More than 20 years ago, in the early 1990s, there was a lot of discussion about the position of teachers of English who were either native or non-native speakers of the language. In The Non-native Teacher Péter Medgyes, a Hungarian, wrote about the relative advantages and disadvantages, problems and insights, of both groups. This became a successful book, used widely on teacher training courses in many countries.
However, as with so many other aspects of teaching and methodology, interest in the topic went up and down over the years. Coinciding with changes in publishing companies, both the first (Macmillan) 1994 edition and the later (Hueber) 1999 one, went out of print.
In the last few years, as the importance of both pre- and in-service training has begun to be increasingly recognised, together with the relevance of its various forms to different kinds of learning/teaching environment (primary, secondary, adults), the debate about who was the ‘best’ kind of teacher of English began to be heard again. Twenty years later, it seemed there was a need to look again at relative strengths and weaknesses, problems and perceived advantages – and to both go over the original ground again, while also adding questions, thoughts and observations relating to present-day and future teaching situations and contexts.
As well as the ‘classroom and training’ aspects of the debate, it has seemed increasingly important to discuss the topic from the viewpoint of employment. It has become illegal, at least in European countries, to discriminate against employing people on the basis of nationality. However, perhaps it is not as simple as that: how about the ongoing battle to convince parents, company training managers and other decision makers that the key consideration is relevant training and qualifications? This is far from simple, and will take time and can, perhaps, be best helped by encouraging honest and open debate.
As a result of these shifts in focus, and the huge amounts of interest raised by the TEFL Equity website and activities, plus the reaction to Silvana Richardson’s 2016 IATEFL plenary, Péter Medgyes (a non-NEST) and I (a NEST) felt it was time to open up the debate again, discussing the relative problems facing both groups of English teachers, while encouraging people to think about these in relation to their own specific contexts, personal abilities and priorities.
We thus decided to republish the book, adding a lot of new material, designed to build up the self-confidence of both groups by suggesting ways in which all teachers can assess and develop their individual strengths, presented visually in a way that will get the topic discussed critically from a variety of angles – with the underlying message that ‘we need both – but all teachers must be properly trained’.
Below is a short video with Péter’s description of this:
The book is available in both print and digital formats (with a special discount on the latter until the end of August). The print version is available from English Language Booksho. The digital edition is available here.
And we hope, of course, to hear your own thoughts and ideas about the topic and to be involved in the ongoing discussion on the TEFL Equity website.
After originally training as a teacher of drama and English in UK schools (primary and secondary) Susan Holden has had a variety of experiences as a teacher, teacher trainer, writer and publisher in a number of countries, principally in Europe and Latin America. As editor of Modern English Teacher for 15 years, she came into contact with a wide range of teachers and teaching contexts. Appropriate training and sensitivity to cultural and educational contexts are, for her, of paramount importance. Based in Scotland, she now runs a small publishing and project management company, Swan Communication. For any further information about the books, you can contact Susan via email.