It should be ready quite soon, but before we publish it, I thought it might be a good idea to briefly introduce him and his work here to those who are perhaps less familiar with it.
Peter Medgyes was the first to speak out for the rights of NNESTs in the TEFL industry when over two decades ago he published an article: “Native or non-native: who’s worth more?” in the ELT Journal (click here for the abstract), and then two years later a full-length book: “The non-native teacher”. Both pieces created an enormous stir in the TEFL community. The skeleton was out of the cupboard and he wasn’t going back! As Peter Medgyes wrote himself: “While writing those two pieces, I had the gut feeling that I was going to open a can of worms. However, not in my wildest dream did I imagine that there were going to be so many worms in that can.” (Medgyes 2014 at IH DoS conference)
Since then, he’s been tirelessly advocating equal employment rights for NNESTs, and has written numerous articles and presented at countless conferences. You can find a full list of his publications on his blog.
In his works he has emphasised the strengths NNESTs have, which had until then been largely overlooked and ignored:
- “provide a better learner model;
- teach language-learning strategies more effectively;
- supply more information about the English language;
- better anticipate and prevent language difficulties;
- be more sensitive to their students;
- benefit from their ability to use the students’ mother tongue” (Medgyes: When the teacher is a non-native speaker)
Despite the fact that this approach has been recently criticised by some scholars (see for example A.F. Selvi: “Myths and misconceptions about the non-native English speakers in TESOL movement”) for aggravating the division between the two groups, as well as for continuing to assert NESTs linguistic superiority, Medgyes’ work has played a key role in the equity movement, by openly and publicly addressing the problem of discrimination and giving NNESTs a great sense of value, confidence and pride in their own teaching abilities.
In Medgyes’ own words “before the non-NESTs’ self-awakening process began […], native speakers were in a position of unchallenged authority”, and “many [NNESTs] developed a more or less serious form of inferiority complex. […] NESTs and their accomplices considered themselves not only the sole repository of the English language but also the gatekeepers of ’proper’ ELT methodology. […] Regretfully, we accepted NEST superiority unconditionally, giving preference to import products over home-grown goods.” (Medgyes 2014 at IH DoS conference)
While the problem of discrimination is still a persistent and a widespread one, we have moved a long way towards a more equal treatment of NNESTs, and thanks to the movement Peter started two decades ago, many NNESTs have ceased to feel inferior, developing a sense of pride in who they are and how well they can teach.
As NNESTs we now believe in ourselves and in our teaching abilities, and we see ourselves as equal to NESTs. We are no longer scared to fight for our rights either. Personally, I think this is the greatest legacy Medgyes’ work has left us.
Finally, I must say I’m both flattered and incredibly excited at the prospect of interviewing Peter Medgyes for our blog. If you’re looking forward to it as much as I am, please follow the blog, so you don’t miss the post!