How to get colleagues to support the NNEST cause – by Nick Michelioudakis

Why not educate people?

Three reasons: i) They know all this stuff already! Let us be clear: 98.7% of all the people who are active in the ELT world are nice, liberal people who are against all kinds of discrimination; ii) telling people the same thing again and again may well trigger reactance (Wiseman 2012 – p. 227); iii) (much more importantly): there is no guarantee at all that informing people or getting people to agree to something will have any impact on the way they behave.

But you do not have to take my word for this – here is professor Dan Ariely to drive the point home. Notice in particular the bit after 1:40. Ask yourself this question: have you ever sent a text message while driving? (I can tell you are nodding to yourself) Why was that? Was it that you were not aware of the risks?

Three different appeals

So – if propaganda does not work, what does work?

Well, consider the following study (Ferrier, Ward & Palermo 2012): The question here was which would be the most effective way to get people to support a charity (‘Save the Children’). There were three experimental conditions: the first group got all the info – they got the facts and figures about child poverty etc. (does this ring any bells? J ); the second group got an emotional appeal (smiling, happy children plus inspirational music); the third group however got nothing. Instead they were asked to design an advertising campaign for the charity.  There was also a control group. Afterwards, each group of people were asked to make a donation to the charity. Care to guess which group offered the most money? Well, the graph below speaks for itself (Ferrier 2014 – p. 38).


Why was the third approach so effective?

Ferrier (2014 – p. 38) gives three reasons:  i) A sense of ownership: by contributing something – a slogan, an idea) people felt closer to the cause. Advertising people know this and they have used this again and again (see this campaign for instance).  ii) Cognitive dissonance: subconsciously people think ‘If I am prepared to do some work for this organization, they have to be doing something good – I wouldn’t do it otherwise’. More importantly however… iii) People felt a sense of autonomy: ‘they were invited to interact with a message on their own terms rather than it being forced on them. This circumnavigates resistance’ (ibid).

I believe that this last point is one we should take note of. Our cause is a just cause – but there is always a risk we might alienate people. Instead, what we should do is get people active. In J. Jaffes’ words, we need to shift from a ‘Tell and Sell’ to a ‘Participate and Play’ approach (ibid – p. 181).

How can we involve colleagues?

Well, we could crowdsource ideas for a start. The campaign still does not have a simple, instantly recognizable logo to act as a trigger (see Berger 2013 [Chapter 2] on the importance of triggers for virality) or a catchy slogan.

But we do not have to ‘prompt’ people in any way. We could simply ask colleagues for ideas on concrete, actionable initiatives (‘asking people to remove discriminatory language from ads’ is a good step forward; ‘awareness-raising’ does not quite cut it – it is too fuzzy). Sue Annan came up with the brilliant idea of having trainee teachers respond to discriminatory ads with e-mails to the companies who had posted them (click here to read the post). Notice the dual effect here: i) the market is beginning to get the message that ‘the times they are a-changing’ and advertising for ‘a qualified teacher – whites only please’ is not acceptable any more and  ii) much more importantly, the trainee herself is not the same person after that e-mail.

Last Words – a toxic relationship

Have you ever tried to persuade a friend of yours to leave a toxic relationship? It is hard, isn’t it? Everybody tells her (it is usually ‘her’) this is going nowhere – the guy (it is usually a guy) is selfish, controlling, abusive but how much does this help? She knows all this after all. The more people tell her, the more reactance kicks in.

Similarly, our field is still in love with native-speakerism. Not with ‘native speaker’ teachers you understand – there is nothing wrong with them – but when the time for inviting speakers comes, the old habits kick in (‘People want the big names’ – ‘We are doing what is best for the association’ etc. etc.) and the old patterns keep perpetuating themselves. In my view, there is no point in preaching to the converted; what is needed is a little nudge for our field to really move forward.


  • Berger, J. (2013) Contagious. London: Simon & Schuster
  • Ferrier, A. Ward, B. & Palermo J. (2012) Behaviour Change: Why Action Advertising Works Harder than Passive Advertising. Presented at Society for Consumer Psychology: Proceedings of the 2012 Annual Conference. Las Vegas, 16-18 February
  • Ferrier, A. (2014) The Advertising Effect. South Melbourne, Oxford University Press
  • Wiseman, R. (2012). Rip it up. London: Macmillan

nick michelioudakisNick Michelioudakis (B. Econ., Dip. RSA, MSc [TEFL]) has been working in the field of ELT for many years as a teacher, examiner and teacher trainer. His love of comedy has led him to start the ‘Comedy for ELT’ channel on YouTube. He has written extensively on Methodology, though he is better known for his ‘Psychology and ELT’ articles which have appeared in a number of publications in various countries. He is particularly interested in student motivation and classroom management as well as Social and Evolutionary Psychology, Management and Marketing.  For articles or worksheets of his, you can visit his blog at 

IATEFL 2017 and the native speaker debate

Yes, it’s this time of year – IATEFL 2017 is almost here. Last year we had a phenomenal plenary from Silvana Richardson about the prejudice many ‘non-native speaker’ teachers suffer from in ELT, which I wrote about here. There were also several really interesting workshops and talks on the topic of ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’. So I was really looking forward to seeing what there is in store for those of us interested in equal professional opportunities for ‘non-native speakers’.

It turns out there isn’t much.

Apart from the talk I’m co-presenting with Dan Baines and Karin Krummenacher, which I’ll talk a bit more about in a moment, there is only one other talk that mentions the acronym NNEST (Non-Native Speaker Teacher) in the abstract:

Title: Sink or swim? Preparing trainees for the EFL jobs market.

Time and date: 4th April 2.35pm – 3.05pm

Speaker: Dita Phillips (British Study Centres Oxford-Teacher Training)

Abstract: The murky (sometimes shark-infested) waters of the EFL/ESOL jobs market can be a daunting prospect for newly-qualified teachers, especially non-native speakers (NNESTs). What more can trainers on pre-service courses do to help? I will discuss my survey of CELTA graduates and give practical ideas for helping trainees as they prepare to take the plunge and look for work.

There is also a talk which forms a part of a forum on teacher identity:

Title: ‘I’m not really an expert’: NEST schemes and teacher identity

Time and Date: 06th April 2-3pm

Speakers: Sue Garton (Aston University) & Fiona Copland (University of Stirling)

Abstract: In this presentation, we will examine the identities that native English-speaker teachers (NESTs) and local English teachers (LETs) construct when working  together on NEST schemes. Through an analysis of interview and observational  data, we will show that these identity constructions can affect team-teaching relationships in both positive and negative ways.

One more talk relevant to the ‘native speaker’ debate, which I had originally missed, is this one:

Title: We are. We can. We teach.

Time and date: Thursday 6 April 1645-1715

Abstract: What makes someone a good or successful teacher? Is it simply a question of whether a teacher is a native-speaker or not? Traditionally, that has been the case but recent debate suggests this way of thinking is flawed. How, then, should we define success instead? This talk aims to offer a solution: using teaching competences.

In a way perhaps, the whole debate about ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers might be taking us away from what is really important, that is the ability to teach, regardless of your first language or nationality. So I’m really looking forward to the talk. Hopefully, it will provide a fresh perspective on the debate.

Finally, as Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson pointed out in this blog post, there’s also only one presentation focused on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). This is a shame as I really hoped that after last year’s plenary, there would be a much wider choice of talks on native speakerism and ELF.

Our talk

Did you know that 50% of trainees on certificate level TEFL courses Dan Baines surveyed find job ads for ‘native speakers’ only acceptable? In other words, 50% of people taking Trinity Cert or CELTA see nothing wrong with advertising for ‘native speakers’ only.

This was what prompted us to start our research project – we wanted to raise trainees’ awareness of native speakerism and English as a Lingua Franca. To start a discussion about these issues. To get them thinking about these things.

And ultimately, to see if we could change their beliefs about ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers and the English language.

To this end, we developed a series of awareness-raising tasks on Moodle which the trainees did during their 4-week TrinityCert course. We conducted a survey at the beginning of the course, and once they’ve completed the tasks, and we also interviewed them to get a more in-depth perspective on their beliefs.

What were the results?

Come to our talk to find out 🙂

Title: NESTs and NNESTs: awareness-raising and promoting equality through
teacher training

Speakers: Karin Krummenacher, Daniel Baines (Oxford TEFL Prague) & Marek
Kiczkowiak (University of Leuven)

Time and Date: 06th April 2-2.30pm

Abstract: This talk explores how trainers can raise trainees’ awareness of ELF and native speakerism on pre-service training courses through online and face-to-face
activities. It presents the effects these had on trainees’ beliefs and gives
participants an array of practical ideas and activities they can incorporate into
their own training routine. It concludes with implications for teacher training
courses in general.

You might also be interested in reading the article Karin, Dan and I published in ELTed Journal, where we outline why and how trainers should raise awareness of native speakerism. You can access the pdf here.

Dan and Karin also wrote blog posts for TEFL Equity Advocates:

  1. I am Hank, or being a NNEST in Prague – Karin Krummenacher
  2. The attitudes to discrimination in ELT job ads – the importance of teaching experience – Dan Baines
  3. Sexism, ageism, racism and native speakerism – job ads in ELT – Dan Baines
  4. Cheeky postcards: lessons learned from being a trainer on TEFL courses – Dan Baines

Hope to see you there!

PS In case you can’t make it, we’ll record the talk and put it up on TEFL Equity Advocates YouTube channel, so watch this space! Follow the channel and the blog so you don’t miss it.

Equity in ELT – who do we need to convince? by Kenneth Arnold

I fully support TEFL Equity advocates and want to fight discrimination, so I clicked on the link here about what we could do. One of the suggestions is to make a blog post about it, so here is my attempt.

Not discriminating against someone due to their place of birth seems such an obvious thing, I started wondering who we need to convince. Obviously we need to convince someone or it wouldn’t still be a problem. I have tried to narrow the situation down to four basic groups for the sake of simplification. I am speaking very generally here.

  1. Experienced teachers/Teacher Trainers: I’ll start with the category that I fall into. I’ve been involved in ESL for about 20 years now as have most of the people I work with and we have worked in a number of countries in Europe and Asia.

You only need to look around this blog or watch videos produced by all of the big names in this profession to see the support against discrimination. I personally don’t know of any teacher trainers who believe in native speakerism. This has no doubt come about through experience. Just working in this industry for any length of time will put you into contact with talented, qualified NNESTs. You can’t avoid them. And any teacher trainer will tell you there are strong and weak NNEST just like native speakers. NNESTs tend to have certain advantages, such as being about to empathize with their students. While you might occasionally find an experienced native teacher, teaching in isolation, who believes that “natives are the best”, it’s fairly clear that they have no real influence on the profession and for all intents are “flat-Earthers”.

So why are we spending time lecturing each other in conferences or by writing blogs trying to convince each other? It’s fairly clear you are preaching to the choir when it comes to convincing those who have experience in this area. I’m fully aware that anyone frequenting this blog doesn’t need any convincing.

  1. New/Pre-service teachers: A friend of mine did some research that demonstrated that new and pre-service teachers are much less likely to notice discrimination in general in our industry. This makes sense. Quite often this might come from marketing for TEFL courses (“If you can speak English, you can teach English.”) With native speakers, they are probably less likely to notice it because it is discrimination in their favour. Particularly if you are only planning on being in this profession for a short time, why not take advantage of it. And in general, more than anything, it could just be a lack of exposure/interest.

I know that for myself, as a young teacher all those years ago, I hadn’t really thought about it until I observed an experienced non-native at my school. She taught such a knowledgeable, organized lesson that I left feeling inadequate in my own teaching. Of course, it inspired me to try harder, learn more grammar and try to improve in many ways.

I see this on a monthly basis in my training courses. Native speakers are routinely convinced of non-native teachers’ effectiveness just by being around them, seeing them teach. Recently, I had a native speaker trainee, in the final week of the course, tell a Belgian trainee just how impressed with her he was, being able to do what he was doing, all in a second language. Evidence of a clear convert.

So while we can preach to new teachers about discrimination, you probably don’t need to hit them over the head with it. Just being around, working in the industry with NNESTs of ability should convince them. To be honest, new teachers are not involved in the hiring process anyway. So if they stay in the profession for any length of time and become an experienced teacher or trainer they should convert.

(Interestingly, NNESTs seem to not support each other on occasion. I remember at a conference, watching the eye-rolling of the audience of NNESTs when the next presenter with a clearly non-English sounding name was announced. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies)

  1. Language schools/Employers: It is pretty common to see Native Speaker clearly labelled among job adverts in any country it seems, quite often, almost without thought. (A local ad advertised “Real Native Speaker” as the first requirement. I wonder what prompted that the “real” be included? Of course, as a friend points out, it doesn’t specify “of English” so technically everyone is a “Native Speaker” of some language.)

In the EU, it is quite clearly against the regulations of discriminatory practice but still happens constantly. Most school owners will sheepishly shrug their shoulders and say that native speakers are what the clients demand.

Now why is this? In Prague, there is often a clear case of “Keeping up with the Jones’s”. Native speakers were once rarer therefore more prestigious to have. Students could boast, “I have an actual British teacher.” And feel better than their friends who were learning from a native Czech who had been teaching Russian up until everything changed. In the old days, teachers might be only a few units ahead of their students in the course books. Of course these days are long gone, but the hangover still remains.

While the language school owners’ answers might appear sheepish, they do strike at the heart of the matter. They are in a service industry and will do whatever the students demand. If, for some reason, students believed they were better taught by pink-haired female teachers with interesting dress sense, then you’d see hiring ads like “REAL pink haired teachers only.” In many ways, the owners are just following the market trends, like all businesses.

  1. Students: Which leaves us firmly in the lap of the students. For whatever misguided reasons, this myth is perpetuated by the clients. Theirs is the attitude which needs be changed to have any hope of ending the discrimination. As a former colleague once told me, “It all comes down to the students’ attitudes.”

And how do we change their attitudes? I’m open to ideas. Anyone? Anyone?

kenneth-arnoldKenneth Arnold has degrees in education and English and has worked in TEFL teaching and training since 1997. Originally from St. Louis, he completed his higher education with the Shenker TEFL certificate in Italy and the Cambridge DELTA. Kenneth has taught English in various countries including Malaysia, South Bohemia, Italy, Spain, and the U.S., in many academic settings. He currently works for TEFL Worldwide Prague. When not teaching or training, Kenneth enjoys history, reading, and spending time with his young daughters.

Making job specifications more specific by Alex Moore

The fact that you’ve visited this website and are reading this tells me you probably don’t need convincing that “native-speakerism” is a myth that discriminates against thousands of qualified teachers, for whom English happens not to be their native language.

I’m also going to assume you’ve read Marek’s post about “native speaker only” job adverts, and his suggested write-back campaign.

Advertising for native speakers only is considered discriminatory by TESOL International or IATEFL, and a breach of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Writing back is an excellent way of reminding employers of this, and showing that teachers, of whatever background, care.

You can’t say “native speakers only” any more. However, there is a one-word dodge that could, potentially allow schools to continue the hiring practice.

Imagine you are the DoS or principal of a school where students, or their families, seem to prefer native speakers. You may know that academic opinion is against them on this, but it would be too hard to change their minds. You’re also worried that, if you tried, they might take offence or feel let down, and take their business to the school down the road who will tell them what they want to hear. TEFL Equity might be an admirable principle, but it’s a principle you can’t afford to have.

So you’d like to continue employing native speakers, but know you can’t explicitly advertise for them. You ask for native-level speakers instead. That one extra word send out the right message, “non-native speakers have a chance, if their English is good enough”, but retains all the power: “We decide who is native-level, and who isn’t”. A school could, covertly, still only hire native speakers. Instead of telling non-native applicants that they’re being turned down because of the crest on their passport, they could just say “Sorry, we don’t think your English is native-level”. End of chat.

This “native-level” phrase isn’t hard to find. Looking more or less randomly on the “International jobs board” at, I found schools in Turkey and Russia that listed “NATIVE LEVEL”, in capitals, in the first line of their text. Another, in Hungary, asked for “native fluency” and one in Spain had a requirements list where, tellingly, “native level of English” was listed above “TEFL or CELTA”.

I found similar results at A company that runs summer schools in the UK and elsewhere in Europe asked for applicants with an “English native level of competence” (sic), and similar phrases seem to be common throughout adverts for British summer schools. A full-time job advert in Poland, the country I currently work in, shouts that it wants an “ENGLISH NATIVE LEVEL SPEAKER” in the headline, though weirdly doesn’t mention this in the “qualifications” list later.

In all these cases, I have no idea what thought process lay behind the wording of the adverts. For all I know, these schools may give NNESTs a fair hearing, and may have many on their payroll. But, if I were a non-native, seeing that advert, I might still wonder: “Is there any point in applying for this?”

Also, all of these schools are in ECHR signatory countries, so are presumably aware of their Article 14 responsibility. Would they advertise for natives only, if they were legally free to do so? I don’t know, but we’re entitled to be suspicious.

So, inspired by the aforementioned write-back campaign against “native only” adverts, here is an alternative letter, aimed at the more widespread (in Europe) “native-level” phrase:

Dear __________,

I am writing in reply to your recent job advert for English teachers, posted at [web address].

Your advert lists “native-level” command of English as a requirement for candidates.

“Native-level” is a vague phrase. It is highly open to interpretation, both on the employers’ side and the potential applicants’. Many qualified teachers, for whom English happens to be a second language, might be put off from applying by this wording – a scenario where both parties potentially lose out.

As I’m sure you know, there are many ways of formally classifying language ability. If you specify a CEFR level, IELTS grade or Cambridge Suite exam grade, applicants will know the standard they are being judged against, and have an objective way of demonstrating their proficiency.

Furthermore, non-native speakers, as English teachers, can provide an inspiring example to your students, living proof that hard work, dedication and practice pay off. Compared to native speakers, they will also know the exam systems available to their students, having passed through one or more of them themselves.

Bearing this in mind, I hope you might consider amending the above-mentioned advert, and future adverts, to include a more precise phrase than “native-level”.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


This is not about telling schools who they should and should not hire. I am proud to say the company I currently work for requires candidates to have an IELTS band 8, or demonstrate a CEFR C2 level, and employers are perfectly entitled to set such high standards. But falling back on a weasel phrase like “native-level” is as good as not setting standards at all.

alex-mooreAlex Moore currently works in Poland. Before becoming an English teacher, he worked as a journalist for a local newspaper group in his native South Wales. After qualifying, his first spell abroad was in China, from 2011 to 2016 (“a six-month career break that got seriously out of hand”). During that time he played a key role in opening two new language school campuses in Chongqing and was appointed Foreign Teacher Manager by i2. Since then, he has worked at CSL in Swansea and is now at IH Bielsko-Biala.
Fun fact: In his very first placement in China, the school sent him back to the agency after three days, complaining he “stuttered too much”. Since then, his delivery has improved, or his DoSes have become more considerate, or both.

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.

CATESOL position paper opposing discrimination against Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and teachers with "non-standard" varieties of English

In this quick post I wanted to share with you the CATESOL (California TESOL) position statement against discrimination of NNESTs and teachers with ‘non-standard’ varieties of English. CATESOL is a TESOL affiliate, largest in the US, and it was founded in 1969. As can be read on their website, “CATESOL represents teachers of English language learners throughout California and Nevada, promoting excellence in education and providing high-quality professional development.” The below statement was downloaded from CATESOL website here. They have also issued numerous other position statements, for example on Language Policy and on Second Language teaching in schools, which are all available here.

Similar statements have been issued by four teaching associations: TESOL International, TESOL France, BC TEAL (The Association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language ) and TESOL Spain. You can read them all here – if you know of any other similar position statements, please get in touch and I’ll add them to the list.

Let’s hope that more associations follow suit as this type of advocacy is very much needed now. A lot of great awareness raising has been done, however, what is still lacking is more advocacy and activism. So this is an open call to all the English teaching associations in the world: don’t turn a blind eye, support your NNEST members, speak out for equality, speak out for professionalism in ELT.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

CATESOL position paper opposing discrimination against Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and teachers with “non-standard” varieties of English

Passed by the CATESOL Board of Directors, October 5, 2013


CATESOL opposes any sort of discrimination against English teachers based on the “nativeness” of their English and / or their English variety. Sufficient proficiency in English should be an important criterion in the employment and ongoing assessment of English teachers. However, CATESOL does not condone job announcements that list “native English,” “native command of English,” “native-like fluency,” “standard accented English,” or similar, as required or desirable qualities. If reference is to be made to language ability at all in job announcements, suggested changes to such criteria are “high proficiency in English,” “proficiency in English suitable to the position,” or the like.


The best teachers of English language are those with experience and professional preparation in their field, regardless of their own linguistic backgrounds. Instructors with noticeably “non-native” backgrounds or accents are often excellent teachers possessing an advanced understanding of cultural sensitivity (and are in addition prime role models for English learners), while some English teachers who grew up with English and are thus considered “native” may very well be poorly prepared (even entirely unprepared) or inexperienced, resulting in ineffective teaching. In all cases, the work of English teachers should be judged, and teachers should be employed, on the merits of their teaching abilities, of which the “nativeness” of their English should play no part.

The same principle holds true for teachers with “non-standard” varieties of English (commonly referred to as accents or dialects). Excellent teachers speak a wide range of local, regional, and / or field-specific English varieties. Sociolinguistic scholarship testifies to the systematicity, legitimacy and richness of varieties such as those in the “Expanding and Outer Circles” of World Englishes, the various forms of English as a Lingua Franca, and the myriad local and regional dialects across the traditionally native English-speaking world. No judgment should be made about the value of any these varieties – indeed, each has great value in the context in which it is used – nor, in turn, about teachers who use these varieties.

Teaching job announcements that indicate a preference or requirement for a “native” speaker of English trivialize the professional development teachers have received and teaching experience they have already acquired. Such announcements are also discriminatory, as they commit the “native speaker fallacy,” the notion that only native speakers are the possessors and nurturers of a language, when in actual fact, language is a public phenomenon that belongs to no one and is subject to constant innovation and disruption*. Finally, such announcements ultimately harm all teachers (native or not) by devaluing teacher education, professionalism, and experience. Therefore, CATESOL opposes such discriminatory job announcements and does not condone their distribution.

*See Phillipson, Robert. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

If you’d like to further support TEFL Equity Advocates and its call for equal employment opportunities for native and non-native English speaking teachers, you can add this badge to your website. For more information, please click here.

Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic


'The N factor': spreading equality in your workplace – by Sarah Priestley

After watching Silvana Richardson’s IATEFL 2016 plenary ‘ The native factor, the haves and have-nots’ this April I immediately asked myself what I could do to raise awareness of some of the issues Silvana highlighted.  Through meeting Marek on Twitter we started chatting about my ideas.  So, this post is to share with you the activities I have recently done to help my teaching colleagues and customer service staff be more aware of ‘The N factor’.  I hope I might inspire you to do something similar in your organization!1In May 2016, to get the ball rolling, I presented a slot in our monthly teacher 15 minute forum (a CPD event for teachers where teachers have 5 minutes to summarize a teaching idea, an article or an area of interest) on ‘The N factor’. 10 teachers came and for most of them it was the first time they had heard about this area of hot debate.   I highlighted some key facts and figures from Silvana Richardson’s plenary and commented on how our own staffroom was made up of both NS and NNS and that we should all be proud of who we are.  I reiterated this point by quoting Peter Medgyes, who I was lucky enough to hear speak at the EICE Valencia conference this May.


To spread the word to all teaching staff I shared my 15 minute forum slides in an email and wrote a short summary of my 15 minute slot in our weekly teacher newsletter. I also continued to talk about the topic over the next few days and weeks with anyone who would listen to me!

Afterwards, I also realized that our customer service staff might be interested in hearing what I had to say.  After all, they deal with the public every day and a frequent comment they hear is ‘Of course, I presume that all your teachers are mother-tongue speakers.’  I wondered how confident my customer service colleagues were in handling this scenario and how knowledgeable they were of the advantages that both NS and NNS teachers can bring to the classroom.

Our Director and Customer Service Manager were very keen and enthusiastic about my suggestion so in June I organized 2 briefing sessions.  Chatting with a fellow teacher Ania Krzyzosiak, we decided to prepare and run the customer service sessions together (you can download the handout here).  That way, there would be both a NS and NNS delivering the session and 2 brains and pairs of hands are always better than one!  16 colleagues attended and our 30 minute briefing generated a lot of healthy discussion and comments.  I think the Venn diagram activity, where they had to think about the qualities that NS and NNS can bring to the classroom, was particularly thought-provoking and made my non-teaching colleagues consider advantages that they had never really thought about til then.


The exit tickets we collected at the end of the 2 customer service sessions included comments such as ‘More convincing arguments for answering the basic question.’ and ‘Non-NEST teachers can teach as accurately as NEST teachers.’

IATEFL 2016 may be over but Silvana Richardson brought to the foreground very important issues and there is still plenty to be done on tackling discrimination and misconceptions in many organisations and at many levels in the ELT world.  I work for the British Council and we have a global policy of equal opportunity for recruitment.  That said, I still feel it is important to discuss ‘The N factor’ in my workplace.  I hope my small contribution will go some way to continuing this debate and that after reading this blog you might be thinking of how you, too, can spread the NSNNS word!

If you’d like to see some lesson materials for adult students connected to the NS NNS topic then click here.  If you have any ideas or comments about this blog then post them below and/or tweet them to me at @Sarah_TTrainer .

About the author

sarah priestleySarah’s teaching and teacher training career over the last 20 years has taken her to Eastern Europe, the Far East and Europe, where she currently works at the British Council.  A Cambridge CELTA and Young Learner extension tutor, she has trained both teachers working in the state sector and in ELT.  She is currently Coordinator of the Bilingual Education Consultancy Service British Council Italy and teaches adults and young learners.  You can follow her on Twitter @Sarah_TTrainer


Stand up and be counted – by Adam Beale

I recently started to apply to other academies here in Madrid. Several had been recommended by friends and colleagues and so I decided to send off my CV. I had an interview at one for a senior position, but no luck. I persevered and tried for another of the schools on my recommended list. Within a couple of hours of emailing them I received this response;

Hi there Adam,

Thanks for your email and interest in our schools. We are now holding interviews for the coming academic year 2016/17 between now and early September. Please get back to us and let us know which dates and times are good for you to attend an interview here in Madrid.

Our minimum requirements are that applicants be native speakers, hold a European passport (or have working papers for Spain),  have a degree, the CELTA (or equivalent diploma) and a minimum of one year’s prior teaching experience to work in one of our six schools here in Madrid.

This is exactly as it appeared to me and the ‘native speakers’ part was already in bold type. But why was it in bold type? Why was it necessary to stress this particular requirement and not any of the others? More to the point, why don’t they realise this is discriminatory practice?

I could have just not responded. I could have ignored it and replied with a time and a date for an interview. I could have pointed it out to my colleagues that this particular school was discriminating against teachers because they weren’t natives and to stay away. I could have done a lot of things, but instead I did what I knew was the right thing. I called them out and wrote back, telling them that they were wrong to ask for ‘native speakers’ only and I would not be continuing my application. My response is below;

Thank you for your quick reply to my recent email about potential teacher vacancies at your school.

Unfortunately, I will not be taking my application any further. 

In your reply to my email you stated that one of the school requirements was for the applicant to be a ‘native speaker’. I was saddened to see an established school such as yourself being discriminatory towards non-native English speaking teachers (NNESTs). 

In my six years as a teacher I have worked with many NNESTs and I can safely say that they are some of the best teachers I have had the fortune to work alongside. Not only do they hold the same qualifications as a NEST, but they often have a better grasp of the English language and a more intimate depth of its grammar. This is mostly due to them having been through the struggle of becoming proficient in the English language, which as I’m sure you are aware, is no mean feat.

Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why you would deny your students the chance of being taught by NNESTs. Why would you not want the students to have a role model who can show them that it is possible to reach proficiency in a language? Why wouldn’t you want to employ teachers that know the inner workings of English grammar and who have personal experience of successfully learning these structures? Why would you want to contribute to needless reinforcement of the view held by many students that the only way to learn a language is by having a native speaker as a teacher?  

I wish you the best of luck with your recruitment for the coming academic year and I hope that you reassess your requirements for teachers.

Kind regards,


Some of you may have seen this on twitter. It got an awful lot of attention, which I was not expecting but immensely grateful for. My purpose for tweeting it was simply to draw attention to the fact that this happens rather than to get lots of retweets and likes. Nevertheless, the amount of attention somewhat validated my action. The stream of messages I received made me realise that this is something more people should be doing. It’s not a matter of naming and shaming but bringing this unfair practice to light. We should be confronting schools and academies that do this and we should engage in constructive conversations that aim to get them to change the way they advertise and employ teachers.

My email received a reply;

Hi Adam,

You are quite right in that non-native Teachers often make excellent Teachers. We have had experience of that in the past. However, we are somewhat pressured by the demand of the market here in Spain for “Native” teachers of English. It appears to be a strong requirement of theirs. Having said that, our school does believe in equality of opportunity and we never do close the door on non-native teachers but take everything into consideration and often do interview non-native candidates.

I wish you the best for the future.

I could have almost predicted this reply, the pressure in demand, a strong requirement from students etc. I understand that primarily (and sadly) academies and schools are businesses but this does not mean morals and good practice go out of the window. I could not let it lie, so I responded;

 Thanks again for responding and I hope you understand that this is nothing personal and clearly it’s an industry wide problem. However, I feel that to combat this problem, it is schools like yours that need to do it.

Firstly, we need to ask ourselves where this demand comes from. Secondly, when this demand appears as a requirement do we try to counter it with effective arguments in favour of NNESTs? Finally, you say that “we never close the door on non-native teachers but take everything into consideration” yet if I were a non native speaker and I received your previous email about how being a native was “a minimum requirement”, I would immediately feel as though the door was already closed.

I have no right to tell you how to run your business, but I feel that I have the right as someone who works in this profession, to ask you to reconsider your minimum requirements in order to buck the current trend in the ELT profession and promote inclusivity in ELT.

Kind regards,


I’m yet to receive a reply but I really hope that my actions might have caused them to stop and think. Wishful thinking, I know but I would implore anyone who finds themselves in the same situation to stand up and fight back.

Adobe Spark

adam bealeMy name is Adam Beale. I have been teaching in ELT for 6 years. I currently reside in Madrid and I am happy to call it home. I completed my Trinity cert in 2010 and promptly moved to Santander, Spain to begin my teaching career. Since then, I have spoken at several conferences about Dogme, learner diaries and projects with YLs as well as starting my own blog, where I write about my experiences as a teacher. I completed my DELTA this year and I am looking to make a move into teacher training.




"Five ways to speak out against the discrimination of ‘non native’ English teachers" by Katherine Bilsborough

I was asked to write something for this blog after being involved in a few informal discussions and chats that took place between talks and workshops at IATEFL this year – discussions about the absurdity of labelling the overwhelming majority of the qualified, experienced English teachers who exist in today’s world with the prefix ‘non’. I’m not going to write about injustices I’ve seen or brilliant ‘non-native’ teachers who I’ve observed. If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that I’m already preaching to the converted. Others on the site can express things much more effectively than me. I’m just going to share what I’ve learnt after some recent experiences of trying to speak up about this subject – and being told things like ‘change the record’, ‘get off your soap box’ or ‘get real’.

Every time I see an advertisement for a ‘native teacher’ I feel an urge to comment and draw attention to the ad. But I’ve learnt (the hard way) that criticism is much more effective if it’s done more subtly and respectfully so my tip number 1 is a ‘don’t’. Lots of us belong to social media groups of ELT professionals. I belong to teacher groups, teacher trainer groups, author groups, ELT research groups and others. Being inside such groups gives us opportunities to discuss issues that directly affect us as professionals in different ways but unless you want to upset people within your groups, think before you post an angry comment.

Designed by @tekhnologicblog

Designed by @tekhnologicblog

1. Be nice!

Don’t be aggressive or rude when you want to draw attention to a discriminatory post or advert. Don’t assume that the person who has shared the post is even aware of the wider issues. See it as an opportunity to raise awareness. Naming and shaming is not a good way to change a person’s point of view and can end up causing more harm than good. If you speak sense, calmly, you’ll have a better chance of changing minds. This is tried and tested. Over the past six months I’ve had two successful experiences in convincing language school owners that they should consider removing ‘native teacher’ from their job ads. After chatting online and sharing opinions, they have agreed to give it a go. The real result will come when we see a rise in the number of ‘non-native’ teachers working side-by-side with ‘natives’.

This is a job advert from a teachers’ group I belong to. I have removed the school’s name and contact details. The job ad has now been revised and the offending N word removed. The language school teacher and I have even become FB friends.

We are looking for a good native English teacher to teach in an English Immersion course next week.

Our courses are for professional adults in small groups of 2-6. Check us out at

We pay quite well, all meals and accommodation included. The course runs from Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon. If interested email your CV to me at

2. Praise good practice

Make a point of applauding those adverts that make a point of not excluding teachers because of their nationality. This is something that I’ve got into the habit of doing and now notice, within some of my groups, that very often somebody else has got in before me and posted a comment along the lines of, ‘Great to see a fair, non-discriminatory advert. Well done (name of school)’.

3. Send a message

Send a polite message to the person who has posted (or shared) the advert, suggesting that they might consider the wording so as not to cause offence. Sometimes the advert is sent out by a school year after year, with just dates and small details being tweaked. It can be a good idea to include a link to a blog post or website with an article about the issue so that they can get a better understanding of where you are coming from.

Here’s an example of the kind of message I send.

Hi (name),

I was thinking of posting a comment below the job advert that you posted but thought it might be more polite to send you a message. I don’t know whether you are aware of the current debate about using terminology such as ‘non-native’ in a job advert. There have been several discussions on this page and I’m confident that most of us agree that it is discriminatory to refuse work opportunities to teachers simply on the basis of their nationality. I’m sure you will agree that there is no room for discrimination of any kind on our profession. You might be interested to know that job adverts that don’t mention any nationality requirements but ask instead for experience or qualifications are usually praised and supported.


4. Talk about the issues

Start a discussion on social media about the unfairness of discrimination against ‘non-native’ teachers (and, indeed about all discrimination). A good time to do this is just after somebody has written an appropriate (or inappropriate!) blog post about the subject or just after a teachers’ conference has taken place when the issue will inevitably be spoken about in plenaries, talks and workshops.

5. Share the facts

Bring the subject up in your own teaching contexts and with your PLNs and staff room colleagues. Sharing opinions and talking about experiences are the best way to spread the good word. This word needs to reach not only language school owners and teachers but also students and parents of younger students. Read up on statistics, watch related webinars and read articles and blog posts so that you are up-to-date with what is happening regarding TEFL Equity (see the Reading list and Videos sections for articles and videos on the topic). That way you can argue your case effectively and help to change the world we work in.

Not everybody wants to wave a banner around on behalf of a good cause but from what I see there are lots of people who would like to do their bit to support a campaign calling for an end to discrimination of non-native speakers. You don’t really have to do much at all, just get informed, keep your eyes open for discriminatory advertising and speak up when you see an injustice. We don’t want to change the record just yet.

Designed by @teflninja

Designed by @teflninja

For more ideas how to get involved click here. You might also find this post written by james Taylor useful, as well as the discussion in this article interesting.

13112559_10154063940517429_1243802354_oKatherine has worked in ELT since 1986 as a teacher, teacher trainer and author. She has published coursebooks and materials for all ages and contexts. She develops materials for the British Council and the BBC and several ELT publishers and regularly contributes to the Learnenglish and TeachingEnglish websites. She co-curates the Facebook page Free and Fair ELT and has just published a new book called How to Write Primary Materials with the ELT Teacher2Writer group. When Katherine isn’t writing, she is gardening or lying on the sofa reading a book. Not having a blog of her own, Katherine enjoys gatecrashing other people’s blogs and was recently named ‘the interloping blogger’ – a title she approves of.


What can we do to promote equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS in ELT? How can I get involved?

Two days after Silvana Richardson’s brilliant plenary: The Native factor (read more about it here), there was an equally fascinating Q&A session. However, since it was impossible to address all the questions posed by the audience then and there, Silvana and I decided we would continue the discussion on this blog. We gathered all the questions and divided them into four groups according to the emerging topics:

  1. NS and NNS labels: a false dichotomy? – read the questions, the comments, and join the discussion here.
  2. Proficiency: is there a minimum level for a language teacher? – read the questions, the comments (99 and still counting), and join the discussion here.
  3. NS and NNS identity: issues of self-confidence, language ownership and authority. – read the questions, the comments, and join the discussion here.
  4. What can we do to advance equality in ELT? How can I get involved?

This is the fourth post with questions on the topic of what can be done to promote equality in ELT. We’d like to invite you to answer the questions below in the comments section. We’ll then gather the answers and post a follow-up article also including our comments.

What can we do [516775]

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  1. What can be done to address this problem on initial teacher training courses?
  2. How can we encourage other teaching associations to get involved?
  3. What’s the next step – what can we do? How do we organise?
  4. How can I change the parents’ or headmaster’s attitude towards NESTs and NNESTs?
  5. How do we deal with a government that wants NESTs and has strict visa restrictions for NNESTs from abroad?

If you’d like to get involved in TEFL Equity campaign, check out the Get involved page here for ideas about what you can do. And feel free to get in touch too.

If you’re interested in reading up a bit on NS and NNS issues, native speakerism or English as a Lingua Franca, check out the Reading List section with links to academic publications that are freely available on the internet. If you prefer to watch something, check out Videos section for a selection of talks and interviews.