Why I wish I was a Non-Native English Speaker by James Taylor

I’m thrilled that James Taylor agreed to write a guest post for us 🙂 I met James in Costa Rica and we worked in the same school for a while. He talked me into starting blogging and gave some invaluable advice on it, as well as on teaching freelance. Here’s what he says about himself:

Originally from Brighton, UK, I have taught English as a foreign language to adults in Brazil, South Korea and Belgium. Currently based in San Jose, Costa Rica, I teach adults at Centro Cultural Britanico. I am the current President and a co-founder of BELTA, the Belgian English Language Teachers Association. You can also find me moderating #ELTchat, a weekly discussion on Twitter with teachers from around the world, presenting the #ELTchat podcast, mentoring teachers for iTDi, blogging and taking photographs. You can read my blog here.

So without much further ado, let’s find out why on earth James wishes he was a NNEST…

“Firstly, let me say that the title of this post is a lie. I don’t wish I was a non-native English speaker teacher (NNEST). As someone from the UK who teaches English as a foreign language, the country of my birth is a huge advantage to me. As has been well documented on this blog, I am much more likely to get a job than someone from Japan, Algeria or Brazil, no matter how qualified or experienced they are. For some students, having a native speaker teacher has a certain cachet, as in most countries it is unusual and many of them think that it means they have a better teacher as a result. So both employers and students seem to think that because I’m English, I must be a better teacher, which has got to be good for me.

As a result, you can’t be blamed thinking that I am pleased about this situation. Without any effort on my part, I’m placed ahead of the vast majority of teachers around the world in the job market. But you’d be wrong, it offends me and I want to see it change. I’m also tall, white, heterosexual and male and these are also a benefit to me in wider society (click on the links to find out more), but I have no desire to live in a world where nationality, size, race, sexuality and gender are the yardsticks by which our employability is measured. I would rather be judged by my ability, experience and qualifications equally against anyone else who wishes to apply for the same job. It’s not to my advantage, but that’s the world I want to live in. So if you’re a NNEST, this post is for you. There are many reasons why you have an advantage over NEST’s like me in the classroom.

For a start, you provide their students with an excellent role model of how to study and succeed. No matter how good a teacher I am, I will never be able to look my students in the eye and say “I know how you feel, I know how frustrating this language can be and I will guide you through it.” That’s a very powerful thing to be able to say, and I wish it could come out of my mouth.

You also provide a role model for specific aspects of the language, most notably pronunciation. Luckily in ELT we have largely disposed of the idea of the ‘native speaker as model’ in how we ask our students to speak, and now focus more on intelligibility and clarity in a variety of international contexts. You are perfectly positioned to provide a working, clear model for the students of how this is possible, and can provide them with strategies and techniques to help them get there, plucked from personal experience.

This can also apply to other aspects of language learning. English is a messy and unpredictable language, and rules are broken so regularly they aren’t worth saying. Once a student has learned the basic structures of the past, present, future, modals and conditionals, they have to tackle all the horrible anarchy of phrasal verbs and prepositions. As a NEST, I never had to actively learn these things, whereas the NNEST has had to suffer through them to reach the level where they are qualified to teach them. This NEST wishes he could use that experience to help his students.

The use of the learners first language is an idea that is currently coming back into vogue, after a couple of decades out of fashion. A long way from grammar translation teaching, current thinking takes a more sophisticated look at how it can be used. It is clear that when the teacher is from the same linguistic culture as their students, they have a massive advantage in an accurate and nuanced use of the L1 over an NEST. I can get really good at Spanish, but my Costa Rican colleagues will always have an advantage in using L1 in the classroom. No matter how hard I wish for it, that won’t change.

Empathy and understanding are crucial aspects of language teaching. Local teachers will have a much better idea of the local environment and the lives of their students. You will be much more aware of what English means to people in your culture and what the possible implications of learning it are. You will understand the educational background of the learners and how that influences their current learning practices, and you are likely to have an understanding of the personal environment the student has to study English within. I can learn these things, but to reach your level will take me years, and no amount of wishing will help me.

Learning about the culture is one of the most interesting side effects of learning a language, and you would think that this is one place where the NEST has a clear advantage, but I’m not so sure. Firstly, there is no such thing as a culture of the English language. It is used in too many countries by too many people to be homogeneous. So as a NEST, I can only represent a very small element of that and that is inevitably the bit that I know best. In my case it is British, specifically English, specifically the south of England – there’s an awful lot missing there.

You can have a more well-rounded view of the culture and find it easier to pick and choose from the things that interest them, and you think will interest their students. You can offer your students insights into a variety of communities, backgrounds and viewpoints without the natural bias that I have towards my own. I can try and rid myself of this, but I wish I could resist this natural inclination as easily at it would be for you.

So it’s true that I don’t wish I was a NNEST at this time. In many countries, the industry is unfairly set up in my favour and some students unwisely think I’m a better teacher. But there are many reasons why you have the upper hand, and it’s not just the ones listed above. The tide is turning, slowly, but it’s turning. In the future you will have more rights and be more respected by an industry in which you are the backbone. And this is the point that needs to be remembered – they are many, many more of you than there are of me. You have the power, so use it. I just wish more of you realised that.”

What are your views? Do you agree with James? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

0 thoughts on “Why I wish I was a Non-Native English Speaker by James Taylor

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ahhhh… there was a time when I got so discouraged as I was rejected at least 50 times in Shanghai, China. Being a NNEST did not seem easy at all. Finally I got a job to teach online where people could only hear my American accent and not look at my non Caucasian face. I went on with ESL teaching and didn't give up. It was when I was doing DELTA and an instructor made me realize about my strengths of being a NNEST. My instructor was a NEST and so are you, James. Its the people like both of you who raise their voices for the prejudice found rampant in the societies of the world. Thank you James & Marek.

  2. Francesca Sitia says:

    This was an interesting article and I ve appreciated the humbleness with which Tailor admits the drawbacks of being a NEST and how NNEST can better undertand their student s needs. However,it s hard to convince people that you are a potentially good NN English teacher:schools don t even have a look at your CV,no matter how trained and qualified you are!I hope the situation will change…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Really well written article, I agree with many of the points you raised.

    I'm also a native, and I've experienced people trusting my opinion above more experienced non-native teachers. The English I know comes from my home country (England) but this does not represent the world of the English language. We all need to learn.

    I believe though that if we have at least attempted to learn another language then we can be in a position to share empathy.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I wonder when will the tide actually turn, because working in London I heard a few times that they need native speakers (quality of teaching was a lower tier requirement it seems). In my cover letters I always put some advantages of being a NNEST, like the fact that I went through everything my students go through (which you mentioned) and this allows me to establish a great rapport with my students. Also some of my students told me that it's easier to understand me than NESTs (even though I barely have any accent). Eventually it will change, but now it is very challenging to overcome the stereotype. To do this we have to show our teaching skills.
    – Daniel

  5. mahmoud fawzy says:

    magnificent I can see how you appreciate and encourage NNEST.I'm Egyptian NNEST.thanks a lot,I agree with what you said .It's the first time I read about this subject. You really encouraged me.I see you love your job and your mother tongue greatly so you want all teachers to work hard and confidently thinking of new ideas. I think you really gave very useful concepts to us and this gives more power and enthusiasm to NNEST.I don't want to discuss the advantage of being a NEST as I think it is something crystal clear.Yet your view gives new hope for NNEST and this is the point. Thanks again and well done.

  6. Marjorie Rosenberg says:

    Thanks James for this well-though out post. We actually have a mixture at the university where I teach and I am on the only native speaker doing general English classes, all of my colleagues are Austrian and studied English. I think it is a good balance as we can always ask each other questions and share ideas with each other. As I struggled to learn German, I use that as an example of what it is like to learn a second language and my students understand that as well. And perhaps being an American also gives me the chance to say that I didn't know something about English because it is not used in the States, but it British. This even came up today in letter writing with 'Yours faithfully' which I told them I had never seen before coming to Europe. I guess my point is that it's not being a native speaker or a non-native speaker that makes someone an excellent teacher, I fell it is based on how we approach our jobs and relate to our students.

  7. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    I hope so too! Good luck, Anonymous 🙂
    BTW, we're planning to publish teacher success stories regularly, so if you ever wanted to write a post about how you succeeded, let me know 🙂

  8. Jonathan Cordero says:

    Thanks James for the post and thanks to Marek and Co for bringing attention to an issue that's so often shrugged off as 'the way things are'. As a NNEST myself, even after a decade of experience and training, I still know for a fact that I have the first 30 min or so (tops!) of the first class to 'convince' my new Ss that I know what I'm doing and that they're not being ripped off. I'm sure many NNESTs will agree this is the case. More importantly I think Ss are also right, (at least in part) they're acting according to what they've been told countless times by the market.

    At least in my part of the world, it is much easier for schools to market the 'Native Teacher' side since it allows them to lower hiring requirements. If what you sell is a persons nationality, eventually all you'll have to find in your hirings is that nationality, throw in one week's 'training' on how to follow a TB and voilà, business! Repeat that over and over and Ss will become oblivious of what's important, training and experience. Teachers with proper certifications and experience are no different to the Ss' eyes than the college student with a summer off.

    My point is that despite the most visible issues regarding nationality, the inequity between NNESTs and NESTs at the end doesn't only hurt non-native teachers, it minimises trained teachers in general. By elevating the 'Native' and thus lowering the 'Non-native', quality gets kicked into a corner only experienced learners will look at. Sorry for the long comment and thaks again for posting on this.

  9. theteacherjames.com says:

    Thanks Anonymous. I agree with you that learning another language can help us a great deal. In fact I would say it's essential for any native speaker teacher to do as part of their ongoing professional development.

  10. damo04 says:

    I love this post. Thanks James, you've expressed so many things I've been thinking lately but haven't had the wherewithall to express so clearly as you've done. The other thing that gets me about these posts asking for 'Natives', like these:

    http://www.english-test.net/esl-jobs/17/

    …is that they're illegal under EU law:

    http://teflreflections.blogspot.com.br/2014/04/native-speaker-only-ads-illegal-in-eu.html

    But not only that. As a native speaker, they offend me. Are they saying that the only reason I can get a job with them is because of where I was born? Not only is that racist, but it seriously devalues the 15 years I've spent trying to be the best professional I can.

    'NEST' or 'NNEST', whatever you want to call yourself (how about 'teacher'?), we need to dispense with this bullshit (this bullshit: http://fs11.formsite.com/nicmoreno/application/index.html )

    and get on with what we're doing…

    …well.

  11. Tyson Seburn says:

    Along with TESOL France recently, we are starting to consider how to take the stand about this issue, especially with regard to job ads. In a very multicultural city as Toronto, it's imperative that this distinction bear little in the hiring process. Thanks, James, for more fodder and well constructed arguments. Stay tuned.

  12. ratnavathy says:

    Dear James,
    Heartfelt and lovely post. Having said that, though, the fact still does remain that it would be “literally” impossible for me (and many others in my boat) to get a job in most of the countries you've mentioned above (unless, of course, if I decide to work “illegally” without a proper working visa). The tide is turning, for sure – I've read recent articles on how it's starting to dawn on the governments of some of these countries about the ridiculously exorbitant amounts they allocate in their annual budgets for ELT, only to be disappointed with the outcome.

    The tides of change are slowly setting in, you're right though James. Probably, say, in 10-20/30 years time? I wonder if I'll even be around to experience that change..;)

    Ratna

  13. Katya says:

    Great post. Thanks James. I always knew there are NESTs who understand how privileged they are just because they were born in an English speaking country.

    I'm a Ukrianian. I learned English in the British Council in Ukraine. My first time abroad was when I went to do TEFL course in London. I stayed in London for 5 weeks and then got a job in China. Since then I have been lucky (most of the time) and persistent and have had a successful career in ESL. I've taught in China, Indonesia and Vietnam and now I'm in Oman. For the past 4 years I have been working for the British Council.

    I must say that it was a little difficult to get jobs at the beginning. With 'Ukrainian' as a nationality in my CV often was the reason I didn't even hear back from the employers. But when I got to the interview stage it usually was successful – I don't have an accent. I speak what they call “international” English. Now, with almost 10 years of experience it's alright. I still get raised eyebrows and people often think I said “UK” instead of Ukraine :).

    I'm also lucky – the schools I have worked at always stoop up to me even if some of the students (mostly in China) complained about having a NNEST. Although one school asked me to introduce myself to the students as “Kate”, not as Katya. :))) But again, I must say, a lot of students are happy to know that it is possible to learn English because “their teacher did it too”.

  14. theteacherjames.com says:

    Thanks for your comment Daniel. You're right to wonder when this will happen, and unfortunately I think the answer is not overnight. It will take a long time, and it will take a lot of pressure over a many years. That's what it takes to defeat prejudice. But I do believe we'll get there eventually.

  15. theteacherjames.com says:

    Thanks Marjorie. I completely agree that there are many things that us NEST's can do to try and make up for the things we lack. Learning a language is one of the best, and should be a part of any NEST's professional development. But in this post I wanted to really emphasise those areas where NNEST's have a big advantage, and encourage them to make the most of it to increase the equality in our industry, which is exactly what you describe in your final sentence.

  16. Sandy says:

    Despite being a lifelong language learner, I was never aware of the NEST/NNEST issue before I became an EFL teacher. Most of my teachers have been non-natives, and all of them have been able to speak English, so it is impossible for me to truly understand what it's like for my students, particularly at lower levels, to be confronted by someone who has no idea how the language they are teaching compares to the students' first language. My own language learning helps, and I can empathise, but it is impossible for me to ever know what it's like to learn English as a Foreign Language, as James so clearly states here.

    When working abroad, I've always worked with a mix of native and non-native teachers, and the non-natives are often the ones I've learnt the most from, because they can tell me where students are most likely to have problems, or what they're most likely to be interested in. They can identify potential cultural problems too. That's not to say that natives can't do this, but non-natives can normally do it from day one, whereas natives need time to build up this knowledge.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the problem is principally from the teachers now – we're preaching to the converted. The recruiters probably know deep down that experience is more important than the place on your passport too. The problem is in persuading students. As an example, we had a new student come to our school this week. She'd found us by searching for English schools with native speakers in Sevastopol, of which there are very few. When I gave her a level test, she is pre-intermediate. Why would a native speaker necessarily be any better for her? In fact, I've met some native speaker teachers who would actually cause her more problems at this level, especially when newly-qualified, because they don't really understand what they're teaching. I would count myself in that group a few years ago. Yes, she would be getting exposure to a native speaker, but so what? She can do that on the internet, by watching films, and more, and she's highly unlikely to need it much here. Instead, she's much more likely to need to speak to other non-natives through English. She's just heard that native speaker teachers are 'better' and has never really been told evidence to the contrary. I expect that if you try to pin students down on this, they might mention things like bad teachers at school, but that's a question of training, experience, apathy, overload,… rather than the mere fact of being a non-native. It's a 'grass is greener' thing, especially if they've never had a native speaker teacher – the novelty might soon wear off.

    What we need is a deep-seated culture change. Easy to say, very difficult to propagate. We're at the start of it now. It will be a slow process, but I hope it keeps moving forward. Gradually, as a profession, we're sharing more, we're supporting each other more. As the generations pass, and people outside the EFL community, including students, really start to realise that English is not the property of native English speakers at all, I hope we see more of a balance. I hope we see it during our careers.

    Thank you for writing this James. I've shared it, along with my comment, on my blog, as I think it deserves a wider audience.
    Sandy

  17. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Totally agree with James. It's the NNEST – like you and me, Tiago – who need to cause this change. We can't just moan and complain. We've got to act. Things are not going to change of their own accord. Nor are the people at the top very likely to do it.

  18. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    I think the tide's already changing. And thanks to people like James it might change much more quickly. Nowadays there are actually very few NESTs I think who would still argue that a proficient and qualified NNEST is always an inferior teacher.
    Good luck in London!

  19. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Jon!
    Totally agree with your first point. As a NNEST you've got to prove yourself in the first 20 or so minutes of the new class. I've had some CPE prep groups where I could really feel they were 'testing' me.
    A very important point, Jon. I think the whole supposed 'demand' for NS has largely been a product of decades of marketing native speakers to the sts as the ultimate, infallible English language gurus. Since the sts don't really know how to learn a language, or what constitutes a good teacher, as a recruiter it's our job to explain it to them. Succumbing to the market demand is no solution. I'd say it's cheating your customer a bit. It always reminds me of what Henry Ford said about the creation of his first car, and the market demand: If I'd asked the people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”.
    Very good point, Jon. It puzzles me that out of all the necessary characteristics of a good teacher, language proficiency/nativeness is chosen as the ultimate qualification. It would be much more sensible if you really care about the quality of teaching in your school, and the progress your students are making, to take a global view of all the characteristics, traits and qualifications a prospective teacher has.
    Thanks for the comment, Jon! I really enjoyed reading it. Send my regards to everyone in CCB 🙂

  20. Anonymous says:

    Having worked in China, Russia and a UK summer school I now work in Poland, the DoS is Polish and by absolutely superb, with many years of experience. We have a mix of native and non native teachers which is great as you can get ideas from each other, we respect the different strengths we have. Having said that students still want native speaker teachers despite the fact that it isn't always in their best interests. I teach an elementary student, I often think he'd progress more if his teacher could speak Polish – but he specifically requested a native speaker. There does seem to be this idea that somehow we're “better” – but that's not always true. I think that good teachers are aware of their weaknesses, reflect on what they do and seek help from people who are more skilled so they can develop – being a native speaker doesn't automatically make me a good teacher. I hope that students begin to realise this and that employers judge teachers on their ability not on where their passport is from.

  21. Elena Matveeva says:

    I reallu enjoyed this post. In the language school where I'm currently teaching we have a native English speaker teacher and sevetal NNESTs. I still see the prejudice which mostly come from the head of our sschool. Students though sometimes choose NNEST over NEST. So I guess students have their own opinion and they understand how they can benefit from NNEST and from NEST. I think a combinayion is the best choice. I really appreciate the opinion of our NEST comcerning the usage of English. It's fun to exchange experience and opinions. I am grateful to NEST who, same as James here, showed me the benefits of being NNEST and gave me ideas of how to use these advantagfes:-)

  22. Sharon Hartle says:

    Well written article James, 🙂 and I hope a lot of people share it because you are absolutely right the more we talk about these things and make the problem “visible” to people the more awareness there will be and then slowly, perhaps, change will happen. I have to agree with Sandy too though, that you are probably preaching mostly to the conversted here. In my university in Verona, we have one or two bilingual teachers but they cannot really be described as NNESTs as they were born in Canada, or travelled extensivley. Until recently that was it! Everyone else was a NEST. In the last two years though things have started to change and we now have two NNEST members of staff, so this is a step, perhaps in the right direction.

    Ultimately, however, I believe that the discussion goes beyond the NEST NNEST debate, which is obviously important when considering teaching from the cultural viewpoint. Whether s teacher is NEST or NNEST the important thing IMHO is that the teacher is a good, sensitive teacher who is open to cultural matters and who is aware of what it means to teach and learn a 2nd language, and unfortunately I'm not sure the pre service training courses always take this into consideration. many of the NNEST trainees do not speak a 2nd language and courses like the CELTA seem to have abolished the “foreign language lesson” that used to feature at the beginning, which gave trainees some insight into how it feels to come up against another language, and for many is still memorable years after they did their course. I still think the CELTA is an excellent pre service course, however, for other reasons, but training is key whatever type of teacher you are.

  23. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    I also believe that a mix of NESTs and NNESTs makes for a great staffroom atmosphere. It's always nice to exchange ideas and help each other out.
    I agree with both of you, James and Marjorie. As a teacher I think it's quite important to try learning a language yourself. Whether you succeed or not, you'll learn how it feels to be struggling with new words/grammar, make mistakes, etc. This knowledge can be really helpful in the class I'd say.
    Elena – as you point out, various studies have proven that students actually appreciate a lot being taught by NESTs and NNESTs. Other studies have shown that learners who have been exposed to both NESTs and NNESTs are very unlikely to value their teachers by their nativeness or lack thereof.

  24. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Dam04,
    Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you feel offended, and I hope more NESTs will as well. The problem is not going to disappear soon, but posts like this are important. Discrimination against NNESTs has been a bit of a dirty secret in TEFL, and it's important we put it in the spotlight and speak out against it.
    I do agree that a more inclusive approach is needed. There's a post about it coming soon, so stay tuned 🙂

  25. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Tyson,
    Thanks for your comment. I've seen the statement TESOL France has issued. It's great to see that large organisations are jumping on the bandwagon. It'd be great if the BC and IH issued similar anti-discrimination statements, but I doubt it's going to happen any time soon.
    Nevertheless, things are definitely changing for the better. The more we discuss the issue, the more we publicise it and criticise it, the more likely it is that schools will adopt more equal hiring policies.
    Keep me posted about TESOL France activities regarding job ads. Would love to hear more about it. It could make an excellent post for this blog if you would like to put something together 🙂
    Cheers

  26. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Sandy,
    Thanks for the comment. I'm glad it didn't disappear the second time round 🙂
    In my opinion the 'market demand' is largely the result of decades of advertising NESTs as the only people who can teach you English, combined with negative experiences with local teachers in public schools. Prejudices takes second to form, but years to eradicate. Although it might be difficult, the Academic Staff should inform the clients about the traits and qualifications of good teachers, as well as the fact that being a NEST doesn't make you a better or a worse teacher. Following the market demand is a very short-term policy in my opinion. Most students are not informed clients. They don't know how to learn, or what makes a good teacher. That's why they come to us. I wrote a post about it here: http://teflequityadvocates.blogspot.com/2014/05/only-nests-can-provide-good-language.html
    Let me know if you'd ever like to write a post for this blog, Sandy. Would be great to hear what you have to say about the issue 🙂
    Cheers,

    Marek

  27. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I guess both you and Sandy are right in that we're preaching mostly to the converted. However, we're getting the message out there and hopefully it'll reach the unconverted too, and at least make them think 🙂
    I definitely agree with you that there are many other equally important factors that make a teacher a good one. It's sad that nativeness, or even just language proficiency, has been given so much more prominence than, for example qualifications, experience, etc. Being a teacher is so much more than just knowing the language!
    Let's hope that with this blog, and more posts from people like James, we can persuade more recruiters to adopt more equal hiring practices 🙂

  28. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Thanks for your comment, Anonymous.
    I think the DoS has the responsibility to explain to the student what actually makes a good teacher. Succumbing to the market demand is a good short term strategy. It might even bring more students. But in the long run, the more experienced the students become, and the more exposure they have to NESTs and NNESTs, the more they'll start to appreciate that being a good teacher has nothing to do with your birth certificate.
    Where in Poland do you work?

  29. Carmen Arias Blazquez says:

    Vey good article James, and thanks Marek for its publication. Being a NNSET for a long time in a small community in my country , I should tell you that prejudice is mostly spoken out loud not from students but from people who have never attempted to learn a foreign language ( mostly students parents ) . In my school there is perfect harmony between us NN and our American Language Assistant, Julia , we learn from each other and most aspects you deal with in your article run naturally together , and students get the best from each approach .
    I wonder if you wouldn´t mind my sharing your article in my blog? I think it is about time this point of view is widely spread.

    Thank you again!

  30. justawordinthegrandstory says:

    Great post! I totally agree, and what's more {sorry if someone else already commented this} . . . NNEST always have to be qualified in order to get a job. I had some great NNEST friends that were awesome teachers because they had actually studied the discipline. I get frustrated when we NESTs are just given a job because of our birth certificate and native language, when we may not be qualified at all. I completely agree with James on the, I appreciate the advantage I have, but I don't want to just be given a job because I am American, I want to be given a job because I am the best candidate for that job, and I am going to best help those students!

  31. Unknown says:

    I'm a NNEST and I find your post quite similar to everything I say to my NES employers 🙂 When it comes to hiring I've never experienced unfair treatment – I'm qualified enough, so that's the good thing.
    However, the problem I see is that NESTs usually get more advanced levels, and we get the levels up to intermediate. I understand the idea, but not many people realize that lower levels need a native speaker to start their education with proper pronunciation and – the most important thing – ability to communicate with someone who doesn't speak their native language. When it comes to more proficient students I've observed some cases where the NESTs communicate with them more fluently, but they don't adjust vocabulary to more complex.
    The summer school I work with offers a great solution – they pair two teachers for a group, NEST and NNEST and it works just fine 🙂

  32. Isabela says:

    Dear James, what a great post. You really tapped into the crucial aspects regarding the native speaker fallacy that some say are dead (usually native speakers) and others are sure it isn't (the non-native ones). In the institution where I work, being native is not considered advantageous either by students or leaders. However, in Brazil as a whole it is considered so, unfortunately. I know of an initiative with public school teachers having conversation classes with a native speaker with no qualifications at all, just because he is a native speaker. BTW, I'm interviewer for the nnest-of-the-month blog, part of TESOL's NNEST Interest Section, and would be interested in expanding this topic in an interview with you. Would you be available? I think we have an opening in August or September. Let me know and I'll get in touch with further details. My e-mail is isabela.villasboas@thomas.org.br
    Once again, congratulations on our great post.

  33. Living in Barcelona says:

    You were very courageous to talk about a complex issue. You had faced the Brazilian mentality, which is so cruel sometimes with experienced and qualified teachers who are not native speakers, and how tough it is. And another point, the hardest part of being a Native speaker in another country, in my case Spanish, I feel so insecure teaching Spanish, but many people still believe that I can, and all the time I have to be rude to them and say it NO! I can't. Once, again Congrats for being courageous and share with us your point of view!

  34. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Carmen,
    This article had to be published. It was just to good to be kept off-line 🙂
    This is the most frustrating thing! Obviously, if you've never tried or have utterly failed at learning a foreign language, then you will think it's mission impossible to become proficient. Therefore, you will conclude that only NESTs can really know the language. I've also found that such people are the quickest to doubt that NNESTs can be good teachers. Those who know the most about the profession and learning languages, are the least likely to discriminate or be prejudiced against NNESTs.
    I'm glad there's “perfect harmony” in your school, as you nicely put it 🙂 There's a lot the two groups can learn from each other.
    I don't mind your sharing, and I'm sure James doesn't either. Please reference this blog as the source, though, as well as James as the author.
    If you ever feel like writing a post for this blog, drop me a line: marek_kiczkowiak@hotmail.com We're always looking for new contributors 🙂
    Best,

    Marek

  35. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Thanks for your comment.
    Yes, it is very frustrating, though, fortunately, things are changing for the better. I totally agree with you and James – I'd never want to be given a job just because I'm Polish. I'd much rather be given it because I'm more qualified to do the job than the other candidates.

  36. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Thanks for your comment.
    I can't see why NNESTs and NESTs should be given different levels to teach because of their nativeness or lack thereof. It's degrading and humiliating to be told that you are only good enough to teach up to intermediate. I think there are benefits of having different teachers, regardless of the level and the teachers' nationality, because students will get exposure to different, for example teaching styles and accents.
    Having a NEST as a teacher on a low level can actually make things more difficult for students, especially if the teacher is not very experienced. Take a look what Sandy Millin wrote above: “In fact, I've met some native speaker teachers who would actually cause her more problems at this level, especially when newly-qualified, because they don't really understand what they're teaching. I would count myself in that group a few years ago. Yes, she would be getting exposure to a native speaker, but so what? She can do that on the internet, by watching films, and more, and she's highly unlikely to need it much here. Instead, she's much more likely to need to speak to other non-natives through English.”
    Pairing NESTs and NNESTs to teach one group is a great idea, as long as both are given equal opportunities and tasks 🙂
    What do you think?

  37. eef says:

    Thanks, James, I really loved your post. It's great to see how your article triggered such openness of different teachers, whether they are native speakers or non native speakers. You have definitely encouraged us non- native teachers. It's reassuring to feel that we don't have to be different or have to hide our non-Englishness. This mentality change will help us to love our subject even more and will force us to push the boundaries of what English can actually mean in our own culture.

  38. Ken Lackman says:

    Very good points, James. I do agree with you and I have always felt that NNESTs have certain distinct advantages. Most importantly, I think, NNESTs understand the difficulties learners have in acquiring the language. And they certainly start with a much better understanding of English grammar than the average NEST. It often takes years for a NEST to catch up to them. However, as a firm believer in the Lexical Approach, I think that it's the reverse for lexically-based teaching. The average NEST starts with a lexical awareness that would take the average NNEST years to gain. The bottom line, I guess, is that each has different strengths and neither is superior so why don't we learn from each other!

  39. theteacherjames.com says:

    Hi Ratna,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree that unfortunately this is going to take a long time. You need to look at other examples of prejudice to see that progress is rarely quick (there are still countries where women can't vote, for example). This may not sound encouraging, but as a friend shared on Facebook, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (person!!) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she!!) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert F. Kennedy

    So let's keep rippling!

  40. theteacherjames.com says:

    Thanks for your comment Sharon, and I agree with a lot of what you say. I just want to address the 'preaching to the converted' aspect. In the sense that this post is largely going to be by read by NNEST's who will agree and NEST's who have worked with many great non-native teachers and will also agree, you're right. But let's not forget that there will be many NNEST's who will read this who haven't heard this message before. We've already seen that with the comments above and on the Teaching English – British Council page.

    That's the great thing about this blog. It gives NNEST's an opportunity to see that they are not alone and that they are equal to anyone else in their field. So in this sense they are the 'unconverted', the ones who need to realise their own worth and refuse to accept prejudice anymore.

  41. theteacherjames.com says:

    Hi Isabela. Many thanks for your comment. As you say, in Brazil there are many great schools where this is not an issue, but it definitely a wider problem as shown by the programme you describe.

    I'm more than happy to be interviewed by you, I'll be in touch.

  42. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head there, James. And we're also getting the message out there, for example on FB BC page, which might also be read (and has been) by some people who disagree with us.
    The more we talk about it, and the more noise we make, the better I think 🙂

  43. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Ken and James – stay tuned, because there's a post coming out soon which argues against approaching the problem of discrimination in terms of NEST and NNEST strengths and weaknesses. You'll have a good chance to argue your case 🙂

  44. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Definitely will! Keep in touch, Jon and drop me a line if you'd like to write a guest post for the blog here. A NNEST recruiter perspective in CR would be very interesting 🙂

  45. David Deubelbeiss says:

    I'm all for a meritocracy. How well you skillfully teach and take on the demands and joys of teaching. However, after reading your post, I found myself wondering if paradoxically by listing all the ways NNESTs are better or more capable than NESTs, you aren't perpetuating the dichotomy/myth/stereotype?

    What I'm saying is that we are all equal and any teacher of any ilk can provide the skill set you mentioned. None of them are unique to NNESTs or NESs. Truly. I have been in many classrooms where the NEST knew more about the challenges faced by the students vis a vis their L1 than did the NNEST. And that's the most obvious “myth”.

    I think we should just talk and begin a dialogue based on “teacher”. Wipe the slate clean and stop making generalizations for or against the other.

  46. Nu says:

    Great post, James! I'm a Costa Rican EFL professor at UNA and I'm always interested in learning more from NEST/NNEST-related issues. I loved reading what you had to say about the common native speaker fallacy, especially because you're a native speaker yourself. It's really unfair how we non-native English speaking teachers might sometimes be discriminated against in our own countries.

    I experienced that about 12 years ago at a famous language school in my own country; they told me they only hired native speakers of English…and they still do! That's their policy! So, we NNESTs don't even have to go abroad to experience these unfair hiring practices. I think it's wonderful, and very necessary, for all teachers, students and employers to be informed of the NEST/NNEST issue, and it's our responsibility as either native or non-native speaking teachers to create awareness on this.

    I'd like to share an article I wrote about this topic; it's called “Insights towards Native and Non-native ELT Educators”. Here's the link: http://revistes.uab.cat/jtl3/article/view/325
    I wrote another article about this issue, but regarding other languages besides English. It'll soon be published. I'll share it with you once it's available. Thank you for advocating equal practices in the ESL/EFL field!

  47. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi David,
    You hit the nail right on the head and spotted the main criticism of the approach (perpetuating the dichotomy) James took in his article which in essence is the one Peter Medgyes has been advocating over the years. Actually, there's another article coming out soon on this blog where the author's going to argue what you hinted at in your comment, i.e. a more inclusive approach to the problem of discrimination.
    Personally, I think that listing the advantages of NNESTs has had a very positive influence as it allowed many of us to look at the bright side of things, and try to break away from the feeling of inferiority and mediocrity It gave many NNESTs a lot of self-confidence.
    Having said that, I also think this approach perpetuates the divide between the two groups. It's main weakness in my opinion is that it is based on stereotyping and labelling people, and I believe a more inclusive approach is needed, which will view all teachers as, well, teachers! I'd like to see the words native and non-native speaker in job ads be substituted for proficient speakers, or something along these lines.
    Nevertheless, I do think that we're all essentially in the same boat, because discrimination in TEFL affects all of us in one way or another, and so any approach to fighting against prejudice should be encouraged. So once again, thanks for writing the article, James, and I hope there will be more posts from you coming in the near future.

  48. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Nu,
    Thanks for your comment.
    It is indeed really unfair, but that's why I've set up the blog and asked passionate teachers like James to collaborate and speak out against the discrimination. The more we talk about and against it, the more likely it is that the future will be a bit more egalitarian.
    I think I actually might now which school in CR you mean. I went for an interview with them, and was shocked by the absolute lack of qualifications of most prospective teachers – of course, apart from the fact they were NESTs and mostly American. They did offer me a job, but I'm really glad I didn't take it. Centro Cultural Britanico, where James works now, and where we met, was a much better choice 🙂
    Please do let us know when the article is out. If you'd like to write something for the blog, drop me a line: marek_kiczkowiak@hotmail.com

  49. Nu says:

    Well, the school I meant does require native speakers to have some sort of certification for teaching English, but still, you can't compare someone who prepared him/herself for a few months (sometimes even one!) in the difficult task of teaching a language with someone who has studied for years and has experience in it. And this doesn't have anything to do with being native or not. When hiring, employers should take into account proficiency and qualifications, not nativeness because the term “native” is even difficult to determine. There are many people who were born in a certain country, but then were raised in another one. I wish all people understood that writing about non-native speaking teachers' strengths and discriminating hiring practices towards them doesn't mean we're saying they're better, we're just creating awareness on it. Nobody can't deny the native speaker fallacy…it exists, everywhere. That's why talking about this issue is so necessary! Of course both, NESTs and NNESTs, can be good because of the different strengths we have. Being native speakers of a language doesn't automatically make us be able to teach it. This is what we should reflect on.

  50. Nick Michelioudakis says:

    A very interesting thread indeed. I have to say I really liked James’ post, both because it has a positive orientation and because he is not afraid to call a spade a spade – ‘the industry is set up in NESTs’ favour’. Only this somehow might be taken to imply that someone has set it up in this way and I don’t think this is what James means. Perhaps it might be better if we said that ‘the playing field is not level’ – but then some might think that NESTs are ‘playing’ against NNESTs and I am sure this is not what James means. IMO a simple way of saying what most colleagues would agree on, is that when it comes to work NNESTs are at a disadvantage.
    As I see it, there are striking parallels between the status of NNESTs and women in the workplace. I do not think there is any ‘grand conspiracy’ against women and the law (in Western societies at any rate) is fair as far as I know. Yet if we look at numbers, few would say that full equality has been achieved. On average, women still get less money for the same work and of course they are clearly underrepresented in positions of power. And what about ELT? In Greece, women make up 80% or more of ELTs, yet when it comes to Professional Development events for instance, we notice that sometimes the ratio of men to women speakers can be 50% – or worse. The higher up you go, the more men you find. This year, was a good case in point – at least in the TESOL GR Convention. Out of the five plenary speakers, four were male! Nor is this just the case in Greece; out of curiosity, I once picked up two ELT handbooks from my shelf (one published by OUP and another by CUP) and looked at the writers in the ‘Other titles’ list. Here is what I found: OUP: 24 M vs 20 W – CUP: 34 M vs 12 W. No comments…
    I would like to argue that this is exactly the case with NNESTs. In my experience there is no animosity at all between NNESTs and NESTs; indeed, I would go so far as to say that we hardly see each other as belonging to one or the other group. We get along fine, we swap ideas and gossip and we are happy to buy each other a round (or more as the case might be) if we happen to go out for drinks. However this does not mean that the two groups enjoy equal status. Ceteris paribus, a DOS who has to choose between a NEST and a NNEST, will normally go for the former (this is almost the ‘default’ option). The more prestigious the post and the higher up you go, the fewer NNESTs you find. E.g. although NNESTs are (naturally perhaps) underrepresented among Oral Examiners, when we move to a higher rung (e.g. Team Leaders) there are even less of them. In the last three TESOL GR Conventions, the ratio of NESTs to NNESTs was 3 to 2. Could it be that this is only the case in Greece? Well, here is a simple experiment you can try for yourselves: go to your bookcase and look at your ELT handbooks. How many of them have been written by NNESTs? Does this ratio have anything to do with the ratio of NESTs and NNESTs in the real world?
    Tessa Woodword recently launched the ‘Fair List’ Initiative in an attempt to raise people’s awareness of the fact that we still have some way to go towards gender equality – even in our (very PC) ELT world. Isn’t it about time we had something similar for NNESTs as well?

  51. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Silvers,
    I do too 🙂 I think we need a more inclusive approach that will treat all teachers as, well, teachers. I'd love to do away with the 'n' word all together, at least as far as teaching is concerned.
    And as I said, there's a post coming soon which will discuss exactly that. So stay tuned!
    Cheers,

  52. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Nu,
    Thanks for your reply.
    I totally agree. I wish all employers judged prospective teachers on the basis of their qualifications, experience and language proficiency. And mind you – the latter should not be treated as the most important one which can make or break a teacher as it often is these days. I am puzzled when a teacher is turned down just because they have a tinge of a foreign accent for example. We ALL have an accent, natives and non-natives alike. And teaching is about much more than how proficient you are in a language.
    Again, I couldn't agree more. It's very important to stress, as you did, that by exposing the discrimination, we are not saying that NNESTs are better, or that they should be employed indiscriminately. The NNEST movement is about equal treatment of all teachers, regardless of their nationality, and I think the ultimate goal is that in the future teachers will be recruited solely based on the content of their CVs, not their passports.

  53. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Nick,
    Great comment, thanks a lot.
    I totally agree with you. At least in my experience, I think there's no (or very, very little) animosity between NESTs and NNESTs. It's probably because most teachers will agree that being a NEST or not has little influence per se on your teaching abilities.
    The problem in my opinion are the recruiters who give in to the 'market demand', i.e. my sts want and need to have NS as teachers. There's also a lot of pressure from parents in many countries that their children are taught by NESTs.
    I'd also say that we need more statements like the one from TESOL France, or TESOl Global, condemning discrimination of NNESTs and urging the member schools to adopt equal hiring policies. I'd love to see such a statement coming from the BC or the IH.
    Tessa's idea sounds briliant. Could do something similar for NNESTs. On our FB page (Budapest nNEST) we started compiling a list of NNEST-friendly schools, but we haven't got very far 😉 I could see the use, though, of having a black list, i.e. a list of schools who regularly break EU law by employing only native speakers 🙂
    What do you think? How could I contact Tessa?
    Cheers

  54. Silvers says:

    I agree with Nick's very detailed analysis – cool, balanced and very precise.

    Yet, I have something (or a lot) to add regarding the gender issue – and perhaps this is my cue to write an article about gender issues in future.

    There may be no 'conspiracy' against women in ELT itself, but there is a wider conspiracy that feeds into ELT eventually – and that is patriarchy in all it's shapes and forms the world over.

    For a woman to succeed in the patriarchal world she has to deny her own nature to varying degrees.

    Personally speaking, any man my age in this business has a twelve year advantage over me.

    That's because I have four kids and have literally spent four years of my life breastfeeding alone – 24 hours a day, and the other 8 years being a full-time mother – (and what is part-time anyway? – it's absurd and doesn't exist). That was my choice, but a choice I wanted to make and had to make.

    What if society revolved around the hand that rocks the cradle? What if the years women invested in child-rearing were rewarded at later stages in their careers?

    What if educational institutions realised that the hours spent breastfeeding and telling stories to babies, toddlers and children could do far more for later academic success than anything else – any school or any system – what then??

    What if women weren't forced by society to stop breast-feeding just so they could act like men and deny their own nature in the patriarchal world of business just to put bread on the table?

    When feminists won freedom for women – it was a dubious freedom – because it was still within a patriarchal system and women had to behave more like men to be considered equal.

    This may be going far off topic – but this IS the real gender issue..!!

  55. laurapatsko says:

    Great stuff, James & Marek. Also happy to see the very long list of contributions from teachers worldwide who care about these issues. Prejudice and discrimination take time to overcome, but those of us commenting here clearly feel that it can be done. For my part, I'm very proud to work in a school in London (a city where so many people insist that NESTs are what students come for) which hires teachers for being good teachers, regardless of their first language.
    Laura

  56. Nick Michelioudakis says:

    Thank you for your kind words Sylvia. 🙂 You are right of course that society has to do something to redress the balance here… There is no doubt that the odds are (still) stacked against women, but as you said there is a risk here that we might go off at a tangent… I think this is the case of 'systemic discrimination' (and I think that this is also the case with NNESTs); people may be at a disadvantage without someone deliberately trying to discriminate against them. I actually have a personal experience of such a thing myself which I will share at some other point…

  57. Nick Michelioudakis says:

    Thank you for your kind words Marek.Of course I know what you mean when you say 'market demand'. A colleague of mine once shared a fascinating story with me which perfectly illustrates this point. I think it is well worth sharing – I will send it to you at some point. Going back to your comment, I think it is not just the recruiters; I think that this 'halo effect' that NESTs have can also be seen in the ELT world – it is not something conscious; it is just that a NNEST will have to work a lot harder to be taken seriously – exactly as James says in the original post. And of course we can certainly take a leaf out of Tessa's book… Notice btw, that Tessa focuses on the positive; she doesn't have a 'black list'; instead she has the 'fair list' – here is a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8QTCxdIhI0&hd=1
    Hope we'll have the chance to exchange more views and stories on this subject.
    Cheers,
    N

  58. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Nick,
    Thanks for a very thoughtful reply.
    You're definitely right about the 'halo effect'. It also might be due to the fact that for years NESTs were advertised by schools as the ultimate solution to learning English. There were very few well-qualified and proficient NNESTs in the business, which ultimately led the students to think that NEST really are their only option to learn English. This has been changing in the last decade or so, but prejudices, once formed, take a long time to disappear. The more the students are exposed to NNESTs, the less likely they are to discriminate against them I think.
    I'll watch the video, thanks for sending it.
    I'm also looking forward to discussing the subject more with you in the future 🙂
    Best,

    Marek

  59. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Laurapatsko,
    Thanks for commenting.
    I'm also extremely happy with the response this post has received. It just shows that the movement for equality in TEFL is getting stronger, making me feel confident that things will indeed change 🙂
    Great to hear about the school in London. Do you think you (or any of your colleagues from the school) could write a post about it for this blog? It would be great to let people know that there are many schools that do not discriminate against NNESTs, and that it is not exactly true that students want NESTs, but rather that they appreciate good teachers, regardless of where they're from. What do you think? Send me an email and we could discuss the idea further: marek_kiczkowiak@hotmail.com
    Best,

    Marek

  60. James Taylor says:

    Essentially David, I agree with your comment and would also like to see us move away from having to point out the differences between NEST's and NNEST's, positive or negative. But I think in order to do this, it's necessary to point out the ridiculousness of it, and level the playing field somewhat.

    I don't entirely agree that “any teacher of any ilk can provide the skill set (I) mentioned” as I think we'll always have strengths and weaknesses, but I do think that it doesn't really matter as long as we're all 'good teachers' (an impossible vague descriptor, I know).

    As Marek says above, the concept behind this article was not to say that NNEST's are better than NEST's, but to encourage them to believe that they are peers on an equal footing. Once people accept this, we can move away from having to make the kind of generalisations that I make in this post.

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      Hi Laura,
      I’m glad you liked James’ post.
      They are indeed, but things are slowly getting better. There’s also plenty each of us can do to help. James wrote another great post on this blog entitled Get involved.
      Where do you teach, Laura?
      Best,
      Marek

  61. Laura Tommaso says:

    Hi Marek, thanks for your reply. I teach at the University of Molise in Italy and took CELTA in New York in 2012.
    In my recent article written in collaboration with Massimo Verzella in Changing English (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1358684X.2014.968469#.VKgnvNKG8io), we address some of these issues from a learner perspective. We think that the notion of language variation (and its correlation with cross-communication studies) presents a number of challenges for current English teachers and learners. As a Non-Native teacher I do my best to implement tasks which enable students to become aware of the diversity in the English-speaking world and beyond. My impression of the Italian context is that in a market-driven world what the learner-customer wants seems to hold a bit more sway than what the customer needs…In addition, although EFL teachers have showed a growing interest in English as a Lingua Franca, they often fall back to a conservative position when it comes to select reference models and practices.

  62. Amparo Mestre says:

    I’m Spanish and I took my Trinity TELF a year ago. I’m glad to hear a native speaker asserting that non-native speaker teachers are becoming better valued, as I find it really difficult to compete with many other people who are teaching in Spain, just because, they are English. No qualification needed. I have to say that I admire most of the well-qualified native teachers that I’ve had, but in this country, at least, there’s a still a lot to do.

    • James Taylor says:

      Thanks Amparo for your comment. I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you to be in this situation, which is why people like me have to say something. We benefit from it so we have a responsibility to try and make it better. Good luck to you!

  63. Slovak Chamber of English Teachers says:

    Reblogged this on Stop Complaining – Enjoy Teaching! and commented:
    James Taylor is a British English teacher in Costa Rico. TEFL Equity Advocates is a blog created “to speak out against the discrimination of non-native English speaker teachers (NNESTs) in TEFL/TESL industry.” How many times have we seen schools (even our own) post ads for native English speakers (NESTs) only? How fair is that to those in the ELT profession who are non-native speakers (NNESTs) but excellent teachers? In this post from last year, James writes about just this issue.

  64. Null & Full (@NullNFull) says:

    I enjoyed reading this article very much. Especially, that I am a non native speaker and I run my travel blog in English. It is sometimes a real struggle but I agree with what you said in this article James, about far better understanding of other learners and non native writers who go through what I went through. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
    Agata

  65. kanguruo says:

    Native English speakers can easily find a job abroad as so many people are very keen to improve their English. And it is true that a native speaker often can’t explain well why something is said that way, for him it is natural, that’s how he heard it all his life. For a more egalitarian society, I think that a national language shouldn’t be used as an international language, we need a language that is no one’s native language and we need a language that can be learnt in a reasonable amount of time, therefore the language needs to have a phonetic spelling, grammar rules with no exceptions, etc. That language already exists and is called Esperanto. A new course has just been released on Duolingo’s website. Thousands of people are now learning Esperanto thanks to that course. Have you done some recent research about Esperanto?

  66. Roli Thaler says:

    That was a very interesting read, thank you! I had to do research on this topic for an argumentative essay we have to write for university (also studying to become a teacher, a NNEST that is).

  67. Vi Thai says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. It’s a great outlook. For a long time I have always felt ashamed of myself for not being a native English teacher who wants to teach English. Your message is powerful, and helps me to understand my worth. And I just wish there will be more fairness in this society, especially in Asia.

    • Gerardo Rivera says:

      Sorry to hear you feel this way. There is no need to feel ashamed for not being a native English teacher. You write/communicate in English perfectly well. It is the system which is unfair. I, too, wish it was based on merit or qualifications rather than appearance.

  68. Emm Halliday says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I am a NEST and a language learner. Above and beyond all my teaching training courses, learning a language has developed me as a teacher. All NNESTs have learned English, usually to a very high level. This gives them huge advantages over me as an English teacher in terms of understanding the language and empathy with their learners. In the best school I worked, teachers tandemed classes with a NNEST. This offered both teachers and students the best learning environment.

  69. Louise Nick says:

    Thank you so very much for this article. I am happy to see that attitudes are finally changing, emphasizing clear pronunciation and correct speech over native accents.The tide is indeed turning.
    I teach mainly German and some English in Spain. While I do get hired for some English teaching jobs, it is usually by Spanish employers. These employers also usually apologize for not being able to offer me regular academic or intensive courses at their schools, because their clients demand native speakers. Your article can help educate the public in what should truly count in the art of teaching English.

  70. Monica Birchall says:

    Dear James Taylor, thanks a lot for the nice and wise words. As a NNEST, I gave me pleasure and satisfaction observing my values through the eyes of a native teacher. This syndrome of valuing less than native speakers teachers always haunted me. Your article made me reflect on my value something I have never thought before.

  71. Gerardo Rivera says:

    Hi James. Thank you for your article. I feel validated as someone who is not Caucasian yet can speak English perfectly well. I am interested in teaching ESL around the world but my concern is I will not find a job (or will have a difficult time) because of my name and appearance (I am of Mexican descent but was born in the US). I earned my BA degree, M.Ed., and TEFL certification.

  72. Giulia says:

    Thanks for the interesting article James, it is great that some NESTs raise their voice for this important cause.

    However, as a non-native teacher I have to disagree on some of the points you make. I have native-speaker colleagues who know Italian (my first language) as well as I do and who have been living here for years so have a deep understanding of our culture and environment. So many of the points you make wouldn’t apply to them. They are great teacher, as some of my Italian colleagues are.

    I prefer to avoid the “I’m better than you” mentality and think we all have strengths and weaknesses as teachers, no matter what out L1 is. 🙂

  73. Simon Greenall says:

    Very elegant and thoughtful article, and so helpful for you to express your views. Hope you’ve had a chance to look at the new edition of Medgyes Peter’s The Non-native Teacher, which supports everything you say.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *