ELT concepts: Model and Goal

In ELT classrooms we talk about the “model language”. Sometimes this is used interchangeably with “native” or “authentic” language.

Native = mother tongue / used from birth or early childhood

Authentic = produced by natives for natives

“Model language” is the theory behind drilling, when we give someone the correct pronunciation and speech intonation. We want learners to listen to a good model. We, as native speakers, provide that model. So the “model language” is good.

The model, however, should not be confused with the goal. While the model language is the ‘good’ and ‘proper’ form, it should not be the goal. The goal is fluency and comprehensibility. A learner needs to be able to speak (and be understood) by a native. This is different from being able to speak like a native.

Take home lesson: Provide a good model for learners, but don’t require them to mimic you exactly.


Progress: June 27

It’s about 1 and half months since I finished my CELTA.

I have 4 classes (a corporate class, a university class, and 2 private adult classes). I got a job offer from one of the largest english centers as well as an offer from a university. So all in all, I can’t complain. I have a background and ability to land a good job. It’s just a matter of timing and meeting the right people.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy especially since I am not a white face. I’d like to double my hours by end of next month. So it’s very likely I’ll have to work twice as hard to get a job.

I should chance my strategy a bit more though. Maybe instead of relying on getting hired at a center, I will just find my own students. But how can I do this? I don’t know yet. I have a few ideas, but I need to take action.

I called a manager at an English centre the other day. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me (in my fluent Canadian accent): “Hi, I’m calling about the job you posted on Facebook”

HR (in his broken-english): “Where are you from?”

Me: “I’m Canadian.”

HR: “Great. Can you come for an interview tomorrow at 4pm?”

Me: “Yes. Do you hire Viet Kieu?”

HR: “Sorry.. what?”

Me: “Do you hire Viet Kieu? I’m Viet Kieu.

HR: *nervous laughter* 


And the rest of the conversation was just awkward because I knew then he was no longer interested. I’m not even surprised this happened. The discrimination is so blatant. I don’t even try to fight it. I’m just looking for a place that is open-minded enough to know that ability is not related to appearance. In fact, experiences like this just increase my resolve to start my own centre.

Vietnamese-Canadian in ELT

I’m a Viet Kieu (overseas vietnamese). When I tell my friends I’m looking for a job in ELT in Vietnam, I get told that I will encounter discrimination. Without a doubt, English training centres in Vietnam favour the hiring of White English teachers. I’m sure 75% of my applications are rejected just because of my name alone. The loss is theirs, not mine.

In Vietnam, English teachers are ranked firstly by the colour of their skin. Secondly, by their accent (British, American, Australian, etc.). And then finally (if ever) by their qualifications. It is so bad that that the requirement for a qualification is actually a government requirement, not that of the training centre. Imagine, it got so bad at one point that the government had to jump in and regulate the ELT industry in Vietnam. Yeah. That bad.

Anyways, I’m not letting this get me down. I know that I am capable teacher. I have a native Canadian accent. I have a first-class teaching qualification. I have the experience, knowledge and ability to teach well. And I’m not the first (or only) non-white to be teaching in Vietnam. There’s plenty of us. I might have to accept a lower pay at first, but this does not phase me at all. I grew up as an immigrant in Canada in the 80s. I’m used to being judge because of ‘where I’m from’. And I’m even more used to proving people wrong.

In the meantime, I hope that the industry can clean up its act. After an excellent analysis of racism in ELT, Mahboob concludes:

Finally, it needs to be stressed that if ELT wants to develop into a profession rather than remaining a largely unlegislated industry, then it should aim to eradicate all forms of discrimination.”

I can’t agree more.

Why are you teaching in Vietnam?

I get asked a lot, ‘Why Vietnam’. Poor pay. Poor people. Poor country. Yada yada yada.

The simple answer is that if you look at the quality of students coming out of Vietnam, then you will see English is a weak point. So there is a real need here. Not just from a money point of view, but from a ‘where can I best use my talents’ point of view. So, if you are a serious about teaching English and not just looking for a vacation spot, then I suggest trying out Vietnam. The country needs teachers. So here I am.

A bit of motivation

It’s been one month since I completed my CELTA. Right now, I have 3 classes: a group of professionals at a software company, a group of university students and one private individual. It’s barely enough to pay my rent.

I’ve been applying to several places. I got an offer from ILA, but it was in a different city so I turned them down. I’ve been interviewed by a university and it seems they are waiting for the new term to start before making any decisions. I have a couple private students who might start a class with me.

So 4 weeks out of the CELTA, I’m doing about 10 hours a week plus following some leads. It’s not full-time, but it’s a start.


I got my CELTA. Did it at ILA Vietnam. Cost me 1,700 USD (36,000,000 VND). I’m happy.

The class ran for 4 weeks: 20 schools days with 8 teaching practice sessions. I thought the content was very good. They teach you how to teach using the “communicative approach”. An approach which works best with a classroom of 8-16 students. I imagine this is how most classroom teaching is done nowadays: task-based and student-centred.

The teaching practice was invaluable. The feedback is excellent. You can see improvements in everyone; even the experienced teachers learned something. I think the combination of self-reflection, peer feedback and expert feedback makes the class worthwhile. It really did accelerate learning. I think this model of teaching is what separates CELTA from other ESL certification programs.

If you have the money, it’s worth doing. Unfortunately, I don’t know any cheaper alternative. I’ve heard about a Trinity TESOL, but I don’t know anyone who completed it. But without a doubt, I can say that CELTA makes you a better teacher.