From The Yemen Observer: Nine Myths

An article on nine myths about learning and teaching English recently jumped out at me; it’s in the Yemen Observer and by English language Professor Nafisa Bin Tayeh. The myths are direct quotes from the text and my thoughts are in parentheses after each; for the author’s full explanation, see the article itself in the above link.

  • Myth #1: If I can speak English well, then I can teach it well. (I agree that this is a myth.)
  • Myth # 2: Native speakers are the best teachers. (I also agree that this is a myth but I’d point out that native speakers aren’t necessarily the worst teachers either, and being a native speaker doesn’t automatically preclude “understanding how learning happens” – in the words of a teacher I met, not the author here – or having insight into how L1 affects a learner’s English.)
  • Myth # 3: Anyone can open up a language institute. (In fact in many places, I think nearly anyone can open one but that doesn’t mean they should or it will be a good one.)
  • Myth # 4: Faster is better. (This should be at the top of the list!)
  • Myth # 5: There’s an easy way to learn the language. (I think there are easier and more difficult ways, and better or, well, worse ways to learn, but concur that it’s rarely “easy”.)
  • Myth # 6: When I finish all of the levels, I’ve learned the language, or, Why do I have to study twenty levels? (It’s hard to put this any better; I’ve been similarly stumped when a student says he wants to write all his business correspondence correctly and without hesitation in English and then asks “How long will that take?”)
  • Myth # 7: I know better than you do. Students and parents frequently decide that a student’s placement is “incorrect” or that the student should be studying in such-and-such a level. (In my experience placement can be wrong or done too quickly, and for a variety of reasons, but at some point students and parents need to accept the decision of a qualified teacher.)
  • Myth # 8: Cheaper is better. (It’s certainly easy to empathize with this – and I don’t know if it’s a myth or just a hope, but I agree that it is typically not true.)
  • Myth # 9: If I study at a good institute, I’ll learn to speak the language well. (I agree: in large part it comes down to personal initiative, motivation and hard work.)