Why do we need to talk about ELF and native speakerism on CELTA and TrinityCert courses?

[Note from the authors: This post originally used information stating that there are no initial teaching training courses discussing English as a Lingua Franca or nativespeakerism. However, the Trinity Cert syllabus includes explicited references to ELF as of 2016. The post has been updated to reflect this. Thanks to the attentive readers for pointing this out.]

One of the biggest elephants in the room is that there is not a single initial teacher training course where discussing English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and native speakerism are part of the curriculum. Zero. Nought. Zilch. Nada.

While the TrinityCert curriculum bravely encourages trainers to raise awareness of the emergence of ELF in teaching practice and the learner profile assignment, we still believe more explicit input on both ELF and native speakerism is needed as these areas of knowledge go hand in hand. Fortyunately, we were assured that implementing focus on native speakerism on TrinityCert is something Trinity is currently working on (see comments below).

As far as CELTA is concerned, although there is some mention of varieties of English on its curriculum, and while a successful candidate should “understand the main ways that varieties of English differ from one another”; the CELTA trainers we’ve spoken to all confirmed that it’s entirely up to them whether to talk about the lingua franca/international nature of the English language, or not. To top it off, when we asked the person responsible for providing information about CELTA courses at the Cambridge stand at IATEFL 2017 exhibition whether ELF was part of the curriculum, instead of an answer we got a question: Sorry, but what is ELF?

Naturally, this discouraged us from asking ask whether there was any discussion of native speakerism on the course.

It’s a shame these topics are not a bigger part of the curriculum because when Dan Baines surveyed several hundreds of trainees, teachers, trainers and directors of studies; it turned out 97% of the trainees surveyed thought native speakerism was acceptable. 97%!

This is quite shocking, but not surprising if we’re to be honest. After all, they’re right at the beginning of their careers. And if the teacher trainers on the course don’t raise awareness of ELF or native speakerism, then how are the trainees supposed to realise they might be heading in for quite a discriminatory job hunt (especially if they’re ‘non-native speakers’).

It’s also a shame that there is room on CELTA syllabus for probably the biggest ELT myth of them all – learning styles. According to the curriculum, successful candidates “demonstrate an awareness of the different learning styles”. The learning styles myth has been debunked a zillion times (see here, for example), so it’s a pity that such a reputable teacher training qualification would choose to include it over areas such as ELF or native speakerism, which are backed by volumes of academic research.

The recent debate about the relevance of ELF at IATEFL 2017, where Peter Medgyes tried to convince the audience that ELF is of no practical interest to teachers (and in the process showed his own lack of awareness of ELF research), also proved that there is still a huge gap between research and practice in this area. A gap that I think must be bridged. What a better place to bridge this gap then TrinityCert and CELTA? Not to mention the DipTESOL or DELTA.

With all this in mind, Karin Krummenacher, Dan Baines and I conducted a study which aimed to raise TrinityCert trainees’ awareness of ELF and native speakerism. We presented the results at IATEFL 2017 conference in Glasgow, and you can watch the talk below:

So now over to you:

  • Were these two topics ever discussed during your teacher training?
  • As a teacher trainer, do you already include these topics? Why (not)?
  • Do you think they should be discussed with trainees? Why (not)?
  • How could trainers go about discussing these topics?

Looking forward to your comments.

karin krummenacherKarin Krummenacher is a Prague based teacher trainer, conference speaker and published writer. She takes an active interest in teacher development and equality in the industry. Her latest research deals with differentiation on initial teaching training courses. Karin holds Cambridge Delta.

daniel bainesDan is a teacher, director of studies, teacher educator, researcher and occasional conference speaker and blog post writer.  He is the Trinity DipTESOL coordinator at Oxford TEFL in Prague and shares pictures of his whiteboard on Twitter (@QuietBitLoudBit) for fun.

profile picMarek Kiczkowiak is the founder of TEFL Equity Advocates. He runs face-to-face and on-line courses about English as a Lingua Franca and native speakerism. He’s a frequent conference speaker and has given plenaries at international conferences. He’s currently teaching EAP at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He holds a BA in English Philology, Cambridge CELTA and DELTA, and is now working towards a PhD in TESOL at the University of York, UK. He also runs now a sporadically updated blog about ELT at TEFL Reflections and co-authors a regular podcast about teaching and learning English at The TEFL Show.

15 thoughts on “Why do we need to talk about ELF and native speakerism on CELTA and TrinityCert courses?

  1. chris says:

    Good points raised, but I feel, and my masters’ dissertation also concluded, that the biggest issue in our profession is due to the limitedness of the entry-level qualifications. How can we define the profession as ´professional´ when we rely on a one-month course and is openly criticised to only be able to provide the basic survival kit for the initial months or year of teaching. With a more extensive course, more theoretical aspects could be included.

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      Hi Chris,
      Thanks for commenting. I couldn’t agree more. It’s a bit of a joke really I think that you can become a qualified teacher in 4 weeks. Imagine you could become a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant in 4 weeks. What also annoys me is that in the private ELT sector, often a 4-week certificate holds more value than an MA in TESOL or related field, especially if that MA is from a non-English speaking country. Many ‘non-native speakers’ have to do CELTAs despite having already a degree from their country if they want to teach abroad in language schools.
      Any ideas how we can move forward and try to make ELT a bit more professional?

  2. ELF Pronunciation says:

    Hi Marek, Dan & Karin
    Good points. I definitely agree that ELF needs to be addressed in teacher training, particularly at pre-service stages, as so many of us carry the beliefs and practices we learn here through to our future careers for many years. I’ve co-authored a chapter on this with Martin Dewey which is due for publication this year, and I’ll share a manuscript earlier if I can. In it, we discuss the syllabus contents of both Cambridge and Trinity courses, and give examples of various projects worldwide which are bridging the gap between research implications and classroom (or training room) applications.
    I also agree that Péter Medgyes’ contribution to the ELTj Debate at this year’s IATEFL conference was not very constructive. My impression was that Alessia Cogo actually addressed her half of the debate appropriately, and also directly addressed the comments that were made afterwards, whereas Péter just conveyed his general disdain for research and didn’t really address ELF specifically, even in his response to audience comments. Odd, since he was meant to be proposing the motion! He said to me afterwards that he personally felt that “research has nothing to offer teachers”. In light of this view, I’m glad at least that there is still a very active Research SIG within IATEFL and I do hope they’re engaging with ELF, along with anything else about the nature of English that could impact what and how we teach.
    Anyway, one last thing to share – you might find this video interesting. I presented at the annual ELF conference in 2014 about how the school where I was working at the time had integrated ELF into our pre-service (CertTESOL course): https://youtu.be/LISe-AOWFQk?t=24m9s
    All the best,
    P.S. In defense of whoever was manning the Cambridge stand when you asked about ELF being on the CELTA syllabus, it’s likely that they work in Sales or Marketing and don’t know the contents of the 20-page syllabus inside out (though I agree that no awareness of ELF at all is a shame!). The people directly responsible for devising and implementing the syllabus of Cambridge courses are more likely to be outside the Exhibition Hall, meeting and presenting to teachers/trainers in person, or back in the office working on the various teacher training programmes that Cambridge offers. These people’s jobs don’t usually involve distributing books, leaflets, etc. at conference stalls.

    • Karin says:

      Hi Laura,

      Thanks for the reply! I’d love to read the manuscript when you’re ready to share.
      And by all means: the Cambridge stand person was a lovely human and very eager to help. I know from experience that knowledge on ELF is not a meaningful sales skill 99% of the time. We just found it interesting in connection with the bigger picture and a nice metaphor for the state of the industry.

      Please do let me know when your article is published,

  3. rossthorburn says:

    Hi. I think your mistaken in saying “there is not a single initial teacher training course where discussing English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) or native speakerism is part of the curriculum.” The Trinity CertTESOL (probably the second most common initial teacher training course in the world has “Awareness of geographical varieties of English…, English as a Lingua Franca and implications for teaching” in the syllabus.

    • Daniel Baines says:

      Hi Ross.

      This has actually come up a couple of times since the talk and thanks for pointing it out. It’s good that CertTESOL has this included, but I’d still question how intensively this is pushed (does it get a whole input? is it integrated into the phonology input? is it considered in the language exam?). On a CertTESOL course I worked on, it was given little more than a passing mention in a couple of phon inputs and was not included in any of the assessment during the course. As far as I know, this was never mentioned as a recommendation by a moderator, so I have to feel that more could be done and that is deserves to be a more significant part of these courses. (I have read comments from others in the last few days though to suggest that this has been addressed my moderators in other places).

      However, you are right and perhaps the wording was hasty and in fact should have said ELF AND nativespeakerism rather than OR, which more accurately reflects our feelings on the matter. I’ve yet to see any explicit reference to nativespeakerism in the syllabus for either CELTA or CertTESOL, but would be over the moon to be wrong about this as I think it also something that really needs to be addressed.


      • Ben Beaumont says:

        Hi Dan,

        It is indeed a tricky question. The decision of how much ‘ELF’ and ‘native speakerism’ content to much to include is down to individual centres and the knowledge and desire of the trainers involved in the courses. The CertTESOL syllabus refers to ELF in the language awareness section (page 12 “Geographical varieties of English, including English as a lingua franca” and page 13 “Awareness of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and how this impacts on international pronunciation”). In a short 130-hour initial teacher education course (the word ‘initial’ is key here, I feel), there’s only so much about teaching that can be covered. So as long as ensuring that an awareness of ELF is being promoted, alongside the awareness of other key knowledge areas for language teaching, such as an awareness of word class, tense and aspect, lexis, discourse, etc., not to mention the whole business of learning the skills to teach, assess and support learners, I don’t think there’s much more an awarding organisation like Trinity can do.

        Ideally matters relating to ELF and native speakerism would be woven as a thread throughout a course, integrating them holistically with the whole course content rather than simply being added on as an atomistic input session, and I would heartily encourage all trainers to take this kind of holistic approach.


    • Karin says:

      Hi Ross,
      Thanks for highlighting this. You’re completely right. While awareness of ELF is supposed to be assessed on the CertTESOL through teaching practice and the learner profile, it seems to me that these points are not explicit enough and that specific input on the topic is needed. We received very positive feedback from trainees when the topic was discussed explicitly in input sessions on the course. Additionally, nativespeakerism is not addressed at all in the syllabus. I’m sorry if the wording of the post was a little too strong – it’s definitely a great step in the right direction- and hope you agree that much more could be done to raise awareness on initial teaching training courses. I’m sure some trainers already do, and I hold them in high esteem, but I hope clearer indication in syllabi will make it even easier for training centres to provide thorough and explicit input.

      • Ross says:

        Hi Karin. Yes, I completely agree that trainers aught to make sure trainees are aware of these issues. I totally support the TEFL equity cause and several of our podcasts on http://www.tefltraininginstitute.com discuss and support this issue.
        We also need to be careful to not undermine ourselves through exaggeration. There is a big difference between “Zero. Nought. Zilch. Nada.” being included on ELF on any teacher training course syllabus in the world and ELF being included in the second most common teacher training course there is (i.e. the Trinity CertTESOL). If there is a problem with the CELTA syllabus, it would be helpful to address Cambridge and CELTA directly rather than desk in generalizations.

        • Karin says:

          I entirely agree with you, Ross. I think it’s mainly an issue based on terminology. My main concern here is nativespeakerism, which really isn’t addressed on any syllabus. All points taken though and I’m looking forward to checking out your podcast.

  4. Ben Beaumont says:

    Yes, I agree that ELF and native speakerism needs to be discussed more. To help raise awareness of ELF in particular, in January 2016 the CertTESOL syllabus was changed to include explicit reference to ELF (pages 12 and 13 of the syllabus document http://www.trinitycollege.com/site/?id=702). Trinity centres around the world had 12 months to implement changes to the syllabus, so hopefully this change should start to help raise trainees’ awareness of ELF and its importance in the sector. It was at this time that we also removed references to ‘Learner Styles’.
    In the coming months Trinity TESOL will also be producing materials to raise awareness of some of the issues surrounding native speakerism, hopefully helping redress some of the discrimination in the industry. I’ll let you know when these are available.

  5. Mark Armstrong says:

    Thank you for your continued work on this topic. It’s definitely an issue that is relevant here in South Korea even if it is rarely discussed in so thorough a manner. It was a great read that I’ll be sharing.

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