Why NNESTs? International English and the implications for teacher development

Teacher identity is a delicate flower. After all, we are what we teach, so it is essential to reflect on who we are as language teachers, especially, if the language is English and more importantly, when English is an additional language for us, non-native English speaker teachers.

There are far more non-native English speaker teachers (NNESTs – pronounced en-NESTs) than native speaker English teachers (NESTs), and even though identity issues between the two groups may overlap, Marcela and I chose to look at the specificities of non-native teachers.

Our main tenet is that with English becoming a global / international language, NNESTs are gaining a competitive advantage: they are bilingual and bicultural (often multilingual and multicultural) as well as lifelong learners of an additional language. It follows that there can only be two drawbacks in the 21st century: not knowing English and knowing only English.

Teaching English as an international language has certain implications and we draw attention to some of these from the point of view of teacher development. Whether you’re a NEST or an NNEST, we hope you will enjoy reading our concise book on “Why NNESTs?”

In the book we invite readers to reconsider the smouldering debate on who is better: native or non-native? We argue that both species bring a somewhat different set of skills to the table, and as international English becomes more and more widespread, the divisions are getting blurred as well as obsolete. While this may not happen without the active participation and advocacy of all members in the ELT community, the winds of change are blowing.

You can order a digital copy of the book here. A paper version is available here.

elisabeth bekesErzsébet Békés is a Hungarian English teacher with more than 40 years of ELT experience. As a volunteer, she taught English to North-African migrants in Crete, set up Language Improvement Centres in Ethiopia, spent six months teaching English for Tourism to members of an indigenous tribe in the Amazonian jungle and gave crash courses in Survival English to undocumented “sea gypsies” while visiting Borneo. Based in Ecuador and working as a teacher trainer, she is a fully competent and proud non-native speaker teacher of English.

marcela carrascoMarcela Carrasco has been teaching English for over 30 years. Born in Cuenca, Ecuador and brought up in Tehran, Iran under Mohammad Reza Shah’s regime and then educated in the United States, Marcela spent her formative years in cultures at odds with each other. As the owner and director of a hugely successful language school in Ecuador’s cultural capital, Cuenca, she has lived and walked multiculturalism. As a bilingual teacher of English and Spanish, her identity is neither – she is one of the world’s new global citizens.


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.

What does a red phone box have to do with learning English in 2017? by Richard Willmsen

[From the editor: this post was originally published on Richard’s blog here and is republished here with his full consent]

One of my roles in life involves testing the English language to make sure it’s working properly. It’s in this capacity that I get to fly down to Mérida for a few days, eat sopa de lima and cochinita pibil in nice restaurants, and pay a visit to an excellent language school. It’s easy to find because it has a red phone box outside. Everyone I meet there is friendly and seems competent. The owners (both English, in their thirties) greet and chat to the students as they arrive; they seem to know their names and both speak very good Spanish. As for the teachers, they are young, cheerful, and seem to be mostly English.

The school, which goes by the name of the London Academy and has been open for around two years, is “the only British language school in Mérida with 100% qualified British teachers that offers a true British cultural experience”. The images on the walls show cool young people enjoying themselves in London. It’s unlike a lot of  ‘British’ schools I’ve worked at in the past in that there’s a refreshing lack of photos of Beefeaters and the Royal Family and the atmosphere is by no means austere and reserved as it is in some anglophone learning environments. Entering the school I worked at for several years in Lisbon was like going to the dentists: staid, forbidding and snobbish. The school in Mérida is selling an updated version of the UK. It certainly needs to stand out, because there are a lot of schools in that particular suburb. When I walk round the block I count another four. Some seem to be part of chains and most are selling themselves on cost: low prices, discounts if you pay upfront for online classes and year-long courses.

Ultimately it’s a question of marketing. What the London Academy is selling is a tourist experience. For the students (or at least for their parents) the school is a corner of a foreign field. They will be immersed in the classroom in an English-only environment with a representative of the target culture. What the teachers get is a reasonably-paid job and an experience of living abroad, one which gives them the chance to learn some of the language and, if they’re lucky, become friends, or possibly very good friends*, with some of the locals. Nowadays in the world of English language teaching this is quite a retro model. It is based on the promotion of the assumption that the teacher is a monolingual native speaker with no or little knowledge of the host culture. Bringing a new cohort of teachers over every year is very expensive at a time when there is more competition from schools which use other images and associations to promote the learning of English.

There also seems to be a growing recognition that the language study trips abroad business is similarly a branch of tourism. The school I worked at for several years in London has just been bought up by a language travel organisation. It is true that there is no easier environment to learn and teach in. The students get some experience of interacting in an English-speaking setting and they also make English-language friendships with each other. This doesn’t mean that they start watching Eastenders and spend every night down the rub-a-dub. Rather they bond over their dislike of the food, the absurd rents they have to pay and the hangovers they picked up (and the fellow students they didn’t) in bars and clubs where most other customers (and the staff) are also there to improve their English. This is perfectly natural; after all, on holiday, you tend to make friends with other tourists rather than the locals. Some students do arrive with the impression that it’s all about becoming “English” (which is a useful marketing illusion), but they soon knuckle down to the more important and less confusing task of developing an English-speaking life. It’s far more important for Mehmet, who lives in Istanbul and deals with Chinese people on the phone, to understand Wei Wei from Shandong than it is for him to understand what Russell Brand says**. As for the teacher, their job largely involves creating a environment conducive to social and cultural exchange, with their role a mix of tour guide, cultural mediator, facilitator and occasional counsellor.

Sadly, thanks to a combination of international competition in the education market, arbitrary and ill-thought-out changes to visa rules and the global economic situation, the language school industry in the UK (and London in particular) has taken a hammering over the last few years, with very well-established places going to the wall and the survivors getting snapped up by international concerns. It is also possible that over the next few years the international marketing of British English by institutions such as the British Council will encounter difficulties in a world which no longer views Britain as vibrant, mobile and welcoming but rather as insular, hostile and closed. Whereas most marketing of English courses tends to sell an image of mobility – in the words of an advert I saw recently, ‘Where can you go if you don’t know English?’ – all this talk of shutting borders is designed and destined to do permanent damage to one of the very remaining industries which the UK still dominates.

Another major change in the world of English language teaching is a shift away from the notion that native speakers automatically make better language teachers. That’s not to say that the assumption is by any means dead. Browsing websites advertising teaching jobs in Mexico recently I was shocked by the number of ads looking for ‘native speakers’ and specifying ‘no experience necessary’. I’d imagine that most people learning a language would want a teacher with experience. But the rationale for this never was pedagogical. Again, it’s more to do with marketing, to the extent that one term commonly used in China for a foreign teacher is ‘dancing monkey’. Anyone ‘foreign’ will do as long as they don’t have a Chinese face or name.

There seems to be growing acceptance nowadays that the best attribute a teacher can have is the ability to teach, regardless of where they happen to have been born. The spread of English as a lingua franca has led to a growing recognition that it does not ‘belong’ to any one national group. Indeed, it helps to have consciously learnt the language you’re teaching. Having done so gives the teacher insights into the learning experience which allow them to give their students shortcuts and to identify potential pitfalls and misunderstandings. Non-native teachers also make more realistic role models, as the old joke about an English learner saying that when he grows up he wants to be a native speaker acknowledges. Plus it’s also true that a ‘native’ level of English is not a desirable goal. In international settings it is often British, American and Australians who have most difficulty making themselves understood, given their reliance on irony and idioms which may be lost on people who don’t share their cultural background. The trend is partly driven by economic changes – although native speakers are more profitable, non-native teachers are cheaper – but it has a positive effect as better teachers find it easier to get work.

The notion of ‘native speaker’ is problematic in any case. I’m one of them, yet there are lots of lots of ‘foreigners’ who use(d) ‘my’ language better than I do: Conrad, Nabokov, Zizek and Varoufakis all spring immediately to mind. My Italian wife writes things in her job that are much better than anything I could produce***. The idea that a ‘native speaker’ is an exemplary model has given way to a focus on proficient, competent or expert speakers. Similarly, the category of ‘mother tongue’ speaker does not take account of people who grew up speaking one language at home and another at school. Ultimately, nation state and language are just not a very good fit, especially in relation to English.

I myself found out quickly in Portugal many years ago that in a monolingual EFL classroom it’s the monolingual teacher who has problems expressing what they want, especially when dealing with teenagers. Students know their own culture and can communicate perfectly well with each other. Hence they can run rings round a teacher who has little training and almost no experience of inspiring learning and imposing discipline. Such a relationship depends partly on the personality of the teacher and partly on their ability to assert their authority over the language on the basis of their national identity. Anyone who has taught in such a context will recognise the frustrations described by George Orwell in his story ‘Shooting an Elephant‘. It is all too common for fledgling (and sometimes veteran) EFL teachers to develop the attitude of a colonial policeman and to dismiss the ‘natives’ as lazy, stupid “evil-spirited little beasts” who are out to “make (your) job impossible”.

This doesn’t mean that teaching and learning is impossible in such a context but where it does take place it tends to be by accident. My own ‘teaching journey’ has taught me that any meaningful educational experience has to be based on cultural exchange. Every teacher who sticks at it works out eventually that if you’re not learning, you’re not teaching. The model I’ve been describing is about trying to impose one identity on another. What must take place instead is a recognition and validation of each others’ identities. This involves drawing on the students’ expert knowledge of their language, their experiences, expertise and social roles rather than dismissing all of the above and relying instead on a combination of communication games, bullying and luck.

I would like therefore to put forward five suggestions for roles that EFL teachers can usefully adopt in a monolingual teaching/learning environment:

  1. The students’ knowledge of their own language is an essential classroom resource. This means that both the teacher and the students sometimes need to play the role of translators. It also implies a ceding of control and a certain amount of humility on the part of the teacher. My students know their own languages better than I do and sometime meanings have to be negotiated and dictionaries referred to. This has the advantage of reflecting real language use; in any given human interaction where more than one language is involved discussions over corresponding forms, functions and meanings are ever-present and sometimes other authorities have to be invoked. Clearly there are activities where this is not appropriate, and the teacher needs to establish when and why only the target language should be used. In a cooperative environment with purposeful activities students will be happy to go along with this.
  2. Tip number 1 implies that the teacher should speak or be learning the language of their students. There are, bizarrely, language teachers who have no experience of learning another language or who have never done so successfully. Such teachers are not able to understand and relate to the frustrations and ritual humiliations their students are exposing themselves to. Several times in my teaching career I have been put on the spot by a student asking me to perform a task I have asked them to do. Such experiences have helped me to reflect on how useful and how ‘doable’ the activity I’m imposing is. Once, with a class of Italian teenagers who were traumatised by the prospect of their Trinity Exam, I did the task myself in very imperfect Italian, getting them to play the role of examiners. A light bulb went on. They realised that they didn’t need to be completely fluent and that it was fine to make mistakes as long as they basically made themselves understood. They all went on to pass the exam. In order to be a teacher you also need to be a learner. This is a role no teacher should ever stop playing; there are always new things to learn.
  3. If you are teaching in another country you are also a model of someone immersed, out of their depth, occasionally thrown in at the deep end, experiencing anxiety, and sometimes losing face. Your ability to articulate these feelings and reflect on those experiences in English will be better than that of your students****. This involves drawing on your own experiences.  This paragraph itself could generate a very useful lesson for students struggling to articulate their own experiences with the language. It doesn’t mean that the teacher is an exemplary language learner but as someone who learns and also thinks about language a lot you do have insights to offer.
  4. A teacher needs most of all to be a teacher, with a range of approaches and techniques to suit each particular class. Hence our role is not that of an oracle on our language and culture. Both students and teachers have gaps in their knowledge of the world. That is fine. A classroom can be a very useful place to identify things that we don’t know and to figure out how we can find out. It very often happens that I learn new things in English*****, and when that happens I point it out to my students. As a language teacher I know that some students fail to understand that one’s command of a language is never total. Pointing it out by using yourself as an example helps students to recognise that their English need not and can not ever be ‘perfect’. I am there in the classroom because of my teaching experience and ability, and not as a proxy for the Queen or for Cambridge University.
  5. Teachers should also facilitate sharing of emotional experiences. We can help the students visualise their learning experience and identify specific examples of progress. One excellent way to do this is to explore learning metaphors: are they on a journey, climbing a mountain, working out in a gym, hanging out with some friends once a week? In tackling such themes the teacher is playing the role of a counsellor. In order for this to be effective the teacher needs to work constantly on creating an encouraging and forgiving environment based on an ethic of cooperation rather than on shaming people who make mistakes.

These tips are written with the teaching of English in mind. Some of them also apply to other languages. For example, I can’t say that the list of characteristics of various French supermarkets I spent ninety minutes learning in an intermediate French class a few years ago has helped me a great deal when talking to recent Senegalese immigrants in Rome. The same applies to Spanish and to an extent Portuguese; there’s not much point learning to lithp or to use o senhor appropriately when you’re off to live in Mexico or Brazil. Some other-language courses I’ve encountered have confused language competence and grammatical knowledge, with little room for error and a very narrow definition of success. The teaching of English does have something to offer language teaching in general given that there is simply more practise and research taking place.

It’s different with, say, German, Italian, Japanese or Finnish, since almost all speakers of these languages are from those countries or have spent time there. Then learning things like the names of personalities and radio advertising jingles is important. At the moment I live in Italy, where what hinders my comprehension most is a lack of knowledge of the (admitedly very complex) culture. It is, however, only one of many possible experiences. In past I’ve tended to assume that my own learning experiences are the only or the ultimate model, which is clearly not the case.

Several years ago in London there was a best-selling book/CD for English language learners called ‘Get Rid Of Your Accent‘. The cover featured a woman who looked like Agatha Christie and sounded like Lord Reith’s elocutionist. As David Crystal points out, learners do need a pronunciation role model but the notion there is one way of speaking is absurd. People certainly need to have a command of Standard English, but in a globalised world intelligibility is the main issue. The same goes for local varieties of grammar. A former colleague used to teach his newly-arrived elementary students to ask everyone they met “What do you do work-wise?”, a question guaranteed to draw a blank look from Akiko from Kyoto. It can be useful to teach students to understand local accents in questions like ‘wotjado?’ and ‘naamean?’, but it’s pointless and unfair to ask them to speak in that way. Sometimes over the years my lessons have been about making students talk just like me. That,to briefly use a particularly British English term, is bollocks.

* In some cases, very many very close friends.

** Mind you, there’s a wonderful story about teaching TEFL from the man himself here.

*** This is not meant to suggest that I have a number of wives from different countries. Maybe I should ask her how to rephrase it to make it more clearer.

**** If it isn’t, you may have wandered into an INSET session by mistake.

***** Such as how to spell ‘bizarrely’.

richard-willmsenI’m an DELTA-qualified English teacher and IELTS examiner from the UK and I’ve taught in Ireland, the UK, Portugal, Spain, China and Mexico. I’m currently working at a university in Rome. I post regularly about EFL, languages, politics and whatever else takes my fancy at www.infinite-coincidence.com.


English as an International Language – lesson plan by Sarah Priestley

This lesson plan can be adapted to any level from Intermediate to C2, depending on the difficulty of the audio recordings you use in the listening stage 3 and the vocabulary used in stage 4.  I did it in an 80 minute lesson with a C2 adult class.  If you’re short of time you could skip stage 2 (the discussion) or shorten the number of tasks for this part. You can download the pdf handout here

1. Warmer

Don’t tell ss the topic of the lesson yet.  Instead, ask them to note down the qualities of a good language teacher. Get them to compare with a partner and have brief group feedback.  Here’s what my C2 conversation class came up with in June 2016:


Interestingly enough, I asked my group whether knowledge of the language was a quality to consider, as I noticed that nobody had mentioned it.  They all said how they simply presumed that the teacher would have this. 

After sharing ideas tell the class that you will return to this topic later in the lesson Now move onto the next stage.

2. Discussion

I used the materials from New Cutting Edge 3rd Advanced page 10 to start a class discussion on English as an international language.  To make it more interesting I covered the numbers in the infographic and got the ss to guess which number went with which fact.  After revealing the answers the ss then did question 2A and B and then discussed question 3. (Answers for Q2 = fact ‘More English words begin with ‘t’ than any other letter – about 25%.  This is wrong.  It’s actually 16%. Fact ‘Doctors speak to simplify communication between doctors.’  This is wrong.  No such thing exists.

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3. Listening & accents

** Before the lesson I recorded 4 teachers talking about their summer holiday plans.  They were a mixture of NS and NNS teachers.  Don’t tell ss about the background of the speakers yet.  Each teacher spoke for about 1 minute [in here we could only share 3 of the 4 recordings].

In class ask the ss to listen to 4 speakers talking about their holiday plans.  The first time they listen they note down the type of holiday the speaker describes ( beach holiday, city break, activity holiday, study holiday).


Then ask the class if they notice anything about the accents or pronunciation from the recordings. Ss do question 1 below.  Then do the 2nd listening task, question 2 below.


Ask ss for feedback on question 1 and 2 before revealing the background and nationality of the speakers.

The teachers I recorded came from Northern Ireland, India and Italy and my students had great fun trying to identify their backgrounds!  I told the class that they are all my colleagues and asked them if they had ever been taught by a NNS teacher.  This led us onto the final stage, 4.    

4. The advantages of NS and NNS teachers

Remind the class of the background of the 4 speakers from the recording.  Now divide the class into small groups and ask the ss to copy the empty Venn diagram below.  Then, half of the groups think of the advantages that a NS brings to the classroom and the other half think of the advantages a NNS teacher has.  After a few minutes show the class some possible ideas and ss now add them to their Venn diagram.

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Bring the class together for whole class feedback.  Link in your warmer to the Venn diagram and ask ss to identify any common points.  Link back to discussion question 3 and ask if ss are more likely to speak/use English with native speakers or other nationalities now and in the future.  Ask them what 2 advantages of having a NNS teacher they consider most important.

This part of the lesson really made my students reconsider the advantages that NNS teachers have.  The idea that a NNS teacher could be a language learning role model was a new revelation for my class.  The fact that a NNS teacher may have a different accent but that this reflects their real life interaction in English was another learning point for my class.

Finally get feedback from your ss by asking them to complete the exit ticket below in 140 characters or less and give it to you as they leave the class.

If you’d like to see a blog post I wrote about spreading the NS NNS word with my teaching colleagues and customer service staff 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 .

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

Going beyond the native speaker model in ELT – on-line course for teachers, trainers and materials writers

Recently TEFL Equity Advocates has launched on-line courses which tackle a variety of issues concerning ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’, their roles in ELT, and the lack of professional equality between them. You can check out all the courses here.

Going beyond the native speaker model in ELT

It’s become sort of an article of faith that all research in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) should compare language learners with ‘native speakers’. Similarly, in English Language Teaching (ELT) the ‘native speaker’ is often said to be the ideal teacher and the ideal model of language. However, just what does it mean to say that someone is a ‘native speaker’? And “when we say:

  • you’ll have to ask a native speaker, or
  • don’t ask me, I’m not a native speaker,

what is it we are appealing to? What is it that human native speakers know? What sort of knowledge does the native speaker have?” (Davies, 2012, p.1).

We also need to ask ourselves if and why the ‘native speaker’ should be the ideal model of language. And who gets to decide? If not the ‘native speaker’ model, then which one do we teach instead? What are the alternatives?

We’ll tackle all this and more during the course. Watch this short introduction to find out more about the course.

What’s included in the course?

  • 10 hours of online instruction,
  • 5 hours of guided self-study,
  • 2 sections,
  • 11 lectures,
  • 3 videos featuring ELT experts,
  • 7 video presentations,
  • 7 articles by ELT and SLA experts;
  • guidance and help from your tutor.

What will I get out of the course?

By the end of the course you will have a better understanding of where the idealised notion of the ‘native speaker’ comes from. You will have also questioned whether or not ‘native speaker’ language should be seen as the only appropriate model in ELT. You will also have looked at course book materials with a more critical eye and learnt how to adapt the materials to promote a more international view of English. Finally, if you’re currently teaching or teacher training, you will have also got a chance to try out some of the ideas from the course in practice, and to reflect on the outcomes.

So by the end of the course you will have not only learnt more about the latest developments in ELT, but also got an array of new teaching ideas and activities you can use in your daily teaching, materials writing or teacher training.

How do I sign up?

It’s very simple. Just click here to be redirected to the course page where you can read more about it, take a look at the curriculum, preview two lectures and sign up.

If you have questions, comment below or get in touch.

English as a Lingua Franca – interview with Jennifer Jenkins

jennifer jenkinsIn this post from the Talk to the Expert series, TEA had the pleasure to talk to prof. Jennifer Jenkins about English as a Lingua Franca and its influence on ELT and the status of non-native English speaking teachers. Prof. Jenkins is one of the most prominent figures in ELF scholarship, and has published numerous books and articles on the topic. You can find her full biography below the interview.

You can read other interviews with renown ELT experts, linguists and recruiters in the Talk to the Expert section here. If you’d like to be interviewed for the blog, or would like to contribute an article, please get in touch here.

TEA: How would you define English as a Lingua Franca?

Jennifer Jenkins: Until fairly recently I’ve defined ELF as a contact language used by people who don’t share a first (and often any other) language. More recently, I’ve reconceptualised ELF, bringing its multilingual essence to the fore, called it English as a Multilingua Franca, and defined it as “multilingual communication in which English is available as a contact language of choice, but is not necessarily chosen” (see Jenkins J. 2015, ‘Repositioning English and multilingualism in English as a Lingua Franca’, available here)

Some people think of ELF as a variety of English, along the same lines as Nigerian, Australian or Hong Kong English are varieties. Is this the right way of thinking about ELF?

No, this is completely wrong. In the earliest days of ELF research, before we had sufficient empirical evidence, we did believe that it would be possible to describe the English use of speakers from the non-mother tongue and non-postcolonial English-speaking countries in similar ways to the latter. However, it soon became clear that a ‘varieties’ approach was inappropriate for the use of English that transcends national boundaries, and ELF researchers moved on to exploring how English is used in this way. Mauranen’s notion of ‘similects’ (see Mauranen A. 2012, Exploring ELF, Cambridge University Press) is particularly helpful in this respect. According to this notion, speakers from the same first language background have a certain amount in common in their English because of their shared first language. But how their English develops depends entirely on who they communicate in English with, and the majority of their interlocutors will be speakers of other languages than their own. Hence, the English of one first language speaker of, say, Korean, may be very different from that of another first language speaker of Korean simply because they communicate with different constellations of other first language speakers. And thus, we can’t talk of ‘Korean English’.

McKay (2002, p.1) claims that “the teaching and learning of an international language must be based on an entirely different set of assumptions than the teaching and learning of any other second or foreign language”. Do you agree? If so, what are the practical implications of ELF scholarship for English teachers? In other words, how do we teach ELF?

It’s too early to talk about an ‘ELF pedagogy’ (though see the various publications of Martin Dewey on this subject). At the moment, we still need much more empirical information about how ELF used in a wide range of contexts and among speakers of a wide range of different first languages. But McKay is certainly right, in my view, that an ELF pedagogy will need to be very different from traditional foreign language pedagogy. For example, it will need to focus far more on diversity across speakers and on accommodation skills (adjusting your language to make it more relevant for your particular interlocutors at that moment, including avoiding local idiomatic language), and will also involve the use of languages other English, and so will advantage multilingual ELF users, whereas in the past it has been native English speakers (often monolingual) who have been considered the most advantaged in ELF communication.

Some scholars have criticised EFL/ESL course books for being dominated by American and British English models and language norms. Do you see any room for a course book that features more example of World Englishes and ELF users?

I’m not qualified to talk about World Englishes, as this is a very different field from that of ELF (see my answer to the first question). But I do agree that there is plenty of room for course books that focus on particular World Englishes varieties and that American and British norms are becoming increasingly irrelevant globally, given that their speakers are in such a small minority of the world’s English users. When it comes to ELF, I do believe there is room – lots of room – for course books that promote the kinds of intercultural learning and awareness that will facilitate ELF communication. But it’s probably too a bit early for these books to be written. And of course until the international testing boards bring themselves into the 21st Century, it will be difficult for teachers to follow some kind of ELF syllabus, as their learners will then fail the outdated ‘international’ tests they’re often required to take, e.g. for university entry.

How can ELF scholarship contribute to our rethinking of the current situation where NS of English from the Inner Circle are seen as ‘owners’ of the language and its only correct models?

I think this is already happening. When people first hear about the notion of ELF, they’re often rather sceptical. But once they’re read some of the research and got used to this major paradigm shift, they tend then to change their minds completely. Native English speakers begin to become more aware of the ideological issues involved in the spread of English. Meanwhile non-native English speakers begin to appreciate their often substantial linguistic skills (far greater than those of monolingual native English speakers – though this isn’t to say that all native English speakers are monolingual), and to realise that the way a North American or British person speaks English isn’t particularly relevant to them unless they will mainly be engaging in English with such people.

Do you think ELF and NNEST scholarship should feature more prominently and be discussed during teacher training courses such as CELTA or DELTA? Why (not)?

Yes, definitely. ELF is already mentioned on these teacher training courses (Dewey has written about this). However, it doesn’t yet feature prominently enough, and it tends to be described inaccurately (e.g. as a ‘variety’ of English, which it isn’t), and/or in contradictory ways. Until pre-service teachers develop a good understanding of ELF, they won’t be in a position to prepare their learners for the vast majority of communication in English in which they’re likely to be involved in their future lives.

In a recent article, Kumaravdivelu (2014, p.17) wrote that “seldom in the annals of an academic discipline have so many people toiled so hard, for so long, and achieved so little in their avowed attempt at disrupting the insidious structure of inequality in their chosen profession”. What do you think still needs to be done in order to bring about greater equality between NS and NNS in ELT?

This is a very big question. But in my view, if ELF was more widely accepted, non-native English speakers would gain substantially in status – and the opposite for native English speakers. As I said in my first book on ELF:

“It will be interesting in years to come to see whether the term ‘native’ undergoes another change in connotation. In the days of empire, the natives were the indigenous populations and the term itself implied uncivilized, primitive, barbaric, even cannibalistic. With the spread of English around the globe, ‘native’ – in relation to English – has assumed newer, positive connotations. ‘Native speakers’ of English are assumed to be advanced (technologically), civilized, and educated. But as native speakers lose their linguistic advantage, with English being spoken as an international language [i.e. ELF] no less – and often a good deal more – effectively by non-native speakers, and as bilingualism and multilingualism become the accepted world norm, and monolingualism the exception, perhaps the word ‘native’ will return to its pejorative usage. Only this time the opposite group will be on the receiving end.” (Jenkins, J. 2000. The Phonology of English as an International Language. Oxford University Press, p. 229). Fifteen years later, I think this is happening.

Thanks again for agreeing to do this interview.

jennifer jenkinsJennifer Jenkins holds the Chair of Global Englishes at the University of Southampton where she is also founding director of the Centre for Global Englishes. She has been conducting empirical research into English as a Lingua Franca for over 25 years, and has published extensively on the subject, including three monographs: The Phonology of English as an International Language (OUP 2000), English as a Lingua Franca: Attitude and Identity (OUP 2007), and English as a Lingua Franca in the International University (Rutledge 2014). She is also the author of a university course book, Global Englishes, Routledge (2015, 3rd ed.).

'English with an accent' listening lesson plan by Anes Mohamed

This is the second lesson plan to appear on TEA aimed at raising awareness of different issues surrounding native speakerism in ELT. This time designed for EFL/ESL students. Pop back to the Activities and Lesson Plans section every now and again as it will be regularly updated with lesson plans both for ESL/EFL classes and for teacher training . If you’d like to submit a lesson plan, please get in touch here. Always looking for new contributors 🙂

If you decide to use the materials, have any comments or suggestions, please let us know in the comments section. We’d really appreciate your feedback.

About the materials:

This lesson plan was adapted from Module 2 of a 4-level English textbook developed by Anes Mohamed and published back in 2012. The textbook was inspired by the problem-posing approach formulated by Paulo Freire. You can download the full Module in pdf here. The materials are suitable for students between Intermediate and Advanced levels.

Lesson Plan


Track 2A can be found here.

page 2

page 3

page 4Listening 2B can be found here.

page 5

About the author:

anes mohamedAnes Mohamed holds a PhD as well as an MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He has been engaged in teaching English since 2002 in different countries. He is currently an assistant professor at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan. Apart from research publications, He has developed and published a 4-level English Textbook. He comes at language teaching from critical perspectives. He can be reached via email here. You can also connect with Anes Mohamed on Linkedin here. His previous post on TEA ‘Non-academic edge’ discussed the problem of racial discrimination in ELT.

'Not That Prestigious' by Marc Jones

Sit comfortably, the recording will start, relax. You have the premium service, provided to you by the dulcet tones of a North American man or a South Eastern Englishman. This recording will last approximately one minute thirty seconds and will be paced at approximately two and a half words per second, slower than standard speech but not discernibly so for you, the learner. You can decode the words, possibly even get taught egonnaf by the teacher which you hear in the recording. The preparatory language course for your trip abroad is going well, you are full of confidence and you are ready to use English and talk to people you meet.

What happens next is unexpected: the locals are gabbling away at breakneck speed and when they do slow down they mangle the vowels, strangle the consonants and wrangle the clustered sounds into manifestations so illogical you might as well have answered in your first language.

We have all had students with this kind of experience yet how many of us have access to materials for the classroom with the kind of accents that our students are likely to encounter when they use their English? In this era of English as a Lingua Franca, the so-called prestige accents and dialects are still the main feature in classroom listening materials. The question is, why? There are so many cultural questions being raised about the whitewashing of Hollywood and othering of different races and nationalities through tokenism or comedy. There are not many textbooks in Asia that focus primarily on understanding other Asians speak English yet this is the main community that many of my Japanese students of English come into contact with. The number of my students coming into contact with Americans, Australians or British outside the language classroom is lower than contact with Vietnamese, Thais or Indians yet the presence of speakers from these locales is negligible. Add to this the fact that contact with people from inner-circle countries is not limited to those from London, New York, Sydney or Auckland and the problem widens further still.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

So, apart from balling our fists and complaining, what can be done? Well, at a personal level we can choose not to use the listening exercises from assigned books in our lessons and instead use alternative, more realistic sources such as http://elllo.org/ . If the listening presents a language point you could simply search using Google with the following:

site:elllo.org “example language you want using quote marks”

This will then give you items from elllo.org with said language in their transcripts. Another option is to search for audio and podcasts from the target communities but this is time-consuming and may be fruitless.

This is where TEFL Equity really comes in because only by being respectful and providing recognition of one another’s strengths can we come together to assist one another wherever we are. So, as teachers and just as ordinary people, we could come together and talk to one another. The internet is most people’s de facto living room: could we meet there, chat there and record what we talk about and use this for our learners?

Anybody interested in doing so should get in contact with me here.

marcMarc Jones is a teacher and studying for a Trinity DipTESOL and soon MA Applied Linguistics & TESOL. He is interested in L2 listening, SLA and Japanese. He blogs at getgreatenglish.com and freelanceteacherselfdevelopment.wordpress.com

'Sounding out ELT hiring policies in South Korea' by Martin Sketchley

South Korea: Gyeongbokgung Palace. Under Creative Commons: https://flic.kr/p/qrEbT

South Korea: Gyeongbokgung Palace. Under Creative Commons: https://flic.kr/p/qrEbT

I started my English language teaching career soon after completing my undergraduate degree in 2005. South Korea appeared to be a wonderful opportunity, as all you needed to qualify as an English language teacher was to be a Native English Speaker (NS), hold a degree in any subject from an English-speaking country and be willing to travel half-way across the world. I decided to jump at the chance once I secured a full-time teaching contract and was very happy, yet incredibly nervous at the same time. I spent a total of three years in this wonderful country with some interesting experiences and stories to share, particularly with regards to the teaching of English and institutions keen to recruit teachers based upon their accent.

In my first year in Korea, I was working for a private language school teaching young learners between the ages of 5-16 years. The school marketed to parents on the promise that their children would acquire American pronunciation and spoken fluency within a year, despite a native British English teacher and two non-native English teachers (NNESTs) working at the school. A number of months passed and one of the directors asked whether I could sound more American and less British.  This did not just happen to myself but a similar situation happened to my wife who was a NNEST in Korea and teaching various clients business English skills. My wife applied for a part-time contract and the recruiting agency dealing on behalf of a school in South Korea phoned to hold a telephone interview. The conversation went like this:

Wife: “Hello?”

Recruiter: “I am phoning as you applied for the teaching post.”

Wife: “Yes? I am available to teach and have experience teaching business clients.”

Recruiter: “Ohh! You have an English accent. We are looking for someone with an American accent.”

My wife immediately put the phone down and was shocked at how both native as well as non-native teachers were judged on their suitability for employment from their accent. It is worrying that there are a small number of institutions and recruiters operating in South Korea who are readily judging teacher performance on a perceived accent from a particular country.

However, to be fair, I had a wonderful time in South Korea and the majority of the time that I spent working and living in this magnificent country was very positive. Once completing a CELTA course, I was more employable and I discovered another element of teaching in South Korea which was more professional and respectable compared to their ‘backpacker teachers’ equivalents.

I changed jobs from the small American English school in a rural area of Korea and was employed by an international English institute where there were a number of native English teachers (NESTs) from various different countries. The time I spent at this school lasted until I decided to return to the UK but there were a number of tacit understandings with regards to this institute.

Firstly: all teachers had to be NSs and hold a certificate in teaching English as a foreign language – a plus for me as I had just completed the CELTA.  Secondly: NNESTs were not recruited – positive discrimination in a sense – as the institute informed that paying customers expected a perceived NS. And thirdly: those NNESTs were away from the majority of those general English students.

In a way, it was nice to see that there was no bias from the English being taught but again there was this love-hate relationship between native and non-native English teachers. Unfortunately, one senior member of staff told me, “If they look Korean, students will not think that they can speak English”.

The main reason for this, I believe, is that Korea is somewhat a homogenous society with a perception of ‘pure blood’ for those that are Korean. ‘Pure blood’ results in positive or negative discrimination towards people who are ‘foreign blood’ or ‘mixed blood’ working and living in Korea. Their opinion is such that a stereotypical English speaker is one who does not look Korean, but Western.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

Unfortunately, this does have an impact on the recruitment for those people who do not look Western in the eyes of the Korean recruiters, e.g. NS of Asian decent.  However, I should reiterate that this is somewhat a historic view of how English teachers were recruited or viewed a number of years ago and I should mention that it may not portray how things are currently in Korea.

Nevertheless, the above is not to say that things have developed or improved for non-native English teachers but I should mention I have worked with a number of non-native English teachers both in South Korea, Romania and the UK and all have been incredibly professional. However, NNESTs in Korea, despite being fluent in English, are used mainly to describe English grammar in Korean, and NESTs are used to teach conversation and listening skills. As a result, this may lead learners to perceive NESTs and NNESTs in a somewhat biased way.

For example, learners are initially taught that particular people look a certain way in certain countries and this reinforces the stereotypical opinion of students. Therefore, learners will expect their native English speaker teacher to be a Western speaker with the blond hair, blue eyes and not looking remotely anything like a Korean.

Coming back to the way teaching duties are divided between NESTs and NNESTs in Korea, while it might be a good principle in theory – and works to an extent in Korea – it does raise the question whether native or non-native teachers of English should be focusing on particular skills or not. Meanwhile, it might also influence the learners to think that NESTs and NNESTs are only good at certain things, i.e. teaching speaking and grammar, respectively.

However, having worked with NNESTs in three different countries, I must say they have been incredibly professional, are treated with the utmost respect by their colleagues and hold various qualifications to support their teaching. At my current place of employment in the UK there are several NNESTs- and it is wonderful to see that there are no forms of judgement by other members of staff and the students seem satisfied with NNESTs. In fact, there are more managerial issues at our school with NESTs compared to NNESTs.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

To sum up, it is a shame that we are living in an age where teachers are judged upon their accent for their eligibility for employment but as a profession we should focus on our own professional development and educating those that are none-the-wiser. If a school decides to employ a teacher based upon their ethnicity and accent, rather than their professional attributes, then the school will never progress to a level of professionalism expected by many native as well as non-native teachers of English.

I do hope that Korea does recognise the variety and diversity of English speakers, who come from various countries (at the moment only passport holders from seven English-speaking countries are eligible for ELT recruitment: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and USA). I also hope that they widen their recruitment policy to those teachers who are based in non-English speaking countries.

For there are numerous benefits to hiring NNESTs. For example, they have gone through the process of acquiring and using a language which is not their mother-tongue and thus might be better equipped to support their learners through the difficulty they face learning and acquiring a second language.  Furthermore, students would also benefit from learning that English is not just spoken in English-speaking countries, but that there are numerous countries around the world that use it as a lingua franca or a second language. Consequently, students would broaden their understanding of the world and realise that it does not perfectly fit into one predictable area with stereotypical views. Finally, if non-native speakers of English hold the necessary qualifications and experience to teach English as a second language in Korea, then they should have the right for employment with any institute.  Therefore, if a person from France holds a CELTA, as well as their degree from a French University, and has taught English for ten years, they are better placed to teach English in Korea than a ‘backpacker teacher’ who holds an undergraduate degree from an English speaking University with no certificate to teach English.

martin sketchleyMartin Sketchley has been teaching English for over 9 years, starting his career in South Korea before returning to teach in the UK and has taught for a short period in Romania. He is Young Learner Co-ordinator at LTC Eastbourne and is in charge of teacher training and professional development, inducting newly qualified staff and developing the young learner curriculum. Martin is also a Trustee for English in the Community and offers consultancy support for this charity. Martin is particularly interested in professional development, lesson planning and humanistic forms of teaching. You can learn more about him from his website, ELT Experiences.

Can nNESTs also be good pronunciation teachers? by Laura Patsko and Katy Simpson

Katy Simpson

Katy Simpson

Laura Patsko

Laura Patsko


Katy Simpson and Laura Patsko have spoken at numerous conferences about their classroom experiences related to the pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca, and presented for the British Council Seminar Series on the topic. They co-author the blog ELF Pron and tweet via @ELF_pron. Katy is a teacher and materials writer with an MA in English Language, based in Chiang Mai, in Thailand. Laura is a senior teacher and teacher trainer with an MA in ELT & Applied Linguistics, and sub-editor of Speak Out!, the newsletter of

IATEFL’s Pronunciation Special Interest Group.

Many learners of English today do not want or need to use English with people whose first language (L1) is English. They are more likely to use English in situations where nobody shares an L1 (e.g. a native speaker of French using English to communicate with a native speaker of Japanese). In this case they are using English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). But what’s this got to do with school hiring policies?

Schools which prefer to a hire a native English speaker teacher (NEST) may claim they are under pressure from students requesting a teacher with a particular native accent. While this may be what students walk into the school demanding, students’ wants and needs don’t always match up.

Perhaps schools could take more time to ask students how they use English or intend to use English, and help them to make an informed decision. For example, since approximately 80% of interaction in English worldwide takes place with no native speaker present (Beneke,1991), it is no longer realistic to assume a goal of native-like pronunciation for all learners. The priority for learners using ELF is to be as intelligible as possible to the people they are communicating with.

In our experience as practising teachers in the classroom, students are receptive to these ideas, and prepared to question their preconceptions when provided with information such as the following:

Speaker group

Speaker population
American English 230 million
British English 57 million
BBC English 1 million
Indian English 200 million
Native speakers of English 400 million
Non-native speakers of English 1200 million

Source: Walker, R. (2010). Teaching the pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca. Oxford: OUP. (Data from Crystal, D. (2003) English as a Global Language (2nd edn). Cambridge: CUP.)

If institutions took these kind of figures into account, perhaps they would refrain from simply hiring (or not hiring) someone because of their accent, and instead consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of both NESTs and non-native English speaker teachers (nNESTs) in relation to pronunciation teaching:

1. Suggested advantages of nNESTs in relation to pronunciation teaching:

1.1 Motivation.

  • If the teacher shares the students’ L1 than they can be seen as a role model, having achieved something which the students are likely to be able to achieve too.

1.2 Can use learners’ L1 to their advantage.

  • There may be sounds in English which don’t seem to appear in the students’ L1, but in fact might exist in particular phonetic contexts. A teacher who is aware of both languages could help the students here. For example, the velar nasal sound /ŋ/ often occurs before /g/ in words like ‘tango’ in many languages.

1.3 Exposure to different accents.

  • If the teacher is of a different L1 background than the students, it exposes them to the reality of linguistic variation and prepares them for the world around them. This can help to raise students’ awareness of the kind of figures in the table above, and debunk the myth that English in some way ‘belongs’ to native speakers.

1.4 Helps students understand they don’t need to lose their own identity.

  • This is a complex issue, but the important thing to remember is that everyone speaks with an accent – and there is no one ‘native English accent’. Discussing this with students (sensitively) can help them understand that they have a choice, and unless they’re going to live in an English-speaking country and want to assimilate by adopting the accent of the area where they’re going, then there is often no need to replace their own accent with another.

2. Suggested disadvantages of nNESTs in relation to pronunciation teaching:

2.1 May not feel confident teaching pronunciation.

  • Many NESTs also feel this. See below.
  • Anyone who can produce the features in the Lingua Franca Core (LFC) can teach pronunciation. If you want to learn more about the LFC, check out this post on our own blog. Rather than simply hiring people based on passports, perhaps schools could think about whether teachers are confident with those specific features of pronunciation.
  • nNESTs – or anyone – putting NESTs on a pedestal by shying away from teaching pronunciation perpetuates the myth of native English speakers somehow ‘owning’ English. No one can ‘own’ a language. It’s not a thing like a car or house. English in particular defies geographical borders because of its role as the world’s lingua franca.

2.2 If the teacher has the same accent as the students, it does not expose them to a variety of accents.

  • It’s really important in monolingual classes in particular that students are exposed to a range of accents if they are going to use ELF. As coursebooks still only usually provide a limited range of accents, all teachers, regardless of L1 background, need to consider bringing in extra materials. See this post on our blog for more ideas about how to do this.

2.3 The teacher may assume their students wish to acquire native-like pronunciation (especially if this was the teacher’s own goal when studying English).

  • A nNEST who has spent a long time studying English and modelled their accent on a native speaker variety may be particularly proud of this fact. As a result, they may unwittingly assume their students would have the same goal.

3. Suggested advantages of NESTs in relation to pronunciation teaching:

3.1  If a student wants to go to the UK/the US, they may find it useful to hear this accent.

  • But wouldn’t be much use if the teacher had an entirely different native accent. Variation is often overlooked in debates about native vs non-native English speakers.
  • Simple exposure isn’t enough. Just because you make an elementary student listen to hours of Radio 4, it doesn’t mean they’re going to start talking like that!

3.2 Schools say that students demand native speakers.

  • Where does that stop? What other demands are we going to give into? Students want a lot of things that are unreasonable, e.g. going up to the next level when they’re not ready. Classes scheduled at times more suitable to them. Smaller class sizes. Why don’t schools give in to those demands too?
  • If institutions, teachers and the wider ELT industry (e.g. publishers) were more aware of the implications of ELF then they would be better placed to educate students, and in time attitudes would change. At the moment, they may be unable to make an informed choice.

4. Suggested disadvantages of NESTs in relation to pronunciation teaching:

4.1 Might not know where to start when it comes to pronunciation.

  • nNESTs may have a better understanding of why particular difficulties are arising, and be better placed to help learners use their articulators to pronounce certain sounds. NESTs, on the other hand, may make decisions about pronunciation priorities based on intuition or their own ideas of what’s ‘natural’ or not. This means they may fail to take the students’ needs into account when choosing which areas of pronunciation to focus on in the classroom.

4.2 Might feel a sense of ‘ownership’ over English.

  • This can lead to the use of problematic phrases like ‘it’s just not how we say it.’ Who is ‘we’ in this phrase? This perpetuates intolerance and may strip students of a sense of ownership.

4.3 Might make assumptions about students’ goals based on the NEST’s own situation or background.

  • NEST teachers living abroad might equate their own situation as a language learner with that of their students. Except it’s not the same. English is unlike any other language in the way it is used around the world by so many people in so many contexts. Just because a monolinugal classroom might not be an ELF environment, students could well be using ELF outside the classroom – but perhaps the teacher doesn’t see that.
  • NEST teachers in their own country may feel that because students have travelled to study in their country, they therefore want to speak like native speakers in that context. ESOL programmes aside, in private language schools, students might come for a few weeks or a few months and then go back to their country where they intend to use ELF.
  • Some people might argue that if they chose to go to that country, then surely that indicates a desire to assimilate? Otherwise, why not just stay in their own country and study English for two months? But we would ask in response, isn’t a language so much easier to learn when you’re immersed in it? Seeing English all around you makes it much easier and a lot of the learning is done outside the classroom, where students are likely to come across a huge variety of accents if they’re in a big city like London or Sydney.

In conclusion, all teachers have different areas of interest, different styles, techniques and unique ways of using the language they’re teaching. Variation alone is no measure of competence, and so it is with pronunciation. While some students (and teachers) might prefer to ‘tidy up’ pronunciation into something more homogeneous, simply willing this to be the case does not make it a reality.

Separating teachers into NESTs/nNESTs is a crude dividing line which feeds into a false image of the role of English in the world today. The linguistic landscape is far more diverse than coursebooks would have students believe, and the sooner that diversity is represented in our classrooms, the better prepared they will be to communicate using English outside the classroom. Surely, in the end, this is what we are all aiming for?


Beneke, J. (1991) Englisch als lingua franca oder als Medium interkultureller Kommunikation. In R. Grebing, Grenzenloses Sprachenlernen. Cornelsen. 54-66

Walker, R. (2010) Teaching the Pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca. OUP.