I think the core of teaching English as second language should be intelligibility but not native like fluency.

This is not just my personal opinion but it is the opinion of many scholars who make reserch on TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages).

There are many speakers like me whose English is intelligible but not native like. But we do not have any problem understanding English while speaking within the country or talking to native speakers.

I taught colloboratively with native speakers for three months. We did not have any problems.They understood my English and I could understand native English.

I think that native like English is impossible in the Indian context even if English is taught by native speakers.

what is actually happening in india and some other countries is the teaching in English done by non-native speakers .

In the context native like fluency is an impossibility.

So the only option left is intelligibility.

I hope I will get answers for my question.

My question is: Is the core of teaching English as a second langusge intelligibility or native like fluency?

  • Asking for the "core of teaching" sounds like opinion-based; certainly sometimes the goal is to use the language like a native, while sometimes it is less emphasized, and which one to prefer depends on the goals and conditions. In order to make this less opinion-based, could you specify goals or context of teaching? Or perhaps you would like to ask for arguments for focusing on intelligibility in, say, classroom context?
    – Tommi
    Sep 19, 2019 at 7:52
  • I disagree with closing. It is a valid question, possibly needs some edit. And I disagree with "native like fluency is an impossibility" - it might be beyond many people's time and budget, but it is NOT impossible. Sep 20, 2019 at 10:50
  • I have closed this question because ESL teaching can have different goals, depending on the audience or learners. As far as I know, there is no single goal that applies to all types of ESL teaching or language teaching in general. (In addition, the question also presents a false binary choice, as if there were only to possible goals, when there are many more. This makes the question as such opinion-based.)
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 21, 2019 at 17:21
  • @christophe strobbe.@you can do as you please. but I think native like fluency is a distance dream for many non-native speakers Sep 21, 2019 at 17:27
  • JVL, moderating is not "doing as I please". Your question can be summarised as, "I think X. Don't you agree?" and the Stack Exchange network is not a discussion forum.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 21, 2019 at 17:55

2 Answers 2


It is absolutely intelligibility. Your speech must be intelligible first before it can approach native-like fluency. Even if this were not so, having native-like fluency would be useless if native speakers could not understand you.


Natural order of learning: walk before you run.

Intelligibility is a first goal.

Next goal: as close to native fluency as you can get, considering time available, skills/talent, and learning resources.

  • The answer would be improved by more details and explanations as to why this is true.
    – Tommi
    Sep 20, 2019 at 10:50

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