Talk to the expert: interview with Duncan Foord

Photo under Creative Commons from. changes mine: https://flic.kr/p/9WSu

Photo under Creative Commons from. changes mine: https://flic.kr/p/9WSu

Duncan Foord is the co-founder of Oxford House, a language school and TESOL training institution established in 1998, which has centres in Prague and Barcelona. He is the director of the school in Barcelona. Oxford House teacher training courses include both the TESOL Cert. and DipTESOL, while in the language schools they teach a variety of adults and YLs, studying General English, as well as for Cambridge ESOL exams and Business English.

I was first approached by Sinead Laffan, who works in the school in Prague, and who was very keen on giving the company’s backing to TEFL Equity Advocates campaign. The problem of discrimination of nNESTs is important to both Sinead and Duncan, because a lot of the participants and graduates of the Teacher Training courses are non-native. Many of them often come across advertisements which specify that the candidate must be a native speaker, and the school has been doing its best to support equal employment rights for nNESTs.

As can be seen from Oxford House’s website, a lot of their teachers are nNESTs. However, it is commonly assumed by many language schools that in order to be successful, you need to hire NESTs, because this is what the student demand. This stereotype is especially strong in countries such as Spain, Hungary, or Poland, where for many years in the past many local English teachers did not speak very good English. As a result, the word non-native speaker became associated by many students with low quality of teaching. On the other hand, a native speaker guaranteed at least a good level of English. The very same fact was pointed out by Steve Oakes in this interview.

However, this is of course no longer the case nowadays. All teachers who finish the Trinity Cert. or an equivalent are at a C2 level, that is their English is as good as a native speaker’s. Despite the market demand that many recruiters refer to, Duncan has never heard a single complaint from any student about their teacher being a nNEST, which while to some might be surprising, shows that you can run a successful school without resorting to discriminating nNESTs.

Having said that, I wanted to know whether Duncan thought the school could be any more successful if they only employed NESTs. And this is the first question I asked him in the interview.

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6 thoughts on “Talk to the expert: interview with Duncan Foord

  1. Nicky Sekino says:

    Thank you very much for addressing this important issue. Yes, please add Japan to the list of countries that prefer (blindly) native speakers of English as teachers. Actually, native speakers of English is a loosely defined term. Someone who is adapted to a couple whose mother tongues are English can be a native speaker of English, or can be a speaker of his or her mother tongue. So, in the sense of phonetics and phonology, the term native speaker requires serious discussions to define, and conclusions may not exist. Maybe the topic is more suited to sociological and political discussions.

    – Nicky Sekino

  2. Wagner Felix says:

    It seems that people in most cases are really prejudiced or bigoted in their own way of thinking.
    I’ve been planning to live in Canada and my main concern is employability for two reasons: the first is that I’m not a native speaker and the second is the demand for a degree in anything that you can think of, or the amount of requirements which are beyond reach. Moreover, the hourly rate is something to be laughed at.
    I’ve been working as an English teacher in Brazil for 3 years, and none of the requirements listed above were taken into consideration as a dismissal of my application at the schools I have worked for.
    My students really like my classes and I’m always practicing different approaches, not to mention the courses I’m planning on taking in the foreseeable future.
    I believe that if you have a qualification in teaching such as a CELTA, you can be considered a good professional to be hired. Whilst, we teachers must prove everyday that we want to do a good job, regardless of your background.

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      Hi Felix,
      Thanks for writing. Would be interesting to hear more about the EFL job market in Brasil (drop me a line if you’d like to write a post about it).
      Check if being required to be a native speaker is not illegal in Canada as it is in the EU. It’s important to know your rights. I can also put you in touch with a friend who works in a good language school in Toronto that employs both NESTs and nNESTs.
      Why were you dismissed?
      Best,
      Marek

      • Wagner Felix says:

        Hi Marek,

        It would great to write something for you in your blog 🙂
        I’d really appreciate if you could put me in touch with your friend. Next year, I’m living in Canada, but first I need a job as a teacher, because I don’t see myself doing anything else.
        I haven’t been dismissed yet, because I haven’t sent my CV to any of the job vacancies that are available. However, I see that most of them ask teachers for degrees, MAs or nativity, which don’t really make any room for teaching a foreign language. Are we smarter because of a Ph.d or a degree in engineering?
        I don’t think so.
        Thank you for your reply.

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