China Radio International investigation of EF

Some of the criticism is a bit random, but the reports of refusing refunds and Western-looking but non-native teachers seem genuine:

Behind the Foreign Brand Name (radio programme and transcript)

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5 Responses to China Radio International investigation of EF

  1. AliceInWonderland says:

    Hi Alex,
    Interesting article.
    I taught in Korea before but am presently “in transit” (or maybe “in-decision”). I still like to read your blog though.
    Id’ like to comment on the accent-thing: I’m from South Africa and initially my Korean students (all adults / university students) would find it hard to understand me.because of my accent. After a week or two, though, they’d be OK with my “accent”.
    Now. Many of my students were Hyundai businessmen who had to attend international conferences in Europe. They’d all been studying English (mostly American English + American accent) for YEARS and you can imagine how disappointed they were when they couldn’t “understand a word” of English being spoken by a Dutch, German or Italian businessman.
    Long story short: I don’t know what to make of this “accent” business. Will being taught by an American or a Brit, as opposed to an Australian or a South African or even a Russian REALLY help that much more in “understanding English”?
    I would really like to know?

  2. alexcase says:

    That was one of the criticisms that I thought was a bit random. At beginner levels it makes no difference at all how much of an accent your teacher has. At higher levels some non-native teachers don’t speak quickly and use enough natural elision etc to give their students a good challenge and model of what they’d meet elsewhere, but frankly some native speakers who’ve been teaching and/ or living abroad for too long have the same problem. The only (minor) advantage of a British or American teacher for most students is that most media is still in one of those accents,

    The point with EF is they were advertising native speaker teachers and unconditional refunds, and apparently providing neither to some students.

  3. AliceInWonderland says:

    Thanks for your response and for the valid the points you made.
    As far as EF is concerned: I’ve never worked for them but their “money back”-guarantee sounds like a VERY obvious, VERY cheap shot to me. (Then again, I’m from Africa – I smell a rat everywhere 🙂 Just joking.)
    For the sake of completeness (and somewhat off-topic): Most of the South African TEFL teachers I met and/or dealt with abroad were in high demand because they worked hard & were prepared to put up with a variety of difficulties / hardships etc. without complaining.
    BUT and HOWEVER.
    I did, on one or two occasions, meet ‘native speakers’ from South Africa who astonished me with their (really) bad command of the English language. If one of these ‘native speakers’ had to end up teaching my OWN children English, I would be extremely concerned and certainly do much worse than ask for my money back!
    Thanks for your blog.

  4. Daniel says:

    “At beginner levels it makes no difference at all how much of an accent your teacher has.”

    I disagree. Strong accents which are not considered “standard” may not be any better or worse than standard, but they might put a student at a disadvantage later on, because standard is more identifiable and used simply because people have had more contact with it. Although accent / pronunciation is probably less important than the emphasis my students give to it in Russia, I would say that the extreme opposite is a mistake as well. Didn’t the the British invent the class system and placing too much emphasis on accent and your home city anyway? 😉

    I can think of plenty native English speakers who have very good command of foreign languages, but surprisingly poor pronunciation and accent. More often than not, I would say that their listening ability tends to be weaker and they often don’t recognize words that they would know on paper. It’s much harder to change accent and pronunciation further down the road than it is grammar. But this is just my opinion and hasn’t been proven by the scientific method like all the other TEFL “research” out there. 😉

    Don’t forget, that image is important too for most people. Just as people wear brands, a lot of language learners enjoy the image that goes along with their skill set. If you have a strong ebonics English accent, no one is going to be impressed.

    At the end of the day, if the Chinese want to sound like the Queen and they are willing to pay more, why should we indoctrinate them with our western political correctness and tolerance attitude by telling them that it really doesn’t matter. It’s like telling your client that their tastes aren’t correct.

    What is interesting to me is that I would say most native language speakers often evaluate someone’s L2 language skills based on accent or sounding local, not vocabulary or overall knowledge. To be honest, pronunciation isn’t the most important thing, but for me I want to sound local regardless of how realistic it is, and I think most English language learners would also share this desire.

  5. AliceInWonderland says:

    @Daniel, I’m quite pleased that you made the point about the “Western political correctness & tolerance” attitude as well as the point about “image” because I completely agree with those.

    In my case, the whole accent business becomes a bit of an existential question (maybe?) —- all my ancestors are from the Northern parts of Europe, including the British Isles. But through an “accident of birth” (as per William Meredith) I was born on this continent (Africa) at this time in history.

    “Die geskiedenis is teen jou, my broer”, said a well-known South African political analyst once, not too long ago. VERY loosely translated as: “History /the past is against you, my brother.” (Or, obviously: my sister).

    I don’t think that too many Chinese /Taiwanese / Koreans / Japanese / Russians etc concern themselves with the existential angst of (some!) native speakers from the colonies — and rightly so 🙂

    What I want to know. Daniel, is:, what does it mean to “sound local”? In English.

    If you can clarify that for me, you’d have done a great deal 🙂

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