You may ask what, besides being certified as an ESL teacher by Cambridge University, qualifies me to teach English to non-native speakers. This is a totally valid question. I sometimes ask myself the same thing when I am planning lessons. What is the aim of this lesson? What are the sub-aims? How can I engage my students? And, what right do I have to assume all this authority? Yes, I have spoken English since I was a wee little girl. And yes, I have written countless papers and taken hundreds of tests in my native language. However, as any English speaker can tell you, just because we can talk and read and write and understand does not mean that we can deliver as English teachers. There are no solid rules, Americans generally don't learn grammar, and there are twelve different ways to say every phrase. These are obstacles that English teachers face, but no language obstacle is insurmountable.
I am qualified to teach English because I have a degree from a respected institution, because I have my CELTA, but most importantly because I have learned a language. I know how challenging it is to have a communication barrier. I understand the frustration my students feel when they are trying to think of a word in English, but can only remember the word in their native language. I have written academic papers in my second language that have been returned to me with giant red question marks on them. My professor couldn't unlock the genius of my ideas because my grammar was incomprehensible. It was an Art History class and to this day I remember the flush of embarrassment I felt when I received that grade. And that was in Spanish! I can only imagine what would happen if I attempted to write on such a nuanced topic in Portuguese or French. It would be a fracaso!
There is nothing more intriguing to me than a person who has seen the world. I do not pretend to be the most widely traveled woman, in fact my experiences are limited to the Americas and Europe. Despite that, I have spent a year living in Ecuador and I have collectively spent about a year in France, so I feel that I am an authority on making cultural faux-pas, mixing up false cognates and generally being incomprehensible. I can help students navigate the treacherous waters of the English language because I want my students to make all those mistakes with me! I will clear up their concerns with sentence structure, problem tenses and confused idioms so that they have confidence and the knowledge to be fluent!
Overall, I seriously believe that it is my own cultural experience that allows me to teach English. I look forward to many more adventures all over the globe, especially ones that involve me saying things like mantequilla (butter) instead of manzanilla (chamomile) and having the waiter end up in stitches. That is fine for me, first of all because I am not held back by fear of embarrassment and secondly, because I am not trying to get an advanced degree in a foreign country (yet). I want to get my students the best TOEFL scores on the planet, but I also want them to feel great when they speak and write English in their every day lives. I don't want any of my students to ever blush because their professor couldn't decipher their grammar.