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

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

Just to give you a few examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you going to learn in the video?

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

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


Watch the video below.

Did you enjoy the video?

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

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

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

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

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

What else will you learn?

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

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

Boost your confidence as a non-native speaker teacher with these two simple hacks (and get hired!)

In 2011, I applied for a job with a well-known language school in Lisbon.  I had all the right qualifications, the right experience and skills.

Or so I thought.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that I didn’t have the right mother tongue. I wasn’t a ‘native speaker’. So I was politely turned down.

I was shocked. But at the same time completely clueless:

Nobody had told me this might happen.

Nobody had told me what to do if it did happen. That I could and should fight back. And most importantly how I should fight back.

So I might have actually even accepted the situation.

Perhaps because deep down I believed that maybe ‘native speakers’ are indeed better teachers. Which is problem number 1: as ‘non-native speakers’ we frequently lack confidence. We don’t believe in our own ability to teach and speak the language just as well as any ‘native speaker’.

In the last several years I have spoken to literally hundreds ‘non-native’ teachers, many of whom are incredibly proficient. They’ve got all the right qualifications. Yet, many of them somehow still doubt their own abilities.

They worry about having a foreign accent.

They fret over making language mistakes.

Forgetting that being a ‘non-native speaker’ actually carries many advantages for you as a teacher.

Forgetting that as a ‘non-native speaker’ you can be a great professional.

That’s why in this video I will give you two simple hacks that will boost your confidence and help you get hired as a ‘non-native speaker’ teacher.

Want more tips like the ones in the video?

Would you like to boost your professional profile and increase your chances of getting hired as a non-native speaker?

Get your FREE copy of my 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:

Teaching english as a Lingua Franca: How to use first language to facilitate communication

For a long time, there has been a rather negative view of using first language (L1) when communicating in English. It might sometimes be seen as:

  • an example of lower proficiency
  • or of not being fluent enough in English
  • or of not knowing the right word.

However, research clearly shows that multilingual individuals, which all learners of English are by definition, frequently use their L1 (or other languages they know) when communicating, in order to

  • facilitate understanding,
  • express finer shades of meaning
  • or assert their cultural identity.

Let me give you a personal example first of how this might happen.

At home, we predominantly use Spanish. But we also mix in quite a bit of Polish and English. So you might hear us say things like:

  • Estoy totally enkapustado – That would be said when you’ve just had enough kiszona kapusta (fermented cabbage), and you’d rather have something else. It takes a Polish word (kapusta) and uses Spanish morphology (en to create a verb and -ado to create a past participle) to coin a new word.
  • Estoy aprendiendo Dutch – I’m learning Dutch, rather than estoy aprendiendo holandes o nerlandes, or whatever. My hunch is that’s because Dutch is much shorter. So more efficient.
  • Messi scored an absolute golazo – There’s simply no good translation for golazo. A beautie, perhaps. But it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, at least for me.

Once you’re aware of it, you will start noticing this multilingual English use everywhere in ELF contexts.

The other day I was sitting in a car with four friends from different countries. And one of them was talking about their new job. And he said this: We sell to particulars.

Me being me, I obviously noticed something particular about his use of particulars.

Funnily enough, nobody else did. The conversation continued.

And even more interestingly, other people started using the word and talking about particulars.

You could take a traditional view and say that they didn’t know how to say individual clients. Or that it’s simply a false friend.

And that it was a mistake. Minus 1 point on the oral exam everyone!

Or, you could also acknowledge the fact that all the people in the car were multlingual users of English. And this is what multilinguals tend to do.

It didn’t cause communicative problems. Everyone knew exactly what he meant. Others continued using the word perhaps to show they’ve understood. Perhaps to maintain rapport and the flow of the conversation.

Other more research-based examples of using L1 are also abundant. For example:

  • Kankaanranta (2006) notes that in exchanges between Swedish and Finnish businesspeople, use is often made of the Swedish greeting ‘Hej’.
  • Japanese academics and foreign academics working in Japan make use of ‘honorifics’ such as -san or -sensei in the opening lines of their English emails, in order to show respect.

So I think it is vital I think that are students are made aware of the fact that:

  1. Their L1 (and other foreign languages they know) can be an asset, not a burden
  2. They’re very likely to hear other multlingual users of English use non-English words, so they need to be able to cope with this diversity

In short, what I think we need to do is to promote multilingual, not monolingual, English use.

In order to be able to do this effectively, students need to develop an awareness of how their multilingual repertoire can be used in ELF communication.

Of course, this is easier said than done, you might be thinking. That’s why I want to share with you an activity that will allow you to do exacty that which comes from my book I co-authored with Robert Lowe: Teaching English as a Lingua Franca: A Journey from EFL to ELF (available here on the publisher’s website and here on


This activity is one out of 40+ activities we put together for you in the book spanning:

  • Raising awareness and developing an ELF mindset
  • Teaching listening and pronunciation
  • Teaching lexis and grammar
  • Teaching communication
  • Teaching Intercultural communicative skills

Here’s the front and back cover of the book with some more info about it:

And if you get to use the activity with your students, please do let us know. We’d love to hear how it goes.

Don’t forget to download the worksheet below:


And if you’re interested in buying the book, it’s available here on the publisher’s website and here on

How to motivate and engage low-level learners using TED talks by Lewis Lansford

All too often, we think of authentic input such as a TED Talk as listening material that happens to have pictures – often just a person speaking. However, as a classroom resource, TED Talks offer so much more:

  • the fact that they have sound and images – often visually rich ones, beyond just the speaker – together makes them powerful tools for language learners
  • words that learners can’t understand just by listening become clearer when they’re supported by images
  • and often, learners can understand some of the main ideas in a TED Talk based on what they see, without having to understand the spoken word in detail.

If nothing else, the images themselves bring language into the classroom – something to talk about, to describe and to react to.

Lower-level language learners spend a lot of time in situations where they simply don’t know what’s going on, or where they’re struggling to keep up.

One way to improve in a second language is to get yourself into these situations as often as you can stand it, and to keep on trying to understand what’s going on, and to communicate – even when it’s really hard.

By bringing TED Talks into the classroom, we can:

  • give students some exposure to language that they probably won’t understand
  • help them to become more comfortable with this lack of complete understanding
  • and also help them to develop useful skills for gathering what information they can, and responding to it at their own level.

That’s why I prepared a worksheet that will help you engage and motivate low level learners using TED talks. You can download for FREE below:


How to use the worksheet

Use this worksheet in lower-level classrooms to support learners watching TED Talks, even when the talk may seem above their level of comprehension. It’s designed to work with a variety of talks.

The talks that it will work best with are shorter ones – under six minutes – with some kind of visual interest. You can choose talks that you like from Here are four to get you started, all freely available:

Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter (4:01)
Camille Seaman – Haunting photos of polar ice (4:04)
Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness (5:49)
ShaoLan: Learn to read Chinese … with ease! (6:07)

After working with the talks in the classroom, if your students want to watch them at home with the subtitles – either English, or their own language – that’s no problem. But don’t worry too much about understanding every word in the classroom. You’ll find that there’s plenty to talk about at whatever level the students have comprehended the text.

Download the worksheet below:


Good luck, and enjoy teaching with TED Talks!

Lewis Lansford

Author, National Geographic Learning and Tutor, TEFL Equity Academy

Good news!

If you enjoyed using this worksheet, I’ve got good news. I’m working on a few others – and also on an entire online course about teaching with TED Talks. But before I tell you about that, let me tell you a bit more about myself and where I’m coming from.

Who I AM

I’m an award-winning coursebook writer materials developer and teacher trainer. I’ve co-written two course book series featuring TED Talks for National Geographic Learning: Perspectives (upper secondary) and Keynote (young adult and adult).

My ELT career started in Barcelona in 1989, shortly after I finished my BA in English literature in the States. After teaching for about six months, I decided that I loved the job but wanted to be better at it, so I went back to Arizona and did an MA in TESOL.

After that, I taught English at the University of Arizona and then at a manufacturing company in Japan. In 1995, I took an editorial job with a major publisher in Hong Kong, and in 1997 became a freelance editor, project manager and writer based in the UK.

I’ve worked on books, videos, tests, audio materials, worksheets, apps and online materials for learners of all ages across the world. I specialize in developing classroom materials using authentic input and have been lucky enough to work extensively with print material from The Financial Times and with video from Disney, the BBC, Discovery Channel, and TED.

I’ve delivered teacher training globally with Pearson Education, OUP and National Geographic Learning, and have taught a materials development module for Master’s students at the University of Durham.

How I got hooked on TED Talks

I became aware of TED Talks around 2010, when someone shared Derek Sivers’s talk Weird, or just different? on social media. After that, various talks were recommended by friends and colleagues:

and many others.

Though I could see that they might have use as teaching tools, my main interest in them was my own entertainment and engagement with fascinating ideas and great speakers. So when, in 2014, I was invited to join the team at National Geographic Learning to write for the Keynote series, I knew I was in for the most enjoyable and intellectually stimulating writing job of my life.

And it was.

One of my first tasks on the project was to watch dozens – if not hundreds – of TED Talks and choose which ones to include in the coursebook I was writing. Through this process, I began to develop some rules of thumb for what makes a TED Talk classroom ready:

  • the speaker’s pace and intelligibility
  • the length (not too long!)
  • the amount of visual support
  • the interest level of the topic.

I also began to think a lot about what teachers – and students – could do in the classroom to work with TED Talks. It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a course. When the opportunity to write a second course – Perspectives – came along, I jumped at the chance, feeling happy to return to the process of searching through the TED archive and discovering hundreds of new talks that I hadn’t seen before.

How I got the idea of developing an online course

Through my work as an author, I’ve been given the opportunity to speak at a lot of conferences, and TED Talks have featured in varying degrees in many of the talks I’ve given. I’ve also written a series of posts for the National Geographic In Focus blog with practical ideas for using TED Talks.

Through talking with teachers all over the world, I’ve come to appreciate how much teachers love TED Talks but also that they often feel unsure how to use them.

I’ve also realized that after all the talks and blogging, I had enough material to put together an online course about how to teach with TED Talks. If you’d like to learn more about the course,  click here.

We’re also doing a pre-launch giveaway. 5 people will get FREE lifetime access to the course!

How can you win?

Sign up below and then share the course with your friends on social media. The more friends you refer, the higher your chances of winning.

Thanks again for your interest, and good luck teaching with TED Talks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT, at the same time we…

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do we tackle this situation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is how the book is structured:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

But this is just the tip of the iceberg…

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

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

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

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

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

Or via email:

How to teach real English using TED talks by Lewis Lansford

For my whole career as a teacher, I’ve heard language learners talk about how they want to learn the ‘real’ language – not just stuff in books. And it makes sense. You want to learn language you can really use – maybe the language as it’s spoken in New York, London or Sydney.

Ask English teachers what ‘real’ English is, and you’ll get a variety of answers:

  • grammatically correct English
  • British English
  • any English that’s used for real communication
  • and others

In fact, all of the above are correct, in my view.

I’d say that anyone who’s actually using the language is speaking real English, including lower-level learners in your classrooms who are struggling – and succeeding – in sharing their own thoughts and ideas and answers to the questions you ask them.

Let’s take a look at what we know about how English is used in the world:

  • At least 25% of the world’s population speaks English
  • L2 (second language) speakers outnumber L1 (first language) English speakers by at least four to one
  • A majority of English language conversations in the world are between L2 speakers – that means they don’t include anyone who is an L1 (first language) English speaker

What we see is that an overwhelming majority of the English used in the world today is L2 English. So, what’s real English? It’s grammatically correct English, it’s British English, it’s English used for real communication, and it’s also:

  • Chinese English
  • German English
  • Mexican English
  • and the English spoken in every other country

A few thoughts about accent

This brings us to another question. What kind of accent do you expect your learners to have in English?

  • British?
  • American?
  • Some other nationality?
  • A comprehensible accent?

Everyone has some kind of accent in English – even people who speak English as their first language. And there are hundreds of different L1 English accents that vary from Scottish to South African, from standard American to British ‘received pronunciation,’ and from Texas to Jamaica and beyond. And we also know that very few people learning any language as an L2 achieve a perfect ‘native-like’ accent. So is it a reasonable – or even desirable – goal to ‘speak like a native’?

I’m not so sure it is. Your ‘foreign’ accent in English:

  • will never go away, most likely
  • says something about where you come from
  • can in some cases actually make you easier to understand than some L1 English speakers

To discuss this issue with your students using TED talks, I prepared a free worksheet Learn real English with TED talks, which you can download below:

In case the button above doesn’t work, follow this link and fill in your name and email address so I can send you the worksheet.

How to use the Learn real English with TED Talks worksheet

Use this worksheet in intermediate-level classrooms and above, to support learners watching TED Talks and get them thinking – and talking – about real English and accent. It’s designed to work with a variety of talks.

The talks that it will work best with are ones where the speaker has a noticeable L2 accent. You can choose talks that you like from Here are two to get you started, all freely available:

Diébédo Francis Kéré: How to build with clay … and community
May El Khalil – Making peace is a marathon 

If possible, you could take the ‘flipped classroom’ approach and ask your students to watch the talks at home, before class, and come prepared to discuss them. But if that’s not possible, you can watch the talks together in class.


In case the button above doesn’t work, follow this link and fill in your name and email address so I can send you the worksheet.

Good luck, and enjoy teaching with TED Talks!

Lewis got his start teaching English in Barcelona in 1989. After getting an MA in TESOL, he taught at a US university and then a manufacturing company in Japan. In 1995, he took an editorial job with a major publisher in Hong Kong, and in 1997 became a freelance editor, project manager and writer. He has worked on books, videos, tests, audio materials, worksheets, apps and online materials for learners of all ages across the world. He has a strong interest in ESP – the language of getting things done – and has developed and written materials for aviation, oil and gas, and engineering. Lewis is especially interested in understanding the implications for materials development of research in English as a lingua franca. His most recent work includes National Geographic Learning’s Perspectives, an upper secondary course featuring TED Talks, and Keynote, a multi-award-winning adult course also featuring TED Talks. He lives in York, UK. For more information, see

Do you have an accent? – a lesson plan

Have you ever had people comment on your accent?

Sometimes, these comments can be very positive: oh, you have such a lovely accent.

But sometimes, they can also be rather negative.

And the truth is that we all have certain subconscious biases towards and against certain accents. We think of some as posh, while others might be uncouth. Some are funny, others sexy. Some sound highly educated, while others do not.

This issue is certainly not limited to ‘non-native speaker’ accents, but as a ‘non-native speaker’ myself, and a language learner myself, I can tell you that it can sometimes be difficult to come to grips with your accent.

Should I hide it?

Should I be proud of it?

Why do people judge me by it and not listen to what I have to say?

Bearing this in mind, I think it’s vital to bring this issue to students’ attention. In particular, because having a foreign accent might be a problem for some learners. Something some might be uneasy about, or maybe even slightly ashamed of. Some might want to get rid of it all together.

But I personally think that accents are great. They make English the beautifully varied lingua franca that it is.

And, there is absolutely no evidence that having a standard ‘native speaker’ accent will make you any easier to understand in international contexts.

So I thought I’d prepare a short lesson plan based on a video that Andy Barbiero shared with me on FB today (thanks, Andy!).


Discuss these questions with the person next to you:

  • How do you feel about your accent in English?
  • Do people ever notice it or comment on it? If so, how?
  • To what extent do YOU judge people by their accents?
  • What stereotypes do you have about certain accents?

Watching 1 (00 – 00:41):

Watch the first part of the video:

  • What is your reaction to what the speaker says? Why?
  • Have you ever had similar situations? What happened?


In the next part of the video, the speaker will talk about accentism:

  • What do you think it might be?
  • How might it be related to the other -isms, such as sexism or racism?

Watching 2 (00:41 – 1:30):

Watch the video to check. Then discuss:

  • To what extent is accentism a form of discrimination?
  • How does it compare to the other forms of discrimination (e.g. ageism, sexism, racism)?
  • Can (and should) something be done in order to protect people from this prejudice? Why (not)?

Hiding your accent:

The speaker will now talk about his friend Nas, who is from the Middle East, and who has worked very hard to hide his accent. Discuss:

  • Have you ever tried hiding your accent? Why (not)? Do you know anyone who has?
  • Why might some people want to completely get rid of their accent?

Watching 3 (1:30 – 2:25):

  • What is your reaction to the video?
  • Do you agree that people shouldn’t spend time trying to reduce their accent? Why (not)?

Why not hide your accent:

The speaker will now give their reasons why you shouldn’t hide your accent:

  • Make a list of possible reasons with the person next to you
  • He will also make an analogy between accents and music taste. What do you think might he say about it?

Watching 4 (2:25 – end):

Check your answers from above.

Discussion and reflection:

Having watched the video, discuss with the person next to you:

  • What are your thoughts about accentism? To what extent is it a real prejudice? Should measures be taken to stop it? How?
  • How do you now feel about your own accent? Would you like to get rid of it? Why (not)?
  • How can you avoid judging other English users by their accents?


Spend the next few days listening to different accents. Note down:

  • Which accent was it?
  • What was your initial reaction to the accent?
  • How could you avoid stereotyping that person by their accent?

Share your ideas with your classmates in the next class.

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