I’m no native (English speaker) by Luna Checchini

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t fascinated by languages.

My favorite doll scared the hell out of me when I first met her because she spoke, but she eventually became my favorite doll nonetheless.

She. Not it. I’m Italian, I treat objects as people, get used to that.

I spoke “stuffed animalese” for years; it involved speaking Italian but using just one vowel out of five, and which vowel depended on the region the stuffed animal was from, on the stuffed animals’ planet. But that’s a different story. I’m just saying that I was an eager linguist at a very young age.

I started translating song lyrics around the same time I started learning them by heart, and singing my heart out with “Back for Good” by Take That and most importantly “Hero” by Mariah Carey, which was my first attempt at translations.

I had never studied English before, and the incoherent result is still hung on my wardrobe door, next to Leo Di Caprio’s and Nick Carter’s pictures from 90’s magazines – an eternal reminder of where I started from and how long a way I’ve come. I even used to write my acknowledgments and fake interviews, which would end up on some famous artist’s album cover or in magazines – because translators deserve their own recognition.

But when the time came to choose a high school and then a major, I chose Italian. Because English for me was “just for fun”, I couldn’t imagine building a career out of it. And even when I went on to earn a Master’s Degree, it was in Teaching Italian.

Then a private tutor – a native English speaker, because I didn’t want to waste my time with Italian tutors – suggested I tried the CELTA. Me? Teaching English? I’m no native English speaker, how could that work out? “You know the grammar, you’re already three steps ahead.”

As it turned out, she was right.

But as I was training to become a certified English teacher, my inferiority complex started to emerge. I even cried my eyes out with my insensitive tutor asking why would any student in their right mind want to study English with a non-native speaker. I wish I had some super inspirational words of wisdom to remember about that interaction, but I don’t. And I kept struggling with that feeling for years, every time someone asked if the teacher for that course was a native speaker and every time I had to fake it. Because that’s what happens to a lot of us: we just fake our way through, either with employers or with students, or both.

Now that I’ve run my friends’ and my own language school for more than five years, it doesn’t hurt anymore when a student refuses to have classes with me because I’m no native English speaker.

But never in a million years, I would have imagined being in the position I’m in right now. For a lucky series of events, I’ve ended up working for LinkedIn Learning as an author. It meant challenging my inner voice way too many times, when in the back of my mind I could hear the old refrain “why would I be the right person for this job, I’m no native English speaker?!!” or when, during the shoot, that voice would be screaming “YOU TOTALLY SCREWED THAT WORD UP!! ARE YOU SERIOUS?? HAVEN’T YOU PRACTICED IT A THOUSAND TIMES??”

It was a voice that came from:

  • years of teachers diminishing us for our pronunciation, insulting our writing without providing any useful correction,
  • years of students doubting our teaching skills because of our birthplace,
  • years of parents refusing to let their children in our care because of that same reason.

It was the voice of years spent being told, “Since you’re no native English speaker you’re not good enough, you’re not worth it.”

Now that voice is still there, but I’ve learned to ignore it.

I’ve learned to listen to people who told me my writing skills were great, and that I needed to practice some of those words, but it really wasn’t a big deal if I screwed them up; to people who insisted I was the right person to talk about relationships with other cultures, because I’ve lived that kind of experience.

Luna has earned numerous degrees in foreign languages, including MAs in English and teaching Italian as a second language. She spent one year in Toronto, Canada, where she obtained the CELTA certificate to teach English as a foreign language, and then one year at Colgate University, where she helped college students with their Italian through conversation sessions, presentation rehearsals, and cultural lessons in class. Upon returning to Italy, she founded Lilbellula in her hometown of Mestre, to help as many people as possible to learn new languages. Her other passions are rock music, travel, and writing short stories. She has created an on-line course for LinkedIn Learning and blogs here.


If you’d like to get more FREE tips on how to boost your confidence and get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher, download the FREE guide “6 Fool-Proof Tips to Boost Your Professional Profile and Get Hired as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher”.

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

Or via email:

 

5 Top Tips to Get Hired in Prague as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher

Looking for jobs as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher can be pretty depressing. I’m sure you’ve seen all these job ads for ‘native speakers’ only.

But, despite this widespread preference for ‘native speakers’, some ‘non-native’ teachers have become incredibly successful. They have managed to overcome the initial bias against them and to succeed.

What have they done differently?

What can we learn from their success?

How can you apply their tactics to give your own career a boost and get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher?

To find out, I interviewed Karin Krummenacher, who has been a teacher and a teacher trainer and who is currently doing her MA in TESOL in the UK. In this 5 minute extract from the interview, Karin shares her top 5 tips to get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.

If you’d like to watch the entire interview, and other interviews like this one with successful ‘non-native speaker’ teachers from around the world, take a look at my course “How to Become a Highly Employable and Successful ‘Non-Native Speaker’ Teacher”.

And if you’d like to get more FREE tips on how to get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher, download the FREE guide “6 Fool-Proof Tips to Boost Your Professional Profile and Get Hired as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher”.

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

Or via email:

 

Get Hired as a ‘Non-Native Speaker’: Your three unique strengths

We hear so much about why ‘native speakers’ are supposedly better teachers that it’s easy to start losing confidence as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher…

It’s easy to forget that as a ‘non-native speaker’ you can also be a great teacher.

That you’ve got your unique strengths.

And that you can use these to start getting the jobs you deserve to be getting (despite the widespread preference for ‘native speaker’ teachers).

That’s why in this video, I’m going to show you 3 UNIQUE strengths you’ve got as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher and how you can showcase these to the prospective recruiter.

This will help you boost your confidence and increase your chances of getting hired.

So if you’re a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher who is looking to boost their employability, watch the video now:

 

If you want to download the FREE guide “6 Fool-Proof Tips to Boost Your Professional Profile and Get Hired as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher”, click on the button below to get it via FB Messenger:

Or via email:

Get Hired as a ‘Non-Native Speaker’: 5 top tips to a cracking LinkedIn profile

Trying to get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher can be a rather grim affair…

Half of job ads out there are for ‘native speakers’ only.

The other half gives you a polite ‘No’, or never replies.

As a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher myself, I know how frustrating this might feel. I’ve been there.

But it really doesn’t have to be like this.

You can start getting the jobs you deserve, despite the ‘native speaker’ bias.

And to help you do just that, I’m putting together short, actionable video tips that are guaranteed to boost your employability.

In the first video, I’m going to share with you my 5 Top Tips to a Cracking LinkedIn Profile.

So if you’re a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher who is looking to boost their employability, watch the video now:

If you want to download the FREE guide “6 Fool-Proof Tips to Boost Your Professional Profile and Get Hired as a Non-Native Speaker Teacher”, click on the button below to get it via FB Messenger:

Or via email:

How to Become a Highly Employable and Successful ‘Non-Native Speaker’ Teacher in the Next THREE weeks

As a ‘non-native speaker’ have you ever…

…felt like all the ELT (English Language Teaching) jobs out there are for ‘native speakers’ only?

…spent hours polishing your CV and sending rock-solid applications just to be turned down yet again because they only hire ‘native speakers’?

…been on the verge of giving up on your dreams of finally getting the ELT job you deserve, because you’re constantly told that we won’t hire ‘non-native speakers’?

If your answer is yes to any of the above, I’ve got very good news for you.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy has been working very hard to raise awareness of the discrimination and persuade recruiters to adopt equal opportunities policy. And we’ll continue to do so in the future 🙂

But meanwhile, there’s actually a lot that YOU can do to improve your chances of landing your next ELT job despite the discrimination.

Curious?

Watch this video to find out how you can completely turn your career around become a highly employable and successful ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.

So if you’d like to learn the exact steps that will boost your chances of landing your next ELT job in just THREE weeks (even if you’ve been turned down before), check out my course “How to become a highly employable and successful ‘non-native speaker’ teacher”.

Currently the course is available for exclusive early access, which means that I’m looking for a small, selected group of highly motivated and committed ‘non-native speaker’ teachers who would like to turn their careers around and learn a proven step-by-step method that is guaranteed to get you the jobs YOU deserve.

The exclusive early access is only available until Sunday 22nd July, when the enrolment for this course will close. And I’m not sure when it will open again. And when it does, the price will jump by at least $100.

So click here to secure your LIFETIME access.

What are you going to learn in the course?

Module 1: Understanding Native Speakerism

In this module you will learn where the prejudices, biases and the discrimination against ‘non-native speaker’ teachers stems from so you can tackle native speakerism more effectively.

You will also understand the specific beliefs and practices that help spread and maintain native speakerism, so that you are able to target them and increase your chances of employment. Finally, we will outline a step-by-step roadmap that will allow you to become a highly employable and successful ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.

Module 2: Busting the ‘Native Speaker’ Myth

You will understand why ‘native speakers’ are NOT better English teachers and boost your confidence.

You will bust some of the most typical reasons given by recruiters to justify hiring ‘native speakers’ only, so that you can effectively respond to them and increase your chances of being hired.

Module 3: Understanding and Utilising Your Strengths as a ‘Non-Native Speaker’ Teacher

In this module you will gain an understanding of the unique strengths you as a ‘non-native speaker’ have, so that you can highlight these to recruiters and boost your professional profile.

You will gain confidence by knowing how you can utilise your strengths in the recruitment process.

This module will also help you craft a winner’s mindset that will significantly increase your employability.

Module 4: Creating an Irresistible Professional Profile

You will understand which qualifications are necessary to impress the recruiter and stand out from the crowd.

You will learn how to highlight and showacase your language proficiency and which proficiency test you should take.

In this module you will also learn how to harness the power of social media and find the right niche to market your unique strengths and abilities.

Module 5: The Application Alchemy

This module will give you the exact strategies you need to drastically improve your success rate in the application process.

You will walk away with an irresistible CV and cover letter which are bound to catch the employer’s eye and get you an invitation to the interview.

You will also learn how to avoid the dodgy language schools and focus on those which offer equal opportunities, so you can save time and easily triple positive responses to your applications.

And finally, you will discover two secret but incredibly simple tricks that will ensure that your CV and application letter are read with attention.

Module 6: Crashing it at the Interview

Having been accepted for the interview, you will now learn the exact strategies that will easily boost your chances of being hired.

You will also understand and know how to avoid the most typical mistakes that ‘non-native speaker’ teachers make at the interview, so you can ensure a positive response from the recruiter.

You will finish this module being confident and completely prepared for the next interview by learning what the most typical questions are and how you can answer them effectively.

Module 7: Succeeding Beyond the Interview

This module will show you what you need to do to become a highly successful ‘non-native speaker’ teacher’.

You will learn how to promote equality and discuss native speakerism in your classroom, so that you can be confident that students appreciate you as a teacher.

You will understand how you can use your strengths as a ‘non-native speaker’ in the classroom in order to achieve better learning outcomes and receive more positive feedback from your students and the employer.

So if you want to start getting the jobs that you deserve within the next three weeks, sign up on the course before the enrolment closes this Sunday July 22nd.

See you there! 🙂

How to implement a successful equal opportunities policy by Matt Schaefer

I have, since 2013, worked as a program manager of Rikkyo University’s Center for English Discussion Class, a large-scale, unified-curriculum course that caters to roughly 4,700 students per year at a university in Tokyo, Japan. I am jointly responsible for curriculum design and evaluation and for hiring, training, and overseeing the professional development of 42 full-time instructors. It is a fulfilling job, in which my decisions affect the language learning of a significant number of students and I have the opportunity to interact with a diverse and committed group of teachers.

Because of the large number of instructors we require, and because each of them is on a five-year limited-term contract, we generally conduct recruitment twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. When we post a job listing for the hiring of our instructors, we include the statement:

Applicants of any nationality are welcome to apply’ and make no mention of English proficiency or ‘nativeness’.

In an ideal world, this would not be necessary. However, we want to be explicit about the fact that we are interested in seeing candidates with the appropriate teaching ability regardless of any other criteria.

We attract applications from nationalities all over the world, which makes us feel confident that we are choosing from a relatively broad range of candidates and therefore, based on the simple mathematics, ultimately selecting a higher quality of instructor than if we were to limit ourselves in any way. It seems both counter-intuitive and self-harming, not to mention ethically objectionable, to needlessly narrow your options when seeking to find the best person for a job. Our recruitment criteria focuses purely on appropriate teaching skills and awareness of relevant language learning principles, so differences in L1-speakerhood, gender, ethnicity, or any other non-teaching related factors are consciously and happily ignored.

As new teachers go through our orientation training program, the issue of “nativeness” continues to be irrelevant in the context of acquiring awareness of the unified curriculum and considering how best to help students achieve our course aims. These aims focus on mutual intelligibility among students, which means that no one variety of English is identified as a desirable model. While our instructors’ main role in the classroom is to facilitate large amounts of student-to-student interaction, they also demonstrate the type of discoursal and strategic competence that is a goal of the course. The message is that “nativeness” plays no part in determining whether or not this is possible for any individual.

At the end of each semester, our students complete a survey with space for open comments. I do not recall ever reading a comment, either positive or negative, that referenced a teacher’s nationality or L1. If a student were to begin the course with any preconceived notions about who should or should not be teaching them English, these prejudices do not seem to persist in light of their actual classroom experience.

In the staff rooms, there is just as likely to be intercultural miscommunication between, say, American and British instructors as between “native” and “non-native” instructors. It is very interesting to witness first-hand the blurring of distinctions between “dialects” and “varieties” of English in this context. While unhelpful generalizations do get made on occasion, as happens among most large multicultural groups, instructors tend to become aware that their collective idiolects contain overlapping elements of a variety of possible uses of English. Distinctions of L1 or D1 (first dialect) status, therefore, become untenable.

In short, a hiring policy that allows us to seek the best teachers for the position, regardless of a candidate’s L1, has resulted in no discernible disadvantages for our center while providing many advantages, first among them a welcome diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Discrimination on the grounds of nationality or “native” speaker status appears self-defeating, lacking in sound principles, and damaging to the health of our industry.

Matthew Schaefer is a program manager on Rikkyo University’s Center for English Discussion Class in Tokyo, Japan. Previously, he worked as a language teacher and/or Director of Studies at various language schools in France, Italy, Spain, and the UK. His interests include assessment of ELF and professional development for teacher trainers. He is also a founding member and co-host of the TEFLology Podcast.

Reflexión: lecciones aprendidas después de dos años contratando profesores de inglés no nativos

[note from the editor: this post was translated into Spanish from this article also published on the blog by Andrew Davison by Marina Escalada]

Mi experiencia en cuanto a trabajar con profesores de inglés no nativos (NNESTS en sus siglas en inglés), comenzó hace poco más de 2 años, cuando empecé mi negocio, Learn English Budapest. No somos una escuela de idiomas al uso, sino una agencia que pone en contacto a profesores de inglés con estudiantes de toda la ciudad. Cuando comencé, la meta era ofrecer una alternativa moda a los folletos y a anunciarse en foros de expatriados.

Durante los primeros meses, yo, al igual que otras muchas escuelas tristemente aún siguen haciendo, tenía una opinión negativa de los profesores no nativos. Asumía que los profesores nativos eran, simplemente, mejores a la hora de enseñar el idioma.

No fue hasta que fui contactado por Marek Kiczkowiak, fundador de TEFL Equity Advocates (Defensores de la Igualdad en TEFL), que realmente tuve la oportunidad de cuestionar mi opinión sobre el tema.

Lo que empezó como un intercambio de correos sobre el tema de nativos y no nativos (NESTS/NNESTS*) se convirtió en un experimento por mi parte. Decidí empezar a aceptar a NNESTS en mi equipo para ver que resultados obtenía y tan sólo unas pocas semanas después, me di cuenta de que había estado cometiendo un error al no contratarlos.

En aquel entonces, compartí un sumario de mis conclusiones en una entrevista. Hoy, vuelvo a estar aquí y me complace anunciar el lanzamiento de mi nuevo sitio web, Teacher Finder. Es el mismo concepto, excepto que esta vez pondremos a personas en contacto con profesores de idiomas en más de una docena de ciudades alrededor del mundo. También nos expandiremos incluyendo nuevos idiomas: Español, Italiano, Francés, Húngaro, Arabe y Alemán, entre otros. Por supuesto, los profesores no nativos son bienvenidos.

Para todos aquellos que se dedican a la gestión de agencias o escuelas de idiomas y que tengan dudas sobre trabajar con NNESTS, comparto aquí algunos de los resultados observados durante los últimos 2 años.

LA MAYORÍA DE ESTUDIANTES VALORAN LA EXPERIENCIA MÁS QUE LA LENGUA MATERNA

Cuando se trata de enseñar, es obvio que las requisitos más importantes son, la habilidad del profesor a la hora de explicar el tema y, obviamente, enseñar. Esto es particularmente cierto en cuanto a profesores de idiomas. En un mundo donde la lengua franca internacional es el inglés y el número de hablantes no nativos empieza a sobrepasar el de nativos, es ridículo pensar que los no nativos no pueden ser tan buenos profesores como los “elegidos”, que han nacido en un ambiente donde se habla inglés.

LOS ESTUDIANTES NO EXIGIRÁN UN PROFESOR NATIVO SI NO LES DAS LA OPCIÓN

Por supuesto, “nativo” sigue estando imbuido de un cierto estereotipo y, dada la opción, la mayoría de personas aún optan por un nativo. De hecho, solía haber una casilla en el formulario online de Learn English Budapest donde se leía: “¿Quieres un profesor nativo? Si/No. No es de sorprender que la mayoría de personas marcasen la casilla “nativo” o lo dejasen en blanco.

Decidí quitar esta casilla y reemplazarla con la siguiente pregunta dirigida a los estudiantes: “Describe como sería tu profesor perfecto”. Durante los siguientes meses, resultó evidente que los estudiantes no buscaban a alguien que fuera nativo. Estaban más interesados en encontrar a un profesor que compartiera sus intereses y pudiera explicar ampliamente el tópico en el que están interesados.

A partir de ese momento, no me ha contactado ningún estudiante para quejarse de haberle sido asignado un profesor no nativo de inglés. La mayoría están encantados al ver que los NNESTS pueden explicar gramática complicada (a menudo, mejor que los hablantes nativos) y establecer analogías con sus idiomas nativos.

LOS NNESTS PUEDEN SER MÁS DINÁMICOS

Uno de los factores que más favorece a los NNESTS es que tienen experiencia propia de haber aprendido el idioma. Poseen una gran comprensión de lo que los estudiantes están pasando y de cuáles pueden ser los mayores obstáculos para alcanzar la fluidez.

Su propia experiencia del aprendizaje del idioma, ha menudo les ha enseñado algunas técnicas innovadoras sobre cómo explicar mejor y entender inglés. Cuando pregunté a mis profesores cuales eran los consejos y trucos que les son de más ayuda a la hora de enseñar inglés, en seguida vi que los NNESTS eran los que sabían mucho más acerca de la manera de mejorar sus habilidades lingüísticas, (y las de sus alumnos).

LOS NNESTS TIENDEN A TENER MEJORES RECURSOS PARA LA ENSEÑANZA

De nuevo, ya que los NNESTS han pasado por la inmensa tarea de llegar a hablar otro idioma con fluidez, han explorado las posibilidades, dentro del panorama de recursos de aprendizaje de idiomas, para encontrar los mejores. Mientras que los NESTS cuentan con el lujo de poder contar siempre con el recurso de ser hablantes nativos y poder elaborar “recursos” improvisados, los NNESTS normalmente, cubren ese espacio preparándose mejor las lecciones.

También son los que comparten con los estudiantes más métodos de aprendizaje alternativos a los libros y les ayudan a mejorar más rápidamente el manejo del idioma. También he observado que, por norma general, también hacen más esfuerzo en crear sus propios recursos y combinar estrategias diferentes para encontrar la mejor manera de enseñar a cada alumno.

CUANDO SE TRATA DE ENSEÑAR A NIÑOS, LOS NNESTS, A MENUDO LO HACEN MEJOR

Cuando rememoro mis días en la escuela y las clases de idiomas que nos daban, no puedo acordarme de, ni tan siquiera, un profesor de idiomas nativo. Cuando se trata de principiantes y niños, la habilidad de explicar el idioma en su idioma nativo y limitar la presión que el estudiante siente, es irreemplazable.

Cuando era joven y estudiaba mis primeras lecciones en español, no hubiera podido sobrevivir frente a una persona española oyéndome imitar su idioma; por lo que he aprendido de los comentarios que recibo de los estudiantes, a menudo, estos se sienten igual cuando están empezando. Los más avanzados puede que se sientan cómodos siendo expuestos a más presión, pero los niños no suelen progresar en ese entorno.

CONCLUSIÓN: MIENTRAS QUE LOS ESTEREOTIPOS LIGADOS A LOS PROFESORES NATIVOS CONTINÚAN, LOS NNESTS ESTÁN, A MENUDO, MEJOR PREPARADOS PARA ENSEÑAR INGLÉS.

Incluso en Teacher Finder aún tenemos gente pidiendo profesores de inglés nativos pero, muy a menudo, no presionan sobre el tema. También hemos conseguido explicar con éxito los beneficios inherentes en el aprendizaje con profesores no nativos de inglés.

Diría que una de las ventajas de tener a un NNEST enseñándote, es que entiende perfectamente por lo que estás pasando como estudiante del idioma. Al haber pasado por el mismo esfuerzo frente a las cuestiones gramaticales, entiende lo que se necesita para poder explicar claramente las normas. Esto es particularmente importante con los niños, quienes pueden desanimarse si tienen a un profesor nativo.

A pesar de que, desafortunadamente, me tomó un tiempo llegar a darme cuenta, ahora se que los NNESTS pueden estar mejor equipados y preparados para enseñar que los profesores nativos. Al final, lo que realmente les importa a los estudiantes es encontrar a alguien con quien puedan conectar y que haga del aprendizaje del idioma algo ameno, indistintamente de si son nativos o no nativos.

andrew5041Andrew Davison es el fundador de Teacher Finder y también disfruta escribiendo y viajando en su tiempo libre. Vive entre Londres y Budapest.

*NEST(S): siglas en inglés de “Native English Teacher-s”. En español, Profesor(es) Nativo(s) de Inglés.

NNEST(S): siglas en inglés de “Non-Native English Teacher-s”. En español, Profesor(es) No-Nativo(s) de Inglés.

Recording of my Innovate ELT 2016 plenary

This is the video recording of my 10 minute plenary at Innovate ELT 2016 in Barcelona. Some parts of the original did not record properly, unfortunately, so I had to rerecord them at home. Still, I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear your comments. Below the video, you can read the transcript of the plenary.

If you’re interested in getting involved in TEFL Equity Advocates campaign, take a look at this page for ideas on how you can help.

Plenary transcript

How many of you in the audience are NNS?

And how many are NS?

And how many of you are English teachers?

This is precisely the point I’d like to make today. We’re all English teachers. And if we want to empower ourselves, it can only be done together. As English teachers.

So I have a very simple dream. A dream that one day we’ll all simply be seen as English teachers. That this artificial divide that seems to separate us, will disappear. Become irrelevant.

So my dream is very simple indeed. It’s a dream that soon we will be valued based on what we do best: teach English; and not based on an accident of birth. Because we are all English teachers. And what defines us is our professionalism. Our ability to teach a language that we all love.

So when I look around today, what I see is English teachers. Not NS and NNS. Simply English teachers. I want you to take a good look around you too. We’re a diverse group. We speak different languages. Come from different countries. But there’s one important thing that unites us: we’re all English teachers.

Can you see that?

We’re all English teachers.

And together we’re stronger. Together we have the power to change ELT. To bring professionalism back into our industry.

And change is possible. It is actually taking place right now. This conference is a sign of change. The topics discussed here are a sign of change. And I, you, we, as English teachers, we can become the driving force of change in ELT.

The story I want to tell you will hopefully show you that change in ELT is possible. No matter how insurmountable the obstacles seem. And all of you there have the power to change things.

There was a time when I didn’t think of myself as a NNS. I thought of myself as an English teacher. Call it naivete or innocence. That time is unfortunately gone. It was a happy time when you thought of yourself as an English teacher. But it all changed back in 2011.

I was teaching in IH San Sebastian. The IH transfer list came out and I applied for work at IH Lisbon. What I didn’t know back then was that I was a NNS. And NNS weren’t welcome in IH Lisbon. I received an email that said my CV wouldn’t be considered and I should try another IH school.

I was furious. My CV won’t be considered because I’m Polish?! This was utter nonsense. I was a qualified and experienced teacher who was proficient in English. What else do you want? Well, clearly, they weren’t that interested in qualifications or experience or proficiency. They simply wanted a native speaker.

I was furious. But thanks to an English colleague, rather than smash the computer screen, sulk, or even worse: give up; I vented my anger into an article. Mind you, I’d never written an article in my life. But I couldn’t just sit silently. I had to speak out. IH Lisbon wasn’t going to get away with it. I wanted to go after them.

I entitled the article ‘Nativity scenes’. I sent it off to several newspapers and magazines, and EL Gazette replied saying they’d publish it. Of course with changes. And there were a lot of them. Remember I didn’t have a clue about writing articles. I was just a young English teacher from Poland venting his fury.

The article must have created a bit of an impact, though, because the CEO of IH World wrote an official reply which was published below the article. And in the reply she promised IH would change their hiring policies. Which as far as I know they did. At least officially.

What does this story show you? That if you’re a young English teacher from Poland venting his fury into an article, even a giant like IH will not be safe.

But jokes aside, what I think it shows is that you also have the power to change things in ELT. We all do. As English teachers, we are ELT.

But change also takes time. It takes a lot of determination. It takes commitment. It takes grit. With IH it might have been a stroke of luck. To really change ELT, it will take time.

But it is possible.

Two years ago I started TEFL Equity Advocates campaigning for equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS teachers in ELT. The basic premise was and still is that we’re all English teachers. And we should be valued for that, for our teaching skills. Not for the language we unwittingly picked up as kids. And the stereotypes, the prejudices, they make us all weaker. They divide us when we should be united.

And equal employment and professional opportunities should be important to all of us. Because the current ELT recruitment model disregards professionalism. It disregards us as English teachers. It is based on a false assumption that the mother tongue of the teacher should be the most important criteria.

Since I started TEFL Equity, one of the most frequent challenges I’ve faced is people saying that things will never change. That I’m fighting a lost cause. There’s a certain defeatism among many ELTers. But remember, we, as English teachers, are ELT. And we have the power to change it. To shape its future.

So the most beautiful moments since starting TEFL Equity have been to hear from teachers:

Thanks, now I know I’m not on my own.

You’ve given me the tools and the courage to fight for my rights.

I used to accept this discrimination as a given, but now I know I shouldn’t, and I won’t.

This is what I call empowerment. And a call to action. If we want change, we need to act. We need to make it happen

So if the issue of inequality between NS and NNS in ELT concerns you, do something about it. Write an article. Talk to your DoS. Propose or give a workshop in your school on the topic. Give a conference talk. Or a webinar. Talk to your local teaching association. When you see a job ad that’s discriminatory, comment on it. Write to the employer.

And last by not least, talk to your students. Discuss this issue with them. As I’ll try to show later today in my session with the learners, it’s a great topic for debate. And as teachers we have the obligation to educate our students. To empower them.

English has changed. It doesn’t belong to the English any more. Nor does it belong to the US, the Irish or the Australians. It belongs to all of us, all those who teach it. Who study it. Who use it. It is an international language. A beautifully diverse one.

Let’s embrace this diversity. Let’s speak out for greater equality in ELT. For greater professionalism. For empowerment.

Let’s speak out for us, English teachers.

We are all english teachers

'The N factor': spreading equality in your workplace – by Sarah Priestley

After watching Silvana Richardson’s IATEFL 2016 plenary ‘ The native factor, the haves and have-nots’ this April I immediately asked myself what I could do to raise awareness of some of the issues Silvana highlighted.  Through meeting Marek on Twitter we started chatting about my ideas.  So, this post is to share with you the activities I have recently done to help my teaching colleagues and customer service staff be more aware of ‘The N factor’.  I hope I might inspire you to do something similar in your organization!1In May 2016, to get the ball rolling, I presented a slot in our monthly teacher 15 minute forum (a CPD event for teachers where teachers have 5 minutes to summarize a teaching idea, an article or an area of interest) on ‘The N factor’. 10 teachers came and for most of them it was the first time they had heard about this area of hot debate.   I highlighted some key facts and figures from Silvana Richardson’s plenary and commented on how our own staffroom was made up of both NS and NNS and that we should all be proud of who we are.  I reiterated this point by quoting Peter Medgyes, who I was lucky enough to hear speak at the EICE Valencia conference this May.

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To spread the word to all teaching staff I shared my 15 minute forum slides in an email and wrote a short summary of my 15 minute slot in our weekly teacher newsletter. I also continued to talk about the topic over the next few days and weeks with anyone who would listen to me!

Afterwards, I also realized that our customer service staff might be interested in hearing what I had to say.  After all, they deal with the public every day and a frequent comment they hear is ‘Of course, I presume that all your teachers are mother-tongue speakers.’  I wondered how confident my customer service colleagues were in handling this scenario and how knowledgeable they were of the advantages that both NS and NNS teachers can bring to the classroom.

Our Director and Customer Service Manager were very keen and enthusiastic about my suggestion so in June I organized 2 briefing sessions.  Chatting with a fellow teacher Ania Krzyzosiak, we decided to prepare and run the customer service sessions together (you can download the handout here).  That way, there would be both a NS and NNS delivering the session and 2 brains and pairs of hands are always better than one!  16 colleagues attended and our 30 minute briefing generated a lot of healthy discussion and comments.  I think the Venn diagram activity, where they had to think about the qualities that NS and NNS can bring to the classroom, was particularly thought-provoking and made my non-teaching colleagues consider advantages that they had never really thought about til then.

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The exit tickets we collected at the end of the 2 customer service sessions included comments such as ‘More convincing arguments for answering the basic question.’ and ‘Non-NEST teachers can teach as accurately as NEST teachers.’

IATEFL 2016 may be over but Silvana Richardson brought to the foreground very important issues and there is still plenty to be done on tackling discrimination and misconceptions in many organisations and at many levels in the ELT world.  I work for the British Council and we have a global policy of equal opportunity for recruitment.  That said, I still feel it is important to discuss ‘The N factor’ in my workplace.  I hope my small contribution will go some way to continuing this debate and that after reading this blog you might be thinking of how you, too, can spread the NSNNS word!

If you’d like to see some lesson materials for adult students connected to the NS NNS topic 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 .

About the author

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

 

TESOL Spain position statement against discrimination

Recently, TESOL Spain has issued a position statement against discrimination in ELT, opposing job ads that require the candidate to be a ‘native speaker’, have ‘native-like’ fluency, or speak with ‘standard’ English. I had a chance to talk to the current president of TESOL Spain, Annie Altamirano, to find out a bit more about the statement and why it was issued. We also had a chat about how TESOL Spain is planning to put the statement into practice, promoting equality in Spanish ELT and supporting both their ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ members. We finished off by talking about ELT in Spain and what still needs to be done so that teachers are recruited and valued based on their skills, rather than their first language.

In compliance with Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, TESOL-SPAIN stands in opposition to discrimination against teachers on the basis of their national, ethnic or linguistic background, religion, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, in terms of hiring, promotion, recruitment for jobs, or employment conditions.

With respect to the common, long-standing notion, unsupported by research, that a certain ethnicity, accent, or national background gives a person an advantage as a teacher of English, TESOL-SPAIN firmly believes that all teachers should be evaluated and valued solely on the basis of their teaching competence, teaching experience, formal education and linguistic expertise. Therefore, TESOL-SPAIN does not condone job announcements that list “native English,” “native command of English,” “native-like fluency,” “standard accented English,” or similar, as required or desirable qualities.

The statement is available on TESOL Spain website here.