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.

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.

'Tackling native speakerism in ELT' – recording of the IATEFL 2016 panel discussion

Finally, we got around to publishing the recording of the panel discussion on native speakerism that me, Burcu Akyol, Josh Round and Christopher Graham did at IATEFL 2016. In it we addressed the problem of native speakerism in ELT; that is:

a prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination, typically by or against foreign language teachers, on the basis of either being or not being perceived and categorized as a native speaker of a particular language. […] Its endorsement positions individuals from certain language groups as being innately superior to individuals of other language groups (Haughton and Rivers 2013, p.14).

We addressed the issue from three perspectives, that of a ‘non-native speaker’ (Burcu), a recruiter (Josh), and a teacher trainer (Christopher). Each of the speakers offered practical ideas how the prejudice against ‘non-native speakers’ can be overcome. There was also a 30 minute Q&A session.

For your convenience, the recording was divided into six shorter sections:

  1. Introduction.
  2. ‘Non-native speaker’ perspective.
  3. Recruitment perspective.
  4. Teacher training perspective.
  5. Q&A session.
  6. Conclusion.

For each, both an audio recording and a video with the slides are available. You can access the audio playlist on Soundcloud here. The video playlist is on YouTube here. You can also read the transcript of the whole panel discussion here. The audio was recorded and edited by Mike Harrison (thanks a lot Mike!). You can visit his website here. The transcript was done by Karina Roberts (thanks a lot Karina!).

1. Introduction – marek kiczkowiak



2. Non-native speaker perspective – Burcu Akyol



3. Recruitment perspective – josh round



4. Teacher training perspective – Christopher graham


5. Q&A session



6. Conclusion – Marek Kiczkowiak



'Why native speaker teachers are often a bad thing!' by Adrian Tennant

In this article, originally published in IATEFL Voices. Issue 202 May – June 2008 and republished here with full consent of the author, Adrian Tennant asks if NS (Native Speaker) teachers are, in fact, as fit for purpose as we believe. Adrian’s bio note can be found below the article.

At last year’s IATEFL Conference in Aberdeen, two unrelated events got me thinking about an issue which, in spite of the changing role and face of English in the world, has not yet been resolved: the role and status of native speakers as teachers of English. The first was a chance meeting with a young Korean teacher during one of the evening social events and the second was a workshop that focused on initial teacher training courses.

The meeting with the Korean teacher was one of those unplanned things that can actually be extremely productive and thought-provoking. I was at one of the evening events and we were asked to turn to someone nearby and just start talking to them. Behind me there was a small group of first-time conference attendees, I turned round and we began to talk.

Fairly soon, we got onto the subject of where people worked. At this stage, the conversation took an unexpected turn: one of the Koreans started talking about his frustration with his work context. I was intrigued and decided to try and find out as much as I could. It turned out that his institution was employing a number of unqualified native speakers (NS) to teach (mostly ‘conversation’ classes) and that these ‘teachers’ were being paid twice as much as the local (Korean) teachers who had had 5 years’ training!

The second event was a workshop led by a native speaker that focused on ‘Initial teacher training courses’. Within five minutes it became clear that the courses being referred to were courses such as CELTA and Trinity which are often taken by ‘native speakers’ as a way into the TEFL ‘profession’. It also became apparent that the presenter was unaware that some of his audience were non-native speakers (NNS) and that their courses often lasted up to five years. (I sat at the back and cringed for much of the session).

These two experiences started me thinking about the training undertaken by people entering the ELT profession, the disparity and inequality between the training of many NS teachers and many NNS teachers and the often unequal status and pay.

Unfortunately, there still seems to be the feeling that ‘nativeness’ and the type of passport held etc., is a prerequisite for many positions around the world. But how can a teacher who has taken a four-week course be better (and worth more in terms of pay) than one who has studied for five years? How can someone whose classroom experience might amount to six hours over a fairly short period of time be considered better than someone who has spent six months or more in a school, teaching day in and day out? And, worse still, how can someone with absolutely no training be paid more than someone who has spent years studying both language and methodology?

Surely the questions that need to be asked are ‘How competent is the person?’ not ‘What’s your nationality?’ As ‘professionals’ we have a responsibility to make employers and students aware that where you come from (and the accent you speak with) are not the most important things. Far more important is the question of how good you are as a teacher, and training must be a factor in this!

Another issue we need to consider is whether a course that is only four weeks long can ever be considered appropriate. Of course, length does not guarantee quality, but on the other hand, we have to be realistic about how much can be taught and learnt in a month. In a way, it is not the fault of the course providers, but more the fault of the employers (and to some extent the students) who seem to give more weight to the nationality of the teachers they employ than to their training and resulting competence in the classroom.

In fact, the arrogance shown within the ELT world by many NS and towards NNS is quite breathtaking! Looking at the state school sector in the UK, English-speaking teachers who teach French or German are certainly not paid less than French or German NS teachers at the same school. In actual fact, unless the French or German nationals have a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or accredited equivalent, they are paid less. So, why is it that in ELT someone with no qualification, or after an extremely short course, is deemed a better teacher (or at least given a higher financial reward) than someone who has spent five years studying to be a teacher, but happens to have been born outside an English-speaking country?

adrian tennantAdrian has been involved in ELT for over twenty-five years and now divides his time between writing, running teacher training courses, giving talks & workshops at conferences around the world and working as an ELT consultant. He has worked in many countries and contexts including in Cambodia, Indonesia, China, DR Congo, Senegal, Serbia, Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, India and Sri Lanka.

As a writer he has worked on a wide range of courses for many different publishers from Grammar Books, Primary and Secondary materials and Adult course and also regularly contributes to Onestopenglish.com writing everything from methodology articles to podcast materials.

He has been a member of IATEFL for many years and was on the Trustee Board as Membership Chair from 2007 until 2011. He is currently on the Scholarship Working Party. For many years he had a regular column in Voices the IATEFL newsletter where he examined a wide range of issues in the ELT world.

In his free time he likes reading (travel books and crime novels), hiking, swimming and cooking, but usually not at the same time!