English teacher vs English language teacher

< Previous | Next >
  • SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Yes, there is.

    An English teacher is a teacher from England. He / she could be teaching any subject.
    An English language teacher teaches English.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    In BE an English teacher teaches English. An English teacher could also be a teacher from England who teaches any subject. The meaning depends on context.
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    And one who teaches English to people who do not speak it as their native language is an English as a Second Language, or ESL, teacher.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    And one who teaches English to people who do not speak it as their native language is an English as a Second Language, or ESL, teacher.
    Only if they work in an organisation which uses that term. The Russian and Chinese children who went to the same school as my children had their English lessons from English teachers. The schools in our largest cities have many thousands of children of immigrant parents for whom English is a second language. They aren't taught ESL, they are taught English.
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    But to reinforce what JustKate said, in AE the term "English teacher" ordinarily means "a person who teaches a subject called 'English' ", just as a "geometry teacher" is a person who teaches geometry, and a "history teacher" is a person who teaches history. Of course, it can also mean "a teacher from or in England who teaches any subject", as in "A study of teachers in the United Kingdom showed that English teachers and Scottish teachers are on the average younger than teachers in Wales", but that meaning would be deduced from context.
     

    Sibutlasi

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    As written, the expression English teacher is structurally and semantically ambiguous, since English may be a noun (the name of the English language) or an adjective (born in England). However, as spoken, the ambiguity disappears, because the speaker has to choose between realizing English + teacher as a compound, with main stress on English, secondary stress on teacher, and the interpretation teacher of English, or as an [adjective + noun] phrase, with reduced stress on English, full stress on teacher, and the interpretation England-born teacher (or maybe UK-born teacher, I'm not sure).

    S.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    There may indeed be ambiguity for BE speakers. There is none for AmE speakers. In AmE, English teacher always means "person who teaches one or more of the various topics that are considered English," and that includes literature, grammar, writing, etc. This meaning is so ingrained that if we wanted to indicate that we had a teacher who is from England, we'd have to explain it by saying something along the lines of "my teacher is from England" or "my teacher is English."
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    However, as spoken, the ambiguity disappears, because the speaker has to choose between realizing English + teacher as a compound, with main stress on English, secondary stress on teacher, and the interpretation teacher of English, or as an [adjective + noun] phrase, with reduced stress on English, full stress on teacher,
    Sorry, but that is nonsense. There is no differentiation of meaning by stress in that way.
    "Scottish teachers are conservative, but English teachers are more liberal." Stress relates to ethnicity, not subject taught.
    "Physics teachers are conservative, but English teachers are more liberal." Stress relates to subject taught, not ethnicity.
    In normal conversation I would expect no difference whatsoever in the enunciation of "English teacher" as meaning ethnic English teacher and teacher of English. Those meanings depend on context, not on stress.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    I agree with Andygc (#10: "In normal conversation..."). I'd say that stress would be used if the sentence was a correction of a statement or the answer to a question, e.g.:
    "Mary's a chemistry teacher./Is Mary a chemistry teacher?" -" No, she's an English teacher."
    Strictly speaking, I think that, although there's a possible ambiguity (sorry, JK from the town which narrowly escaped being called "Porkopolis"), the interlocutor would know what was meant, as in "Our school only employs English ( = not [e.g.] French or Danish ones)." - for all subjects [pun intended].
     
    Last edited:

    Winstanley808

    Banned
    English - U.S.
    In AmE, English teacher always means "person who teaches one or more of the various topics that are considered English," and that includes literature, grammar, writing, etc. This meaning is so ingrained that if we wanted to indicate that we had a teacher who is from England, we'd have to explain it by saying something along the lines of "my teacher is from England" or "my teacher is English."
    Except in an appropriate context, of course: "When we have workshops here for foreign teachers, the English teachers have a much easier time than the Sri Lankan teachers, and the Yemeni teachers have the hardest time of all." "When it comes to teaching physics, Finnish teachers have an easier job than English teachers, because Finnish high school students are farther along in math than English students."

    Since teachers from England are unusual in the U.S. and teachers of English-language literature and grammar are common, if you said, "I met an English teacher yesterday," it would indeed be assumed 99% of the time that you meant the latter rather than the former. If you want to refer to a teacher from England as an "English teacher," you have to make that clear. It wouldn't be necessary at an international conference of teachers, especially if their subject was something other than English language and literature.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    PS, Just a detail: An ESL teacher (one who teaches English as a Second Language) works in an English-speaking country; an EFL teacher (one who teaches English as a Foreign Language) works in a non-English speaking country.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    As written, the expression English teacher is structurally and semantically ambiguous, since English may be a noun (the name of the English language) or an adjective (born in England). However, as spoken, the ambiguity disappears, because the speaker has to choose between realizing English + teacher as a compound, with main stress on English, secondary stress on teacher, and the interpretation teacher of English, or as an [adjective + noun] phrase, with reduced stress on English, full stress on teacher, and the interpretation England-born teacher (or maybe UK-born teacher, I'm not sure).
    Sorry, but that is nonsense. There is no differentiation of meaning by stress in that way.
    Having sat here for several minutes talking about English teachers of both varieties (and French teachers, and history teachers, and Englishmen with other occupations), I agree with Sibutlasi.


    Edited to fix typo.
     
    Last edited:

    Winstanley808

    Banned
    English - U.S.
    When I was in college, I was an experimental subject on differentiating combinations like "Czech book" vs. "checkbook" and "black top" vs. "blacktop" (an AE word for asphalt pavement). A graduate student played recordings of various pronunciations of these words and each time we had to indicate which one we thought was meant. I think the difference was mostly the time interval, but I think we can make the same kind of differentiation between "English teacher" = "teacher from England" and "English teacher" = "teacher of the subject, 'English,'" and that that is what Sibutlasi is describing, although I never did get around to taking a linguistics course (I would have flunked the phonology unit anyway) and don't understand her technical description. However, I'm not sure that the differntiation would always be used in speaking of an "English teacher," to the extent that it would be when saying "That box has a black top" vs. "Don't drop that on the blacktop."
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    Re Sibutlasi's #8: For me, "an English teacher" with the stress on 'English' could mean 'as opposed to a French teacher (nationality)' or 'as opposed to a math - a Brit would say 'maths' - (subject) teacher'. With the stress on 'teacher', it would mean 'as oppposed to an English politician, writer, etc.' Perhaps I should rest now. I'm feeling a bit stressed; I'd like either "a nice cold beer" or "an ice-cold beer"...:D
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    (1) The stress issue is covered in many textbooks, and I think Sibutasi (post 9) gave the normal pattern. It doesn't work when there is a contrast implied (as mentioned by ain't translation fun). We say 'BLACKbird' to refer to a bird of that species, and we say 'black BIRD' to talk of a bird which is black in colour.

    (2) The phrase 'English language teacher' is actually ambiguous for me too. There are many language teachers in, say, the Japanese Department, but they needn't be Japanese to teach the Japanese language; you could have an English language teacher or a Russian language teacher there too.

    It is possible to use a hyphen for disambiguation: English-language teacher. This looks a little fussy these days.

    If the school subject is English Language (as opposed to, say, English Literature), there is also the option to capitalise the name of the subject: English Language teacher.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The stress issue is covered in many textbooks, and I think Sibutasi (post 9) gave the normal pattern. It doesn't work when there is a contrast implied (as mentioned by ain't translation fun). We say 'BLACKbird' to refer to a bird of that species, and we say 'black BIRD' to talk of a bird which is black in colour.
    I really cannot accept that there is any difference in stress pattern between "English teacher" (ethnicity) and "English teacher" (subject taught). Stress in a phrase like that is used for emphasis. If I heard a recording of somebody saying "He's an English teacher" with relative stress on "English" and then heard the same sentence with relative stress on "teacher" I would find it impossible to say which meant an ethnic English teacher and which meant a teacher of English. I would merely wonder why there was relative stress on one of the words. It seems I agree with ain'ttranslationfun.

    I suppose that it is as rare, in normal conversation, in BE as it is in AE to refer to English teachers with the meaning of English ethnicity. That would only be a topic of discussion where their origin was relevant. It seems probable that some stress would be placed on "English" in that context, which is, of course, the opposite of what Sibutasi said.
    with main stress on English, secondary stress on teacher, and the interpretation teacher of English,
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    But that is the normal stress difference, if there's no reason to emphasize anything. If I was stopped in the street by a German tourist, the main accent is on tourist because German is an adjective. If my sister is a history teacher, the main accent is on history because it's in a noun + noun compound phrase. In neither case am I emphasizing anything or correcting anyone's misapprehension. No-one thought I was stopped by a Spanish tourist or I said my sister was a geography teacher. Now in that sentence I did just use contrastive emphasis. In the first emphasis, but not the second, the contrast is marked by a different stress. Anything can be given contrastive stress, overriding the normal stress rules. With normal stress, an English teacher is like an English tourist or a French soldier (or a Russian doll, a Chinese wall, or an Irish harp); whereas an English teacher is like a history professor or a maths book (or a dog biscuit or a credit card).
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Andy, I agree with Sibutlasi, Nat and etb. The normal, unmarked stress pattern for English teacher = teacher of English would be ENGlish teacher ... like BLACKbird. The normal, unmarked stress pattern for English teacher = teacher from England would be English TEACHer ~ like black BIRD.

    My imaginary situation has two Scots in a pub in Edinburgh. One waves at someone; the other asks "Who's that?". The reply is either "Oh, he's an ENGlish teacher I met at my embroidery class" or "Oh, he's an English TEACHer I met at ...".

    ---------

    Added (1): I see that etb makes the point about differing stress patterns in the first of the threads linked in post 20 above:).

    Added (2): I agree with Kate (post 4) that English teacher (in the sense 'teacher of English') is broader in scope than English language teacher.
     
    Last edited:

    Sibutlasi

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Spain
    Sorry, but that is nonsense. There is no differentiation of meaning by stress in that way.
    "Scottish teachers are conservative, but English teachers are more liberal." Stress relates to ethnicity, not subject taught.
    "Physics teachers are conservative, but English teachers are more liberal." Stress relates to subject taught, not ethnicity.
    In normal conversation I would expect no difference whatsoever in the enunciation of "English teacher" as meaning ethnic English teacher and teacher of English. Those meanings depend on context, not on stress.
    You needn't apologise, but let me inform you that what you describe as 'nonsense' concerning the structural, semantic and prosodic ambiguity of the written expression English teacher (out of context!) is something established by the best phonologists and linguists working on English, starting with Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle's The Sound Pattern of English almost fifty years ago. Since then, that very expression has become one of the favourite textbook examples used to illustrate exactly the three-way ambiguity I described, which affects a) structure (compound vs. phrase, argument vs. adjunct status of the word English), b) meaning and interpretation, as described, and c) prosody, and phonetics in general. You may not be able to appreciate it because you apparently cannot distinguish between 'normal' and 'contrastive' stress. This is not surprising, because, by placing English teacher in the contexts you chose, you are conditioning its phonetic realization (and begging the question): if you take two (adversative) coordinate clauses in which English teachers is contrasted with Scottish teachers, in one case, and with Physics teachers in the other, your respective context 'primes' one of the respective readings and automatically inhibits the other. In other words, what you have brilliantly proved is that context can disambiguate ambiguous expressions, which, of course, it was not my purpose to deny. It was pretty obvious, I think, that I was referring to the written representation of [ENGLISH TEACHER] out of context. If English teacher is used in context, say one of the contexts you suggested, a native speaker automatically chooses the appropriate stress pattern and thereby guides the hearer towards the right interpretation.

    S.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'll apologise for using the word "nonsense". I won't apologise for disagreeing with you and the authorities you refer to because, as I've already said, I don't perceive any difference in stress pattern between the two meanings of "English teacher". It seems that some people here do perceive a difference, but I also note that I am not alone in my view. A difficulty, of course, is that a sentence such as "He is an English teacher" does not arise in natural speech in isolation; it always has context which may influence stress. The ambiguity of the written sentence is beside the point; I do not accept that a small difference in intonation in speech creates a difference in meaning or that a difference in meaning produces a difference in stress pattern in this particular example.

    I will pay careful attention to people meeting German tourists and history teachers, or coming across English teachers in Scottish pubs to see if I should revise my opinion. If I should I will, of course, come back to this thread to eat humble pie.
     
    Last edited:

    AmaryllisBunny

    Senior Member
    PS, Just a detail: An ESL teacher (one who teaches English as a Second Language) works in an English-speaking country; an EFL teacher (one who teaches English as a Foreign Language) works in a non-English speaking country.
    I mostly agree.

    However, I taught English in 2 French high schools where one talked about second language acquisition and the other learning English as a foreign language. They have quite a bit of overlap (in common use).
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top