is a skilled linguist who is familiar with the most efficient didactical methods.
Experienced. Choose a language coach who can put his experience at your service, trace your specific needs and find the appropriate didactical material.
Specialised. If you have special requirements, you must make sure that the selected trainer really has the specialised skills to deliver what is expected. Do not take that for granted.
Evaluated. Always check that your English teacher has constantly been assessed by his students and/or the organisation that employs him. It is never a good thing to rest on your laurels and every constructive criticism is useful.
That’s it. You are now better equipped to choose a better English teacher or a language school for your language training.
Good luck learning English!