'The Native factor' what's next after Silvana Richardson's IATEFL 2016 plenary


It was Day 2 of IATEFL 2016. 9am. Silvana Richardson gave her plenary ‘The Native factor – the haves and the have-nots’. A plenary that is bound to go down in history. One of the best things that could have happened to our industry. It’s a plenary that should be a must see for all future plenary speakers. It received a standing ovation. It was interrupted several times by loud applause from the audience. Some had tears in their eyes when it finished. A perfect mix of pathos, ethos and logos. So if you haven’t seen it yet, please watch it now. I’ll wait for you.

Amazing, wasn’t it?

It’s probably not surprising then that the social media have exploded with blog posts about the ‘Native factor’. Lizzie Pinard wrote a great summary of the plenary. She also wrote a follow-up post which really hit the nail on the head as far as the inadequacy and simplicity of the NS and NNS labels is concerned.

Mercedes Viola wrote a post putting together some very interesting quotes, videos and pictures about being native, non-native and bilingual. Not least from the famous David Crystal, whom I interviewed for TEFL Equity here, and who said he doesn’t use the term native speaker as a linguist any more. The way forward?

Andy Hockley wrote an article about management in ELT, where he towards the end promises that “From this point forward, if anybody who has responsibility for recruitment says in one of my sessions ‘We have to hire native speakers, because the students expect/want it’, I will respond as I did back then, that even if that is 100% true it’s not a good enough answer.” And of course, this is not 100% true. Probably more close to 0% true. For example, in a recent study done in Vietnam, students were found to place greater importance on six other factors than on being a NS.


For other examples, please watch Silvana’s plenary, or check out the reading list here on TEFL Equity.

Hugh Dellar via Lexical Lab reflects on CELTA and whether it privileges native speakers in this very thought-provoking article. Mind you, it’s worth reading the comments below it as it seems Hugh has opened a can of worms.

And in this 5-minute video which I recorded for The TEFL Show podcasts I reflected on a couple of things Silvana said in her plenary.

Also, Isabela Villas Boas addressed the NS and NNS dichotomy in this post.

If I missed any posts, please let me know, as there has been a flurry of blogging activity post Silvana plenary, so if you’ve written a post about it, I’d love to add it to the list.

And Silvana’s wasn’t the only IATEFL 2016 presentation on the topic. Together with Burcu Akyol, Josh Round and Christopher Graham we gave a panel discussion on tackling native speakerism, that is a prejudice against those perceived as non-native speakers of English. Here’s a short video introducing the talk:

Lizzie Pinard wrote a fantastic summary of the session which you can read here. Mike Harrison kindly offered to record the audio, and it will be available soon on TEFL Equity, so please stay tuned 🙂

Then Dita Phillips gave a presentation entitled: I’m a non-native English speaker teacher – hear me roar! It was summarised by Lizzie Pinard in this post.

I also saw a very interesting talk about intercultural communication and English as a Lingua Franca, which I reported on in this video for The TEFL Show podcasts:

You might be wondering then what’s next. How are we going to capitalise on the increased interest in the prejudice against those in ELT who are perceived as ‘non-native speakers’. Well, the first thing me and Silvana decided to do is to post all the questions which she couldn’t answer during the Q&A session on this blog, so we can continue the discussion. The first lot will be up next week, so stay tuned.

Of course, each of us is in a different position within ELT. Some of you might be school directors or recruiters. Some of you might be teacher trainers. Others might be chairs of teaching associations, while others simply English teachers. And probably several of you are some or all of the above. So there are different things you could do depending on your position. And some specific action points are listed here.

But there are some things each and every one of us can and probably should do if we want ELT to finally become a more egalitarian profession, where teachers will not be divided into two antagonistic species, but a profession which values all of us for what we do best: teach English. So if you’d like to get involved, consider some of the below points:

  • give a workshop at your school
  • present at a conference
  • give a webinar – TEFL Equity is always looking for new presenters, so please check out the webinars page
  • write an article for a newsletter or a blog post – if you’d like to write for TEFL Equity, please get in touch. You can check out the blog for inspiration here
  • add the supporter’s badge to your site – find out more how to do this here

    Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

    Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

  • if you see a discriminatory job ad on a jobs board or on social media, please write to the advertiser – it will only take a couple of minutes, but can cause some real change (read my post about this here)
  • you can also write a statement of support for TEFL Equity – read other statements here
  • find out whether your school or teaching association has equal employment oportunities policy; if they don’t suggest one – you can base it on position statements against discrimination issued by teaching associations such as TESOL International
  • use social media – tweet about it, post on FB, share blog posts and videos related to the issue
  • you can also contribute financially by donating to TEFL Equity campaign by clicking on the button below – find out more about how the funds are being used and why they are needed here
    Donate Button with Credit Cards

And if there are any other ways in which you feel you could get involved in the campaign, please comment below or get in touch.


'Tackling native speakerism in ELT' – IATEFL 2016 panel discussion

With this short video I wanted to invite you to an IATEFL 2016 panel discussion on native speakerism in ELT which will take place on Thursday 14th April in Hall 11a at 5.25pm. I will be joined by Burcu Akyol, Christopher Graham and Josh Round. See you there 🙂

You can watch other videos, interviews and webinars about native speakerism in ELT on TEA YouTube channel here.