In this article, we explore how the “ideal student” and “the ideal teacher” of a modern foreign language were depicted in 16th and 17th-century textbooks of the genre of so-called “dialogue books”. More specifically we assess in which areas language expertise was expected from students and teachers and how nativeness, i.e., being a native speaker, was construed as an element of this general expertise. Our insights are based on the structure and content of the textbooks. Moreover, we analyse introductory texts, written by textbook authors or printers. The teaching material reveals a strong focus on spoken language as it consists of dialogues inspired by daily life and pronunciation guides that use a contrastive approach. Overall, our analysis suggests that the “ideal student” has to learn to speak a foreign language, thereby striving for a correct pronunciation and to communicate in a polite and pragmatically adequate way. The “ideal teacher” is a native speaker who has the authority to teach his mother tongue and to judge the teaching of others. However, the superiority of nativeness pales beside other required qualifications, i.e., learnedness, didactic skills and expertise in the language one teaches.