'Tackling native speakerism in ELT' – recording of the IATEFL 2016 panel discussion

Finally, we got around to publishing the recording of the panel discussion on native speakerism that me, Burcu Akyol, Josh Round and Christopher Graham did at IATEFL 2016. In it we addressed the problem of native speakerism in ELT; that is:

a prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination, typically by or against foreign language teachers, on the basis of either being or not being perceived and categorized as a native speaker of a particular language. […] Its endorsement positions individuals from certain language groups as being innately superior to individuals of other language groups (Haughton and Rivers 2013, p.14).

We addressed the issue from three perspectives, that of a ‘non-native speaker’ (Burcu), a recruiter (Josh), and a teacher trainer (Christopher). Each of the speakers offered practical ideas how the prejudice against ‘non-native speakers’ can be overcome. There was also a 30 minute Q&A session.

For your convenience, the recording was divided into six shorter sections:

  1. Introduction.
  2. ‘Non-native speaker’ perspective.
  3. Recruitment perspective.
  4. Teacher training perspective.
  5. Q&A session.
  6. Conclusion.

For each, both an audio recording and a video with the slides are available. You can access the audio playlist on Soundcloud here. The video playlist is on YouTube here. You can also read the transcript of the whole panel discussion here. The audio was recorded and edited by Mike Harrison (thanks a lot Mike!). You can visit his website here. The transcript was done by Karina Roberts (thanks a lot Karina!).

1. Introduction – marek kiczkowiak



2. Non-native speaker perspective – Burcu Akyol



3. Recruitment perspective – josh round



4. Teacher training perspective – Christopher graham


5. Q&A session



6. Conclusion – Marek Kiczkowiak



8 thoughts on “'Tackling native speakerism in ELT' – recording of the IATEFL 2016 panel discussion”

  1. Pingback: DitaPhillips | NNEST of the month Blog

  2. Hi everyone,

    Great blog. I applaud what you’re doing here and believe that it’s long overdue. Silvana Richardson’s plenary was indeed a wake up call to many. Hopefully perceptions will now start to change. I have one comment, however, which doesn’t seem to have been brought up so far. I’m a British national and worked for 9 years in Italy, where this discrimination against ‘non-native’ teachers is alive and kicking. But from what I’ve seen I have to say that ‘native’ speaker teachers arriving fresh off a CELTA course or with a PGCE, have had more relevant training than their Italian peers. Most Italian secondary school teachers have never had their teaching assessed or been formally observed. There is little CPD. Possessing a degree in any subject is enough to ‘qualify’ you for the job. So perhaps in this case the issue is not language, but culture. I wonder if it is the same in other countries? I’d be interested to hear.

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for your comment Lindsey.
      I think we need to be careful when making generalisations like that, but it’s definitely true that in some countries the quality of local teaching degrees is low. On the other hand, I don’t think a four week crash course in TEFL is a great qualification either. The entry requirements to ELT are really low.
      Putting this aside for a minute, though, I think the problem goes much deeper. There are many Italian English teachers with CELTAs. There are also many non-Italian ‘non-native speakers’ with all the necessary qualifications. However, we’d still struggle to get a job. Regardless of how highly qualified or experienced we might be.
      What I’m trying to say is that we need a level playing field, where teachers will get selected based on qualifications, experience, teaching expertise, etc.
      Coming back to your question at the end of your comment, in Poland, where I’m from, the degrees in English studies have a teaching component. It includes both practical teaching and methodology. The quality will depend on university, of course. I know of some unis in the UK where on an MA in TESOL you don’t do any teaching practice. I don’t know much about other countries.
      Whereabouts in Italy do you teach?

      1. Hi Marek,
        Thanks for replying. I’m sorry you think I’m making dangerous generalisations. I’m speaking as someone who worked for many years with dedicated state school teachers who often told me themselves that they don’t feel confident teaching English because they’ve had little or no training. They are never formally observed. That is a fact. In general (OK this is a generalisation), kids study a lot of grammar and get little speaking practice. I know this because of the countless school leavers who arrived at our doors that I did placement tests and needs analyses with. When we went into state schools they were usually not used to pair work or group work (see my Blogpost about first lessons!).

        Please understand that this isn’t a criticism of the teachers, but of the system and how there is little meritocracy in Italy. There may be many Italian CELTA qualified teachers in the UK, but they are few and far between in Italy in the state system. I met three in 9 years.

        In the private language school where I was DoS in Italy (in the Veneto area) we had about half of the teaching staff who were ‘non-native’ or bilingual English teachers (and not only Italian, we also had Czech and Malaysian). It was the local schools, though, who were guilty of discrimination, as they would specifically ask for ‘mother tongue’. Even the French teacher was rejected once because she’s Algerian!

        Of course, you’re absolutely right about the lack of teaching practice on some MA programmes, which for me is not acceptable. And I’m not suggesting for a second that there shouldn’t be a level playing field. I just thought that this cultural issue was a point that hadn’t been raised yet.

        Looking forward to your comments.

        1. Hi Lindsey,
          I guess the point I’m trying to make is that teachers should be hired based on their skills and not on their L1, or on stereotypes that might be connected to it. It’s sad, though, that in some countries local teachers are so poorly prepared. It might be one of the main reasons for negative stereotypes of ‘non-native speakers’. What is sadder still, though, is that in some countries (e.g. Japan), the solution has been to import thousands of ‘native speakers’ (often poorly qualified and inexperienced); rather than try to raise the level of pedagogical preparedness and the proficiency of local teachers.
          Great to hear your school hired ‘non-native speakers’ 🙂 And you’re right – very often it’s the local schools run by local ‘non-native speakers’ which are likely to hire only ‘native speakers’. I often wonder why this is the case.
          I think that ultimately if we want to have a level playing field is to do our best to go beyond any stereotypes we might hold and recruit teachers based on merit, giving all those sufficiently qualified for a given position an equal chance in the interview.
          Looking forward to your reply.

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