I’ve just been watching an interesting discussion at the IATEFL conference in Manchester about a whole bunch of issues related to English language teaching, and especially teachers. They discuss the issue of native versus non-native speaking teachers of English and the goals of English learning: is it about becoming a native-like speaker of English, or up to the point of communicative competence?
I’d say that for almost all English language learners, the goal is not to talk like a native speaker of English, which involves things like accent, using idiomatic language and, I suppose, getting (and telling) jokes. For the vast majority of English language learners, the aim of learning English will be to communicate with other non-native speakers, so a lot of native-like English will be unnecessary and, frankly, gets in the way. Idiomatic and very formal language also tends to sound, to my ear anyway, quite stilted and artificial when coming from the mouth of a non-native speaker.
Anyway, an interesting discussion. Jeremy Harmer, writer of an immense pile of readable books about teaching English, is one of the panel. Check it out and look for more videos on the IATEFL website.