Cultural Musings

Native or naive? Should you have English lessons with a native speaker? 

So you’re thinking about lessons with a native, eh? You’re wondering if it’s worth the money and whether they’re better equipped to prepare you to use English in real life than a non-native English teacher. Well there are a few issues to consider and I’ll outline them here. Read on to find out when and why you should learn English with a native speaker. 

Native speakers come in all shapes, sizes, accents, abilities, etc. Unfortunately, just because someone is a native doesn’t mean they’ll be a good teacher. However, if you’re able to find a quality native speaker teacher who’s mad a career of it, with experience and knowledge of how to teach, you’ve hit gold. To find out whether it’s worth it to you to learn with a native, ask yourself these questions. 

How much do I want to invest?

Lessons with a native will often be more expensive, likely due to their relative scarcity. Frankly, they often have less experience/knowledge than Polish teachers of English who studied English and may only plan to spend a few short months or up to a year teaching as a way to experience a new culture and make a few bucks while traveling. Depending on your skill level (e.g. for beginners, more below), it might make more sense to save a few bucks and find a good teacher from Poland.

What are my current abilities/needs?

My recommendation is that beginners don’t have lessons with a native. Don’t be naive in this way. If you can’t speak English, why would you have a lesson with someone who by definition can’t speak Polish? People often tell me they’re looking for a native who speaks Polish. It’s kinda silly (however there are many of them for various reasons, so it is possible to find.) There is a lot of hype surrounding native speakers as people seem to think they’re the best option, but if you don’t feel comfortable speaking at all, maybe a Polish-speaking teacher would be a better fit for you. 

Anyway, beginners need explanations of grammar in their own language and translations of vocabulary – that’s the only way to learn in their case. I’ve had lessons with beginners where I had to speak Polish to them – does that make any sense? No. It’s a waste of money, honestly. But for anyone who needs to be able to speak fluently and is above the beginner level, it’s an advantage to have lessons with a native as you won’t be able to fall back on Polish when you don’t remember a word (if they don’t speak Polish of course!), accent will be authentic, and all kinds of things like vocabulary and idioms will be natural. If you’re B2 and above, having lessons with a native will be especially beneficial. 

Where would I like to learn? Would you like to learn in a school or maybe online? Schools are notorious for taking natives fresh off the boat, so to speak, so it really just depends. Learning online is not only convenient but gives you a wider range of teachers to choose from.

What to look for in a native speaker

Knowledge of English grammar

You want someone who is not only a speaker of English but also someone who has some knowledge of the semantics of the language. Even if you only have conversation, this is always going to be useful. You want a teacher who can not only tell you that something is wrong but why and how to be better in the future. Essentially, you want someone who knows what they’re talking about, not just someone who speaks the language. 


Reading reviews about teachers is absolutely one of the best ways to check if someone is a good teacher. You can get some idea of how they teach and see that they have actual experience with actual students who can recommend them. I’d recommend the page if you’re looking for someone – feel free to check out my page here. 

Someone who’s nice to talk to. 

Just because someone is a native doesn’t mean you’ll click with them or that they’re good conversationalists. How can you check this before the lessons? Ask for a free trial lesson – even a short one for 15-20 minutes. In that case you might not be able to tell if they’re a great teacher, but you can at least tell if they’re a nice person and someone you’d like to get to know better. Let’s face it, you’re going to be spending more time with them than your friends so you should enjoy it. 

Have you ever had lessons with a native speaker? Was it a good experience or not so much? Do you think it’s worth it? Let us know in the comments. 

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