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Why you should stop calling yourself a non-native speaker

Do you still talk about yourself as a ‘non-native speaker’?

In this video I give 3 reasons why by using the term ‘non-native speaker’ in the recruitment process, you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot.

Reason 1: Prefix non is negative

First really important reason is that the prefix non itself has a very negative
meaning. In fact, it has three negative meanings as you can see here from this

So the first meaning is that it’s an absence of something. So if you’re a non-native speaker, it means that you kind of lack this quality of nativeness right?

The second meaning is that it’s not important or worthless. For example, something can be a non-issue right?

And the third also negative meaning is that it’s of worse quality, that it’s simply inferior. So by calling yourself a non-native speaker, you might be further perpetuating these ideas that, and

prejudices that many people might already have about non-native speakers, and you’re further perpetuating the negative meaning of the prefix non.

Reason 2: Reduces your chances of getting hired

The second very simple reason is that if you, especially in the hiring process or when you’re looking for one-to-one clients, if you start using the word non-native speaker, it might have a negative impact, because obviously a lot of people do have negative prejudices about non-native speaker teachers.

So, say you send a CV to someone and the first thing that people see on that CV is that you’re a non-native speaker or that your first language is, say, Chinese, or Polish, or Brazilian or whatever else your first language is. As soon as the recruiter sees that, if they have any negative prejudices against non-native speakers, your CV might make a very fast route into the bin, very quickly without even being considered.

So to me, if you’re applying for jobs and anywhere you mentioned being a non-native speaker, you’re simply shooting yourself in the foot, you’re doing yourself a disservice, and you will be much less likely to get hired.

Reason 3: It will negatively affect your self-confidence

The last reason that I want to talk about why I think you should stop using the prefix non and talk about yourself as a non-native speaker is that it is bound to negatively affect how you think of yourself.

If we constantly think of ourselves in these non terms, in these negative terms, this is bound to

negatively affect our confidence and who we are as English teachers. And I’ve literally had the chance to interact with thousands and thousands of English teachers who don’t speak English as their first language, and it always strikes me how many of them really lack in confidence.

This is understandable bearing in mind the prejudices and the discrimination that many of them have had to face, but I think one really important point is that if you continue thinking about yourself and talking about yourself as a non-native speaker in these negative terms, you’re further kind of perpetuating this negativity and that’s bound to affect how you feel about yourself about your ability to teach the language and ultimately about your ability as well to succeed in English language teaching. 

There are many other more positive terms that you could be using in order to talk about yourself, be it with your students, when you apply for jobs, when you present yourself to new clients, on your website. There are plenty of places where you can really create a professional profile and really attract potential customers as well to study with you.

And some of these alternative terms that you could start using is for example a proficient English user. You could talk about being a qualified English teacher, or maybe a CELTA-qualified or an MA-qualified. You could simply talk about being an experienced English teacher, a professional English teacher.

There are also other terms to do with the fact that naturally as somebody who did not speak English as their first language, somebody who has had to learn it, you are at least bi or maybe multilingual. So why not use that instead of non-native speaker. For example, you could talk about yourself as a bilingual teacher of English. You could talk about yourself as a multilingual English teacher.

So if you still use the term non-native speaker to refer to yourself when for example talking about yourself on your website, on your CV, when presenting yourself to prospective clients, then stop doing it right now. Instead, use one of the alternative terms.

If you enjoyed this video, then give it a like and give this channel a follow as well so you don’t miss my future videos. And also check out my online teacher training programs at TEFL Equity Academy.

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Ekaterina Lommas
Ekaterina Lommas
1 year ago

Hi, Marek! Great info!
I’m writing here because I was unable to contact you through any other source.. for whatever reason, I cannot enter my account where I have purchased many courses and got plenty of useful information! How can I get it back?

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