After 2016 trust native speakers less – by Wiktor Kostrzewski

[note from the editor: please note that the views expressed in this post are controversial. As the author of the post stated in the comments section, TEFL Equity initiative does not subscribe to all the author’s views, and the message (as well as its intentions) was the author’s and the author’s alone. You can read a rebuttal of this post posted shortly after this article on TEFL Equity blog here]

1. British English can no longer serve as an optimal, reasonable model of English language use. Not after the Brexit campaign, fuelled by lies, racism, culminating in deaths of a British MP and a Polish migrant. The Leave campaigns used British English to make false promises, mis-represent facts (to the point of possibly risking criminal litigation), and divide British people – and they won. The Remain campaign failed to engage on any level beyond fear – and it lost.

2. American English can no longer serve as an optimal, reasonable model of English language use. Not after Trump. His presidential campaign “took relentless aim at institutions and ideals”, presented a pessimistic, polarising vision of America, steered clear of facts, policies or rational arguments – and it won. The Clinton campaign failed to engage people whose momentum was felt in the Democratic Party with Sanders still in the running – and it lost.

3. It used to be enough for an English teacher to be a native speaker, to be fortunate enough to have been born and raised with British or American English. In the current transition phase, with all else (qualifications, proficiency tests) being equal, native speakers are still given the benefit of the doubt due to their “idiomatic” control of the language (officially) or due to the “demands of the student market”. After 2016, over 80% of all native speakers of English will be citizens of countries where their language was used – on a long-term, wide-ranging, nationwide, sometimes global level – to disastrous ends.

4. British and American English native speakers did not consciously, formally learn their languages. They did not grow up having to analyse, question, experiment with the medium – or the message. They were not expected to look closely at what their languages are built of – how they function – what they do to people. This has long been evident in every English language school, where multi-lingual teachers have been known to excel at teaching what they had critically, consciously, diligently learned. Native speakers held on – perhaps rightly so – to their own capacity for “everyday speech” – to their ability to produce and model the language “as it’s really spoken”.

5. This “everyday speech” is no longer sufficient. English “as it’s spoken” is no longer the best option. Not after 2016 and native speakers’ overall, repeated, global failure to do what multi-lingual speakers have trained so hard to do: see through the medium, follow-up, fact-check, demand evidence, think critically. Not after the “word on the street” and the “locker room banter” was used to mislead, pivot, obscure and demean – and still win.

6. Native speaker English will not suffice in the future, simply because English will not belong to native speakers any more. Today’s Englishes morph, mutate, thrive or die – quite independently of stale, pale, and male ideas about “good” or “bad” language. This would have happened even without the 2016 debacles. But after this year, the native speaker “authority” is eroded even further – linguistically, socio-politically and economically. Simply put, no British or American person teaching English after 2016 can claim “native” prerogative to decide which language use is “good” or “bad”. Not a Leaver / Republican, who has yet to see the long-term fall-out from their vote. Not a Remainer / Democrat, whose efforts to stop the destructive propaganda on their doorsteps were just proven inadequate. And definitely not the abstainers.

7. Some time ago, I spent 30 minutes staring at an email sent to me by mistake. It was probably a note made during a selection process for the English teaching job I applied for. The email simply said: “Unsuccessful? Non-native. Odd use of language.” I got the official rejection email after thirty minutes. None of the real reasons were mentioned. And by now, none of them matter to me.

8. I know the email got two things right. I am non-native and my use of language is odd. If William Burroughs’ theory of “language as a virus” is to be entertained for a moment – then I have been able to host a mutation of English in my head whilst simultaneously making space for Polish, German, French, Portuguese, Chinese, HTML, Python, XML, proofreading mark-up, slam poetry, haiku, maths, Morse code, emoji…I have never been a carrier of just one language virus. I have never allowed just one language to take over, to settle in, to infuse all thought. Many people have – and in 2016, their countries started to pay the price. My “odd use of language” keeps me sane, creative, and successful. That’s the only thing the email sender got wrong – and it wasn’t just them.

9. You see, I believe that “odd use of language” is what is now needed – it’s what our students (and ourselves) will rely on. From sending people to Mars to sending more girls to schools, from stopping global warming to starting a local book club – every single brave project on earth has just got more difficult, more important, and more complex. Native speaker language has been good at reflecting “the way things are”. Odd use of language – the non-native, multi-lingual capacity to think, speak, act in more than one linguistic dimension – will be the new norm, and the medium through which the new norm will be negotiated and brought about. After Brexit and Trump, British and American Englishes are no longer the norm to aspire to.

10. Should you still hire native speaker teachers? This is no longer a criterion that will ensure success – ask any Celta / Delta trainer. The first prerequisite for a successful teacher should be good awareness of language. Hire and demand people who can use language oddly and appreciate its odd uses; people who know enough about speech, writing, texts and listening to teach today’s language students to think for themselves. If they also happen to be native speakers – great. But after 2016, the traditional native speaker excuses can no longer be treated seriously. Do not trust British or American native speakers to show up in your classrooms just because of their birth certificate. You saw how that worked out. Take Control and Make Schools Great Again.

[note from the editor: please note that the views expressed in this post are controversial. As the author of the post stated in the comments section, TEFL Equity initiative does not subscribe to all the author’s views, and the message (as well as its intentions) was the author’s and the author’s alone. You can read a rebuttal of this post posted shortly after this article on TEFL Equity blog here]

Author’s bio note:

wikthorWiktor Kostrzewski – in past lives, an ELT teacher and DoS, a translator and translator trainer. Currently an editor for an ELT publisher and blogger/schemer on bravelearning.com . After work: cycling, sailing, short stories and slam poetry.

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125 thoughts on “After 2016 trust native speakers less – by Wiktor Kostrzewski

  1. Dan learnercoachingelt says:

    Wiktor, I can’t see why you think the political outcomes of elections in the UK and the US mean we should be more wary of NSs at a professional level. I’m a follower and advocate of the non-native English speaker teacher movement spearheaded by the likes of your good self, Marek and Silvana, and I think the arguments against the prejudice that exists in our industry are plenty strong enough without needing to make contentious, flimsy connections between the move to the right and employment biases. This just makes it easier to argue against. Stick to the facts.

    • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

      Dan,
      Thanks for this and for the work you’re doing.
      I agree that there’s plenty of good professional arguments to make against the prejudice in the industry.
      What I don’t agree with – and what I’m ready to stand by – is refusing to connect the professional and the political. The connection is there, it is experienced daily by many TEFL professionals – if not in the classroom, then in the conversations and practices out in the broader TEFL world.
      If the connection feels “flimsy and contentious” to you right now, then please consider this article as an early warning from a person for whom language, education and politics always go hand in hand. I am still deeply affected by the events of 2016 and anxious about where we go from here.
      Happy to discuss further.

      • Kevin Hodgson says:

        Wiktor,

        While I agree that global politics certainly influences our profession/industry, your own political bias is too strongly stated in your post. The events that you see as disastrous and regressive may be considered necessary and progressive by others, including non-native speakers. When making future arguments, please keep in mind that most of the 7 plus billion people on this planet are neither western liberals nor even European.

        • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

          Kevin,

          On a global level, the UK and the US’ role in affecting the daily lives of many of the 7+ billion people you mentioned is well-researched and well-documented. See Chomsky 2003, just for starters.
          This is continued on a linguistic level – the empires (former or current, economic, cultural, or military) rely on languages just as much as on any other technology. See Phillipson 1992 for how this affects the ELT world.
          So finally, on a personal level – you’re absolutely right to say that I’m politically biased, even if the strength of our statements is a relative thing (as other comments in this section will amply demonstrate). The progressive/regressive debate is real, and it’s actual, and you’re right to say that learners / teachers / employers / publishers will fall on all possible points along the spectrum. But I think that realizing that you (and others) are on that spectrum – and figuring out how this affects the way you learn / teach / employ / publish – is a necessary first step to think about what your contribution and argument does to the work you do. A blog post is, for me, a good tool to explore this.

          Thanks for this comment, it made me think about what I wrote / will write!

          • ESP 1 says:

            Wiktor,

            Thank you for making assumptions about what works I have and have not read. I tried to be polite in my comment, but your reply was arrogant and condecending in tone. However, this does not surprise me, as your article is filled with numerous assumptions lacking any objective support. This movement will progress nowhere if it is highjacked by bigoted rants like this.

      • Noel Chivers says:

        My jaw has just recovered. I have never seen such a subjective political, even racist rant in my TEFL career and this is an EQUALITY site? It will now be deleted from my folders and I will inform all my colleagues why.
        You need to lose the chip on your shoulder and realise what the customers want and not be angry because they want native speakers. I would have agreed with most of what was said but not how you say it.
        I am disgusted actually.

        • TEFL Equity Advocates says:

          Dear Noel,
          Thanks for your comment.
          As I said in a reply to your previous comment, I hope that the rebuttal, as well as the previous posts on this blog and the work TEFL Equity Advocates has been doing, will encourage you to reconsider your decision. You can read the rebuttal here: https://teflequityadvocates.com/2016/12/09/blame-the-idea-not-the-language-by-luke-gaffney/
          As for the customer demand, please take a look at one of my comments above. While it is true to say that some students in some countries do prefer ‘native speakers’, there is absolutely no evidence that the vast majority prefers a ‘native speaker’ regardless of everything else. In fact, numerous studies show that students appreciate ‘non-native speakers’ for how well they teach, and that they value teaching skills much more highly than the teacher’s nativeness.
          Best,
          Marek

  2. geoffjordan says:

    Your vulgar political rant is worse than the bigotry it decries. To use crap like this as arguments to support the perfectly reasonable case for a broader view of English and an end to discrimination against NNESTs is disgraceful.

    • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

      Geoffjordan,

      1. How exactly is this vulgar?
      2. How exactly is this disgraceful?
      3. How exactly is this crap?

      The case we’re talking about is perfectly reasonable, I agree. But to ignore the connection between language and politics – or to attack those who would make this connection and call it out when they see it or experience it – helps nobody. I felt your comment did just that.

      • geoffjordan says:

        1. How exactly is this vulgar?

        Vulgar = lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste.

        To describe the the Brexit campaign as “fuelled by lies, racism, culminating in deaths of a British MP and a Polish migrant” shows a lack of perception and taste, not to mention fairness. To say that “after 2016, over 80% of all native speakers of English will be citizens of countries where their language was used – on a long-term, wide-ranging, nationwide, sometimes global level – to disastrous ends” is also vulgar, not to mention vague and stupid.

        2. How exactly is this disgraceful?

        Disgraceful = very bad; unacceptable, shameful.

        To drag the murders of 2 people into the argument is disgraceful. The lack of rational argument in the whole piece is also so bad as to be unacceptable and shameful, in my opinion.

        3.How exactly is this crap?

        Crap = nonsense; drivel.

        The following quote from your post is crap, nonsense, drivel:

        “Simply put, no British or American person teaching English after 2016 can claim “native” prerogative to decide which language use is “good” or “bad”. Not a Leaver / Republican, who has yet to see the long-term fall-out from their vote. Not a Remainer / Democrat, whose efforts to stop the destructive propaganda on their doorsteps were just proven inadequate. And definitely not the abstainers.”

        What shred of rationality is there in this totally preposterous pronouncement? All those who voted in the UK referendum and the US presidential election (note the tedius way you include everybody) have lost the right to claim that their version of English can serve as a reasonable model of English language use. Crap!

        Read the responses from Dan, George, Andrea and others. They among others, point out just what nonsense your first two points are. To argue that Brexit and Trump’s election mean that we should trust native speakers less is drivel, and, in my opinion drivel of a stupid and bigoted kind. You say that my comment attacks you for calling out the connection between language and politics. My comment says that you should be ashamed of yourself for writing such a witless, badly-argued, badly-written, pumped-up, self-righteous, piece of baloney.

        • geoffjordan says:

          I’ve just realised that through including abstainers, the argument runs “As a result of the UK Referendum and US election.EVERYBODY in the UK and USA has lost the right to claim that their version of English can serve as a reasonable model of English language use.

          • TEFL Equity Advocates says:

            Wow, Geoff – I’ll have to take a screenshot, put it in a golden frame and hang above my desk to remind me of what language not to use when commenting on and criticising other people’s arguments.
            Thanks for stopping by, though 🙂
            As for your criticisms of Wiktor’s article, I’ll leave it to him to respond.
            Best,
            Marek

          • geoffjordan says:

            There’s no reply button for remarks made by TEFL Equity Advocates boss Marek, so let me reply here.

            Hi Marek,

            You say:

            “Wow, Geoff – I’ll have to take a screenshot, put it in a golden frame and hang above my desk to remind me of what language not to use when commenting on and criticising other people’s arguments. Thanks for stopping by, though”

            I presume this passes for a clever repost in your book, does it? No doubt you expect readers to be impressed by your slick badinage, but I hope that at least a few of them will note that rather than confront the truly dire content of your guest writer’s piece, you prefer limp sarcasm finished off with a hypocritical smiley. And I hope that, likew me, they start to question your credentials.

            • marekkiczkowiak says:

              Hello Geoff,
              There isn’t, because only 5 levels of nested comments were allowed by default on the website. You were just unlucky that yours was the sixth. But as the boss, I changed it to 10, so you can reply further to this comment if you want to 😉 (BTW, no limp sarcasm or hypocrisy intended in the smiley)
              Look – I don’t tend to criticise nor praise guest posts here. There have been quite a few that did not reflect my opinion. There have been a few where I disagreed with the argumentation. I feel, though, that people should have the right to express their opinions about this issue, as long as they are not vulgar or offensive, which I don’t think this post is. It is controversial. The title is quite sensational, and the writer makes quite a big jump from politics to native speakerism.
              Having said that, I’ve seen far worse. If you read some articles and comments of people defending ‘native speaker’ superiority, you will really see stuff that could be described in the terms you’ve been using here, or even worse. What I do find odd is that I’m yet to see a similar outrage at an article or comment that justifies native speakerism – and I see comments like that still practically every day. There are of course people who do get involved and try to argue with the author (Neil is one of them – thanks a lot Neil for the recent discussion on FB in Barcelona teachers group about job ads in the EU), but in comparison to the outpour of critical comments this article is getting, they are still in their minority.
              So anyway, please feel free to disagree with the article and criticise it, but please do so in a polite manner. There is no need to use derogatory language. And I hope that one article will not make you start doubting my credentials or the work TEFL Equity has done over the years.
              Best,
              Marek

              • Joe P says:

                I would suggest that your blog gets criticism if you get it wrong because people expect better of you. This is supposed to be a progressive movement, so to be honest “You should see what some other articles defending native speakerism say…” is not really a valid defence. People are not judging you by the same standards as bigots.

              • Neil Rodrigues says:

                Thanks, Marek.
                A very interesting debate, sparked by a lively blog from Viktor! My company has always stood up for NNESTs simply because we employ far more of them than NESs. Our experience shows that there’s an inferiority complex amongst some NNESTs which is justified by the way employers word their advertisements and by how some are treated by both employers and clients. Equally, organisations tend to advertise in this manner because it is perceived that their clients are getting a better ‘service’. My blog about dropping the distinction between these groups expands on this topic.

                https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/should-we-still-distinguishing-between-native-english-neil-rodrigues?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

                Happy debating!
                Neil

            • marekkiczkowiak says:

              I understand your anger, but I’m not sure how pursuing me can help ELT or the cause of equality between native and non-native speakers. I think there are much more serious problems in ELT that would be worth pursuing and tackling.

  3. Dan learnercoachingelt says:

    I don’t claim to hold politics and language teaching apart, I just don’t understand why “British English can no longer serve as an optimal, reasonable model of English language use. Not after the Brexit campaign”. Brexit threatens to take away my rights as a European citizen, my fondness for my country and one or two friendships, but it isn’t taking anything away from my language. Many nationalists I’m sure would react violently to our claims that English belongs to all users of the language, and believe in the fantasy that there exists some form of pure English, but they are wrong.
    British English can no longer serve as an optimal, reasonable model of English language use because it never was! Neither British or American English has a claim to primacy, but that was true before the zeitgeist in many countries swung to the right.
    Would the argument to treat all competent English teachers the same, and to promote an international English free of parochial L1 idiomatic usage be weakened if the UK and the US had voted Green?

  4. Elizabeth Bekes says:

    Dear Geoffjordan,

    Why do I feel that it is YOUR choice of language that is disgraceful? Wiktor raises a good many points concerning the creative (rather than “odd”) language used by NNESTs. The English speaking “inner circle” (Kachru) has immense influence on our lives, both politically and linguistically. What is coming out of the highest echelons these days is a frightfully simplified and populistic representation of the world around us. The messages are inept (UK) and often toxic (the US). They are uttered in English, and if you think this is immaterial, there is hardly any way to conduct an intelligent debate that is sorely needed. Just for a moment, try to appreciate the complex ideas and arguments that Wiktor has presented. If you speak additional languages, you must be aware that this is no small feat. So, rather than putting it down using terms (that should have no place among this blog’s usually thoughtful and considered contributions), why don’t we engage in a meaningful discussion on the power of language — a sociolinguistically proven concept.

  5. Jamie C says:

    An extraordinary post. The first two points don’t make any sense. If anything, the referendum and US election brought British and American English right into focus, grabbing the attention of millions of non-native English speakers. It made both dialects more relevant than ever.

    • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

      Jamie and Dan –

      The first two points are not just my invention. See Mark Thompson in the Guardian, 27 August 2016 – and Mary Karr in New Yorker, 21 November 2016 – and many others.
      I agree with Jamie when he says that what British and American people say and write is more important now.
      I agree with Dan when he says that the events of 2016 did not take anything away from the English language.
      But I respectfully stand by my point that because of the way politics affected discourse in 2016 – and because of what was _added to_ the public discourse in the course of both Brexit and Trump campaigns – it is now more important than before to think critically about the medium, the messages and the messengers.

  6. linguaid says:

    The premise that political campaigns in native English countries are using the English language deliberately to mislead people and this therefore has a negative effect of non-native English speakers is thought-provoking but wrong. You’re speaking in absolutes and you’re associating political establishments and voters that are a percentage of a population with population as a whole. Personally, I’m a British expat that speaks other languages and I’m fully aware of a) how I might be perceived by other cultures and b) how difficult it is to learn another language. Does that make me want to accept that British English can no longer serve as an optimal, reasonable model of English language use due to Brexit? No, of course not. I could possibly accept it due to difficulties with overuse of incomprehensible expressions and accents for example. But I’m an individual with my own principles. You can’t lump me with 60 million other Brits as the same thing. And not all non-native English speakers hate Brits and Americans as arrogant like you portray.
    I think one point you’re trying to argue about is ownership of the English language. But you’re forgetting that the very origins of the English language were based on different and warring peoples actually having to work together to communicate – Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Vikings, Normans, etc. They needed a language that was quick to learn and would help trade. Much like today but on a more international scale. I would advocate for an official academy that represents international English, but I would always maintain that this academy had British and American representation. The British are very good at creating things, giving them to the world, and then only for the world to go and make a better job of it. Surely not the English language too?

  7. richardwhiteside says:

    Personally I dislike any discourse that simplistically groups all ‘NESTS’ and all ‘NNESTs’ together in binary opposition. There are great, and also crap, teachers in both groups, as well as a variety of other potential ‘ratings’ in between. Good teacher should be accepted as good teachers, regardless of nationality or L1, isn’t that the point in furthering the message of equality?

    Furthermore, as has been mentioned above, dismissing the views of all the people who actually SUPPORT what has happened in 2016 and think that it is a good thing (I don’t) is one thing, but again grouping all British and Americans into other homogenous groups is another.

    Essentially, I think that different types of English exist, different usages should be respected, nobody owns English, and non-native teachers should be considered equally for employment against native speaker teachers.

    I can’t see how the politics of 2016 has changed anything. The same issues exist, and neither Trump nor Brexit has made the situation worse or better in the field of ELT.

  8. George Chilton (@designerlessons) says:

    So my language and ability to communicate is no longer valid (or less valid) because of the actions of my government and fellow citizens? This argument is so bloated in its own self-importance, it’s hard to see your point.

    I fail to see how the political choices of a country’s people has any effect on the validity of their language on a domestic or global scale.

    Did voting in Obama increase the importance of U.S. English?
    Did the vote against peace in Colombia hurt the relevance of Colombian Spanish? Maybe nNEST Colombian teachers shouldn’t be teaching English on that basis.
    What about non-British born citizen nNESTs who voted Trump or for Brexit? Are they floating along in the same leaky old bigotry boat?
    How about when the PP was voted in? Perhaps the Spanish can no longer claim to have a model for Spanish language? Maybe I can teach better Spanish because of my informed view on Spanish politics?

    Of course, you could say, thanks to globalisation, there’s no one standard English…and there’d be (some) merit, but tying it to politics like this is, frankly, naive.

    I support equality on all levels, and think that qualified nNESTs have every right to the same opportunities as qualified NESTs – but your argument holds no water.

    • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

      George,

      “I fail to see how the political choices of a country’s people has any effect on the validity of their language on a domestic or global scale.”

      In Poland, after the far-right came to power last year, the Polish Cultural Institute managers all underwent a review. The “right” ones stayed. The “wrong” ones got replaced (or will get replaced very soon).
      Polish Cultural Institutes around the world help translate Polish books, promote Polish culture, and hold events regularly, representing Poland abroad. After 2015, some books won’t get translated – some events won’t go ahead – because they’ve been deemed “not patriotic enough”.
      This means that in every PCI around the world, “the political choices of a country’s people” now dictate what Poland stands for, and what Polish means.
      Now, of course, ours is a small country with an obscure language. Not much harm done. But if one were to apply this kind of influence to the language of media, of commerce, of global diplomacy – English, say…

      Teachers have beliefs, they stand for something. I’m happy to learn any language from anyone, left or right – provided they’re aware of their own stance.

      • Neil McMillan says:

        Hi Wiktor,

        I’m not sure of the exact function of the Polish Cultural Institute, but you seem to be confusing cultural censorship with linguistic control, i.e. which books get translated, not how they get translated. As far as I am aware, while there are many ideological gatekeepers of native norms of English, there is no single body with the influence either to decide *what* gets written or translated, or *how*. As many who support the cause of NNESTs will surely agree, English is far bigger than the UK or the USA and it’s doubtful that Trump (a man who also has a distinctly “odd” use of English), or anyone else, has the will or the power to regulate how it gets used.

        I won’t add to the points made by Geoff, George and others about the weakness of your connection of the political with the linguistic. I’ll only say that it shows a remarkable lack of awareness of cultural, class, political and linguistic differences and antagonisms within the UK. Scotland voted to remain in the EU by a significant margin. Would that give us the right to impose Scottish English norms on the rest of the world? Scots have less vowel range than the English do, we pronounce the /r/, hell we even have Sean Connery who can make speech impediments shexy. Plus we’re (for the moment) just nicer, more inclusive, more progressive types than these nasty Brexiting Little Englanders. (Ssshhh about Trump’s ancestry and his golf course, that was just a blip).

        This is insane, of course. But as a Scot let me tell you something about linguistic control. I was belted at primary school for answering “aye” instead of “yes”, and whacked round the ears by my (Scottish) grandmother for glottalising the /t/ in “butter”. Even my (Scottish) CELTA trainer had a go at me (in front of the whole course) for my glottal stops. So one reason I now have a career as an English teacher is that I say “yes” instead of “aye”, produce my plosives with perfection, etc, etc., especially in job interviews. Many Scots in different fields have had to do the same thing, and it’s not just a question of general intelligibility.

        (I get my revenge by teaching that something “needs done” not “needs doing”, that “outwith” is sometimes better than “without”, and that I couldn’t give a shit whether or not a student can produce or differentiate between the long and short /u/ sounds – I can’t).

        My point is that the relation between the political and the linguistic is far more complex than you allow. Your positing of “British English” as some homogenous Thing at the start of your first point is to ride roughshod over cultural and linguistic antagonisms which hold across the UK and not just in Scotland. The battleground is and always has been an ideological one, and there have been people within the UK challenging linguistic imperialism and the norming of RP or standard southern English for significantly longer than the ELF or NNEST issues have been fashionable. You might consider looking to connect these issues rather than alienating speakers of “British English” who are just as suspicious as you of the standard they’re supposed to aspire to.

      • Noel Chivers says:

        So deluded and confused it’s difficult to hold a rational argument with you. Comparing the Polish right and cultural institutes with English? Really?
        Your comment highlighting the death of a Pole after Brexit is shameful.
        I have lived in Poland, taught many people and have many friends there who teach. Fortunately, they are not as ‘right’ as you. Should we all wear black shirts perhaps? It’s not often, in fact, I have never been ashamed to be a TEFLer and to have read an article written by a peer. Well done, you are the first.

  9. EnglishCentral says:

    I’m always so amazed at the world and the teachers in it. How one tears down one wall by building another. Pure idiocy. Kind of eye for an eye thingamajig.

    There are teachers. Let us begin there …. Drop the polemics and pull up our bootstraps and support each other.

  10. Marc says:

    There is so much to be annoyed at here that I do not know where to begin.

    As if the UK and US are alone in making poor political decisions. Law & Justice Party, anyone? Conflating this with linguistic models and further with the nationality of teachers in the classroom is ludicrous. I did not vote because I could not vote. To then figuratively tar and feather me based on my nationality makes a mockery of the argument of equity espoused here.

  11. Andrea Milanović says:

    Can’t really agree with this. If politics are in any way measure of someone’s teaching/speaking ability then which one of us in Europe is gonna cast the first stone? The Italians post their referendum? The French with their possible change? Hungarians with their neo nazi gov? Croats and Poles with our church governed states? Or do we only respect Austrians as English teachers because they voted the way you and I personally feel is ok? And outside Europe? What about languages other than English? Should the world have forgotten German post ww2? Should no one learn Chinese?
    Nah.
    While I personally think that language shapes world as much as world shapes language, I don’t think a direct and clear line can be drawn here between messy politics and what makes or doesn’t make a good teacher.

  12. Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

    Marc:
    “To then figuratively tar and feather me based on my nationality makes a mockery of the argument of equity espoused here.”

    Linguaid:
    ” But I’m an individual with my own principles. You can’t lump me with 60 million other Brits as the same thing.”

    Recall, if you will, Mr. Farage posing before a billboard depicting refugees with the headline “BREAKING POINT.” Or Mr Trump’s promises to ban all Muslims from entering his country. Or tabloid headlines, too numerous and vile to quote here.

    This is what “tarring and feathering” or “lumping in as the same thing” feels like. This is the language that surrounds your learners before and after your classes – every day. This is the attitude that makes your non-native teacher colleagues think twice before they come across as too political – for fear of losing jobs or not getting new ones. This is the feeling of despondency as you read another TEFL job advert that specifically tells you that a club exists, and that you’re out.

    I’m sure we all try to be inclusive and fair and fight the good fight. But even if all of us do the right thing all the time, the prejudice is there – in headlines, on billboards, in millions of retweets. And it hurts, doesn’t it?

    • Marc says:

      So more is better? Hint: the fire brigade don’t believe in ‘fight fire with fire’. It’s not that it hurts as much as a lunatic argument can only undermine the TEFL Equity project.

      • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

        The argument has always been there, Marc (see my reply above, possibly add Edward Said / Gayatri C Spivak to it). The issue is neither new nor lunatic. But after 2016, I’d be very surprised if everyone decided to suddenly become much more diplomatic in response to it.

        • Marc says:

          I’m sure nobody will be more diplomatic. However, advocating a line of argument against Britons and Americans renders your argument against equity and troll-like. Enjoy your life.

  13. James Scholl says:

    Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking post – I would definitely agree that there is a strong link between language, power and politics, so I do think that the points you make are worth serious consideration. In a sense it reminds me of Vygotsky and his musings on thought and language and that maybe, if US and UK English is infecting us with negative connotations associated with right-wing ideologies, we could, as ‘odd users of language’, change certain terms. For instance, we could rename ‘immigrants’ as ‘working guests’ to create a positive connotation, in much the same way as the US war office was renamed the defence department. But would this help English and the thoughts that its words evoke? Personally I think not because it isn’t words which offend us, it is the associated thoughts which do. For example, if a white person visiting Latin America is called a Gringo for identification purposes only (e.g. “Who did you speak to, the Gringo or the Latino?”), they are less likely to take offence than when they are labelled a Gringo in order to categorise their personality, beliefs and values (e.g. “You’re just a Gringo”). The real issue is not whose language we use or use as a model, it’s the thoughts we associate them with in our hearts and minds.

    After considering this language-thought issue something else more fascinating, and subtle, about this post has also dawned on me. What I notice is that on occasions the rhetoric is similarly divisive to the Brexit and US election campaigns, which the post so strongly opposes. For instance, NNESTs are portrayed as multilingual, trained professionals while NESTs are portrayed as monolinguals who exploit their cultural capital to get TEFL jobs wherever they want in the world. This of course may be true to a certain extent; nevertheless, the divisive discourse is there just as it has been in the UK and US (social) media recently.

    A case in point in this post is the observation that “British and Americans did not consciously, formally learn their languages”. This discourse is not entirely dissimilar to a Brexit- / Trump-style statement such as “Immigrants were not born here”. The effect that statements such as these have, intentionally or unintentionally, is to divide ‘us’ and ‘them’ and to reinforce socially constructed social groups (i.e. natives and non-natives) via association of arbitrary differences (viz. What does it really matter if someone is not born in a country? Can they not become citizens? And just how relevant is it that NESTs haven’t formally learned their own language? Can they not formally study it during teacher-training?)

    Of course, the reason why TEFL Equity Advocates exists is well-known to the readers of this blog, and the motive behind the creation of this post is presumably congruent with that mission, but to what extent does this post abstain from the social division it rallies so hard against? To bring religious doctrine into the language-power-politics compound, why look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?

  14. Poly Gloater says:

    This argument is politically (in)correct hogwash that lacks internal logic. It’s like saying we should not learn Polish from Polish teachers because Poland’s right-wing, governing Law and Justice party continues to stir up bigotry and fear. How about we all just speak pidgin and forget about the rich linguistic cultures of individual nations? Will learning “odd” English help students to pass the many standardised tests that they need to take?

    Keep living in your insecure bubble. Although there is definitely a necessity for learning nonstandard varieties of English (or any language for that matter), the fact is that the worldwide market in general demands native speakers. I know when I learn a foreign language, I want to hear it first from a native speaker. My money, my choice.

    I see that comments require approval by a moderator before being accepted. It’s a pity that this post wasn’t given more scrutiny. As this group has been getting increasingly dogmatic, I, for one, am unsubscribing.

    • TEFL Equity Advocates says:

      Poly – I don’t think the group has been getting dogmatic in any way. If you browse through the titles of the last few posts, and through the comments below them, you’ll see that there’s a variety of opinions on the issue. So I’m really sorry you’re unsubscribing.
      Regarding the demand for ‘native speakers’, do you have any evidence to support this claim? There’s actually quite a lot of research done in different countries that shows that many students don’t really have a clear preference for ‘native speakers’.
      Of course, your money is your choice. However, the problem starts when clients’ demands are discriminatory or against the law – as is the case in the EU, for example.

      • Poly Gloater says:

        Yes, there is plenty of evidence. For every piece of research you can find that shows no preference for NSs, I can find one that does show a preference. It is worth noting that a lot of these studies contain internal biases (i.e. mainly conducted by NNSs) or design flaws with regards to generalisability, a systemic problem in the social sciences. Oftentimes as well, questionnaires, surveys, and polls simply do not reveal what people are really thinking, as evidenced by the recent political results in the UK and the USA! Overall though, it seems that students in Europe are less picky than their counterparts in East Asia and the Gulf Arab States with regards to the nationality of the person teaching them English. In much of Asia and the Middle East, being a native speaker is a requirement, and, frankly, those are the biggest markets. I concede though that the situation within Europe and the United States is different because of laws against discriminatory hiring practices.

        • marekkiczkowiak says:

          I think I’ll quite enjoy this exchange of research findings 🙂
          So here’s the first one: in 2006 Moussu studied 643 participants from ten different L1 backgrounds in US universities. She found that 87% of students at the time taking classes with a ‘non-native speaker’ agreed that they were a good teacher, while 79% would recommend having classes with a ‘non-native speaker’ to a friend.

          I’m not sure if students in Europe are less picky. Less biased is perhaps more accurate way of describing it. There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that your L1, let alone your nationality, makes you a better teacher

          • Joe P says:

            That’s a somewhat meaningless statistic without the equivalent statistic for native speaker teachers, surely?

            As for comparing Europe and Asia, one factor might be the average English level of the teachers. I used to work in Vietnam, where 97% of high school English teachers and 93% of elementary and secondary school teachers currently fail to meet the targets that the government hopes to achieve by 2020 (which I believe is B2 and B1 level respectively). So when you ask the average Vietnamese student about a non-native teacher, they’re not imagining a completely fluent speaker, they’re imagining the teacher they had in secondary school who was quite possibly an elementary or pre-intermediate level. Obviously once they’ve had a fluent, well-qualified non-native teacher, I’m sure most of them would be happy to recommend them. I worked with teachers from all over the world in Vietnam, and I’m not aware of any of them being the subject of complaints or poor feedback from students. It’s also worth mentioning that in most English classes, the person attending the class is not the person paying for it. Parents don’t get to see the teacher in action, so they base their decisions on objective factors, and one of the objective factors sold to them by schools is the country the teacher happened to be born in.

            Obviously citing studies is one thing, but you can’t ignore the old adage “follow the money.” Companies don’t pay huge money to hire very expensive and unqualified native speakers when they could get a local teacher to do the same job better for a fraction of the price, unless there’s a big return. It might be marketing-based manufactured demand, possibly preying on the fact that most people were unsatisfied with the English lessons they got in state schools, but it’s demand nonetheless. I find this line of “students don’t demand native speakers” to be a bit of a fingers-in-the-ears argument, tbh. Citing a study of university students living in America, presumably getting instructed by completely fluent NNSTs, and extrapolating from that that there’s no demand for native-speaker teachers is just kidding yourself. It doesn’t take studies to point out the hundreds of schools in our industry, particularly in Asia, that are built entirely on the idea of having a native speaker in the classroom. And if the demand wasn’t reasonably substantial, it would be pretty easy to go in there and make a fortune undercutting them all.

            I get why you make the argument, because it’s your job to advocate non-native speaker teachers and part of that is showing employers that it’s not going to harm their re-enrollment numbers if they hire a non-native speaker. And that’s probably true in a lot, if not most, of the world. But there are plenty of areas where guaranteeing a native speaker teacher is obviously a big money spinner. And we’re not going to change that by pretending it’s not true because a study in a completely different context showed that students don’t care.

            • marekkiczkowiak says:

              Hello Joe,
              Thanks for replying. I cited this study, because it was the first one that came to my mind. Poly said that for every piece of of research evidence I could provide, she could provide another which contradicts it, so I’m quite looking forward to it 🙂
              I agree that we can’t extrapolate the results of this study to other contexts. I never said we could. This is just one piece of the puzzle. And there are numerous others, from Asia too, most of which seem to point in the same direction, i.e. that students don’t necessarily have a strong preference for either group, that they value their teachers for how well they can teach, that they appropriate non-native speakers for the skills they bring into the classroom, and that they value other teaching skills and qualifications much more highly than nativeness. And you’ve alluded to that yourself, when you said that the students prefer a native speaker because of low quality of local teachers. However, once they’ve had good non-native speaker teachers, they rarely complain. This goes to show that what students really want deep down is a GOOD teacher.
              I find the argument that students prefer native speakers a bit fingers in the ears too, to be honest. Simply because in ELT we tend to claim that this is true everywhere. Often too, people refuse to listen to research evidence. Or they dismiss it out of hand as irrelevant, biased, or what have you. Yet, I’m still to see some solid research evidence that would show that most students in most countries do indeed prefer native speakers, often less qualified ones, over non-native speakers. And mind you, this would have to be most students in most countries to justify the current recruitment policies where more often than not any native speaker, regardless of their ability to teach, will be preferred over any non-native speaker. There’s certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence, such as the one you provided. However, this can’t really be extrapolated and be used to justify recruitment policies in one country, let alone in more than one.
              I’d also be happy to share results of many other studies done in different contexts if you’re interested. Perhaps I should actually write a blog post about it actually.
              Best,
              Marek

  15. Marcel says:

    Hi Wiktor,

    I found your post amusing, and not in a sarcastic way. While it is absolutely true that British English and American English are the tools that were used to by the Leave and Trump campaigns, this truth not a reason for not trusting native English from the UK and the US…to be effective English teachers.

    The reason, one shouldn’t trust any ol’ Tom, Dick or Hugh Grant sound-a-like to be an effective English teacher is because he or she may not have been trained to teach the language. This summer, in Prague, I cringed and winced after hearing numerous untrained native-English speaking EFL teachers answer the why x instead of z question (e.g. I did it vs. I have done it ), with, “Well, x(or y) just sounds better.” Useless!

    The sad reality (if you’re a liberal) or the in-you- face fact (if you’re a conservative), is that the English is fertile ground for ambiguity which can be presented as a very clear benefit or loss, depending on who is speaking. “Let’s make America great again ( like it was in the 1960s)” can simultaneously mean, “Let’s go back to nice houses in the suburbs and good jobs, and home cooked dinners and family values” to one group of people, while simultaneously meaning, “Let’s go back to a time before segregation ended, before gay marriage, etc.” to another.

    This is strength and weakness of English. Those who use the language have the option of using it as a weapon or a tool, and using it for good or evil. I think that any proper English teacher knows that he or she is offering a tool and tries should try to keep things neutral. I have a hard enough time getting my students to remember to put the “S” on the end of verbs when using the 3rd person singular so I wouldn’t dare try to explain federal policies, gun laws, gender politics, or US race politics to a group of unsuspecting students.

    To sum up, I’ve got to say that you are suggesting that the mistrust be placed on the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Those you shouldn’t trust (to teach) are untrained English teachers (UNLESS! – you have verified that they can in fact teach). Now as for Brexit and the upcoming Trump presidency, that’s another matter that in my opinion boils down to how selfish and judgemental humans can be. While this may be the fault of many Brits and many Americans, it is not the fault of most English teachers.

  16. Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

    I will try to post one reply a day.

    1. “Trusting less” is not equal to “not hiring”. If the only argument you can think of in response to “Why should I hire you for my language school?” is that you’re a native speaker of a language, then that’s insufficient. It has always been so.

    2. Why should it be more so after 2016? And how does this affect the “optimal and reasonable” models of language presented by native speakers? Briefly – the language we are surrounded by shapes the way we speak and think. If you are exposed to violent political discourse, then this makes language users more tolerant of – or supportive of – that kind of violent discourse. This means that, as speakers and users of language, we’ve had a pretty poisonous year. The link between politics and language – or politics and beliefs – is there, and it’s been documented. For an early take on this, see Orwell’s “Politics and the English language”, 1946. For more recent and rigorous science behind this, see Nathan P. Kalmoe 2010.

    3. Yes, I mean all native speakers. Of English or otherwise. Left, right, and centre. Yes, if you were to learn Polish from a Pole, I’d expect you to think about their role in voting in (or opposing) a far-right, church-bound party. If you were to learn Chinese from a Chinese native speaker, I’d expect you to be wary of the texts, examples, and rules you are given – and ask about the ones you’re not given. 2015 was the year of a big intellectual hangover for me and many of my Polish friends. 2016 brought the same to the British and American people I work with. I don’t believe you can think of your work in ELT as not political. There are few things more political than teaching one of the most powerful languages in history – at all levels, in all countries and settings. This is how I felt, this is why I wrote what I saw.

  17. Katy M says:

    Isn’t the whole idea of this site to promote equality rather than create divisions? Stereotyping does not help the cause.

    As an experienced and trained “native” speaker who supports “non-native” teachers, I am tired of the insinuation that we are monolingual, untrained and got our jobs solely due to our passports. There may be such instances but they will tend to be in crappy schools with crap conditions. Who would want to work there anyway?

    Furthermore, those of us who have studied at a higher level are in fact, more than capable of analysing, questioning and experimenting with the medium and the message.

  18. TEFL Equity Advocates says:

    Dear All,
    Since this post has proven so controversial, I just wanted to comment here to apologise to any of you have found it inappropriate or perhaps even offensive in one way or another. This was certainly not my intention when I decided to publish Wiktor’s article here.
    I also wanted to emphasise that TEFL Equity Advocates is committed to equal employment opportunities for all English teachers, regardless of their L1. The ideal situation would be if we could drop the ‘n’ labels all together and start from scratch simply as English teachers. The ideal situation would also be if we were all valued based on our ability to teach the language we are all passionate about, rather than for our ‘nativeness’ or lack thereof, and all the stereotypes associated with it.
    While I see where your criticism is coming from and agree with some of it, I also think that Wiktor did make some valid points in his piece. He also started an interesting discussion on language, power and politics, which I think can be valuable.
    I knew that the post might come under some criticism when I considered publishing it here, but at the same time I am all for different opinions and arguments (some of which might not necessarily reflect my own) on the topic of native speakerism.
    Best,
    Marek Kiczkowiak

    • geoffjordan says:

      What’s this supposed to do? What are readers supposed to make of this typically smarmy bit of political posturing? You “emphasise” platitudes about equal opportunities. You reiterate tired truisms about “ideal situations” . You trot out clichés about seeing where our criticism is coming from. Your prose falls dead to the floor, exhausted by its alienated triteness and insincerity. Wiktor “did make some valid points” you bleat, unable to marshal even the semblance of a decent defence. God help us all. Clean up the mess, turn out the light, and go for a long walk Marek.

  19. eflnotes says:

    Dear all,

    I am a brown man, an immigrant, teaching English and living in pre-election France. I framed the latest TEFL equity post by Victor Kostrzewski as much as don’t-trust-whitey as trust-native-speakers-less. Nationality, race, class, language have been more than the usual sites of contest in European and US politics of late. Victor makes a brave but flawed attempt to locate non-native speaker equity in the wider discourse currently raging. It is brave because it attempts to describe systemic causes to non-native speaker discrimination in language teaching. And on the same basis it fails. Many of the obvious failures are pointed out in the comments to the post.

    I feel strongly Victor’s frustration as a Polish immigrant to the UK under the words in his missive. The UK is a place where a person has to think twice what language they speak in public moreso now after Brexit. This has the familiar echoes of the non-native speaker of English being policed by teaching dogma about the use of L1. There is much to explore about the current clash of values evident in political debates. But how to analyze this and create change?

    Tefl Equity I feel like most activism at its stage has come to a crossroad. It has done a great job of putting the issue it advocates into people’s awareness, yet now what is its next step? It has before this post more or less avoided focusing on the institutional, political inertia that needs to be addressed. I could be wrong in my perception and I am not criticizing this decision just trying to outline my line of thought. The locus of the English teaching community is still dictated by the exam boards, publishers, cultural institutions of the UK and US.

    Yet what response have these centres made concerning Brexit and Trump? I am aware of only one statement, a letter co-signed by TESOL with 100 other organizations to Trump [https://www.tesol.org/news-landing-page/2016/11/21/tesol-co-signs-letter-calling-on-president-elect-to-denounce-hate-fueled-acts].

    Have IATEFL, British Council, CUP, Pearson etc made similar statements? An emotion clear in Victor’s post is a tremendous sense of being let down by the English speaking centres.

    To those who take personal offense at Victor’s post try to see the bigger picture Victor’s post was (unsuccessfully) trying to paint. Help TEFL Equity map out what should be the next steps, reinforce the values we share as language teachers to put the dampers on the non-progressive wave sweeping certain parts of the world.

    My 2 cents.
    Mura

    • geoffjordan says:

      I have great respect for Mura’s opinions, but I can’t agree with his attempt to rescue this post from the condemnation that it deserves. It’s offensive mainly because it’s just so stupid: the post is absurd: a piece of badly-written, badly-argued nonsense.

      The issues of British racism, of American arrogance, of global unequal treatment of NNESTs, and all the rest of it are serious ones. None of them is treated with one iota of critical acumen or judgement. I repeat that I’ve rarely seen such lamentable dross anywhere – not even in The Daily Mail.

    • James Scholl says:

      It’s an interesting proposition that TEFL EA’s next step is to get involved in politics, but if it does, there will be no going back. I do think this post is a brave and important address of the political aspect of standard English, but am not sure if TEFLEA should engage fully as this may divide its supporters. We might assume that anyone who voted for trump and brexit is equally not pro-employment equality for NNESTs and NESTs, but that is only an assumption. People vote for complex reasons and it would seem from previous comments that there may well be some brexit and trump suppprters who follow TEFLEA. So is it a good idea to politicise the mission and dump those people behind? I’m not sure…

      • marekkiczkowiak says:

        Hello,
        I’m definitely not planning to get into politics, though to solve native speakerism you might have to if we take into account visa regulations in certain countries.
        Mura raised a very interesting issue; namely, where should TEFL Equity Advocates go and what it can do to help tackle the problem of native speakerism. I agree with Mura that it’s succeeded at raising awareness and bringing the problem to ELTers’ attention. Just the comments in this post reflect how many people feel very much involved in this issue.
        However, what do we do next? How do we move closer to professional equality between ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’? If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I’d love to hear them. And maybe some of you would actually like to write a post with some suggestions for future directions?
        Best,
        Marek

        PS Thanks for keeping the debate civilised and polite, James and Mura

    • Noel Chivers says:

      “The UK is a place where a person has to think twice what language they speak in public moreso now after Brexit.”

      Please, can we stop talking about Brexit as if it really has any significance to what we do. Even responding as if the writer has any credence in his argument is despicable in my view. Many of us have been fighting this cause quietly for years and along comes a ‘spider’.

      I really can’t believe what I’ve read here today nor how some have supported his, frankly, racist comments.

      Probably not the best time but I will say that whatever anyone thinks, this industry is a business and is market-driven. The customers decide and they always will. So if you want a soapbox then try facebook [or get another job] and talk to the people that make the decisions – the ones that pay. Nothing you or I will impact on that. Schools are businesses, not pedagogic centres of excellence.

  20. Halina Maria says:

    Reblogged this on Halina's Thoughts and commented:
    I am a passionate non- native English teacher. Teaching is a big part of my life. For that understanding, I am a lifelong scholar.
    I believe in using music in English teaching. My approach is that we do not speak the language, but we sing it.
    English bears a unique melody, rhythm as well as intonation.

  21. Techer Japan says:

    Trump worked the language quite well I think. He convinced enough people to vote for him to win so I guess he has accomplished more with English than any of us ever will. However, I think you missed a beat – Obama is a far more accomplished user of the language and he is of course, a non-native.

  22. marekkiczkowiak says:

    Dear All,
    As I commented above, the post has proven very controversial and opened a can of worms. So I thought it would be good to post a reply to this article in the next week or two on the blog. If you’d like to write a reply, please let me know by either commenting here, or by emailing me on info@teflequityadvocates.com
    We can also feature several shorter replies in one post, and some of them could be the actual comments here. So if you’d like me to repost your comment as part of the reply to this article, let me know.
    And once again apologies to those who found the article offensive in any way. This certainly wasn’t the intention. However, since it has generated such a heated debate and so many comments, I think it would be good to post a reply to the article on the blog here.
    If anyone is interested, pelase let me know.
    Best,
    Marek

  23. josayers says:

    Interesting to see just how close to the surface bubble the anger of the (white, male) native speaker teacher community.

    – Why would a flawed argument be such great cause for anger?
    – Why should a post that is disagreed with ‘undo all of the good work’ of the TEFL equity movement that is broadly supported?
    – How is it not understandable to be angry and feel let down by a community that claims support but often doesn’t demonstrate it?

    Flawed argument or not, I feel that the comments alone might give me cause to trust less the native speaker teacher community and their ‘commitment’ to a more just and fair profession.

    Jo

    • James Scholl says:

      I believe the answer to your first question, “Why would a flawed argument be such great cause for anger?”, will become clear if you the original post and all the comments are carefully read.

      • marekkiczkowiak says:

        I can absolutely see why the argument here made many people angry. However, to come back to Jo’s question, it’s interesting that the equally flawed argument that ‘native speakers’ are better teachers, which you see in countless job ads, and in many comments and debates on the internet (at least I see them very often), don’t tend to get a reaction like this. While there is usually someone commenting and trying to talk sense to the author, I see little anger or outrage. I’m not sure if this is what Jo might have been getting at, but it’s something that struck me while reading the comments here.
        I’m also puzzled why some would suggest that one article might undo all the good work TEFL Equity Advocates has done so far. That is a bit over the top. I’m not defending the article. Perhaps with hindsight I should have thought it over more, anticipated the reaction it might have, and not have published it. but it would be strange to right away dismiss all the work that has been done here, all the previous articles, webinars, lesson plans, etc.

        • dudeneyge says:

          You want anger? I’m not sure anger is very useful anywhere. You’ve provoked a lot of anger on this page, but to what end? As far as I can see, all you’ve really achieved is to alienate a lot of people who support the work done in this campaign. Anger doesn’t seem to have worked for you here, so why assume it would work anywhere else?

          With regard to Jo, he wasn’t getting at *anything* in particular – he was getting at people (me, in particular) – but that’s fine. I have a thick skin born from the fiery pit of the old Listservs. I can take it 😉

          As for the job ads and other stupidities which come from our profession, you do get strong reactions – from loads of us. You’ll have seen that on this site, in the posts and videos that like-minded people have made for this site and in other fora, in the employment practices that many of us espouse, in the hiring regulations adopted by our peers, etc.

          You won’t have seen them all, obviously – but you make the mistake of assuming it isn’t happening. And you compound that mistake by attacking pretty much everyone with a broad scatter gun approach. To imagine that this post would not provoke such a reaction shows a lack of forethought, and a lack of sensitivity.

          All this only works when it works both ways, you know. You don’t win battles or wars by turning on the people supporting you or making them feel inadequate, guilty or worse.

          Gavin

          • marekkiczkowiak says:

            I didn’t intend to provoke anger. I totally agree with you that it’s counter productive. Mind you, there have been a good few times over the last few years when it was difficult to contain it and remain PC when you read those job ads and then some of the comments justifying why native speakers are better teachers, better models of language, etc. You know the drill.
            I’m glad you disagree with me and that you think a lot of people are reacting against that native speakerist nonsense. Certainly more than last year or the year before. Which is great 🙂 I’m not assuming it isn’t happening. I actually know and have seen quite a few people react to job ads, for example. Neil, Adam Beale, Christopher Graham, Daniel Baines, Hugh Dellar, Katherine Bilsborough, to name just a few. And there many more! So apologies if you understood it to mean that people aren’t reacting.
            I hope I haven’t alienated you or any of the other supporters. A rebuttal of this article is coming soon, so stay tuned.
            Marek

    • davedodgson says:

      “Why should a post that is disagreed with ‘undo all of the good work’ of the TEFL equity movement that is broadly supported?”

      A couple of years ago the director of the school I worked for needed convincing that NNESTs should not be excluded from our recruitment process. I directed him here. He read a couple of blog posts and responded positively. We went on to recruit 4 new teachers, 3 of whom were NNESTs.

      Had this been the first blog post he came across, he may well have dismissed the cause as one fuelled by negative vitriol rather than a reasoned but impassioned call for an end to discrimination.

      • Noel Chivers says:

        I think Marek has learned a valuable lesson – it’s not always better to be talked about. This site will be deleted from my folder once I have seen the conclusion.

      • marekkiczkowiak says:

        Hello Dave,
        You’ve made a really important point. I can see how someone stumbling on this website and seeing this article as the first thing could get the wrong impression of its goals. Point taken and lesson learned!
        Thank you for referring your former director to the site. And it’s great to hear that he was persuaded by what he saw here. I’ll make sure that future articles continue delivering a message of equality between native and non-native speakers.
        Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
        Best,
        Marek

    • Noel Chivers says:

      I was going to write a long reply but I can’t be bothered – you’re an idiot. Yes, I’m wrong is saying so but sometimes it’s needed. Apologies to my peers.

  24. Gavin Dudeney says:

    Ah Jo,

    So what you’re saying is I’m not allowed to find this blog post offensive and unnecessarily divisive because I’m a white, male, native speaker? Having been born a white man in an English-speaking country I am now invalidated?

    If that is the case then this whole movement is pointless, because it seeks to replace one discrimination with another. Did you read the post at all? I have a feeling you didn’t, or perhaps didn’t quite understand it…

    But anyway, following your argument here, how can we trust your comments, you being a white, male, native speaker?

    Gavin

  25. dudeneyge says:

    Ah Jo,

    What a clever game you play here!

    Essentially what you’re saying is I’m not allowed to find this blog post offensive and unnecessarily divisive because I’m a white, male, native speaker? Having been born a white man in an English-speaking country I am now invalidated?

    If that is the case then this whole movement is pointless, because it seeks to replace one discrimination with another. Did you read the post at all? I have a feeling you didn’t, or perhaps didn’t quite understand it…

    But anyway, following your argument here, how can we trust your comments, you being a white, male, native speaker?

    Gavin

  26. josayers says:

    Haha, ‘seeks to replace one discrimination with another’ – Are you playing the #reversediscrimination card, Gavin?

    Do you honestly feel that we are anywhere at all close to the “white man in an English-speaking country” being “invalidated”? Do you think that my comment invalidates you, rather than just asking some more questions to promote discussion!? And if you do believe it does, could it allow some empathy with what it might be like to have been in some way invalidated by a profession that you are part of, as NNESTs have been for some time (always?).

    I was surprised at the level of anger (not only by you) and by the sense that a post that people disagree with could in some way make them question their commitment to a cause that they are supportive of. I didn’t ask you not to be offended by the post, I questioned people’s reaction to it.

    And please feel completely free to mistrust me on whichever grounds you wish!

    Jo

  27. dudeneyge says:

    Jo,

    No, I’m not playing – you may be, but I’m not.

    This post is discriminatory, weak and stupidly divisive, and if you can’t see that then there is no point my trying to have a conversation with you. Your comment basically says “I’m not like the bad white, male native speakers – I’m one of the good ones – yes, you can trust me and my English and my intentions” and that, Jo, is playing a game. And I’m not going to play it with you.

    Over the years I’ve been involved in hundreds of scholarships (including one for developing economic regions), I’ve volunteered for a number of professional organisations and I’ve given my time to countless TAs, projects and charities in ELT, free of charge. I don’t discriminate, and I never have – half of the people who work as freelancers for my organisation are non-native speakers. I don’t discriminate, I don’t perpetuate anything myself, and I do not expect to be discriminated against either.

    I’ve done all those things – I don’t just play games on blogs, as you seem to imply. Come back and have a go when you’ve put in as much time as I have and we can carry on talking. I object to the content on the all the grounds above – not because I am white, male and a native speaker and I feel threatened – but because I am a decent human being, and this blog tars me with brushes that shouldn’t be painting anywhere near me.

    In the meantime, I won’t play your “I’m more PC than you” game. I do mistrust you – and it’s not just because you’re a white, male native speaker.

    Gavin

  28. dmb2485 says:

    Hi.

    I found this a bit of a jump too. Sorry Wiktor. Rather than add my two penneth worth as Linden has already done it in a funny way and Mura in a civilised one. I am interested in why TEFL Equality Advocates published this. Was it simply to be provocative? I wrote my Independent Research Project on nNESTs for my Diploma and was really interested in contributing to this site, yet all my requests for contact were ignored. It was slightly disappointing. Should I try again with something more incendiary?

    Thanks

    • marekkiczkowiak says:

      Hello DMB,
      Perhaps bad judgment on my part. I should have thought it over more. I should have anticipated the reaction it might have. Frankly, I had absolutely no clue it would provoke such an outrage.
      I found it controversial. I thought it would spark some discussion, but perhaps I didn’t consider the fact that it might offend so many people. So I do apologise.
      Another reason was that I like diversity of opinion on the site. I never intended this place to be just my opinions, or ones I agree with, or those that I find PC.
      I’d be really interested in hearing more about your project. Which requests for contact do you mean? To be fair I can’t remember your getting in touch with me about publishing an article here, but I might be wrong. If you have and I haven’t replied, then I’m sorry. Send me an email to info@teflequityadvocates.com and we can chat about a contribution to the blog.
      And no, it doesn’t have to be incendiary. Perhaps after this article we won’t be needing any controversial posts for a while 😉
      Best,
      Marek

  29. Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

    Hello, all

    This is my last reply in the comments section. I want to end with a reading list and a big thank you.

    My reading list – no assumptions about what you read or don’t read, just sharing what I read as I wrote this and responded – (please copy and paste links into browser):

    If you were not 100% sure of the connection between ELT an politics – bit.ly/2gf9cg9 (A. Suresh Canagarajah) and bit.ly/2gfmWr2 (R. Phillipson) – those are paywalled, contact me for access
    If you were keen to explore the power/balance question in modern ELT classrooms – bit.ly/2hpjPxU – (esp. pp.164-178) – free PDF from the British Council
    If you find it hard to believe that Trump’s language can affect anyone “normal” – bit.ly/2h7Na0w – a non-academic take, more available (also see Toni Morrisson’s essay there on whiteness, which I found most relevant)
    If you find it hard to believe the same about the language of Brexit – bit.ly/2gfmKZ6 – (trigger warning: Guardian article)
    If you’re keen to learn how exactly 2016’s toxic language can translate into speakers’ / teachers’ change of attitude – bit.ly/2ggsO8l
    And if you think all of this this is a problem that native speakers of English certainly don’t have, and are certain that your native speaker ideal did not suffer – bbc.in/2eM1e0M

    My big thank you:

    This goes to Marek Kiczkowiak for publishing my piece.
    Thank you for letting this conversation happen – thank you for the work you’re doing for TEFL Equity – and thank you for allowing the debate around this topic to unfold. I won’t participate any longer (enough out of me, I guess) but am keen to read the replies, and grateful that the topic will at least be addressed.
    If I am only able to write one clear and explicit sentence which all readers will understand, I want it to be this:

    Although he chose to publish, Marek did not agree with all my points, the TEFL Equity initiative does not subscribe to all my views, and the message (as well as its intentions) was mine and mine alone.

    Thanks again, and happy reading.
    WK

    • Noel Chivers says:

      Well done. You have single handedly destroyed the objective and the support of this site. The best thing you could have done is retract but you continued to defend your outrageous statements which have been completely destroyed. Sadly, prior to your post, many of us supported this cause – I for one, will not support this website. I have written to many of my colleagues, including other websites and organisations and asked for their opinion on your diatribe – watch this space.

  30. davedodgson says:

    I am no fan of the political events of 2016 in the English-speaking world but I find it interesting that you talk about how the teams behind Brexit and Trump used their words to ‘mis-represent/steer clear of facts,’ ‘divide and polarise opinion,’ and present a ‘pessimistic’ view when you have done exactly the same thing with this post. You have employed the same gross generalisations that the likes of Farage, Gove, Johnson and Trump did as well as make non-existent connections between major world events and your own opinions.

    Brexit stung a lot for me as a person with long-term plans to return to the UK with a ‘foreign’ family. However, it is not fair to state that ‘native speakers’ failed to analyse, think critically, fact-check, and demand evidence instead falling for “word on the street” and locker room-banter.” I know people who are fully-qualified teachers, who have lived abroad, and who have become proficient in more than one foreign language but who still voted for Brexit – not because they believed the lies and bending of the truth but because they did their own research and formed their own opinions. Granted, I also know people who ranted about unelected Brussels officials and curvy bananas but the point is the ‘leave’ group were just as diverse as any other group of more than one person is, each with their own beliefs, thoughts, and opinions and I do not see the connection between that, British English as a model (if it even is) and the TEFL Equity debate at all.

  31. timothyhampson says:

    The logic here implies that if Trump had lost and Brexit hadn’t happened, discrimination against non-native speakers would be somehow more okay. I am Anti-Brexit, Anti-Trump and Pro-TEFL-Equality, but we need to make arguments better than this.

    • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

      Democrats and Republicans, Leavers and Remainers – they all speak the same language. My argument is about the state of the language (although my political bias is clear).
      For the past two years, Trump and Brexit cost two countries millions of dollars, words, and minutes wasted on verbally, emotionally and intellectually tearing each other to pieces. The language has suffered as a result. The newspaper you bring to your staffroom today, in search of good articles to photocopy for your students, is (I’d argue) a more violent, divisive and harmful piece of work than it would have been three years ago. The internet sources your students will consult for your homework need, now more than ever, to be questioned first – are they “fake news” or “real news”? If you’ve been bringing the same title to the staffroom for the past two years, can you notice the difference? (If you can, great, that’s what we need more of)

      • James Scholl says:

        I think the assumption here is that everyone follows, or is interested in the news. As a rough guess, about 5% of the circa 600 students at the Mongolian high school where I teach are interested in the news and could actually explain what Brexit is apart from the basic notion. True, whenever we mention Donald Trump’s name in class (it is a household name, after all) the main associations which arise are the wall and his motto ‘Let’s make America great again’ (note that these usually get a laugh). It seems that this is what your original post was inspired by – that because these kinds of political ideas are disseminated globally in ‘UK And USA varieties’ of English-language media, that therefore their credibility (not that they are monolithic by any means) should be eroded. To be honest, I can’t say for sure to what extent my 300-odd high school students (I teach half of them) understand or identify with UKIP / Republican rhetoric. My pupils are thousands of miles away from US and European politics and to be honest, they are probably more concerned with recent trade restrictions imposed by China in response to a visit to Mongolia by the Dalai Lama, which from your point of view would perhaps undermine the credibility of Mandarin amongst NEST Chinese teachers and translators here.

  32. Matthew says:

    “[English native speakers] were not expected to look closely at what their languages are built of – how they function – what they do to people.”

    Wiktor, thanks for the extremely provocative post (I appreciate the chance to be provoked in this way…what with the ever more mirror-hall, bubble-like online environment).

    I do find the statement quoted above – along with others in the same vein – unfortunately blunt and simplistic. I’d have loved a bit more nuance along the way, to say the least. Surely when you write “English native speakers” there you are referring to “un/undertrained and uneducated monolingual US/UK native speaker teachers” who may be reasonably assumed to have never looked closely at what their languages are built of, how they function, or what they do to people? I’d like to think so.

    Would it be naive for me (as an example of an educated/trained US English native speaker) to be somewhat surprised if my education, training, and professional experience amounted to much less awareness of those things than the typical non-native English speaking teacher’s, based on a hypothetically equivalent education + the content and delivery of their English language learning career? I’m prepared to be surprised, but a surprise-at-first it may be nonetheless.

    So…riddle me this, please: why NOT be more detailed and precise in identifying the players here? Are you prepared to double-down on such bluntly, enormously generalized populations?

    The way you describe how an “English native speaker did not consciously, formally learn their language” without nuance insinuates to me as a reader, a claim amounting to unconsciousness and a lack any formal knowledge as a virtual trait of this entire group. The ‘broad brush’ used when identifying the category of people I assume you’d want to be referring to her paints your narrative into grandiose yet somehow very tight corners that don’t make a lot of sense to me.

    “In the current transition phase, with all else (qualifications, proficiency tests) being equal, native speakers are still given the benefit of the doubt due to their “idiomatic” control of the language (officially) or due to the “demands of the student market””

    Wiktor, have we yet gathered enough data to attach at least some qualifiers and/or quantifiers to this statement? Surely we have enough anecdotal evidence to add a couple more descriptors to a statement like the above? Wouldn’t that help? It’d certainly help keep the temperature in the room down…

    I’m happy to report an encouraging chat I had with an academic manager of a branch of the institution I work for just yesterday. She said that she’d hired several non-native speaking teachers over the last couple of years, that she didn’t think twice about it, and that she had never had any complaints from students about a teacher being a non-native English speaker. Does this represent such an as of yet statistically insignificant phenomenon that it shouldn’t be acknowledged in a piece like this? I don’t know. But I expect you know better.

    What I do know is that this is accounts for – at least to my sensibilities – the ‘rant-like’ qualities of this post. And hence, its provocative nature. And I’ve already expressed my appreciation for that very thing. And others are expressing anger, which is very understandable. Now that we’ve been either appreciatively provoked or unappreciatively angered by the very ‘blunt force’ in your post, what’s next?

    I don’t likely have time to read any more of the books on your reading list than I already have. I don’t think many people do. We do have time to read and write to each other here, though. And no matter how obnoxious some of the language gets, we commit to dialogue. I’d love to read a follow-up post that addresses some of the same issues further…and in a way that demonstrates YOUR understanding, after receiving this, ah, storm of feedback from your peers, of what some of the elements in this initial post are “built of – how they function – what they do to people”.

    Thank you, TEA! 🙂

    • TEFL Equity Advocates says:

      Hello Matthew,
      Thanks for commenting. Some really interesting points that hopefully Wiktor can respond to.
      I think dialogue is very important, so it would be good if the author could respond to some of the criticisms you raised 🙂
      I just wanted to say that there is a follow up rebuttal article coming. It should be up this weekend most likely, so please stay tuned. If you’d like to write a post in response, then let me know.
      Thanks for keeping the discussion sane despite the controversial nature of the post.
      Best,
      Marek

    • Noel Chivers says:

      Excellent riposte Matthew. I find myself unable to reply in a manner suiting to the article. So, thank you for voicing my thoughts.

    • Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

      Matthew,

      Thanks. Your quotes preceded by >> sign, followed by my reply. Post links into address bar for reference.

      >> “In the current transition phase, with all else (qualifications, proficiency tests) being equal, native speakers are still given the benefit of the doubt due to their “idiomatic” control of the language (officially) or due to the “demands of the student market””

      Wiktor, have we yet gathered enough data to attach at least some qualifiers and/or quantifiers to this statement? Surely we have enough anecdotal evidence to add a couple more descriptors to a statement like the above? Wouldn’t that help? It’d certainly help keep the temperature in the room down…”

      On “demands of student market” (and a useful critique of this myth), this year’s IATEFL plenary by Silvana Richardson – bit.ly/1XxfxDH – I’m sure you know this but her approach is the best I’ve seen this year.
      On the “idiomatic” / “authentic” ideal of the native speaker, bit.ly/2hcAIN9 – also useful for pointing out how the ideal is neither appropriate, nor fair.

      >> “The way you describe how an “English native speaker did not consciously, formally learn their language” without nuance insinuates to me as a reader, a claim amounting to unconsciousness and a lack any formal knowledge as a virtual trait of this entire group. The ‘broad brush’ used when identifying the category of people I assume you’d want to be referring to her paints your narrative into grandiose yet somehow very tight corners that don’t make a lot of sense to me.”

      Defending the whole of my point 4 above cannot be summed up in one reply. A crude numbers game will have to do. My MA in English took five years, full time, and I did grammar / applied linguistics for three of those years. My CELTA took four weeks – and the IH Language Awareness course (optional, but great), ten more weeks (one hour session each time). So there will always be a discrepancy between how conscious, formal (and, I’m tempted to add, unhurried) the study of the language is.

      >> I’d love to read a follow-up post that addresses some of the same issues further…and in a way that demonstrates YOUR understanding, after receiving this, ah, storm of feedback from your peers, of what some of the elements in this initial post are “built of – how they function – what they do to people”.

      What I’d love to read, personally, is other people’s follow-up posts like Luke Gaffney’s (see below), or something from Mura Nava, whom I enjoyed debating on previous occasions (see his reply above). Not to mention – some non-white, non-male, non-native perspectives on this. I’m two-thirds of the way to being the problem here, so expect no more from me…!

      Thanks again,
      WK

      • Matthew says:

        Thanks for the reply here, Wiktor. I’ve certainly watched the video of Silvana R’s IATEFL talk…at least 3 times, probably – it’s astounding! And thanks for the other link to IHJ. I’ll definitely have a look. Silvana, of course, is spot on: the ‘demands of the market’ line is an insipid thing that needs to be directly confronted and deconstructed when it is used in any attempt to discriminate against quality teachers.

        Okay. Now this what I’d like to share here:

        I’m very aware that I myself am, in many ways, a product of a discriminatory system. After a year of teaching as a volunteer, I did a 4-week CELTA and had access to lots and lots of teaching jobs in Thailand. Very aware of my opportunity, I quite consciously took advantage of my largely unearned ‘status’ in that country’s ELT scene to use the wide employment opportunities to gain experience in many different contexts while not feeling a whole lot of external pressure to ‘prove myself’ in the same way many NNS teachers in my position would likely be subjected to. I like to think that the *internal* pressure I generated for myself in large part made up for it, allowing me to perceive the ‘taking advantage’ I identified above as not, ultimately, unethical in the way it would be if I’d not worked as hard or harder than anyone I knew, native or non-native (but again, I realize I didn’t and don’t actually know the FULL experience of a NNS teacher).

        Some may read this as naive, but I think it is important that I always attempt to grow and maintain my awareness of my own privilege and ‘check’ my privilege as an NS in ELT — just as I try to do as a white American in a society in which my African-American fellow citizens have been the victims of obvious and less obvious systemic racism over generations, and continue to be.

        Thinking further about this article and the nature of the reaction to it here and elsewhere, I think there’s a dynamic here that’s perhaps important to acknowledge honestly: no matter how much those of us in a group which has benefitted from systemic discrimination sincerely and actively support change to that system, we are *nevertheless* prone to react to things in ways influenced by our conditioning. Our position of privilege dictates that we simply haven’t, over long periods of time, heard and read things being said about us (or a group we belong to) in negative ways. We simply don’t deal with being unfairly, unjustly, obnoxiously, wrongly (all things flying around in response to your post) ‘broad brushed’ all that often if ever at all. No, this is the experience of the other. We are allies, we have empathy, we know what’s just, we welcome change….but we are not victims.

        I think this is part of the dynamic in so much of the reaction – the anger, the sense of what you wrote as not unlike an ‘attack’ on…well, people like me. I thank Andy Hockley for posting his response above. It feel like it brought the part of me reflexively reacting in this way (oversensitively!) down from the rafters: “Hey Matthew”, I’m saying to it now, eye-to-eye, “so you felt attacked, offended, shocked, eh? You felt unfairly described, obnoxiously pegged? You felt spurious connections were being made, and important things were being ignored? There was a profoundly unfortunate lack of nuance? Ah, you believe that it even tarnishes the reputation of a powerful organization? Maybe even invalidates it! It made you feel, really feel in a pit-of-stomach kind of way, in a word, BAD? Hmm. Um…maybe, just maybe…that was exactly point.”

        Maybe THIS is something like the the experience of injustice, the disappointment, and the anger caused by those things I’m here, we’re ALL here to fight against, to lessen, to abolish…the thing we’re all here to oppose, but NOT all of us here have actually experienced.

        I’ve come around since my first comment here in thinking Wiktor very much knows what he’s doing in a way I hadn’t realized yet, and I’m not just ‘happy to be provoked’: I’m truly thankful that Marek decided to publish the post and don’t agree at all that it was a bad move for TEA.

        Sorry for another too-long comment! 😛

  33. pornoholocaust says:

    It’s not so much the article but more so TEFL Equity Advocates which I feel let let down by right now. Just looking below at the glowing endorsements from Crystal and Harmer below and to think what their response would be to this. Straw man at it’s finest. I shall continue to advocate greater equality and less discrimination in ELT but in no way shall I recommend this organization again if it continues to peddle this toxic and divisive rhetoric. I can’t believe you think that anyone actually ‘owns’ English. Welcome to the Twenty First century.

      • Matthew says:

        Has it though? I’m pretty confident it hasn’t and won’t “set back the cause by years”. I mean, read that back! Grandiose, no?

        Actually (I hope this doesn’t offend you, but do expect it to): I can’t help but read the statement “this has set back this site and cause by years” as part of a person (subconsciously perhaps) just coming out against the cause…

        • TEFL Equity Advocates says:

          Hello Matthew,
          While the post might have done some damage to TEFL Equity and alienated certain people, I do not think it can have any effect on the broder awareness of native speakerism in our profession which has been rising steadily for the last few years.
          When I started out, there were VERY few people who ever openly spoke about it. Now, there are numerous independent blog posts published every month. If you go to a conference, you are bound to find several talks on the topic too. A lot of people react and comment on job ads for native speakers. And just the reaction to this post shows how committed many of us are to the cause of equality 🙂
          Best,
          Marek

        • Noel says:

          Thanks for your comment Matthew. It’s quite nice to prove someone wrong rather than enter into an argument. Actually, your comment was quite funny – my peers also had a little chuckle. We are members of this group and have been advertising for qualified English teachers for the last 2 years and we never use the N word when recruiting. We are in the TEA Hall of Fame and please do check out our blog for a post supporting the argument for NNES last August.

          • Matthew says:

            Noel, I regretted the wording of that reply as soon as I posted it. While the idea of you and your peers laughing at it smarts a bit, I’ll take it. I’d rather come off as naive while trying to process what I recognize as an issue that goes beyond my full understanding than make proclamations like “Well done. You have single handedly destroyed the objective and the support of this site”. I have no reason to doubt your commitment and credentials and sincerity; I meant to focus on the discourse itself, not you personally in any way. I wish I’d acknowledged my specific concern (and confusion) and simply asked you to explain further why you reason the way you do about a single blog post, and if you see how it could do more harm than good to give a single post credit for such destructive power to an organization and movement you sincerely support. It seemed to me possible that doing so could be in itself making things worse. How I expressed that was silly. Well, it probably seemed quite stupid. But again, I’ll take it. And request what I meant to do previous: please attempt to further support what you assert here (as objectively as possible, without tautology or hyperbole), that this single post is responsible for actual harm beyond being a perceived attack on your own personal sensibilities. I’d argue that it may be a useful exercise to appreciate and experience the outrage elicited by the piece differently. Rather than authoritatively deeming the author and Marek and the organization so radically in the wrong, we could consider it an opportunity for expressing empathy, for responding critically and yet compassionately. Laugh at it more if you like (maybe in private this time?) but I’ve simply failed to find the compassion I do assume is there behind the proclamations.

  34. Scott Thornbury says:

    Fools rush in… but here goes. What I thought Wiktor’s blog was going to be about (but patently isn’t) is: the possible effect that Brexit, Trump (and the smouldering anti-globalizing forces that they represent) will have on the future of English. As the US and the UK dig themselves deeper into their heavily fortified bunkers, might the rest of the world start to look elsewhere for a global lingua franca? Is this the tipping point that David Graddoll sometimes alludes to – when suddenly, as in other complex systems, relatively small causes can have huge, even disastrous effects? If this is indeed the case, then it won’t much matter where English teachers were born or what their sodding accent is like – they simply won’t exist. Ok, that’s me done.

        • marekkiczkowiak says:

          Hello Scott,
          Thanks for stopping by and commenting. That would have indeed been a very interesting direction this article could have taken. Tobe fair, I’m doubtful that the place of English as the global lingua franca could be in jeopardy because of Trump and Brexit, however, would be very much interested in reading a post on why this might happen. Which language do you think might replace it? Spanish? Mandarin?
          Best,
          Marek

  35. Wiktor Kostrzewski says:

    (Back on here after Marek’s kind permission)

    Four scenarios for you.

    1. You come to teach in my neck of the woods, and you’re asked to drive a car to classes and from classes. The country has a reputation for reckless drivers. There are roadside crosses everywhere. And, since you’re in the south, it’s snowing. You drive back from class on the evening of 4th December – a coal miners’ holiday. There are probably some amazing drivers out there, but you know half the town has been celebrating, and that means there are some drunk drivers, too. Do you trust other drivers more, less, or the same as back in your country?

    2. For the next 12 months, 90% of your family business is with companies from Greece and Venezuela. The business is doing well, but there is just no demand elsewhere at the moment. The companies from these two countries are more than happy to buy, they want what you need. You know that businesses in those two countries have had huge problems with credit before, and that payments may not always go through. You don’t have all the time you need to do your due dilligence. There are probably some good, trustworthy companies out there, but you know half the country is going bankrupt in each case. Do you trust the companies more, less, or the same as in other countries?

    3. You sign up for a Polish conversation class, after a 5-year break, to be better able to speak Polish to your wife and daughters. It’s now some time after 2015. Your new teacher is now a newly qualified native speaker of Polish, 23 years old, male. He has the government-approved qualifications, and is using the government-approved materials – that’s all he’s ever used since he started teacher training. You know the country’s government has been very controversial towards women’s rights – you’ve been following the abortion debate, the anti-violence convention debate, and so on. There are probably some good, clued-up Polish native speakers out there, but you just don’t know anything about your new teacher yet. Do you trust him more, less, or the same as the teachers you had before?

    4. Women’s University Campus, Abu Dhabi. All students are female. You’re the Head of English Language Program. The most popular majors among your students are Nursing, Agriculture, Geography, and Medicine. Your programs use IELTS materials, mainly, but they always run out so fast that teachers are encouraged to adapt and supplement heavily. It’s now late 2017, and the U.S. has pretty much reversed its stance on Medicare / Medicaid, global warming (incl. Paris Treaties) – and the conversation around women’s rights has turned ugly. Because of the variety of English you’re teaching, all materials (and most of the teachers) are American English. You know there are some talented, gifted and aware teachers out there, but there are also those whose impact on the University may be negative. You are about to start the hiring process. Do you trust all applicants more, less, or the same as the applicants in previous years?

    This is what I mean by “trust less”. Not “slam on the brakes” but “look around more carefully”. Not “shut down shop” but “make sure your partners deliver”. Not “fire all teachers” but “think twice about what your teachers can do”. And not “stop hiring natives” but “take more time to hire natives who know what good (or bad) their language can do”.

    Have you found foolproof ways to make sure your new hire will always fit well within your staffroom – even before you’ve hired them?
    Have you found that your colleagues are, in fact, less stressed and more optimistic about their ELT futures after 2016?
    Have you always got all the time to do all the thinking, questioning, debating, reaching over divides – alongside your planning, teaching, marking – without taking mental shourtcuts?
    Have you already figured out how to talk about / respond to Brexit / Trump debates in your classroom (planned or otherwise) – no matter what Brexit / Trump will actually do?
    Are you 100% sure that your classroom is apolitical, neutral and PARSNIP-free, and that your materials / co-teachers / students will do nothing to upset the balance?

    And if the answer to any of the above is “not really” – and you still do day-to-day ELT business – where does this leave you?

    WK

  36. Andy Hockley says:

    Contrary to many of the commenters here, I felt Wiktor’s post was passionate, interesting, and in large part, excellent.

    Hell, I trust native English speakers less after 2016 than I did before, and I am one. Clearly it;s unfair to tar everyone with the same brush, but having said that – before this year, before the overtly racist Brexit and Trump campaigns, before the results of those two votes, and before the post referendum/election emboldening of the racists and bigots that we’ve all read about and seen with our own eyes – before all that, I believed that the vast majority of British and US American native speakers were open minded tolerant and broadly progressive. Now, I no longer believe that, and now I have been made aware that there is actually a very large minority (and it is only a hope that it is a minority, no longer a belief) which is the opposite of what I believed. The last time I was back in the UK a Polish man had just been murdered for speaking Polish in public. That’s not a country I believed the UK was.

    In these circumstances, where a native speaker likes me trusts the native speaker group that little bit less, can we really be surprised that a Polish man living n the UK feels it too?

    • Noel Chivers says:

      Good response Andy, I too concluded the same re. ” I believed that the vast majority of British and US American native speakers were open minded tolerant and broadly progressive. Now, I no longer believe that, and now I have been made aware that there is actually a very large minority (and it is only a hope that it is a minority, no longer a belief) which is the opposite of what I believed. ” However, having reflected and read a lot on the subject, I have now reached a different conclusion.

      The majority of Trump and many of the Brexit supporters were indeed misinformed [we now know] and voted in favour, not because of racial issues, but because they were completely disenfranchised from modern politics and leaders.

      I was a ‘remainer’ but since then, I found out many of my well-educated, well-rounded friends and colleagues had voted ‘out’ or for Trump, but their reasons were completely based on economics or politics – none were racist in any way shape or form.

      Politicians and the Media have to shoulder a substantial amount of the blame for the lies and misrepresentations. In fact, I believe the voters would have supported Ronald McDonald had he stood for President.

      The Brexit result also reminded me of what we voted for in 1975 – The Common Market’ was a different animal in a different world – ‘outward’ migration was seen as the issue then.

      I digress, to conclude, there are racists in the English-speaking west as there are in Poland – I’ve seen them marching in Krakow square in uniforms but neither groups represent nor affect the cultural progression of any of our countries.

      “Forwards into the past” http://www.historyextra.com/article/international-history/1975-referendum

  37. Techer Japan says:

    To be honest, I was glad of Brexit and I thought Trump winning was hilarious. The reason for this was that I am sick of people like you telling me how to think. English became the monster it is not through egalitarian means, it’s on its natural trajectory. The bottom will fall out sooner or later but if I have learnt anything, it is that you can’t tell people what to think. You just push them away. And this blog post is a great illustration of that. RIP TeflEquity lol

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