CELTA Course Non-Native Speaker Experience

Can I take the CELTA course as a non-native speaker? Cactus Office Manager Claudia Ohde tells us why doing the CELTA course as a non-native speaker is not just ok – it’s an advantage!

Here at Cactus I have always been surrounded by many qualified English teachers who had lived in many different places teaching English before they joined Cactus. As a keen language learner and traveller myself, I had always envied them for the freedom to live and work abroad. However, I didn’t consider doing a Celta course myself since I didn’t feel confident enough about my level of English. So I decided to take the Celta equivalent course for teaching German as a foreign language instead. Unfortunately this course was no longer offered in the UK due to insufficient demand.

Our Academic Director encouraged me to jump in at the deep end and do a Celta course instead. So I downloaded the application form for the Celta course and signed myself up for the Cactus English Language Awareness Course to brush up my grammar knowledge and prepare myself for the Celta course.

To my big surprise I passed the application process and was offered a place on the Celta course.

CELTA course non-native speaker experience

We were a group of 18 students on the course, of which 4 of us were non-native speakers. When we were allocated to our teaching practice groups I felt a great relief that I was starting with the elementary level and not with the upper-intermediates. Right from the start it became clear that one of the most difficult tasks was to grade your language according to the level of the students – one of the tasks non-native speakers seemed to manage much more easily than the native speakers.

Some of the requirements such as reducing the teacher talking time to a bare minimum were as unexpected and difficult for non-native and native speakers alike. However, when it came to teaching grammar the non-native speakers had a definite advantage again – having learnt the language ourselves not only gave us a better foundation of grammar knowledge, but also enabled us to empathise with the learner and to understand their difficulties with certain aspects of the grammar (for example the present perfect tense!).

Midway through the course we swapped teaching practice groups and I was now confronted with a broad range of upper-intermediate students (some of whom were rather advanced) and my nerves started playing up much more before the teaching practice sessions. Error correction on the spot and having to explain the meaning of words spontaneously presented quite a challenge at times. However, in retrospect now that I’m teaching German as a foreign language I can say that this isn’t so much easier in my native language! I’m probably just more confident in admitting when I don’t know the answer to a question straightaway.

CELTA course non-native speaker conclusion

Looking back, the Celta course has been the best course I have ever taken, one of my biggest challenges and achievements. Passing the course with a Pass B showed me that it isn’t all about having perfect English. I’m now in the position to compare teaching English with teaching my mother tongue and I’ve realised that the advantage of knowing what your students are going through is a major advantage in connecting with them.

Whether you are a non-native or native speaker I can highly recommend taking a CELTA course or Trinity CertTESOL course. It was a very steep learning curve but it was a very rewarding experience. I wouldn’t want to miss the invaluable feedback during teaching practice which greatly boasted my confidence in the classroom!

Cactus TEFL is an admissions and advice service for quality teacher training courses worldwide. Cactus works with well-known course providers to offer CELTA, TESOL, equivalent and online courses in over 90 locations across 36 countries. Cactus TEFL also offers free post-course careers advice and support, as well as access to our very own TEFL jobs board and job alerts.

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