Who is qualified to teach English? by Amy Thompson

The answer, of course, is someone who is a competent user of English with specific training in the field of language pedagogy.

Why, then, do we still see job advertisements requesting that the applicants be native speakers of English? Is this a lack of understanding on the part of the employer?

Perhaps.

Is it discrimination against particular demographics?

Most definitely.

Arguably, companies who will only hire native English speakers to fill teaching positions are selling an image to their customers – an image of an “authentic” product in their eyes; the companies promote it, and the customers buy it.  However, the instances of “image over quality” are abundant. Galloway (2014) tells the story of a multilingual Eastern European who was required to take on a fake American identity for her job in Japan.  My bi-racial former MA student was not allowed to take part in a marketing campaign for the language school where she worked in China because she looked “too Asian.” A friend’s husband was only offered a job teaching English in Eastern Europe by telling them he was from “America” (South America, in fact, but the employer didn’t bother to dig deeper).

One oft-used argument of hiring native-speaking teachers is so that students will have a good model for pronunciation. However, results from Levis et al. (2016) refute that argument with finding that “there was no significant impact of teachers’ language backgrounds on students’ overall improvement of comprehensibility and accentedness” (p. 22). Similarly, findings from Huensch and Thompson (2017) indicate that “many students in this FL context did not perceive their instructors’ nonnativeness as an obstacle to successful pronunciation instruction” (p. 17). Thus, in cases when both English (i.e. Levis et al) and languages other than English (i.e. Huensch and Thompson) are the target languages, there is evidence that both native and non-native speakers are successful at teaching pronunciation.

Is it the case that this obsession with native English speakers is driven by the potential English language students, or is it the misguided attempt at authenticity on the part of the companies offering English language instruction? What can be done to promote the idea that “native speaker of English” and “English teacher” aren’t synonymous?

One way of approaching this point of inquiry is to ask students. This asking, however, has to be done carefully, as to avoid what’s known as a type of “linguistic priming,” which means to include terms that would sway answers one way or another. In other words, how do you ask students what they think about native English-speaking teachers (NESTs) and non-native English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) without mentioning the term “native speaker” or “non-native speaker”?

Aslan and Thompson (2016) set out to do just this. In a series of carefully constructed questions involving teacher characteristics, 76 responses were collected from ESL students taking classes at an English language program that, at that time, employed 23 NESTs and 19 non-native NNESTs (i.e. an almost balanced number). A semantic differential scale inspired by Gardner’s AMTB was used.  Each item was composed of two opposing adjectives, such as these examples below from the original article: Attitudes toward students – approachable vs. unapproachable; Teaching style and practice – tolerant vs. strict; Personality – nervous vs. relaxed.

The results?  Of the 27 adjective pairs, there was only one significant difference: the students found the NNESTs to be significantly more creative that the NESTs.  Otherwise, there were absolutely no significant differences.

The conclusion is that when the politically and culturally charged terms of “native speaker” and “non-native speaker” are not mentioned, students are likely not to perceive a difference in the quality of their English language instruction between these two groups of instructors. And, indeed, why should they if the hiring entity offers employment based on qualifications as opposed to the native language of the employee?

References:

Aslan, E. & Thompson, A.S.  (2016).  Are they really ‘two different species’? Implicitly elicited student perceptions about NESTs and NNESTs. TESOL Journal. Early View, 1–18. doi:10.1002/tesj.268

Galloway, N. (2014). ‘I get paid for my American accent’: the story of one multilingual English   teacher (MET) in Japan. Englishes in Practice, 1(1), 1-30.

Huensch, A., & Thompson, A. S. (2017). Contextualizing attitudes toward pronunciation: Foreign language learners in the United States. Early View, 1 – 22. Foreign Language Annals. doi:10.1111/flan.12259

Levis, J. M., Sonsaat, S., Link, S., & Barriuso, T. A. (2016). Native and nonnative teachers of L2 pronunciation: Effects on learner performance. TESOL Quarterly, 50(4), 894–931. doi: 10.1002/tesq.272

amy thompsonAmy S. Thompson, Ph.D. (Ph.D. Michigan State University, 2009) is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics and currently the Associate Department Chair in the Department of World Languages at the University of South Florida.  She is also currently the graduate director for the Ph.D. program in Linguistics and Applied Language Studies (LALS), teaching a range of graduate level theoretical and methodological courses in applied linguistics. Her primary research interests involve Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition and the interaction of these IDs and multilingualism. In conjunction with these topics, she also incorporates ethical issues regarding perceptions of native and non-native speaker language teachers. Examples of her research can be found in journals such as the Modern Language Journal, TESOL Quarterly, Foreign Language Annals, and the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. You can read more about her and her research here.

Brazilian English is beautiful by BrELT

The following video has been produced by BrELT (Brazil’s English Language Teachers), a Facebook community that fosters collaborative professional development among Brazil’s ELT professionals. The message is clear: “We are here. We are Brazilian. Deal with it.”

“Who are you talking to, though?” you may wonder.

Other Brazilians, believe it or not. Sadly, we needed to reaffirm our pride in being who we are not to the world, but to our fellow citizens.

Recently, a highly qualified Brazilian English teacher with a successful YouTube channel has been abused by a countryman saying she shouldn’t be recording because she’s from Brazil. Another famous Brazilian YouTuber said learning from native speakers is more cost-effective. In several other YouTube channels, Brazilians have mocked household names because of their accents in English.

What’s being revealed by the comfortable anonymity of internet comments is only the tip of the iceberg. Native-speakerism runs deep in this country, as it finds a fruitful field in our infamous shame of being Brazilian.

Representing almost 12,000 teachers, most of whom from Brazil, BrELT could not leave it at that and embarked on the Brazilian YouTubers’ campaign #AccentPride. Join us! No matter where you are from, record a video reaffirming your pride in your accent or showing your support to non-native English language teachers worldwide.

We are many. It’s time we made our voices (and accents) heard.

BrELT is a Facebook community for ELT professionals in Brazil and for those who wish to connect with us. You are welcome to join us at BrELT – Brazil’s English Language Teachers . For more information about our initiatives, which include online events, blog posts and the Brazilian counterpart to ELTChat, please check our blog here.

The people in the video are volunteer moderators in the community:

Bruno Andrade, one of the founders of BrELT, has a B.A. in English from UFRJ, the TKT and the CPE and is now working towards his Master’s in Applied Linguistics. In the industry for 15 years, he’s worked in online education and as a school coordinator in Rio de Janeiro.

Eduardo de Freitas is a teacher trainer for PBF Guarulhos. He holds the CAE, the TKT, and the CELTA and has been a teacher for seven years.

Ilá Coimbra is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and Cambridge Examiner based in São Paulo. In the field for 17 years, she has a B.A. in Languages from USP, the CPE, the CELTA and the ICELT.

Natalia Guerreiro works as an Aviation English teacher trainer and examiner in Sao Jose dos Campos. In ELT since the year 2000, she holds a B.A. in English from UFRJ, the TKT, the CELTA, the CPE, and an M.A. in Language Testing from Unimelb.

Priscila Mateini, based in Niteroi, holds a B.A. in Languages from UFF, a postgraduate degree in Linguistic Science (UPF), the TKT and the ECPE, as well a UDL Specialist course certificate from Harvard. With over 8 years of experience (4 years focusing on Special Education), she is now working towards her Master’s and helping schools adapt to children with Special Needs.

Ricardo Barros is a CELTA tutor and freelance teacher based in Jundiaí, who has been working in ELT since 2003. He holds a B.A. in History from Unicamp, the CPE, the CELTA, and the DELTA.

T. Veigga, who has being in the industry for 14 years, is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and materials designer who lives in Rio de Janeiro. He holds a B.A. in English from UFRJ and a post-graduate degree in Media Education (PUC-Rio).

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:

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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).

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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.

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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

NS and NNS identity: issues of self-confidence, language ownership and authority.

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

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

This is the third post with questions on the topic of identity, issues of self-confidence, language ownership and authority. We’d like to invite you to answer the questions below in the comments section. We’ll then gather the answers and post a follow-up article also including our comments.

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Designed by @tekhnologic

  1. The NNEST voice is an incredibly powerful source of quality exposure for learners in low-resource environments. How can we encourage NNESTs to value it?
  2. How can we cope as NNESTs when stakeholders want students to learn native speaker accents?
  3. How to overcome self-esteem and self-confidence problems many NNESTs face?
  4. What about NNESTs teaching away from their home countries? Where do they fit in the NEST and NNEST debate? What is their status?

Next week we will post the remaining topic on what you can do to support equal professional and employment opportunities for NS and NNS in ELT. So if you’re interested in continuing the discussion, stay tuned. Follow the blog on Twitter, FB or via email so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can also read the questions, comments, and get involved in the discussion on NS and NNS labels: a false dichotomy here, and on Proficiency: is there a minimum level for a language teacher? here.

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

Proficiency: is there a minimum level for a language teacher?

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

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

This is the second post with questions on the topic of language proficiency. We’d like to invite you to answer the questions below in the comments section. We’ll then gather the answers and post a follow-up article also including our comments.

  • How do we define proficiency and how do we measure it?
  • What is a minimum proficiency level for a teacher? Why?
  • Should NS also take proficiency tests? Why (not)?
  • Should there be a difference between hiring a NNEST with a strong L1 accent and one with a neutral accent?
  • How important is being bi or multilingual for an English teacher?
  • For the next two weeks we will post the remaining two topics, one every week. So if you’re interested in continuing the discussion, stay tuned. Follow the blog on Twitter, FB or via email so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can also read the questions, comments, and get involved in the discussion on NS and NNS labels: a false dichotomy from last week here.

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

    You might also be interested in these three podcasts recorded by the TEFL Show which focus on some similar themes:

    'English with an accent' a reading lesson by Anes Mohamed

    This is the third 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 what you think 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, whose bio can be found at the bottom of the page, 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

    Please note that this lesson plan follows naturally from the listening lesson ‘English with an accent’, which was also developed by Anes, and published earlier on this website here. While you can still use this reading lesson on its own, you might want to look at the listening lesson first to see how this plan expands on some of the themes discussed there.

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    page 2

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    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 first post on TEA ‘Non-academic edge’ discussed the problem of racial discrimination in ELT, while the second was a listening lesson plan ‘English with an accent’.

    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

    page1

    Track 2A can be found here.

    page 2

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    page 4Listening 2B can be found here.

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    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

    'Native and Non-native Foreign Language Teachers: Tribute to My Teachers' by Anita Lewicka

    This post was originally published on 9th January 2015 by Anita Lewicka on her blog and is republished by TEFL Equity Advocates with full permission and consent of the author. You can access the original post here.

    “Only native speakers or near-native speakers” – you may often come across such a line in various advertisements promoting vacancies for language teachers. What does “being a native or near-native speaker” really mean?

    If you happen to be a native speaker of a given target language, you were most probably born in a country where the target language is the official language. You are most probably this country’s passport holder. You may have been educated following this country’s national curriculum, in which the very target language (being your mother tongue) is the norm. You may have observed festivals, customs and traditions typical of the country of your birth, of your upbringing. You must have used the language on a daily basis, both at school and at home. On top of that, you must be absolutely immersed in the target language (your mother tongue), in your country’s culture and history, which enables you to easily identify with the people of your homeland, their mentalities, their virtues and vices. The aspect of bilingualism, multilingualism is indirectly concealed here but I will stop at this point.

    While the definition of “a native speaker” seems fairly obvious, that of “a near-native speaker” or “a non-native speaker” appears multifold and blurred. Behind the notion of “a near-native speaker”, you may find someone, let’s call this someone Agnieszka,  whose mother tongue is completely different from the target language Agnieszka wishes to teach in the future as a foreign language teacher. Besides, you may also bump into an Agnieszka who, having acquired (or studied) the target language in a non-native environment, at some point decided (or the decision was made by her parents) to leave the country of her birth and to go and study the target language in its natural environment. The target language was gradually becoming then, willy-nilly, Agnieszka’s language of communication for her to effectively function in a new community as well as to guide her through her professional life afterwards. Some family relationships may have contributed to Agnieszka becoming a near-native speaker, when the target language, first present in the background, was subsequently (consciously and intentionally) activated.

    In reference to foreign language teachers, we may also see one more group, although near-native speakers belong to the group in some experts’ opinions. The term “non-native speaker” may be perceived as politically incorrect and, therefore, “a number of alternative terms have been suggested, for example ‘proficient user’ (Palikeday 1985), ‘language expert’ (Rampton 1990), ‘English-using speech fellowship’ (Kachru 1992), and ‘multicompetent speaker’ (Cook 1999)” (Ali Fuad Selvi, 2011). It is crystal clear that within this category we meet people who have been studying the target language for some time, either at school, college, university or in a target-language country. The use of the Preset Perfect Continuous is deliberate! Non-native language teachers are simultaneous language learners. We, as non-native language teachers, are obliged to continuously boost our language skills and to get our students to boost their language skills simultaneously.

    Within the categories presented above, there are prospective language teachers, foreign language teachers. Native speakers are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in demand, especially in language schools, for individual tutorials, or in translation agencies (usually for proofreading). “Language schools (…) advertise themselves as employing only native English speakers (…) with the excuse that NESTs are better for public relations and improve business. Another explanation is their clients’ alleged needs” (Medgyes,  2001). Near-native speakers seem to be the second best. Non-native speakers are not part of the race. Fair? Well, not quite.

    With other advertisements, in which non-native speakers are eventually given a chance in the teaching race, there is a fierce competition. Non-native speakers should usually double (if not triple) their efforts from the very start in order to prove they are also capable of successfully accomplishing the same tasks as native speakers. Peter Medgyes gives a series of interesting questions and activities for native and non-native teachers of languages (in reference section below). He additionally provides a clear table, though at times controversial, based on the previously conducted research entitled “Perceived Differences in Teaching Behaviour Between NESTs and Non-NESTs”. Here, displaying the teachers’ attitude to teaching the language, the author shows that native speakers tend to use a variety of materials, whereas non-native speakers stick to one single textbook. In my teaching career and my having been a lifelong multiple language learner, I would boldly say that it is quite the opposite. It is non-native language teachers who are inclined to be more resourceful, to see a point from various angles, to cater for their students’ concentration span and learning needs. Native speakers as language teachers may very often enter the classroom with no resources at all, just their open minds, which is good provided the teachers are able to hold their students’ interested, are able to extemporize, or are able to skillfully plan, etc. There are some other points in the table which you may find a bit shocking, to put it bluntly.

    Looking back at my former native and non-native language teachers and lecturers, I would like to present to you some of them. I still recall my university philology studies: practical English or practical Italian native speakers. Very often their undeniable assets were their intuition about lexis and their phonetics. Their native speech apparatus, formed, drilled, re-drilled in their native surroundings, helped them as exceptional language models. They were able to practise phonetic drills, to perfect their students’ intonation patterns, to easily distinguish minimal pairs, to speedily teach tongue twisters, to demonstrate regional differences. They were able to do so, but sometimes their faces showed how bored they were, how frustrated they felt, etc. They hardly ever gave any feedback, chitchatting with their students instead. You cannot make a teacher out of a journalist overnight, as you cannot make a gardener out of a garden owner during a two-month course. John reading a newspaper in English on a London bus is not necessarily John the Teacher. Giovanni jogging near the Coliseum in Rome is not necessarily Giovanni il Professore. Both of them, before entering the classroom and wishing to become language teachers of their mother tongues, should foremost be equipped with the methodology of teaching a foreign or second language. Teaching is not just a job or a trade. Teaching is a vocation!

    IMG_2145

    Grammar is a totally different issue. My native teachers or lecturers of English or Italian practical classes found it generally extremely difficult to explain grammar points to us. It appeared a real torture for them! Their explanations were often superficial: “it doesn’t flow well”; “we say it this way because we do”, etc. Only when studying in the UK or in Italy did I come across highly competent college and university native speakers. What made them so professional? They viewed a lot of grammatical intricacies through the prism of comparative linguistics. They could speak other languages, especially Latin, which enabled them to see a lot of logical language interdependencies.

    It does not mean I did not have valuable native speakers in my homeland, in Poland. I did have some who were exceptional. They taught me at Teachers’ Training College in Toruń. Mary Ziemer and Timothy Eyres excel and the memories of their extraordinary attitudes to teaching keep flooding back to me. Mary was an American Peace Corps volunteer and taught me Academic Writing (among other multiple subjects and the time she devoted to her students’ needs). Her thorough preparation, clear guidelines and extensive feedback were extremely important to her college students. We were obliged to write one essay per week, which seemed painful at the very beginning but an absolutely indispensable skill in the long run. Timothy was a teacher trainer from the UK. Always interested in the world around him, with his uniquely inquiring mind and his enthusiasm about studying foreign languages, he taught me the essence of the EFL methodology. Equally competent and professional was Claudia Fornari, an Italian lawyer, a keen lecturer and a teacher of content-related translation modules with various shades of lexis and contemporary European history in the background. A real joy for me to have participated in her classes during my Italian studies!

    Besides those splendid native speakers of English or Italian, I have always had a spectrum of near-native / non-native language teachers or lecturers from Poland. There was Joanna Przewięźlikowska (Ciechanowska), who taught me the EFL methodology in a laid-back,  cheerful and intelligent manner. There was Andrzej Leszczyński, whose American Literature classes were real food for thought; with his intricate questions, never-ending discussions and his apparent love for literature. However, the teaching of Professor Elżbieta Jamrozik is unrivaled for her unique logicality, resourcefulness, multifaceted parallels, and empathy. My professor of Italian linguistics, or practical Italian and of the History of the Italian Language is my real idol! I know my friends share my view and, if given a chance to do so, we might think of the Professor’s Fan Club one day. Professor Jamrozik is a versatile scholar, knowing several languages. In her explanatory notes during lectures, she very often employs spontaneous and natural examples from various languages to show to her students etymology of some words and to get them to remember the lexical items more vividly. Above all, she is full of empathy, understanding – an archetypal good teacher!

    Some may say: “Yes, she may be exceptional but in many cases non-native language teachers are linguistically poor.” I would say that a good language teacher is a good language learner. Having studied some foreign languages themselves, non-native language teachers are equipped with their own learning strategies, easily adapted to their own teaching environment. Personally, I have always been more motivated to study a foreign language seeing in front of me a language model who is also a language learner. Since English is our Lingua Franca, native-English speakers tend to forget the existence of other languages. Their attempt to study a foreign language could very often be a real eye-opener for their future teaching. If they only tried!

    This is, of course, my personal opinion. No offence meant! There are definitely those who are open to other cultures and languages. Good! I know that the debate concerning the dichotomy between native and non-native language teachers is omnipresent in the contemporary world where IE (International English) is in hip and hype. An ideal cooperation between a native speaker and a non-native one in the teaching process may sometimes do the trick. This article reflects my thoughts and emotions on an apparent discrimination against non-native EFL teachers in a non-native EFL environment, namely in the Netherlands. Just a personal view, with my burgeoning pessimistic attitude to the world around me here…..

    One last particular request: give non-native teachers of foreign languages a chance to prove we are valuable trainers and instructors! Don’t worry and start breaking stereotypes!

    Design: @Teflninja

    Design: @Teflninja

    References:

    “The non-native speaker teacher” by Ali Fuad Selvi at:

    http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/65/2/187.full , DOA 7/01/2015

    “When the Teacher Is a Non-native Speaker” by Peter Medgyes at:

    http://teachesl.pbworks.com/f/When+the+teacher+is+a+non-native+speaker.PDF , DOA 7/01/2015

    Information:

    anita lewickaAnita has been a Polish EFL teacher for eighteen years: levels:A1-C2 and age groups: 12-18 at secondary school and 18+ at Teachers’ Training College. She’s been a CLIL teacher trainer and teacher trainees’ mentor; author of coursebooks, tests, companions and manuals for Cambridge University Press; theme- and skill-based syllabus designer; translator; Italian language teacher and corpora multilingui enthusiast. Now she’s the owner of “Friendly Lingua” company in the Netherlands. You can also find her on LinkedIn.