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

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

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

About the materials:

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

Lesson Plan


Track 2A can be found here.

page 2

page 3

page 4Listening 2B can be found here.

page 5

About the author:

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

'Not That Prestigious' by Marc Jones

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

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

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

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

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

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

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

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

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

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

'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!


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


“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


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.


'Passport control' by Divya Madhavan

Author’s note: I have written this assuming the reader has some familiarity with the notion of critical pedagogy, and thus bypass some necessary definitions on what it is, how it is expressed and what it means for a classroom. If you wish to read more about this, there are three posts on it on my blog; Cultural Capital, The Hidden Curriculum and The Banking Model which might be useful.)

I was recently invited to contribute to the Braz TESOL newsletter on the subject of Critical Pedagogy. I felt a moment’s hesitation at the idea of doing this – should I write about Critical Pedagogy to a readership who live and breathe Paolo Freire’s culture and environment so much more closely than I do? Will my translated understanding of Pedagogy of the Oppressed stand up to those who hold the original Brazilian Portuguese version dear?

And then I thought, of course I should. And of course it will. I didn’t hesitate for too long though because I think it’s precisely the universal nature of these ideas that allow them to transcend and blur barriers. And any conversation on the human condition should be stripped of such barriers.

As English language teachers, we are in the business of managing barriers. The world of English language teaching, learning, assessing and policy-making host environments propelled by power and access. Today, few people learn English for the intellectual stimulation and personal growth of learning another language. People learn English because it’s English, the passport to an internationally-validated identity.


In this opinion piece, I’d like to address our role in managing these ebbs and flows of power in English language learning environments, through the specific notion of critical pedagogy and through the measured rejection of sterile lesson content that leaves the social dynamics of language learning aside. I’d like to work with Freire’s contrast between critical thinking and naïve thinking, where the latter perceives history as “a stratification of the acquisitions and experiences of the past” (1970:73). I’ll argue that history is not a chronological account of what happened before us, history is the story within each of us, and this includes languages – because history is described by language and it is empowered through language.

Passports and frontiers

The spread of the English language has its roots in colonization. It should be possible to talk about this without the hyperbole or hysteria of linguistic imperialism. The English language spread through colonies and empires and resulted in generations of people like me, who aren’t native speakers on paper but don’t speak or write in any other language to this level of ‘nativism’. I have never identified with the discourse around the domination of English over other languages. I reject the idea that we continue to somehow be colonised through language because I write in English and, in so doing, I contribute to the growth of the English language. So unless I start writing in French or Arabic and contribute another body of linguistic knowledge, I will remain in the dual position of coloniser and colonised, and this won’t get me very far at all.

Towards Passport Control

But despite my self-proclaimed native speaker status in English, I am subject to passport control, ranging from race to accent to cultural knowledge, in a host of environments. I don’t perceive this as discriminatory, nor am I accusing anyone in particular. I am just interested in how to manage this in a classroom. How do I represent the English language as someone with little affiliation to any particular English-speaking culture? I am Indian, I grew up in Malaysia, I left for the UK in my late teens, I lived in Austria in my early career and have been a French citizen for longer than any other citizenship I’ve held. I wear my resulting hybrid accent with pride. And I never know what to do when I’m supposed to teach ‘culture’ as part of a language syllabus.

To think critically on the status of the English language is to recognise its historical footprint around us and within us and to articulate a clear position on how this footprint is embodied in our social environments. The historical footprint I carry in me is rooted in post-colonial South East Asia, in a certain reverence for the English language and the old palm oil estates the Britishers left my family to manage. It lies in my grandmother who had very little schooling but an impeccable knowledge of English grammar and discourse and the ability to entertain visiting English expatriates comme il faut. It is this unnamed outside force of ‘English’ culture which we were independent of, yet thoroughly enamoured by. It was a big part of my childhood. Yet, it didn’t make moving to Britain one day any less of a culture shock, nor did give me the confidence of a robust cultural identity as an English teacher, because I’ve never felt authoritative about my relationship to the English language. It did, however, create in me the every day magic of adaptation, which so many of us who actively question our cultural identities have.

What does it mean to teach English?

In the first five minutes of my first teaching job, I was introduced to a classroom full of Austrian teenagers as having “a perfect British accent”. As I launched into the reading of a textbook paragraph out loud, I found myself disturbed by such a curious introduction but soon realised the need for validating my presence in the classroom, as the new language assistant. I now manage the language assistants at my university and part of my role is to give them workshops on pedagogy, classroom management and adapting scientific materials for language classes. In working with them I realise again and again, how difficult it is to establish and manage authority when it comes to language teaching, because of how inseparable it is to culture. And some cultures are, and perhaps always will be, more powerful than others.

A few years ago when I used to examine for Cambridge ESOL. A colleague one day said to me “don’t you find working for Cambridge better than working for other exam boards? It always sounds so much more important when you say ‘I examine for Cambridge’”. The comment stuck with me because obviously neither of us had ever set foot in the grounds of Cambridge University, nor could we boast any academic affiliation to the institution. We were ESOL language examiners who had viewed a series on training videos to learn the trade and then did an online test to validate our ability to judge test takers according to the required standards. Yet we were perceived with a standard that far exceeded our bounds of validity.

What does it mean to teach English? To me, it is partly to reframe the scope of validity, and consequently to shape beliefs on what is English is and what English will be, in the world we’re all so actively building today. It is to contemporise the validity of the language, within our local environment and in celebration of the local environment. Celebrations which are long overdue in many parts of the world, where ethnicity still persists as a criteria for language teaching.

To think critically on the status of the English language in our sphere of teaching, would be to address the set of beliefs regarding English in the part of the world we are teaching it in, and claiming a voice and demanding agency in how this is represented. It would be to address our relationship to what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. Dialogue is one of the most fundamental themes of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and with the discussion on dialogue, comes anti dialogue, which Freire couches within “the necessity for conquest” (119). There is no argument to win when it comes to shaping our English speaking cultures of the future.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

Dialogue and anti-dialogue in the pedagogical space

Reframing right and wrong with a stronger understanding on complex, local environments is an act of bravery. I say this because it is an act of claiming authority by making decisions that combine information and intuition. Critical pedagogy isn’t only concerned with the reversal of oppressor-oppressed dynamics, it isn’t just about the empty-vessel students with knowledge-pouring teachers, it is about dialogue and praxis: bridging the gap between the thinkers and the doers, of reflection and action. “One cannot speak of an actor, nor simply of actors, but rather actors in intercommunication” (110). History surges through society constantly, demanding listening and understanding. Anti-dialogue is when we miss these surges, sterilising cultural identity.

One example of this reframing might be in how we correct pronunciation, and how we set the standard for ‘good’ English. I believe that a worldwide standard of English pronunciation is not what will be, and the harder we cling to RP or Standard American as a yardstick for our students, the slower our work towards fluid and fluent English will be. Another example is in the culture we show in our classrooms. A Greek friend said to me just last week that his son hates learning English because English class is all about Big Ben and The Queen. Another example yet is seizing opportunities to remove PARSNIP paralysis, to take the reins and talk about real life in the classroom, to make the students the syllabus. Good classroom content is a context-specific issue, not an international standard. Praxis isn’t a two stage process of reflection followed by action though, “a critical analysis of reality may, however, reveal that a particular form of action is impossible or inappropriate at the present time. Those who through reflection perceive the infeasibility or inappropriateness of one or another form of action (which should accordingly be postponed or substituted) cannot thereby be accused of inaction. Critical reflection is also action” (109).

Teaching and consciousness

Good pedagogy is this union of intuition and information. I say information and not knowledge because of the real-time sense it carries. Good pedagogy is, in other words, elastic. It changes with the times, it bends and stretches to accommodate that which surrounds it. The original shape it returns to after stretching in necessary ways is not the clear track of an externally determined syllabus. It is the internal, organic and ever-growing aspects of teacher development, teacher intuition, teacher consciousness. When we teach, we seize. Teaching is a project towards understanding whole environments, where problems are interpreted with depth and solutions are found in journeys of dialogue. It doesn’t just raise awareness, it becomes awareness. Conscientização.


Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin: London. (Translation: Myra Bergman Ramos)

divyaDivya Madhavan is a Lecturer in Language and Education at Ecole Centrale Paris. Her areas of interest include, Critical Pedagogy and Action Research. She is the Website Editor for the IATEFL Teacher Development SIG. Divya has just completed an MEd in Education Research, and has an MA in Language Education.

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

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

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

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

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

Wife: “Hello?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

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

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

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

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

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

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

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

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

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

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

'Inside the classroom of a non-Native English Speaking teacher' by Eszter Hajdics

In her talk, given this year at ELTed in Cork, Eszter Hajdics shows that nNESTs have numerous strengths which are very often overlooked in the recruitment process (around 70% of all advertised posts are for NESTs only – see this post) . As a result, she argues that the ideal language school is one where the ratio between NESTs and nNESTs is around 50%, so that students can benefit from the strengths that each group brings into the classroom. Do you agree with her?

esther hajdicsEszter Hajdics earned her MA degree (‘Philologist and Teacher in English Language and Literature’) in 2005 at University of Pannonia, Veszprem, Hungary. She started her PhD studies in Language Pedagogy the same year but later changed to Education Sociology. Her defence is planned for 2015.

After teaching English in Hungary for 8 years at private language schools and as a university assistant professor, she arrived in Cork, Ireland in 2013 and continued her English teaching career in summer camps and at a local private college. She has been a member of ELT (IATEFL) Ireland since its foundation.


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

Katy Simpson

Katy Simpson

Laura Patsko

Laura Patsko


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

IATEFL’s Pronunciation Special Interest Group.

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

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

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

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

Speaker group

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

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

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

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

1.1 Motivation.

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

1.2 Can use learners’ L1 to their advantage.

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

1.3 Exposure to different accents.

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

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

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

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

2.1 May not feel confident teaching pronunciation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.2 Schools say that students demand native speakers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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