Why rebellious stubbornness (sometimes) pays off

Personally, I’m a rather stubborn type sometimes. And just a tiny bit rebellious. Like to go a bit against the current. Or maybe driven. It depends how you look at it sometimes.

To give you one example, this whole website is the result of this stubborn rebellious drive to promote professional equality for ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers in ELT. It was born five years ago now (time flies!) out of a stubborn refusal to accept that I and other ‘non-native speakers’ should be treated as second-class citizens simply because of our mother tongue.

And this drive has kept me going over the years, blogging weekly about native speakerism, going to conferences, speaking to recruiters. Of course, there have been several occasions where I just wanted to give up. Sometimes when you see the level of discrimination in our industry (racism, ageism, native speakerism, you name it!), you start feeling that things perhaps will never change.

But then you wake up the next day and somehow you find the energy to carry on.

Because you also see that there are thousands of people out there in ELT who support you. A huge thanks to all of you who read this blog, visit the site, raise awareness and speak out against native speakerism!

To give you another example of my stubborn rebellious drive in action, you might have noticed that I have blogged a lot recently about English as a Lingua Franca. I have also helped co-write with Robert J. Lowe “Teaching English as a Lingua Franca”.

After sever several years of speaking out against the systemic bias in ELT against those perceived as ‘non-native speakers’, often referred to as native speakerism, I started to realise that the roots of this ideology go far beyond what we’d typically see as reflections of native speakerism. In other words, apart from the obvious beliefs that support the ideology, such as the belief that those perceived as ‘native speakers’ are better teachers, which of course lead to discrimination in recruitment, there are also numerous other, perhaps less obvious, but equally fundamental beliefs and practices that lead to the spread, maintenance and justification of native speakerism.

For example, many of us in ELT might believe that only the perceived ‘native speaker’ pronunciation should be used as a model our students should imitate. This in practice usually means either standard British or general American accent when pronunciation is practised and presented. It also often means a somewhat negative attitude to ‘foreign’ accents, in particular when assessing pronunciation.

So where does English as a Lingua Franca come into play here?

I think it can offer us an interesting and research-based alternative to the current EFL/ESL practices, many of which are based on beliefs that only further reinforce and justify the ideology of native speakerism. And if we are serious about tackling the ideology, we need to rethink some of these beliefs and practices, and look towards a new pardagim. To me, English as a Lingua Franca research can offer us precisely such a new paradigm.

I understand that there are quite a few people in ELT who have a much less positive view of ELF, to say the least. And it is entirely possible that I might be completely wrong in my rebellious stubbornness regarding ELF. And there have certainly been a good few moments when I started to doubt whether I’m on the right track or simply going a bit ELF mad.

That’s why I was absolutely delighted and completely shocked when I found out that my online course “The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English as a Lingua Franca” is among the ELTons finalist for innovation in teacher resources. If you’re not familiar with ELTons, it’s one of the most prestigious awards in ELT given yearly for new, innovative products or services with a practical application. You can read more about the prizes here.

Perhaps rebellious stubbornness can after all (sometimes) pay off.

So my message to all of you out there who have got that far in this blog post is – don’t give up. Pursue your dreams, no matter how mad or silly they might seem to other people. Surround yourself with individuals who will support you and help you when things get tough and you start doubting your ideas.

To your success!


PS The dreaded sales pitch starts here – proceed with caution. You’ve been warned:

“The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English as a Lingua Franca” aims to bridge the gap between ELF research and practice and provide ELT professionals with practical research-based suggestions and activities for teaching ELF. By the end of the course you will know how to:

  • Help your students communicate more effectively
  • Write your own materials and adapt your course book to teach ELF
  • Improve your students’ intelligibility and listening skills

“The course gave me a lot of practical ideas and a new vision for teaching English.” – Andrea Grassi, English Teacher from Argentina

“Backed up by theory with lots of practical activities, which is what I want as a teacher” – Helen Ritchie, English teacher from the UK.

If you’d like to learn more about the course, and get a celebratory 25% off (only 50 discount codes available!), click here.

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