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Finding A Great Language Teacher: 5 Qualites To Look For

Category: Language Training | 2017-04-06

Have you ever sat through a boring lesson on grammar? If you have ever studied another language, the answer is probably yes. There are lots of teachers out there, but how can you find a truly great language teacher?

There are certain qualities that make a great language teacher. The teachers that possess these qualities are the ones that have had a lasting effect on us. Maybe a teacher who taught us that grammar didn’t have to be dull. Maybe a teacher who made us laugh, or listened to us when we were frustrated. Whatever the case, these teachers share a few qualities that set them apart from the rest.

We are going to look at 5 qualities that make a great language teacher and how they influence the outcome of their classes. When we are done, you will be able to choose an excellent teacher that will help you be a successful language learner. Let’s get started!

5 Qualities of a Great Language Teacher


First things first, a great language teacher needs to be a skilled communicator. One of the most important skills needed is the ability to express yourself clearly and concisely. There are tons of teachers out there with a wealth of knowledge on grammar or vocabulary topics. However, many of them are sadly not up to the challenge of explaining the content in a way that their students can easily understand it.

A skilled speaker is able to reach students on their level, using vocabulary and structures that are familiar and comfortable. If the students struggle to understand the message, how can they expect to learn it and then use it later. In my experience, this is one of the biggest shortcomings of many teachers in the industry.

Even more important than the ability to speak well, is the ability to listen. So often I have heard students complain that their teachers don’t listen to them. There may be a topic they want to learn or a different method of the instruction. As teachers, we have to not only listen to our students, but we have to hear what the say.

I once worked with a teacher who was extremely lively in the classroom. He was always moving around and talking quickly, jumping from one story to another. When the students asked him to slow down, he simply replied, “I am a native speaker and this is how I talk. If you want to learn you have to be able to keep up.” I cringed when I heard this. Perhaps with an advanced group, this idea might pass, but with low-intermediate students, it was a nightmare. He had destroyed all their motivation to learn in his classes and the mood in the class continued to get worse.
great language teacher, MacPherson Language Institute

Great language teachers listen to their students

This type of attitude from teachers is common among bad listeners. When we listen to what the students have to say, we are able to find out what sparks their interest and how to engage them fully. And that is how you drive your students to learn more.

Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Now, he was talking about speaking in the listener’s native language, but I think the same is true when we listen to our students needs and speak to them in a way they feel respected and heard.


This is a no brainer. A language teacher needs to be an expert in their target language. That means they need to have a thorough understanding of the grammar, vocabulary and language skills needed to excel in the language. You should look for a native speaker who has experience teaching the language. To understand the innerworkings and nuances of the language, anything less would be a waste of your time and money.

This should also go without saying, but a great teacher needs to know what they are teaching, why they are teaching it and how to best get this message to their students. They should either have a CELTA or TEFL certificate, or have an adequate amount of experience to know how to effectively bring a lesson to the students. Not all great teachers are certified, but it is a good indicator that they understand which methods to use and why.


A truly committed teacher is also a student. They have a desire to learn that equals their desire to teach. This passion for learning turns into a passion for teaching and that excitement spreads through the class. When you look for a language course, ask the school if their teachers audit other classes. We have a very open policy at the MacPherson Language Institute where any teacher can visit another class to observe the teacher and their methods. This serves both teachers well as they get feedback and new ideas when they talk about the lesson afterwards.

Committed teachers are hard workers. They work hard because it is important to them that do a great job and their students succeed. These are the teachers who put in the extra hours finding new and exciting material for their classes. They try out different approaches to see what works best for their students and work hard to innovate in the classroom.


Another important quality of a great language teacher is the ability to be creative in the classroom. So many teachers fall into the trap of opening a Business English text book and teaching directly from there. There are hundreds of ways to make a classroom interesting and every great teacher has their own unique ways of doing that. Some teachers get a fierce debate going on a hot topic in the news. Whereas other teachers create realistic role-playing situations for students to practice their new skills.

One of my favorite things to do in class is to play a non-language learning game like Black Stories. It was not designed for the classroom, but the nature of the game forces students to ask questions. This is an area where many students have trouble and they love to practice this skill in a fun and challenging way. great language teacher, MacPherson Language Institute

Another area that teachers can be creative in the classroom is finding new topics to discuss. If you go through the text books that are out there, you will find the same themes over and over again. A great teacher will spend some time reading blogs or magazines to find new material.

With the amount of blogs and video on the internet today, there is no shortage of material for the classroom. Your teacher should regularly bring current material that fits your needs. That could mean articles from industry blogs or YouTube clips on your favourite hobby. Again, a teacher that listens will know what interests you and what will engage you.


Now this may not be a quality that is important to many schools, but to me it is near the top of my list. With my background in bars and restaurants, I know that people are most relaxed when they are in a comfortable place. It is the responsibility of a great teacher to create that comfort zone and get people talking.

Some teachers are very formal in their approach. They stand at the front of the classroom and lecture on the proper uses of relative clauses or some other topic that will no doubt be boring when presented this way. Excellent teachers find a way to get their message across to the students while engaging them in the lesson. This can be done from the front of the room, but it has to be casual.

It also has to be fun! It has been proven time and time again that students learn more when they are having fun. That is why I like to add games and challenges into my lessons. One of my most successful lesson plans involves a grammar casino. Students have to bet on whether a sentence is right or wrong. They have to speak in their groups and they compete against their classmates. The competition can add a great spark to a fairly dull topic, such as relative clauses.

There are so many ways to make a lesson enjoyable for students. Make sure your teacher is putting in the time to make your lessons as much fun as possible.

Find Yourself a Great Language Teacher

So, now you know what you are looking for. Find a teacher that knows what they are doing and why. Find one that loves what they do and they will be committed to creating fun ways for you to succeed. If you use these qualities as a guide in your search, you can’t go wrong!

Who was your favourite teacher? What did they do that has stuck with you all these years? Let me know in the comments and share this article with them. You will make their day knowing that they left a lasting impression.

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