How to raise students’ awareness and tackle native speakerism using these five simple activities

You are probably familiar with the widespread preference for ‘native speakers’ in ELT job ads, especially as far as the private sector is concerned. However, this is just one manifestation of the ideology of native speakerism visible in our profession. And if we are serious about tackling it, we also need to look beyond the discrimination in job recruitment to identify other discourses and practices that support the ideology.

In a nutshell, native speakerism (similarly to other ideologies, such as sexism or racism) is spread, supported and normalised by seemingly common sense beliefs. For example:

  • ‘native speakers’ are better teachers
  • ‘native speakers’ are better models of the language for our students to imitate
  • students will learn better pronunciation from ‘native speakers’
  • students should be taught about the ‘native speaker’ culture in order to be successful users of the language.

Note that I use inverted commas in here to indicate that we are talking about those perceived as ‘native speakers’ since in ELT being a ‘native speaker’ is often a subjective and ideological category. This means that certain groups that do not fit the perceived image of a ‘native speaker’ might not be granted the same privileges (see for example this post about racial discrimination in ELT).

One way to address native speakerism then is to deal with some of the beliefs that support it. While it’s very important to do this in teacher education and training programs, it is also vital to address these beliefs in class with our students, especially since the discrimination in recruitment is in part at least driven by the market demand from students for ‘native speakers’.

To help you do just that, I’m sharing here a paper I wrote for The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL: “Confronting Native Speakerism in the ELT Classroom: Practical Awareness-Raising Activities”. You can download it for free below:



What are you going to learn from the article?

  • what the ideology of native speakerism is
  • three main discourses that help support native speakerism
  • how to discuss native speakerism with students in the classroom
  • five awareness-raising activities you can use with your students.

More specifically, you will get five activities which you can immediately use with your students to raise their awareness of native speakerism:

  • Activity 1: Who is a ‘native speaker’?
  • Activity 2: Strengths and weaknesses of ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers
  • Activity 3: My ideal English teacher
  • Activity 4: My beliefs about teaching and learning English
  • Activity 5: Choosing a language school

To give you a better idea of what kind of activities I’m talking about, let me share with you Activity 1: Who is a ‘native speaker’?

Activity 1: Who is a ‘native speaker’?

Rationale: As discussed in 2.1, numerous scholars have criticised the simplicity of the binary division into ‘native speaker’ and ‘non-native speaker’ (Holliday, 2005; Jenkins, 2015; Paikeday, 1985; Rampton, 1990). It has also been shown that the two labels are subjective, ideological and value-laden (Aboshiha, 2015; Holliday, 2013, 2015), and that being a ‘native speaker’ is at times associated with being white and Western-looking (Amin, 2004; Kubota & Fujimoto, 2013). Students tend to have an idealised and less diverse view of the native speaker (Reis, 2011).

Activity: Complete this statement using your own words. Then, compare your answer with your partner. Were your answers similar? Why (not)?: A ‘native speaker’ is somebody who…

How far do you agree with the following statements? (1 – completely disagree; 2 – disagree, 3 – agree; 4 – completely agree):

  1. A ‘native speaker’ is somebody who was born only in the UK, the US, Ireland or Australia.
  2. A ‘native speaker’ did their tertiary education in English.
  3. A person who has IELTS 9 or CPE is a ‘native speaker’.
  4. A ‘native speaker’ speaks English perfectly and never makes mistakes.
  5. All ‘native speakers’ are white.
  6. There are no ‘native speaker’ in Kenya or India.
  7. Only the English spoken by a ‘native speaker’ is the real and correct English.
  8. A person born to English-speaking parents who has lived abroad most of their life is not a ‘native speaker’.

Compare your answers with other students and try to justify your choices. Which statements do you most disagree about? Why?

Read the following statement. Discuss with your partner. Do you agree? Why (not)?

Some scholars have suggested that the labels ‘native speaker’ and ‘non-native speaker’ are artificial and have little relevance in the modern world where most people are at least bilingual. These labels have also been reported to create an antagonistic view of the English-speaking community, contributing to the view that ‘non-native speaker’ are worse English teachers.

Sounds like something you might want to use with your students?

You can download this and four more activities by clicking on the button below.




Kiczkowiak, M. (2017). Confronting native speakerism in an ELT classroom: practical awareness-raising activities. The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL, 6(1).

Three reasons why you need to start teaching English as a Lingua Franca (rather than as a foreign or second language)

Recently, you might have seen me post quite a lot about English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) on this blog. So perhaps, you might be wondering:

  • what’s the big deal about ELF?
  • why does Marek want me to start teaching ELF?
  • how the heck is it related to TEFL Equity’s fight against native speakerism?

That’s why in this post I wanted to answer these questions and  give you three reasons why you should start teaching ELF (rather than EFL or ESL). Ready?

We all know that English has become the global lingua franca of international communication, primarily used by its ‘non-native speakers’.


  • ‘native speakers’ are still commonly regarded  as the ideal language models our students should aspire to
  • they’re also seen as ideal teachers.

This idea which has been frequently referred to as native speakerism.

You probably know full well that it leads to widespread discrimination in ELT recruitment with the vast majority of vacancies in the private sector being advertised for ‘native speakers’ only. But, what you might not have realised, is that native speakerism  also leads to a situation where we emphasise ‘native speaker’ pronunciation, vocabulary and culture in our classes and materials. This is despite the fact that research shows that ‘native speakers’ (especially monolingual ones) are frequently the least comprehensible English users in international contexts.

So on the one hand, we know that English is an international lingua franca. Used primarily for communication between ‘non-native speakers’.

On the other hand, we still teach it as if it was a foreign language. Used primarily to communicate with its ‘native speakers’.

And to top it off, we have the problem of native speakerism.

I believe that we can tackle these issues if we start teaching English as a Lingua Franca, rather than as a Foreign Language.

Benefit no. 1 of Teaching ELF: Promote Equality and Tackle Native Speakerism

The way I learned English and the way I was taught how to teach English also planted and cultivated the idea that ‘native speakers’ perhaps indeed are not only better models of the language, but also better teachers.

They have the right pronunciation.

They have an intuitive feel for the language.

They know the culture.

And as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher, I don’t and can’t ever have any of that.

It does deep down make you feel inferior.

And worst of all, this emphasis on ‘native speaker’ models of the language in teaching and learning only further justifies the idea that ‘native speakers’ are entitled to better jobs.

That what matters most in a teacher is not how well they can teach, but whether they are a ‘native speaker’.

So I would argue that the first benefit of teaching English as a Lingua Franca, rather than as a foreign language, would be to address native speakerism.

More specifically, by moving to teach ELF rather than EFL/ESL, you’d be addressing some of the most fundamental beliefs and practices that help normalise, spread and justify native speakerism Let me give you three examples:

  • teaching pronunciation – using ‘non-native speakers’ as valid models and focusing on intelligibility will help address the idea that ‘native speaker’ pronunciation is superior
  • teaching culture – focusing on a wide variety of cultures and on teaching intercultural communicative skills can help tackle the idea that you need to learn about ‘native speaker’ culture, which of course only a ‘native speaker’ can provide, in order to be proficient
  • teaching listening – introducing a wide variety of Englishes can not only better prepare your students for the real English out there, but also to address the idea that it is ‘native speaker’ recordings students should be listening to in order to improve their English

Benefit no. 2 of Teaching ELF: Help Your Students Succeed

My experiences as a teacher and student of English also did not prepare me for the sheer variety of Englishes out there.

Learning and teaching English as a foreign language prepared me to interact with ‘native speakers’. To understand their pronunciation. The peculiarities of idioms and phrasal verbs. How their culture was reflected in the way they used English.

That would have been fine if I mainly interacted with ‘native speakers’.

But of course I didn’t.

I have used English mainly with other ‘non-native speakers’. So the EFL approach failed me in a way. It failed to show me how to interact in this highly multilingual English. How to navigate my way among a myriad of different cultures. How to understand countless different accents.

So the second benefit of teaching English as a Lingua Franca, rather than as a foreign language, would be to better prepare our learners to be successful users of the language in international, lingua franca contexts.

Benefit no. 3 of Teaching ELF: Engage and Motivate Your Students

When I learned English as a student, the aim (even if not expressed explicitly) was for us to speak English as closely as possible to how a ‘native speaker’ would.

When I studied to be a teacher in university, we quickly learned that there were only two correct types of pronunciation: British or American English. Any deviation from the two was wrong. And meant a failed exam.

I also remember learning a lot (both as a students and a teacher) about the culture of English-speaking countries, primarily British and US culture.

Inevitably, it gave me the impression that in order to be a successful user of English, you had to imitate ‘native speakers’. The closer you got, the better.

Of course, you never quite get there. So you continue worrying about having a foreign accent. About misplacing the word stress. About forgetting the third person ‘s.

This can be very demotivating for many students. Constantly striving to achieve what they are constantly failing to achieve.

So the third benefit of adopting an English as a Lingua Franca approach to teaching would be motivating your students. Showing them they can succeed and become highly proficient multilingual users of English. Without having to worry about not speaking like a ‘native speaker’.

To sum up, if we are serious about tackling the ideology of native speakerism, apart from the necessary advocacy work, we also need to rethink how we teach English. As any ideology, native speakerism is made to seem normal and common sense by powerful and deeply ingrained discourses (e.g., ‘native speakers’ are better models of pronunciation) and social practices (e.g., predominantly using recordings of standard ‘native speaker’ accents). And these discourses and social practices aren’t going to go away unless we actually change the way we teach the language.

If you would like to further explore these ideas and learn how to:

  • teach English for global communication
  • promote equality
  • tackle native speakerism
  • gain confidence as a ‘non-native speaker’
  • improve your job opportunities,

check out TEFL Equity Academy and start your FREE 30-day trial today.

There are currently 10+ courses and 80+ lectures with new content added every month.

What exactly will you learn?

  • how to raise students’ awareness and promote equality
  • how to teach intercultural communicative skills
  • how to help your students communicate effectively in global contexts
  • how to tackle native speakerism
  • how to write materials and lesson plans for teaching ELF
  • how to boost your confidence as a ‘non-native speaker’
  • hot to teach pronunciation for ELF use

What’s included?

  • 10+ courses
  • interviews with experts
  • new content added monthly
  • LIFETIME access
  • downloadable pre-recorded video presentations
  • lesson plans and teaching ideas

Sounds good?

You can start the 30-day trial here (only $9 a month afterwards).

And watch the video below to take a sneak peak inside the Academy 🙂

How to motivate students using recordings of successful E(LF)nglish users

A lot of the times course books feature a rather narrow range of recordings of standard ‘native speaker’ voices.

Just to give you a few examples:

  • Syrbe and Rose (2016) note that most characters presented in books are ‘native speakers’ (mostly either US or British)
  • ‘Non-native speakers’ also tend to contribute much less in dialogues, and few examples of ‘non-native speaker’ to ‘non-native speaker’ interactions are present (Matsuda, 2002)
  • ‘Non-native speakers’ are often presented as tourists in Inner Circle countries,  very seldom interacting with other ‘non-native speakers’ in ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) settings (Vettorel and Lopriore, 2013)
  • Tomlinson and Masuhara (2013) show that the coursebooks they analysed focus specifically on contemporary middle-class British English.

And typically, we might encourage students to imitate these ‘native speaker’ models as closely as possible.

However, aren’t we then encouraging them to imitate a model few will ever be able to achieve?

I’ve had lots of students in the past who have been frustrated and demotivated by not being able to speak English like that ‘native speaker’ in the recording in class.

As a student of English in the past I also certainly found it rather frustrating and somewhat discouraging that I was never able to speak English like the ‘native speakers’ I could hear in the recordings.

That’s why in this video, I’m going to show you how you can use recordings of successful English as a Lingua Franca users to motivate and engage your learners.

And as an added bonus: to also contribute to tackling native speakerism in our profession.

What are you going to learn in the video?

  • 2 reasons why recordings of successful E(LF)nglish users can be motivating for your students
  • 9 examples of E(LF)nglish users that will be great for your classes
  • how to choose the right recordings
  • a 5-minute prep lesson framework that works with any recording.

So after watching this video you will know how to motivate your students in the next class using a recording of a successful E(LF)nglish user.


Watch the video below.

Did you enjoy the video?

Would you like to watch more similar videos and learn exactly how to teach listening for ELF contexts?

Join TEFL Equity Academy and discover 10+ courses that will show you exactly how to:

  • teach English for global communication
  • promote equality
  • tackle native speakerism.

The video above forms part of a course available on TEFL Equity Academy: “How to teach listening for English as a Lingua Franca”:

So if you would like to learn how to teach listening for ELF contexts, then check out TEFL Equity Academy and start your FREE 30-day trial today.

What else will you learn?

  • how to raise students’ awareness and promote equality
  • how to teach intercultural communicative skills
  • how to help your students communicate effectively in global contexts
  • how to tackle native speakerism
  • how to write materials and lesson plans for teaching ELF
  • how to boost your confidence as a ‘non-native speaker’
  • hot to teach pronunciation for ELF use

Sounds good?

You can start the 30-day trial here (only $9 a month afterwards).

What’s included?

  • 10+ courses
  • interviews with experts
  • new content added monthly
  • LIFETIME access
  • downloadable pre-recorded video presentations
  • lesson plans and teaching ideas

Start your FREE 30-day trial now.


  • Matsuda, A. (2002). Representation of users and uses of English in beginning Japanese EFL textbooks. JALT Journal, 24(2), 182–216.
  • Syrbe, M., & Rose, H. (2016). An evaluation of the global orientation of English textbooks in Germany. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 12(2), 152–163.
  • Tomlinson, B., & Masuhara, H. (2013). Adult coursebooks. ELT Journal, 67(2), 233–249.
  • Vettorel, P., & Lopriore, L. (2013). Is there ELF in ELT coursebooks? Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 3(4), 483–504.

Learn how to tackle native speakerism, promote equality and teach English for global communication

It is no secret that English has become the global lingua franca.

Research shows that ‘non-native speaker’ users of the language outnumber the ‘native’ ones by at least 4:1. And this number is only going to grow in the coming years.

So how can we best help students become successful users of English in this vastly multilingual, lingua franca context?

Traditionally, all foreign languages have been taught with the ‘native speaker’ in mind. In other words:

  • students were assumed to be learning the language to communicate with ‘native speakers’
  • as a result, they should learn ‘native speaker’ language, but also the culture that comes with it
  • in order to do that, students would listen to recordings of standard ‘native speaker’ speech
  • and be encouraged to imitate ‘native speaker’ pronunciation
  • as well as vocabulary, idioms and communication patterns.

This has led to a situation where the ‘native speaker’ was deemed the only appropriate language model and the ultimate goal of learning and teaching. It is not surprising then that the ‘native speaker’ has been, and is also still, seen as the ideal teacher.

It is also not surprising that so many students express a preference for ‘native speaker’ teachers and ‘native speaker’ language.

This state of affairs has often been referred to as native speakerism.

So we’re in a situation where we know English is primarily used as a global means of communication.

BUT, at the same time we…

…tend to focus on conformity with standard ‘native speaker’ language norms, rather than communicative strategies

…are likely to emphasise standard ‘native speaker’ pronunciation, rather than intelligibility in international communication

…frequently teach about ‘native speaker’ culture, rather than about intercultural communicative skills

…might view having a foreign accent as bad, rather than simply as a sign of sociolinguistic diversity

…seem to use recordings of ‘native speakers’ much more frequently, rather than authentic recordings of a variety of English users

And, of course, to top it all off, numerous schools still hire ‘native speakers’ only, claiming that they are the best models of the language and the best teachers.

So how do we tackle this situation?

What can we as teachers, materials writers and trainers do to overcome native speakerism, promote equality and help students succeed at using English for global communication?

For the last several years I have used this blog to raise awareness of native speakerism. However, increased awareness is not enough.

To tackle native speakerism and promote equality, what is also needed is a profound change in how we teach English. A move from teaching English as a foreign language to teaching English as a lingua franca. A language for global communication.

And in order to help you do this, I am launching TEFL Equity Academy membership area.

With 10+ courses and new content added every month you will learn:

  • how to tackle native speakerism. You will understand what the ideology of native speakerism is, how it is spread in ELT and what can you do to address it, whether you’re a teacher, trainer or materials writer.
  • how to teach pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use. You will find out how to save time by focusing on the pronunciation features that have the highest impact on intelligibility. You will walk away with a framework that you can easily implement to teach engaging and effective pronunciation lessons.
  • how to gain confidence and increase your employability as a non-native speaker teacher. You will understand why recruiters prefer ‘native speaker’ teachers and how to debunk these arguments. You will also learn what your unique strengths are as a ‘non-native speaker’, so that you can utilise these to increase your chances of getting hired.
  • how to motivate your students using recordings of non-native speakers. You will find out why using a wide variety of authentic accents in your listening classes can help motivate students. You will walk away with practical activities, useful websites and classroom suggestions so that you’re completely ready for your next listening class.
  • how to easily create lesson plans and adapt your course book to teach English for global communication. You will learn how to prepare engaging and motivating lesson plans that promote equality, help tackle native speakerism and teach English for global communication. You will also understand how to quickly and easily adapt your existing course books, so you can save tons of planning time.
  • how to raise students’ awareness and promote equality. You will know why it is vital to first discuss both native speakerism and English as a Lingua Franca with your learners. You will walk away with an array of practical activities and lesson plan ideas, so you can save time when planning your next class.

And with new content added every month, this is just the tip of the iceberg…

And to celebrate the launch, I’m offering a limited FREE 30-day trial of the academy. Click here to get started right now.

But if you’re still not convinced, then watch this video to take a look inside the academy and see how it can benefit you.

Start your FREE trial today and learn how to tackle native speakerism, promote equality and teach English for global communication.

Teaching English as a Lingua Franca: A Journey from EFL to ELF

I’m really excited that a book I’ve cowritten with Robert Lowe Teaching English as a Lingua Franca: A Journey from EFL to ELF has now officially been sent to press for printing and should be published in February 2019 🙂

EDIT: The book is now available here on the publisher’s website and here on

It’s been a long year and a half in the making, and it’s taken us on a fascinating journey. And I don’t think any of us knew exactly where we were going when we started off. Let me explain.

Both me and Robert have been interested in the issue of native speakerism for the last several years, and we both did a PhD on the topic and have published an article together. However, while a substantial body of research has emerged over the years outlining the negative effects native speakerism has on our profession, it became increasingly (and frustratingly perhaps) apparent that there were few practical solutions how we can address native speakerism.

And by native speakerism I don’t mean here simply the discrimination in job ads and professional opportunities, which is perhaps the most visible, but only one of many manifestations of the ideology on our profession.

Native speakerism is a prejudice, an ideology which positions certain individuals as superior or inferior based on their perceived belonging to a ‘native speaker group. And the word perceived is vital, because who gets to be labelled a ‘native’ or a ‘non-native speaker’ is often subjective and ideological.

And similarly to other ideologies, such as sexism or racism, native speakerism does not spread in a vacuum, but is maintained, normalised and justified by powerful, but at the same time seemingly common sense, discourses. These in turn are visible in social practices within our profession.

To give you one example, a fundamental native speakerist discourse or belief is the idea that any ‘native speaker’ is by definition a better model and thus a better teacher of pronunciation. This is clearly reflected not only in biased hiring policies, but also in the fact that we might emphasise standard ‘native speaker’ accents and pronunciation in our materials.

So, what became more and more apparent to us was that the ideology of native speakerism has also very profound effects on how we perceive the English language, its users and – perhaps even more importantly – on how we teach the language.

Our main premise is then that in order to attempt to tackle some of the fundamental beliefs that help spread native speakerism, we need to rethink our approach to teaching English and aim to move from a foreign language that is learnt to communicate with an idealised ‘native speaker’ to a lingua franca that is learnt to communicate globally with a wide variety of English users.

And here is how the book is structured:

Similarly to previous methodology books published by DELTA , the book is divided into three parts:

  1. Part A outlines the theoretical underpinnings for our arguments
  2. Part B gives teachers over 40 practical activities to help them raise awareness of ELF and native speakerism among their students, as well as teach crucial skills needed for communicating in international lingua franca contexts, covering pronunciation, lexis and grammar, communication, intercultural skills, pronunciation and listening
  3. Part C addresses specific areas of teaching which couldn’t be addressed in Part A or B, such as writing materials, teacher training and education, English for academic purposes and business English.

Before the book is published in February 2019, I will be sharing some sample materials so you can take a sneak peek inside it. But if you’re already interested, and would like to

  • be the first one to know when the book is published,
  • get all the updates right in your inbox,
  • download the sample materials as pdfs and use in your classes

then click on the button below to join the pre-launch waiting list:


I will also be giving away an exclusive 30-day FREE trial to TEFL Equity Academy once it launches next year to all those who join the pre-launch list.

We’d love to hear what your thoughts about the book are so far, so definitely leave us a comment below.

Understand and Untangle Native Speakerism to Get Hired as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher

Our usual first contact with native speakerism might be seeing countless ads for ‘native speakers’ only or for ‘native level’ teachers.

As ‘non-native speakers’ we might also experience native speakerism when we get turned down for a job, because of our mother tongue (despite having all the right qualifications)

Or when we hear that we can’t teach pronunciation well, because we have a foreign accent.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg…

So if as a profession we are serious about tackling native speakerism and promoting equality, it is vital we understand what native speakerism and how it is spread and normalised in ELT.

Also, as a ‘non-native speaker, this will help you better understand the reasons why many recruiters prefer ‘native speakers’ and learn how to tackle these so you can increase your job opportunities.

That’s why in this video you will learn what the ideology of native speakerism is so that you are better prepared to respond to it.

If you want more tips like these that will boost your chances of getting hired as a ‘non-native speaker’, download my FREE guide “6 Fool-Proof Tips to Boost Your Professional Profile and Get Hired as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher”.

Click on the button below to get it via FB Messenger:

Or via email:

What makes an effective English teacher? A research project

Last weekend I had the pleasure to present at IATEFL Poland annual conference.

The program was full of interesting workshops and talks, and I was particularly interested in seeing Jasmina Sazdovska‘s and Zsuzsanna Soproni‘s presentation What Makes an Effective English Language Teacher?

There is so much discussion about ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’ that we actually often forget about what actually matters; that is, teaching effectiveness.

We argue endlessly whether ‘native speakers’ are better pronunciation teachers (coz they have the ‘natural’, ‘original’ accent, right?).

We provide evidence why ‘non-native speakers’ are better at teaching grammar (coz they studied it, so they must know it, right?)

While this line of research has been incredibly popular – starting with Medgyes’ Who’s worth more: a NS or a NNS? – it has since been criticised as the comparative fallacy (Mahboob, 2005; Moussu & Llurda, 2008; Selvi, 2014).

To me, it’s always seemed that it did little to promote equality and a lot to further perpetuate the divide between ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers. In a nutshell, it’s a bit like fighting stereotypes with more stereotypes (see this post by Michael Griffin about it).

After all, the fact that SOME ‘non-native speakers’ are quite effective at teaching grammar, doesn’t mean ALL or even the majority is. Nor does it mean that they should be assigned grammar classes because they are ‘non-native speakers’.

Unfortunately, in many contexts ‘non-native speakers’ ARE frequently assigned grammar classes (surely, they must know it inside out, right?), while their ‘native’ counterparts might commonly be given conversation classes (you know, they probably don’t know the difference between past simple or present perfect, anyway…).

While no one – I hope- would ever consider assigning different classes to male and female teachers (oh, you know, surely female teachers are more empathetic and compassionate, so…), we do assign different classes, and different stereotypical strengths and weaknesses, to ‘native’ and ‘non-native’ teachers.

What I also find worrying is that the supposed strengths and weaknesses of ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’ are immediately attributed to their ‘nativeness’, or lack thereof. This is in fact what essentially Medgyes’ (and colleagues’) research has done.

Such an approach could be argued to further perpetuate native speakerism (rather than contribute to tackling it), which is something we wrote about with Robert Lowe in our paper Native-speakerism and the complexity of personal experience: A duoethnographic study, which you can read here.

In other words, some ‘non-native speakers’ are NOT effective at teaching grammar BECAUSE they are ‘non-native’.

They are effective at teaching grammar, because they studied it. Because their teacher training program emphasised it.

Teachers are good (or bad) teachers not because of where they were born, or which language they unwittingly picked up as kids.

They are good (or bad) teachers because of the training they received. Because of their experience. Because of the professional development they have engaged in.

The reasons can be numerous. And what makes an effective English teacher is also a complex issue probably also dependent on the sociocultural and educational context.

Which brings me back to Jasmina’s and Zsuzsanna’s research, which – as they put it – aims to “look into different English teacher profiles and qualifications, as opposed to the mere native/non-native divide”.

The research is still ongoing, and Jasmina and Zsuzsanna are still collecting responses from participants. If you’d like to take part, click here to complete the survey.


Lowe, R. J., & Kiczkowiak, M. (2016). Native-speakerism and the complexity of personal experience: A duoethnographic study. Cogent Education, 3(1), 1–16.

Mahboob, A. (2005). Beyond the native speaker in TESOL. In S. Zafar (Ed.), Culture, Context, & Communication. (pp. 60–93). Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Center of Excellence for Applied Research and Training & The Military Language Institute. Retrieved from

Medgyes, P. (1992). Native or non-native: who’s worth more? ELT Journal, 46(4), 340–349.

Moussu, L. M., & Llurda, E. (2008). Non-native English-speaking English language teachers: History and research. Language Teaching, 41(03), 315–348.

Selvi, A. F. (2014). Myths and Misconceptions about Nonnative English Speakers in the TESOL (NNEST) Movement. TESOL Journal, 5(3), 573–611.

My ELT Voyage as a Non-White Native Speaker by Sulaiman Jenkins

“Finally, it needs to be stressed that if ELT wants to develop into a profession rather than remaining a largely unlegislated industry, then it should aim to eradicate all forms of discrimination. To evolve into a profession, the ELT community needs to challenge and remove from its belief system the notion that ‘some speakers are more equal than others,’ to give all members of the TESOL community the justice and equality that they deserve” (Mahboob, 2009, pg. 38).

These are profound words written by Ahmar Mahboob and still ring true almost a decade later.

As a field, we have come a long way in raising awareness of the issues of racism and discrimination (however uncomfortable that has been), but we still have a lot of work to do. I wish to preface this post by saying in no way, shape or form is anything written intended to be antagonizing. I also submit that in discussing this issue, one must walk a very fine line.

On the one hand, we cannot be over-sensitive such that any and everything is considered racism: on the other, we cannot be dismissive of people’s lived experiences and pretend that a problem doesn’t exist.

It is hoped that this post continues the discussion and generates healthy and insightful dialogue with the many bright minds and compassionate hearts in ELT, but from a perspective not heard from too often in our field.

Lastly, I cannot fail to acknowledge the tremendous support I’ve received from the many accessible professionals/academics who have helped me along the way in my career. They are (in no particular order) Maureen McGarvey of IH, Jennifer Jenkins, Adrian Holliday, Julie Ciancio, Travis Bristol, Ali Selvi, Marek Kiczkowiak, and Andy Hockley. Your encouragement and guidance have been invaluable.


No doubt, racism and discrimination exist in the world, and yes even in a nice field like TESOL (Kubota, 2002). While quantifiable data would reveal the extent to which we have a problem with racism, our eyes and our ears tell us that there is indeed a problem.

We have an obligation to tackle these unpleasantries so that human beings can enjoy basic freedoms; among them is having an equal opportunity to earn a living and live a decent life. These freedoms are granted by national and international laws (United Nations), and a basic requisite of employment should always be one’s competence and skill set, and nothing more.

That said, many non-White and ‘non-native’ teaching professionals in ELT still find obstacles to employment based on factors such as skin tone, mother tongue, nationality, and religion. That we even need to articulate this in 2018 is symptomatic of a deeply rooted and terribly stubborn problem.

I now share with you my story as an ELT professional. For me, I occupy a very unique space in TESOL: a black (non-White), ‘native speaking’ academic. From this space, I have:

  1. been denied employment based simply on appearance, regardless of qualifications and
  2. benefited, financially and otherwise, from being a ‘native speaker’.

The last space in this matrix that I occupy is having the ability to contribute to academia in ELT (in my own small way) because of the scholarly tools I was fortunate to gain from an elite education.

To articulate how it feels occupying all of these spaces, often at the same time, is beyond difficult. There are

  • feelings of anger because of marginalization (employment opportunities vanishing simply because of my appearance)
  • feelings of guilt from “remorseful entitlement” (despite being disadvantaged at times due to color, I have an advantage due to native speakerism, and this is something I’ve expressed as being unfair with my ‘non-native’ colleagues)
  • and feelings of tremendous hope and opportunity (that I have a platform to speak out against what I feel is not correct and provide a mouthpiece for a significant segment of the ELT community largely unheard from).

All of these factors contribute uniquely to my experience as a black teacher in TESOL and have laid the groundwork for why I believe I need to be more proactive in being part of the solution to this salient problem.


My teaching experience so far in almost 15 years of teaching has been largely positive. I have been fortunate to

  • have published commentaries,
  • have attended amazing conferences,
  • have held important administrative positions,
  • and have met some fantastic people.

With that, I have also had interesting experiences with issues of discrimination and race. These experiences have mainly revolved around employment discrimination and perceived native speakerism.

I also want to make it clear that I’m speaking from my experience in the context of the Middle East. Other black professionals may have had different experiences (some better, some worse) in other parts of the world, and even different experiences in the Middle East. That said, I know from my conversations with countless other black teaching professionals here that my experience reverberates with many others in the field.

When I’m applying for a position, as a principle and a strategy, I generally don’t hand in passport pages or photos with initial applications (unless stipulated otherwise). My rationale is that I want to be judged first and foremost on my credentials, not how I look.

I was told early in my career, from white and black colleagues, that sometimes recruiters simply reject applications if a candidate is non-White. They encouraged me to “at least get in the door” by being invited to interview because at that stage, it would be more difficult to be rejected.

[Note from the editor] If you’d like to boost your chances of being hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher (even if you’ve been turned down before), download this FREE pdf guide “Six Fool-Proof Tips to Boosting Your Professional Profile and Getting Hired” via FB Messenger:

Or Email:

Interestingly, some of this advice has come from white colleagues who were in charge of recruitment and operating under the directive(s) of their superior. Over time, adopting this approach has indeed exposed some recruiters for being explicitly discriminatory at worst, highly unprofessional at best.

One incident in particular was when I applied to a language institute in Italy. I initially received high praise from the recruiter because of my educational background, academic accomplishments and for being a ‘native speaker’. He was very excited to conduct the interview just as a matter of formality, and he requested the first page of my passport, which I sent.

Unabashed, he sent me an email within minutes saying the position was filled and thanked me for applying.

Ooookay. He really went there?

Bewildered, I had hoped that he was being truthful, but after asking him to explain his previous behavior (high praise if the position was already filled) and receiving no response, I couldn’t shake the idea that I was “qualified” for the job but not what he was “looking for”.

This would happen to me two other times, once for a job in Morocco and the other for a job in Saudi Arabia. In a market underpinned by native speakerism, it seems that some ‘native speakers’ are more equal than others. 


As a black ELT professional, I’ve also often experienced the phenomenon that a ‘native speaker’ can only be White.

Before leaving the US, I was never once questioned about my identity as an American; outside of the US in Saudi Arabia and Morocco has been a different story. In these places whenever someone asks me where I’m from, and I tell them New York City, whether I’m speaking to students, local teachers, or general people, the follow up question is almost always: “No, I mean where are you really from…like originally”?

At first, I used to spend literally 10-15 minutes giving a mini history lesson about how no one is “originally” from America (we’re all immigrants essentially), and that yes black people came over from Africa, but after 400 years we’ve sort of forgotten where we come from exactly.

I quickly picked up that some people outside the US may not view black people as being American, regardless of the countless number of black Americans who are historically or currently world famous.

This has a direct influence on teaching in English class because the formula becomes “originally American = native speaker = good quality”, whereas “not originally American = non-native speaker = lesser quality”. When you’re teaching a class, it’s mind numbing to have to think about the fact that sometimes the value of your teaching will be commensurate with how convinced students are of your “Americanness”: that being perceived as not originally being from America has some influence on the perception of the quality of one’s teaching.

In other contexts, the black experience in the classroom has been even more flagrant. Charles (2017), conducting narrative inquiry research with black teachers in South Korea, asked teachers to document some of their classroom interactions. The study found that professionals had to constantly shake students’ perceptions of blacks as “uneducated…dangerous…[and]… untrustworthy”, perceptions which had been recycled in South Korean media, and the teachers had to devise pedagogical strategies to combat misrepresentations of black Americans.


From these experiences, I have grown highly sensitive to the plight of my fellow ‘non-native speakers’, and here I revisit the inherently biased and discriminatory nature of the ‘native speaker’ model.

Ostensibly, ‘native speaker’ means someone who grew up in an English speaking country and has essentially spoken the language from birth, but in reality it has often been used synonymously with being a White speaker from an English speaking country.

Used this way, the model becomes a mechanism to exclude non-Whites from employment, as I have (hopefully) evidenced here. Used another way, the ‘native speaker’ model becomes a mechanism to exclude professionals who hold passports of non–English speaking countries from employment on the basis of being ‘non-native’. It is even used to justify paying ‘non-native’ speakers lower salaries for equal work.

I could go on and on, but this inequality cannot. A teacher, regardless of field or industry, should only be judged on his/ her merit, competence, rapport, innovation, efficiency and passion. Any other criteria are irrelevant, and by judging one on what truly matters, the “justice and equality” Mahboob alluded to will finally be served.

Racism and discrimination have no place in education, and we must work hard to ensure that every teaching professional has an equal opportunity to earn a decent living.

[Note from the editor] If you’d like to boost your chances of being hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher (even if you’ve been turned down before), download this FREE pdf guide “Six Fool-Proof Tips to Boosting Your Professional Profile and Getting Hired” via FB Messenger:

Or Email:

[This post was originally published by Sulaiman Jenkins on his blog here, and is reproduced here with his permission]

sulaiman jenkins Sulaiman Jenkins earned his MA in TESOL from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. He has been in the field of ELT, most notably in Saudi Arabia, for more than 14 years. He has also contributed to academia by way of publishing numerous articles in top peer reviewed journals. He is currently working at an engineering university in Saudi Arabia and is also a Senior Research and Activism Contributor for Turnkey Educational Group’s Research and Activism blog.


Charles, Q. D. (2017). Black Teachers of English in South Korea (Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University of Pennsylvania).

Kubota, R. (2002). The author responds: (Un) Raveling racism in a nice field like TESOL. TESOL Quarterly36 (1), 84-92.

Mahboob, A. (2009). Racism in the ELT industry. In A. Mahboob & C. Lipovsky (Eds.) Studies in Applied Linguistics and Language Learning. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Ndura, E. (2004). ESL and cultural bias: an analysis of elementary through high school textbooks in the western United States of America. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 17(2), 143-153.

United Nations. (1958). Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention. Geneva: OHCHR. Retrieved June 29, 2018 from Pages/EmploymentAndOccupation.aspx.

Mike Long’s Task Based Language Teaching and Native Speakerism

In April I had the pleasure of finally reading Mike Long’s Second Language Acquisition and Task Based Language Teaching. I was incredibly impressed with the academic rigour, the breadth and depth of the writer’s knowledge, but most of all (as a practising teacher) with the far-reaching practical implications. Having said that, there was one aspect which kept on cropping up throughout the book that made me uncomfortable, namely the idea that authentic language and texts are those produced by ‘native speakers’, and that these ‘native speakers’ are by definition better models of the language and task performance.

To me this is a prime example of how deeply ingrained the ideology of native speakerism is in the minds not just of students who demand classes with ‘native speakers’ or recruiters who refuse to hire ‘non-native speaker’ teachers, but also in the minds of ELT and SLA professionals.

Before I move on to show a few examples of native speakerism that I encountered in Long’s book, let’s first define what native speakerism is.

What is native speakerism?

The term native speakerism was originally coined by Holliday (2005, 2006), who used it in reference to the notion that the linguistic and pedagogical ideals of teaching English spring from Western culture, which a ‘native speaker’ embodies. Houghton and Rivers (2013a) point out that native speakerism has its roots in the dichotomous discourse of us and them, ‘native speakers’ and ‘non-native speakers’, where the former are usually seen as the norm and ideal both in terms of language use and teaching skills, while the latter as deficient and inferior. Thus native speakerism can be understood as

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 (Houghton & Rivers, 2013a, p. 14).

Of course, as any ideology, native speakerism does not spread in a vacuum, but is maintained, supported and normalised by powerful discourses which make it seem justifiable and acceptable. These are then used as a basis of social practices and actions.

To give one example, native speakerism is supported by the discourse that ‘native speakers’ are better models of the language for our students, and therefore students should be exposed to ‘native speaker’ language in class in order to improve their proficiency. This might lead us to select predominantly materials created by and for ‘native speakers’.

Native speakerism and Long’s TBLT

So how is native speakerism manifested in Long’s discussion of TBLT?

The first clue is how authenticity is construed in the book. For example, Long defines genuine tasks as those “originally designed for native speaker – native speaker communication, not LT” (p.21).

Later he defines authentic materials as “genuine texts, such as song lyrics, news broadcasts, films, newspaper articles, and textbook chapters, originally created by and for native speakers (NSs), not for LT to non-natives” (p.249).

You could argue that in both cases Long’s emphasis is on the fact that authentic texts are not created specifically for language teaching, which is something that I think we’d all agree with.

However, if this was the case, why mention that authentic texts are created by and for ‘native speakers’? Wouldn’t it be enough to say that authentic texts are those originally not intended or created for language teaching and learning?

It would unless you believe that only ‘native speakers’ can be the choice of authentic material and real language.

An interesting indication that this might indeed be what Long believes can be found on p. 271, where Long presents a task whose aim is for students to learn to obtain and provide directions. The first pedagogical task involves listening to three conversations and is incidentally called “The real thing”.

Guess who recorded the conversations? A ‘native’ or a ‘non-native speaker’?

If you answered the former, then well done!

Indeed long writes that the three conversations are to be “real examples of NS giving directions” (p. 271).

So perhaps Long does indeed believe that ‘native speakers’ are by default better language models for our students?

A further clue to answering this question can be found on p. 313, where Long discusses the fifth methodological principle of TBLT, which involves promoting inductive learning of chunks. He suggests that an extensive reading and listening program should be added to the main classroom course.

That per se is perfectly justified and empirically sound given the evidence. However, what is highly questionable in my opinion is his suggestion that students should listen to and read “lively recordings of the texts made especially for language learning by a native speaker [emphasis mine]” (p. 313).

By now, it seems to me that it is impossible to argue that Long is unaware of the implications of his adding the word ‘native speaker’, neither on p. 313, nor in any of the previously quoted examples.

His thesis is otherwise incredibly detailed, his claims based on VERY extensive reading, and his arguments are always phrased carefully and eloquently.

Therefore, I’d argue here that he’s well aware of the implications. In fact, I’d go further and say that he actually believes that:

  • students should be primarily exposed to ‘native speaker’ input
  • only ‘native speakers’ can be a source of authentic language input.

In fact, when a fellow teacher emailed Long to clarify what his position was, his answer was very clear: ‘non-native speakers’ are inappropriate as task models (unless the target task typically involves ‘non-natives’) and ‘native speakers’ are better models of the language.

This is further evidenced by Long’s views on who should conduct a needs analysis.

On p.136, in reference to Selinker, Long writes that an expert informant for a needs analysis “should be a native speaker, well trained and competent in the field of interest”. Again, this begs the question why it should be a ‘native speaker’? Wouldn’t any sufficiently proficient speaker do?

They probably wouldn’t to Long.

When he discusses the use of elaborated input in tasks (rather than simplified or graded input) on p. 253 and 254, he writes that the addition of “to earn money as an implicit paraphrase of to provide for (to earn money to provide for his family)” would be redundant for a ‘native speaker’.


I’d argue that it would be redundant for a proficient speaker, regardless of their L1.

Having said that, it could also be necessary and appropriate to add it there in a natural conversation to facilitate understanding. There’s plenty of lexical redundancy and paraphrasing in natural speech.

So, bearing all of the above, it seems clear to me that the implicit idea in Long’s version of TBLT is that a ‘native speaker’ is simply by definition always more proficient and as a result would make a better language model.

Interestingly, however, authentic and real tasks will involve ‘non-native speakers’ interacting with other ‘non-native speakers’, rather than exclusively ‘native speakers’. Therefore, if we are to promote authentic input and authentic tasks, these can’t be restricted to ‘native speakers’.

In fact, in the majority of contexts, save a few rare cases where our students for some reason are going to exclusively interact with ‘native speakers’, restricting the input and task models to ‘native speakers’ might not appropriately prepare our learners to use English effectively outside the classroom. In addition, focusing only on ‘native speaker’ language input can give students the idea that ‘non-native speakers’ are inappropriate language models.

Finally, the idea that any input from any ‘native speaker’ is always a better and more authentic model seems to me to be completely erroneous and evident of how deeply embedded native speakerism still is both in ELT and SLA.


  • Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Holliday, A. (2006). Native-speakerism. ELT Journal, 60(4), 385–387.
  • Houghton, S., & Rivers, D. J. (2013). Introduction: Redefining Native-Speakerism. In S. Houghton & D. J. Rivers (Eds.), Native-speakerism in Japan. Intergroup dynamics in foreign language education (pp. 1–16). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  • Long, M. H. (2014). Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching (1 edition). Wiley-Blackwell.

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Why is the term ‘non-native speaker’ so problematic? by Sulaiman Jenkins

I’ve had a lot of fruitful discussions with Marek Kiczkowiak and Andy Hockley as of late, and it was from our dialogue that I was encouraged to inject another perspective into this international conversation on native speakerism.

As a Black American, a ‘native speaker’ of the language, and a graduate of some of the US’s most prestigious academic institutions (Amherst/BA, NYU/MA), I have both enjoyed the privileges of native speakerism while simultaneously sharing some of the struggles of my ‘non-native’ teacher colleagues. For that, I felt it imperative that I join the discussion, helping my peers realize that they are just as talented and capable (in many instances, more so!) than anyone holding a US, British, Canadian, or any other Inner Circle passport.

I’d like to eventually talk about my personal experiences with what I term ‘perceived’ native speakerism in a later blog post. But for now, my primary concern is discussing why we urgently need a more constructive, empowering term to describe native speakers of languages other than English.

In a recent article I wrote about “a powerful plenary session …[in which] Richardson (2016) reminded us that the term, ‘non-native’ has been and continues to be offensive to many professional English language instructors…offensive….because it ‘asserts what [people] are by negating what [they] are not” (Jenkins, 2017). The use of the term “non-native” perpetuates the stereotyping of TESOL professionals and research has shown that the recycling of this term in professional circles leads some ‘non-native’ TESOL teachers to feel inadequate. She asked in the session, ‘How is it possible that it is still a legitimate term in our professional discourse in 2016?’ (Richardson 2016).

That question reminded me of a similar issue in the US about a derogatory term for Native Americans that a particular sports team continued to use even though many Native Americans had repeatedly stated it is highly offensive and petitioned to have it removed. If the people to whom the term is referring are upset and offended by it, then it reasons that it should not be acceptable to use it, right?

Furthermore, in TESOL is there any academic currency to using descriptors (i.e. ‘non-‘) that affirm an identity by confirming what it is not? In describing myself as a ‘non-Canadian’ and ‘non-Republican’ speaker of English, are these descriptions helpful, in the least, in providing meaningful information about what my capabilities in language teaching are? Even more basic than that, could one discern what my nationality is? What my political affiliation is?

The ‘non-’ identifier simply indicates that I’m not a Canadian citizen nor a Republican, but it doesn’t provide any information beyond that: and it certainly doesn’t indicate my level of core pedagogical or theoretical competencies, things that I would assume are much more important to a recruiter hiring qualified candidates.

As such, we really need to (re) consider an alternative, meaningful and constructive term that more accurately and congenially accounts for “over 80% of the teachers of English in the world” (Richardson 2016). I mean, it is 2018! The success of the Me Too movement shows us that rapid change is possible to break molds that have been in place for decades.

For decades in ELT, scholars have been calling our attention to the contentiousness of using such terms, acknowledging that they are indeed problematic (Holliday and Aboshiha 2008). Jenkins (2000) in her analysis of English as a Lingua Franca stated that referring to a ‘native speaker’ of a truly international language “cannot be acceptable or appropriate for a language that has passed into world ownership”. She also stated that “it is entirely inappropriate, indeed offensive, to label as ‘non-native speakers’ those who have learnt English as a second or foreign language” (Jenkins ibid: 9). In a study by Holliday (2005), one professional pleads for “avoid[ing] using the terms ‘native’ and ‘non-native’…[for]…these terms are imprecise and misleading’ and that ‘as long as we use the ‘non’ as a descriptor, such teachers will be perceived as lacking in something essential and therefore of less value” (Holliday 2005: 160).

Consequently, in trying to delegitimize the usage of such terms, scholars have flirted with a number of alternatives (Jenkins 2000; Selvi 2011), but as Selvi mentioned, we seem to be “a long way from reaching consensus about whether to adopt any of these labels” (Selvi 2011). Though there may not be consensus about new labels, that still does not validate using the ‘native/non-native’ dichotomy as “legitimate term[s] in academic discourse” on the grounds of “the practical convenience of maintaining the distinction” (Moussu and Llurda 2008, p. 318).

I would add that we subtly endorse discriminatory practices when we continue to legitimize and perpetuate the very terms that promote this division. We must be cognizant that “every language user is in fact a native speaker of a given language (Nayar 1994), and therefore speakers cannot be divided according to whether they have a given quality (i.e., native speakers) or they do not have it (i.e., non-native speakers), based on whether English is their first language or not” (Moussu and Llurda 2008, p.317).

Thus, we need a new framework, a new construct, that accurately describes teachers whose mother tongues are languages other than English. That framework should address the following features:

  • Mother tongue of a TESOL professional, where such identification has some academic, pedagogical, or professional relevance
  • Usage and ability to manipulate the language and not simply “speaking” it (I’m not just a speaker of English, I actually teach it, write it, read it, etc.)
  • Competency and fluency in the English language (to what degree said teacher understands the language, can articulate its rules, can accurately utilize a wealth of vocabulary, etc.)

I truly believe that if we can begin with relevant descriptions, then we can more easily dispel archaic notions of ‘native’ vs ‘non-native’ speaker teachers and move closer to eradicating discrimination.

Sulaiman Jenkins earned his MA in TESOL from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. He has been in the field of ELT, most notably in Saudi Arabia, for more than 14 years. He has also contributed to academia by way of publishing numerous articles in top peer reviewed journals. He is currently working at an engineering university in Saudi Arabia and is also a Senior Research and Activism Contributor for Turnkey Educational Group’s Research and Activism blog.



Holliday, A. 2005. The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford University Press.

Holliday, A., & Aboshiha, P. 2009. The Denial of Ideology in Perceptions of ‘Nonnative Speaker’ Teachers. TESOL Quarterly, 43(4), 669-689. Available at (accessed February 23, 2017)

Jenkins, J. 2000. The phonology of English as an international language. Oxford University Press.

Jenkins, S. (2017). The elephant in the room: discriminatory hiring practices in ELT. ELT Journal, 71(3), 373-376.

Moussu, L., and Llurda, E. 2008. Non-native English-speaking English language teachers: History and research. Language Teaching, 41(03), 315-348.

Nayar, P. B. (1994). Whose English is it? TESL-EJ 1.1, F-1.

Richardson, S. 2016. The haves and the have nots. IATEFL. Available at (accessed February 7, 2017)

Selvi, A. 2011. The non-native speaker teacher. ELT J 2011; 65 (2): 187-189. doi: 10.1093/elt/ccq092