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Usually, people will learn from someone that is fluent in that language and is a native speaker, allowing them to learn from those to truly know the language. Others, though, learn from non-native speakers who also know the language quite well. There are some ups and downs of learning from an non-native speaker compared to a native speaker being the teacher.

So, what are the pros and cons of learning from an non-native speaker rather than a native speaker? Please use studies to support your answer, not opinions!

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Generally learning from native speakers is better. The best study for this conclusion is the simple fact that almost all people know their native language best and almost all of those people learned their native language from native speakers. However, it may be easiest to start learning a language from someone who speaks your own native language, and once you get the hang of it to start learning from native speakers.


Non-native speakers

Pros

  • Can help you with common pitfalls in learning the new language
  • Can explain things to you in depth using your own native language and can compare concepts to those in your native language more easily

Cons

  • Limited knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, etc. (only what they have studied)
  • More likely to make mistakes concerning how people actually talk (lack of lifelong experience)
  • Accent is not as authentic as native speakers

Native speakers

Pros

  • Often have a knowledge of both what is commonly said and what feels right as well as the grammatical reasons for correctness (especially if they're teachers)
  • Can supplement words, phrases, jokes, and idioms with etymologies and knowledge on in which circumstances they should be used
  • Familiar with the culture and etiquette of native speakers (an important part of communication)
  • Know if certain words are still used or archaic as well as regional usage
  • Immense vocabulary—having spoken the language for decades, native speakers will be familiar with the vocabulary for many fields, from medical to finances to geography to hardware and more

Cons

  • Not always the best for beginners
  • May speak too fast or with accents too thick to understand
  • May not have as much patience with students

Perhaps the best person to learn from would be one who was raised speaking both languages?

  • +1. Seems that answer "it depends", as usual: talking to a non-native L2 speaker speaking your own L1 is acceptable (or even preferable) to get you to B1 level. Afterwards, you need to switch to native L2 speaker to get to C1 level. Makes perfect sense: different needs on different levels. Of course ideal is native L2 speaker who speaks your own L1 on decent level, but we don't live in an ideal world. – Peter M. Jan 8 '18 at 20:04
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Cons:

  1. You could possibly have an accent issue there if the speaker sounds really foreign. This could also potentially disrupt proper pronunciation.
  2. Sometimes, they may be unfamiliar with slang and euphemisms, as they often are unacquainted with the language spoken on the streets and are familiar with the language in a textbook.
  3. They may be unfamiliar with extremely specific or complex terms as they don't come up in common speech and are not taught in formal classes.
  4. They don't really understand the culture behind any of the words or phrases they say, which may diminish the language learning experience.

Pros:

  1. Often, non-native speakers understand grammar much better than native speakers do, as they learn proper grammatical terms from a textbook or formal class, while native speakers just say something because it sounds right.

Ex. Native speaker: I am ten years old. I say this because it just sounds right. Non-native speaker: I am ten years old. I say this because of xyz grammatical technique/occurrence.

Overall, it's best to stick with a native speaker for your learning.

  • 1
    I studied Japanese in high school and all of my instructors were non-native speakers. I think it depends more heavily on whether the speaker understands the language well enough to teach it. – Alex A. Apr 6 '16 at 0:48
  • 2
    When you say "Native speaker", either "sounds right" or "it is a grammar rule xyz" might apply, depending on education level. – user3169 Apr 6 '16 at 4:28
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Assuming he/she is proficient in the desired language, a non-native speaker:

Pros

  • Will help correct your grammar. Unlike a native speaker who knows a language (virtually) from birth, a non-native speaker can explain a certain grammar rule that you might have used incorrectly eg. word order, conjugation, suffixes etc.
  • Will usually be more patient since they are aware of the level of effort that is required to master a language. This is in contrast to a native speaker who might consider their language to be quite logical and easy to learn

Cons

  • Might never fully reach the level of native speaker himself. Thus at best you'll eventually know only as much as he (non-native) does, after which you might need to consult a native speaker anyway. This would depend on how well you'd like to learn your language
  • Might not be completely familiar with colloquial/slang terms. Formal language learning literature, which a non-native speaker would have used, wouldn't contain colloquial/slang terms since they are usually specific to a certain geography and changing all the time. A native speaker would be aware of such terminology. Usage of certain languages rely on such terms more than others however.

Regrettably none of this is research, just personal experience.

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There are in fact two dimensions: Native Speaker vs. Non-Native Speaker and the second dimension is Trained Language Teacher vs. Layperson.

Having a Native Speaker who is also a Trained language Teacher is of course the best choice, when such a person is available and affordable. Having a non-native layperson is again obviously the worst (but still better than no one at all and trying to learn from books and audio materials only).

I'd prefer a Trained Language Teacher (non-native) over a Native Speaker who is a layperson for language learning, but one can argue about this point. Having a mixture (a non-native Teacher plus some practice/conversation with a native speaker) is a very good combination.

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