Promoting Non-native Trainers’ Credibility

Should an ELT trainer be only a native speaker? How are non-native speaker trainers perceived by teachers? This session demonstrated some practical tips to boost non-native trainers’ credibility.

Being a non-native trainer, especially when you have native colleagues is a challenge. Trainees usually have this “non-nativitis” for many reasons, such reasons are related to credibility. Below are some tips to overcome this problem.

  • Language-wise:
  1. Language mistakes:

Non-native speakers have certain types of mistakes, sometimes fossilized, and other times because of L1 interference. Having control over such mistakes is a necessity for non-native trainers. An example is the indirect questions. Many people would say, “Do you know how did learners develop this habit? ” instead of ” Do you know how learners developed this habit? ”

  1. Pronunciation pitfalls:

Having control over pronunciation can help trainees understand better. Atypical pitfall where I come from is using /s/ and /z/ instead of /θ/ and /δ/. For instance, “I think that …” Can sound like “I sink that …”

  1. Have a native accent:

Well, this is controversial. Although the bottom-line is to be clearly and meaningfully understood, having a native accent can make you sound “credible”. In fact, “some Englishes are superpowers”[1]

  • Training-wise:
  1. The 3 Ps:

Prepare, prepare, prepare! Research suggests that 1 minute of presentation needs 1 hour preparation. This is true for both native speaker and non-native speaker trainers.

  1. Using ELT jargon:

Who else would if you don’t? Knowing and demonstrating expressions like: scaffolding, top-down, bottom-up, sub-skills, meta-language, etc. instead of their normal equivalents is a plus point that tells that you are a professional.

  1. Exhibiting ELT acronyms:

This isn’t less important than the previous one. Acronyms is a big industry in the ELT huge industry. Failing to decode things such as: TESOL, TBL, AOL, AFL, etc. is a minus point!

  1. Go visual:

Showing information works better and make the message memorable. Why would a trainer speaks for 1 minute or more explaining the importance of preparation while s/he can put the following picture?

  1. Be at least 1 step ahead:

In terms of training and qualifications. If your trainees have TKT, you should have CELTA; if they have CELTA, have DELTA; if they have DELTA, have masters and so on. In case they reached the PHD, have a specialist area like assessment.

  • Management-wise:
  1. Insist on the proper channels of communication:

This means that you should refer trainees to the right people. If, for example, they ask about as timetable issue that you know very well, but there is a person who is in charge of timetabling, refer them to this specific person. This is not a general rule as sometimes you need save time.

  1. Address issues immediately:

Generally, don’t procrastinate. When dealing with problems promptly they are more likely to be solved. After addressing a certain issue, follow it up and document it for future reference.

  1. Be aware of criticism:

Unless it is constructive. If “criticism” is your middle name, please change it. Try to adopt mutual-respect and sympathy.

  1. Use facts and figures:

Avoid the emotional approach. Consider the following examples, which is better?

Example 1:          Teacher: Why didn’t you select me for the teacher training course?

Trainer/Manager: Well, you haven’t been showing enough dedication over the last academic year!

Example 2:          Teacher: Why didn’t you select me for the teacher training course?

Trainer/Manager: Well, the report from your line manager shows that you missed 2 formal observations, your absence was 18.4 % and your class records were not updated regularly.

  1. Be accessible:

A trainer, for his/her credibility must be accessible to trainees. Either in person, via email or mobile phone.

So, teacher training is an ELT pathway that is not exclusive of bilingual teachers who decide to advance their careers in teacher training. However, they do need to add to their credibility by brushing up their language, training techniques and management skills.

[1] Luke Meddings 2015 <>

About Ahmed Othman

Ahmed is an English teacher, a teacher trainer, a public speaker, a writer and a therapist.

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