Looking for a Native Speaker
Another problem we have with hiring for this teaching position is that I’m convinced we need a native speaker. What students need to succeed in language and culture courses is wild enthusiasm and love for the language and the culture. Our beginner-level students mostly don’t want to be in the language classes at all. They are there to complete a requirement. And these are students who probably have never even seen a native speaker of Spanish. And I believe that letting them interact with an actual representative of the culture in the classroom will bring excitement to the process that they don’t have otherwise.
My first (and only) Spanish instructor was from El Salvador. Had he been called Jack Smith from Ontario, I wouldn’t have even wanted to be in the class, irrespective of how amazing Jack might have been as a teacher.
Non-native teachers and professors of a language, literature or a culture always need to compensate for not belonging to the culture they are teaching. The standard line is “I’m a good teacher precisely because I’m not a native speaker, and if I learned how to speak well, I can teach you.” And I just died of boredom writing this because this is an argument that can only inspire love and enthusiasm in the most cerebral, robotic person ever. And if you think that love can be inspired by rational considerations, please check the news headlines for November 9, 2016.
I know that students feel a letdown when they first enroll in my courses and learn my name. “Professor Bulochkina” doesn’t inspire much interest as a professor of Spanish. And that’s fair, so I’m not upset. But I compensate for not being part of the culture I teach by having an interesting life and being a fascinating person. (Would you be wasting years of your life on reading my blog if I weren’t?) So this is my selling point. People want to be enthusiastic over whatever I’m enthusiastic about because they are drawn to my personality. But these are students who have already chosen Spanish as their area of interest. To beginners I can’t even begin to give what a native speaker gives just by the fact of existing.