No more turning a blind eye to inequality in ELT – by Karima Ennouri

I was checking my Facebook account when I came across a post in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of advertising a job opening in one of the English schools in Turkey. The job advertisement was short and lacking important information such as working hours, salary, etc. Since the advertiser said we could contact him for further information, and although he did write “native speakers will be preferred although not limited by them”, I said to myself “why not message him to ask for more information; since he said it is not limited to native speakers, I might still have a chance; do not be too proud of yourself” (having to write that now I realise how much negativity did this particular thought hold?!)

So I sent my message, within days I got the response which I was not hoping for!

This is my message

I would like to know all the information about your job opening for English Teachers. I am CELTA qualified with grade B but I am non-native.

This is his response

Thanks for your kind applications but we have to prioritise native speakers first. I am hoping to contact you again after those applications.

This is my reply

Thank you for your reply, I no longer have interest in the job. You stated that you have to prioritise native speakers, but being a native speaker doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good teacher; what you should prioritise instead is qualifications, not nationality. Look at those leading centers around the world like British Council or International House, which don’t discriminate, but offer jobs to both NNEST and NEST, based on their qualifications of course. Again thank you for your reply.

Best regards


I have got to tell you it took me couple of hours to respond to him as I was angry that he did not even give me a chance to send my CV. This is not ”preference for NESTs” as he stated in his post, because you need to have two options in front of you to say that you prefer option a) to option b). On the other hand, not even giving a chance or considering reading a NNESTs’ CVs before deciding whether to accept them is called discrimination. In addition, I think he should have put himself in my shoes as he himself is a non- native English teacher. Sadly, I did not get a reply to my last email.

This is not the first time and I do not expect it to be the last, as I have been through even worse situations. This preference for native speakers is almost everywhere in ELT. For example, I was once interviewed by the manager of one of the local centres here in my own country, Libya. None of their teachers had a CELTA, nor did they know what this certificate was. After I finished my interview and explained my qualifications, the manager said that they are first trying to bring NESTs. Only if they could not attract them, they would offer me the job, to which I said “if you think a NEST is better than a NNEST how come you think you are good enough to interview them since you are a NNEST yourself?!”.

I normally do not speak about this issue of inequality in ELT. However, this most recent case happened to me right after seeing Adam Beale tweet about it (you can read the write up of the Twitter conversation in Adam’s article Stand up and be counted here), so I thought why not do something about it as well. I tweeted screenshots of the messages and TEFL Equity suggested I wrote my story, which might encourage more teachers to stop turning a blind eye to the favoritism native speakers enjoy in ELT.

Design @teflninja

Design @teflninja

Finally, I would like to thank all the teachers around the globe who are trying to speak up against it. And for those who still do not want to take action perhaps because they think it is not their problem, turn the table: imagine I am the native and you are the non- native, would you like to be ignored or turned down just because of your mother tongue?. If not, then these are my suggested ways to help fight it:

  • Fight the “industry demand excuse” by educating students about it.
  • Collect your learners’ opinion about it by conducting a survey.
  • Discuss the matter with your employer.
  • Write about it and suggest ways to fight it.
  • Respond to it by sending email to the discriminatory employer.
  • Do a webinar or a workshop and explain it.

upload-i4acn9jd6rmbnip1n6cgjd5a92486191.JPG-final (1) [242054]My name is Karima Ennouri. I am secretary and I have just started a new job as part time EFL teacher. I am also responsible for managing and organizing English courses in a training centre based in Libya. I’ve been teaching officially but not constantly since doing my CELTA in March 2015 in Turkey. I am constantly trying to learn new teaching approaches as well as gaining more experience in teaching. I am also looking forward to continuing my professional development and starting my own blog.

18 thoughts on “No more turning a blind eye to inequality in ELT – by Karima Ennouri

  1. Nemuyoake says:

    Maybe they just want people who have a specific accent (American, British etc.), and they want their students to listen to “native” accent, that’s all. They don’t just want a good teacher of English, they want the whole “package” because they will be paying for it. And in a lot of countries, between a white American and a Black American, they will choose the white one over the black one. English education is a market and each teacher has her own “value” on this market. It’s not fair, it’s not moral, but capitalism is not moral.

    If you’re too proud to refuse to play the game, you won’t be able to find a job. So, nothing will change. Once you’ve find a job, you can do a great job as a teacher and change their mentalities. Once they’ve changed their way of thinking about NNS as English teachers, they will spread the word around them.

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      Thanks for your comment!
      Capitalism is neither moral, nor immoral. It’s what we make it to be. Completely free market economy doesn’t exist. There are always some rules set by a given government. And as far as the EU goes, for example, it is illegal to hire or advertise for ‘mother tongue’ or ‘native speakers’.
      I also find it quite disturbing that we’re prepared to accept discrimination, despite feeling it’s immoral. Shifting the blame to clients is a cheap way out, I think.
      BTW, if sts want to listen to a specific accent, they can go to YouTube. If the only value of a teacher is being able to provide ‘native-like’ accent or language input, then we might as well put on a CD or a YouTube video and leave the classroom. Ts would have become redundant a long time ago if this was the case. Also, sts who are actually able to pick up a particular accent from their teacher are very few and far between. In general, most sts will fall way short of that, regardless of where their teacher is from. And perhaps that’s something we need to explain to them. For example, in this study: sts were divided into two groups: one taught by a ‘native speaker’ and the otehr by a ‘non-native speaker’. The results show that there was no difference in sts’ improvement in intelligibility after the pronunciation course between the two groups.
      I do agree with your last point, though. Perhaps not with playing the game bit, but with the fact that we need to educate our sts. And the more sts are exposed to good ‘non-native speaker’ Ts, the less likely they might be to be biased against them. Having said that, I’m not sure I’d ever work for a school that hired only ‘native speakers’.

      • Nemuyoake says:

        I understand what you’re saying but those who hire us are not the students (most of the time), they’re companies, schools or parents. They have misconceptions about what an English teacher should be. Hiring a NS adds a (supposed) “value” to the school or the company. Only a few don’t have misconceptions and hire NNS to become English teachers at their school. English teachers are not JUST English teachers (well, at least, in the country I live in), they are an asset to the school. They get on the brochure and are advertised like a product would be.

        You can try to prove them wrong with studies and others, but these misconceptions are “beliefs”, so it won’t work. They are very strong and irrational. That’s why I’m saying it will prove more effective to play the game, infiltrate the “system” and work by their side to get rid of these “beliefs”.

    • Karima says:

      Thank you for your comments!

      NEMUYOAKE, To be honest, I have never understood why they ask for NEST only, if it was for the accent I was thought by NEST in some point of my journey to learn English I did not pick up the accent nor needed to learn the correct pronunciation as I was already at advanced level thought by NNEST and my NEST kept saying that I had very good pronunciation.

      This post was not intended to blame NEST but those employers who only give arguable excuses and reasons.

      In fact, I am a believer of second chances I was able to find a job right after this incident and you are right about they may change their way of thinking but as I said in my story they did not even ask for my CV and that means “not interested and will not get back to you”.

  2. Nicola says:

    I applaud Karima’s post and the stance she is taking but I was a bit disappointed with her view that it is native speaker teachers who don’t care and don’t act. Actually, many of us are appalled and do a lot to combat the issue. From my experience, it’s more likely to be non-teachers who need a better understanding of the situation. School owners, parents, students themselves are the ones whose mindsets we need to change.

    • Karima says:

      Thank you very much for your comment Nicola, you miss understand me it is not my view in general as in the last part of my post I thanked all the teachers and that means both native and non-native alike.

  3. Michelle Lawson says:

    This was a wonderful post. And we REALLY need to stand up against this nonsense of discrimination. I find the whole notion of wanting to have a so-called “native” teacher ridiculous; in the United States alone, we have many different regional accents so how can we even pinpoint an “American” accent? My husband’s southern accent is just as American as my midwestern accent. Likewise, the first and second generation immigrants who live in this country are now considered those with an “American” accents (and that’s not even counting English speakers in Mexico, Canada, and South America!). I applaud those who continue to educate those who remain ignorant or refuse to see the diversity in English teachers.

  4. Lakshmi Kala Prakash says:

    Thank you, Karima for taking a stance. However, I must agree with Nicola. It might not be in the best interest of a cause for change to state that Native Speaking Teachers might not be actively participating in bringing about equality in ELT. It is for all directly or indirectly involved to continue educating and raising awareness on the difference between the myths and the reality of achieving the stable, successful, and sustainable models that are being fed to the students and the parents by the Educational systems, and businesses, especially in foreign language communities around the world.

    • Karima says:

      Thank you for your comment LAKSHMI KALA PRAKASH.

      I did not mean all NEST some of them, yes don’t care about this issue but this also applied to NNEST, remember I said I normally don’t speak about it but after seeing Adam Beale tweet about it so I was encouraged and motivated to take action, Adam is a NEST.

      In the last part, I thanked all teachers and when I wrote this I had names in my head both for NEST and NNEST who gave webinars and planetary speaking about and wrote aginst it.

  5. Mystur says:

    “Look at those leading centers around the world like British Council or International House, which don’t discriminate, but offer jobs to both NNEST and NEST, based on their qualifications of course.”

    Are you sure about this? I’m working at one of those places now and I’m not so sure….

  6. Chayan says:

    Been in tht country before and ı noticed tht they love to work with native people without any diploma! Mostly they are high school graduates from USA or UK without any teaching training and experience… Wish they could choose real English Language Teachers… Met with some native speakers who got 6 in IELTS?!?!?!?! If u see what ı mean… : ))))

  7. Eileen says:

    Why should a business owner educate their customers as to the specific service they request? If one of my customers wants a teacher from Edinburgh, then I’ll find someone from Edinburgh. Many of my clientele are planning to move to specific places in the English-speaking world, and hence want to be prepared for the dialect prevalent in that area. That’s a perfectly reasonable request and not the tiniest bit discriminatory.

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      Perhaps in this case it is. But in my experience, such sts are a minority. The vast majority will use English internationally, most likely with other non-native speakers. Also, knowing a particular accent is one thing,but being able to teach it is a completely different kettle of fish.

    • Karima says:

      Not all learners have the chance to move to an English country, there are employees who just learn English to get a bonus or to be promoted. Clients want a native speaker is not always true. In fact, although here in my country we have many centres who offer to learn English with NEST , one of the best language centres is a centre where most of the teachers are local and each course they have lots of students want to join in despite the economy situation here even though it is quite expensive. Why?! , simply because they have very experienced and qualified teachers and offer 120 hours per course and all students who took courses there are doing very well in the UK and USA universities or in their jobs.

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