Native speaker or Russian teacher?

What is the best way to learn a foreign language – with a native speaker or with a Russian teacher? Do not rush to answer, let’s consider in detail the pros and cons of both options.

What does a native speaker give us in learning a language and french to english? In the performance of the carrier, we hear the pronunciation, intonation, rhythm, melody of speech. We begin to feel and perceive the system and structure of the language – not because we learn the rules and a lot of exceptions, but because we turn on the internal, natural speech recognition mechanism.

The language environment is the nutrient solution in which our skills will grow the fastest.

These were quite obvious advantages of studying with a native speaker, and now let’s talk about the cons.

Native speakers are different. Take a look around: could any person from your environment, a native speaker of Russian, be a worthy role model for his speech? Is this person’s speech literate and cultured enough, is the diction good? Agree that these requirements are not adequately met by the first counter media. And on the example of modern Russian school teachers, one has to admit a sad fact: even the presence of a specialized education is not a guarantee that a person speaks Russian correctly. It is much more difficult to assess the actual level of the native speaker with whom you are going to learn not your native, but a foreign language, than the level of a teacher in Russian! In practice, it is not so easy to meet a high-quality native teacher. Those of you who have already encountered such a problem know what we are talking about: anyone comes to teach courses as “teachers-carriers”, people from the street in the literal sense of the word – hastily trained to “teach” housewives, waiters and others seekers of overseas happiness.

In addition, the Western style of teaching is very different from the Russian one, and not always for the better.

Is the language environment a panacea? Is not a fact. Remember how many acquaintances you have who have lived abroad for many years, but never speak a foreign language. How can this even be? A foreign language environment is a psychologically aggressive environment, especially for an adult. In children, adaptive mechanisms are much higher. The point is not at all in the attitude of the locals towards you – they can be very friendly, but in the reaction of your brain, for which this whole situation is an extremely severe stress. The response to stress is highly individual. Few of us have such perfect stress resistance that such “immersion” turns out to be effective in terms of learning the language, and not negative in relation to the psyche and nervous system. Therefore, often a person simply abstracts from all this foreign environment alien to him, leaving himself a small window into the world around him. In this “window” it is enough to know a certain set of foreign phrases and the necessary routes for movement.

*Since “immersion” in the language environment is mentioned, this term needs to be clarified. In Soviet times, the immersion method was practiced in certain structures. And even taking into account the strict selection of cadets, this method was far from useful for everyone. Also take into account that the “immersion” was never for beginners, but only for students who already had a high level of development of foreign language skills. However, a significant part of the cadets, instead of advancing in the language, received powerful symptoms of extreme stress: headaches, sleep disorders, and so on. This experience should be taken into account if you are going to learn a language in this way. Are you ready to dive into the language? Is your skill level sufficient? And most importantly: do your psychological characteristics correspond to this method? It is also important to know that the authentic immersion method involves the complete absence of any communication in your native language during the training period. But if you are offered evening gatherings in a language club, calling it “immersion”, feel free to agree if you like the company that gathers there: this is just language practice in the form of live communication, not immersion. There are no contraindications.

Is it not worth recognizing, based on the foregoing, that learning a language with a local teacher is more reliable and productive?

Let’s start with the most obvious fact: domestic teachers, like carriers, are different. Among them there are people who are really good at the language they teach, and at the same time are at the top in terms of method, that is, they are able to convey their knowledge to students. But there are very few such teachers, even in the capital. Brief illustration: the Center for Language Psychology’s many years of experience in full-time teaching has shown that in order to find one teacher for a trial period, at least 50 resumes should be processed. Then about 30 selected candidates to talk on the phone to schedule 10 interviews. Out of 10, only 1 can be allowed to work for a trial period. Obviously, not everyone has the opportunity and the necessary professional skills to conduct such a casting.

The main advantage of studying with a local teacher is that this is the person who will introduce you to a foreign language, starting from your native language. All grammar rules will be explained to you in an understandable language, with simple examples. With vocabulary, you will also go from your native language, learning the meaning of foreign words that are equivalent to native ones. This path is much more psychologically comfortable than learning a foreign language with a native speaker, especially from scratch.

What are the downsides? In the vast majority of cases, having sat down with a Russian teacher for a long time, you will never part with a Russian. You will learn to constantly translate from Russian into a foreign language and vice versa, in writing and orally, instead of learning to automatically switch to a foreign language in a communication situation.

Another problem is familiar to those who have already studied any language with a native speaker. Studying with a local teacher, in 99 cases out of 100 you will have to put up with the Russian pronunciation of foreign words. For some, this is acceptable, but for someone it hurts the ear so much that this option immediately disappears. In addition to the subjective like-dislike factor, there is also an objective point here: while you are listening to the “Russian version” of another language, your ear is not trained in the slightest. But without it, one cannot build either listening comprehension of the native speakers or pronunciation.