Teacher identity is a delicate flower. After all, we are what we teach, so it is essential to reflect on who we are as language teachers, especially, if the language is English and more importantly, when English is an additional language for us, non-native English speaker teachers.
There are far more non-native English speaker teachers (NNESTs – pronounced en-NESTs) than native speaker English teachers (NESTs), and even though identity issues between the two groups may overlap, Marcela and I chose to look at the specificities of non-native teachers.
Our main tenet is that with English becoming a global / international language, NNESTs are gaining a competitive advantage: they are bilingual and bicultural (often multilingual and multicultural) as well as lifelong learners of an additional language. It follows that there can only be two drawbacks in the 21st century: not knowing English and knowing only English.
Teaching English as an international language has certain implications and we draw attention to some of these from the point of view of teacher development. Whether you’re a NEST or an NNEST, we hope you will enjoy reading our concise book on “Why NNESTs?”
In the book we invite readers to reconsider the smouldering debate on who is better: native or non-native? We argue that both species bring a somewhat different set of skills to the table, and as international English becomes more and more widespread, the divisions are getting blurred as well as obsolete. While this may not happen without the active participation and advocacy of all members in the ELT community, the winds of change are blowing.
Erzsébet Békés is a Hungarian English teacher with more than 40 years of ELT experience. As a volunteer, she taught English to North-African migrants in Crete, set up Language Improvement Centres in Ethiopia, spent six months teaching English for Tourism to members of an indigenous tribe in the Amazonian jungle and gave crash courses in Survival English to undocumented “sea gypsies” while visiting Borneo. Based in Ecuador and working as a teacher trainer, she is a fully competent and proud non-native speaker teacher of English.
Marcela Carrasco has been teaching English for over 30 years. Born in Cuenca, Ecuador and brought up in Tehran, Iran under Mohammad Reza Shah’s regime and then educated in the United States, Marcela spent her formative years in cultures at odds with each other. As the owner and director of a hugely successful language school in Ecuador’s cultural capital, Cuenca, she has lived and walked multiculturalism. As a bilingual teacher of English and Spanish, her identity is neither – she is one of the world’s new global citizens.