Non-native speakers encouraged to apply – by Rob Sheppard

Without discrimination against ‘NNESTs’ I never would be an English teacher. I’d wager I’m not the only one.

In late August of 2006, somewhere in the crowded streets of Kangbuk District in Seoul, a woman with a master’s degree in English and tired eyes walked to the post office with a padded yellow mailer under her arm. The next stop after the post office was the bank. She probably walked with some hurried annoyance at being asked to perform this task, thinking of all the other things she had to do. Inside the mailer was my passport, and at the bank she’d wire me around $600, a full reimbursement of the cost of my flight to Korea.

When I arrived in Seoul about a week later I was so absorbed in my own exhaustion, excitement, and culture shock that all I thought when I met this woman, my new supervisor, was that she didn’t seem particularly friendly. I must have been a bit dense, because it took me a full six months to become fully cognizant of the uneven lay of the land.

Our school had 20 teachers: 10 Korean and 10 ‘foreign’ (a term I initially chafed at). The Korean teachers all held masters’ degrees from English speaking countries, while the requirement for foreign teachers was simply a bachelor’s degree and ‘native English,’ (which generally meant a desirable combination of passport and complexion). For the Korean teachers this was a career, but for most of the foreigners it was a gap year. The Korean teachers worked full time (which in Korea regularly means mandatory overtime); the foreigners only 15-20 hours per week. The Korean teachers made the equivalent of around $15 per hour: the foreign teachers something like 30% more than that.

These highly qualified, talented Korean English teachers watched kids like me cycle in and out of their country like it was spring break, make our bland observations about their culture, collect our paychecks, and saunter out of the office after 3 hours of work. That they still welcomed and befriended us rather than despising us is a graciousness I’ll never fathom.

The injustice of this situation really only hit me like it did because, by the time I finally recognized it, I was already good friends with several of these Korean teachers. At the time I dealt with it in the only way I knew how, in the staging of meaningless acts of protest: wearing shorts and a punk t-shirt to work, oblivious to the fact that this was only a further exercise in privilege.

Since then I like to think I’ve grown up some. Realizing this was more than a gap year, I got an MA TESOL and eventually got good at doing this teaching thing. So far I’ve been lucky. I’ve been given a shot more than once and hired above my experience level, and privilege of various kinds has no doubt factored into those opportunities.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of leading teams of teachers, of hiring, training, and promoting some amazing ELT professionals. That first experience with the injustice of native-speakerism has stuck with me, and I’ve done what I can to make certain it never happens on my watch, in my programs. I can say with confidence that the three best hires I’ve ever made were of non-native speakers.

There are those who say that students would rather learn from native speakers, and as a program administrator at a nonprofit, my ultimate duty is to serve a population. So I have had to give this argument careful consideration. And indeed, I have heard rooms full of students affirm that they would prefer an “American teacher.” That attitude certainly exists. But more importantly I’ve seen that bias vanish in minutes, as they fall under the spell of their incredible new teacher whose first language happens to be Chinese, or Russian, or Portuguese.

Meeting student needs doesn’t always mean catering to every misguided want. Many students hold some serious misapprehensions about what ought to happen in a classroom. It is our responsibility as educators to disabuse them of these ideas.

To me the core argument against native-speakerism is two-fold:

First of all, the notion that native speakers have a leg up on non-natives is simply unfounded. A quick metaphor explains why. If I need to understand the inner workings of my computer, who’s the better resource: Paolo who built his own computer, or rich-kid Evan whose mom just bought his ungrateful ass a new iMac?

Once that illogic has been demonstrated, the more compelling part of the argument comes in. Saying you “prefer” a native speaker doesn’t change the fact that it’s discriminatory. In my experience, if the rationale for a policy or a preference or a belief about a group of people can be traced back to the circumstances of that group of those people’s birth, that’s usually a good time to start raising eyebrows and asking questions. A whole lot of injustice arises from that kind of reasoning, and this is no exception.

Recently, I’ve started my own business, Ginseng. It’s a mission-driven online English school offering live group classes to students around the world. As we state on our homepage, we see teachers as the most valuable resource we can offer, so we want the best. We intend to pay and treat them very well. With competition out there touting native speakers left and right, I certainly had to consider whether I would be wise to do the same. Business is business, right?

But why do people learn English? Why do we teach English?

For me at least it’s in large part because of the opportunities it affords my students. I didn’t come here to found the next E.F.  So what kind of hypocrite would I be if I professed to be increasing opportunity, only to go and offer that opportunity only to those who were born into the privilege of native English?

It was this that led me to enthusiastically embrace the mission of TEFL Equity. It was also this that led me to commit 10% of our student slots to providing free classes to those who can’t afford to pay. If your values align with ours, and are interested in joining a team, I hope you’ll check out Ginseng’s job listings, complete with the TEFL Equity badge. Non-native speakers are encouraged to apply.

rob shephardRob Sheppard is senior director of adult programs at Quincy Asian Resources and the founder of Ginseng English, an online, mission-driven English school that will fully launch in late 2017. He also serves on the community advisory council at First Literacy, is a member of the Open Door Collective, and is co-chair elect of TESOL’s Adult Education Interest Section.


Brazilian English is beautiful by BrELT

The following video has been produced by BrELT (Brazil’s English Language Teachers), a Facebook community that fosters collaborative professional development among Brazil’s ELT professionals. The message is clear: “We are here. We are Brazilian. Deal with it.”

“Who are you talking to, though?” you may wonder.

Other Brazilians, believe it or not. Sadly, we needed to reaffirm our pride in being who we are not to the world, but to our fellow citizens.

Recently, a highly qualified Brazilian English teacher with a successful YouTube channel has been abused by a countryman saying she shouldn’t be recording because she’s from Brazil. Another famous Brazilian YouTuber said learning from native speakers is more cost-effective. In several other YouTube channels, Brazilians have mocked household names because of their accents in English.

What’s being revealed by the comfortable anonymity of internet comments is only the tip of the iceberg. Native-speakerism runs deep in this country, as it finds a fruitful field in our infamous shame of being Brazilian.

Representing almost 12,000 teachers, most of whom from Brazil, BrELT could not leave it at that and embarked on the Brazilian YouTubers’ campaign #AccentPride. Join us! No matter where you are from, record a video reaffirming your pride in your accent or showing your support to non-native English language teachers worldwide.

We are many. It’s time we made our voices (and accents) heard.

BrELT is a Facebook community for ELT professionals in Brazil and for those who wish to connect with us. You are welcome to join us at BrELT – Brazil’s English Language Teachers . For more information about our initiatives, which include online events, blog posts and the Brazilian counterpart to ELTChat, please check our blog here.

The people in the video are volunteer moderators in the community:

Bruno Andrade, one of the founders of BrELT, has a B.A. in English from UFRJ, the TKT and the CPE and is now working towards his Master’s in Applied Linguistics. In the industry for 15 years, he’s worked in online education and as a school coordinator in Rio de Janeiro.

Eduardo de Freitas is a teacher trainer for PBF Guarulhos. He holds the CAE, the TKT, and the CELTA and has been a teacher for seven years.

Ilá Coimbra is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and Cambridge Examiner based in São Paulo. In the field for 17 years, she has a B.A. in Languages from USP, the CPE, the CELTA and the ICELT.

Natalia Guerreiro works as an Aviation English teacher trainer and examiner in Sao Jose dos Campos. In ELT since the year 2000, she holds a B.A. in English from UFRJ, the TKT, the CELTA, the CPE, and an M.A. in Language Testing from Unimelb.

Priscila Mateini, based in Niteroi, holds a B.A. in Languages from UFF, a postgraduate degree in Linguistic Science (UPF), the TKT and the ECPE, as well a UDL Specialist course certificate from Harvard. With over 8 years of experience (4 years focusing on Special Education), she is now working towards her Master’s and helping schools adapt to children with Special Needs.

Ricardo Barros is a CELTA tutor and freelance teacher based in Jundiaí, who has been working in ELT since 2003. He holds a B.A. in History from Unicamp, the CPE, the CELTA, and the DELTA.

T. Veigga, who has being in the industry for 14 years, is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and materials designer who lives in Rio de Janeiro. He holds a B.A. in English from UFRJ and a post-graduate degree in Media Education (PUC-Rio).

How the native speaker myth affects us all by Christina Lorimer

I was 22 years old when it occurred to me there was a problem.

By that time, I had a strong teacher identity and was actually quite adept at teaching. Growing up with parents who were public school teachers meant I didn’t spend 4 or even 8 hours a day at school but rather 10 or even sometimes 12. My childhood took place in a music classroom. My chores weren’t doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom but erasing the chalkboard, alphabetizing the songbooks, and organizing the chairs. My playmates were the stapler, the hole punch, the markers and the highlighters, and my babysitters were my mom’s students waiting in line to audition for a solo in the upcoming concert. I learned how to do fractions and percentages by adding up scores on music theory tests and how to give feedback by addressing student questions about their final grades after class. I was nine years old.

Around this time, my dad pursued his dream of becoming a biology teacher. His eyes lit up when he talked to students about the natural world, just like they did when he read me Bernstein Bears before bed, and he started doing science experiments and testing out his lesson plans at home. I died of embarrassment when my friends told me how he jumped up on tables and made up silly science songs in class, but I also intimately came to understand the concept of multiple identities, having to behave differently when my parents were “mom” and “dad” than when they were “teacher” or, later, when my dad was “principal”.

At twelve, I started doing choreography for my mom’s choir groups and regularly taught hundreds of high school students how to dance. Still today, whenever I feel unprepared for a class or nervous about teaching a new subject, I think back on my 12-year old self, standing on a platform in front of 200 high school boys, successfully teaching them how to jazz square and do a roll off. As a teenage female teacher, I had to develop thick skin and learn how to stay cool and collected in the classroom, even when I felt hurt or confused by student side comments.

So, as you can see, my teacher identity and skills developed early on.

Throughout my undergrad, I studied art and foreign languages. I also taught academic English for a year, doing one-on-one test preparation sessions at my university’s Learning Assistance Center. But I didn’t consider myself a trained English teacher and had never even heard of TESOL, ELT, EFL or any of the other million acronyms in our field. I certainly wasn’t familiar with expressions like “native speaker myth” or terms like NEST and NNEST. Even though I had been teaching most of my life, I was new to the field of English teaching. And although I felt very connected to my teacher identity, I hadn’t explored what it meant to be an English teacher.

After I graduated, I applied to a non-profit to be a volunteer English teacher at a rural elementary school in Costa Rica. Our group had a two-week training before arriving in our small communities to teach English for a year. The stakes were high. We were being sent to these particular schools because they were either too small or too poor to receive an English teacher from the government. When (or in many cases, if) students start high school in Costa Rica, they are expected to have at least a low-intermediate English level upon entry. So, if these children aren’t exposed to the language in elementary school and don’t build a strong English foundation, there is a high chance they flunk out of high school early on. The first day of training, I learned that out of 25 volunteers I was the most experienced and qualified English teacher. Something felt off about this.

And this was the first time I detected NEST issues and English teaching tourism.

It felt problematic that among a group of twenty soon-to-be English language teachers, I was the most experienced and qualified. I had only been an English tutor for a year. It felt problematic that a volunteer openly stated she decided to teach English in Costa Rica in order to learn Spanish and that another guy told me the program was his ticket into previously inaccessible surf spots on the coast. And while I understood my primary role was teaching English, I had to admit that I was there for other reasons too, like improving my Spanish and having a cultural experience. Something didn’t feel right, but I also wasn’t sure it was wrong. Americans teaching English abroad is so common and normalized that I didn’t dig deeper into those feelings.

But they came up again in my MA TESOL program. Although NEST/NNEST issues weren’t, unfortunately, an explicit part of our TESOL coursework, in a program where over half the students were new NNESTs, I became well-versed in the terminology. In my first graduate grammar course, the girl behind me was a whiz at syntax trees, and the girl in front of me asked really good questions I would’ve never thought of. These two tutored me throughout the semester and became my closest friends in the program. They were from Germany and Russia, respectively, and together we discovered NEST/NNEST issues. We would be at conferences (yes, TESOL conferences), and people would say to them, “I can’t believe you grew up in Germany, your English accent is so good!” (She has lived in the U.S. since she was 14.) Or, as soon as they would learn my other friend grew up in Russia, they would suddenly detect an accent. “Oh yes, I didn’t hear it before, but of course, yes, you do sound a little Russian.” Like magic, after three days of interacting with her and watching her present research, suddenly, she’s Russian. Suddenly, she’s labeled as “non-native”. And then the icing on the cake: “You don’t even look like a non-native speaker!”

Those feelings got stronger when I completed a Fulbright in Brazil.

Stories began to circulate among the Fulbright fellows about Brazilians constantly questioning their “native-ness” and consequently their right to be a Fulbright English teaching fellow. My closest friends in our group were a Puerto Rican guy, a black woman from the South, and an Ecuadorian-raised girl from Kentucky. The whole year, they felt they had to defend their native-ness because they also spoke Spanish or weren’t born in the States or didn’t “look like a native speaker”.

Those feelings got even stronger when I began to look for work in Brazil. Waiting for interviews with language schools and even multinational publishers, I felt defeated every time I sat down next to another candidate with little to no experience. But hey, they were native speakers too, so we were being considered for the same job. When I opened up my schedule for private students, they never once asked about my experience but rather only cared about where I was from, as if being born in a specific place qualified me to teach. The reality hit me that all my training and education may have been in vain. I thought back to my parents and the saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I wondered if they ever felt this way.

I’ve seen students pay three times the market price for private lessons with unqualified native teachers and then believe they were “stupid” or “unable to learn languages” when they didn’t improve. This is not OK and this why we need to take teaching seriously. Teaching has been my life. It’s been my parents and grandparents lives. It’s my sister’s life.

I’ve spent the last ten years surrounded by intelligent and patient NNEST peers and colleagues. Together, we’ve shared stories and unpacked the many ways native speakerism is yet another form of discrimination. We’ve brainstormed alternatives to “non-native”, feeling that a “non-” label and deficient model is part of the problem, and created professional development modules about how to educate students, teachers, and administrators about NNEST issues.

The native speaker myth results in the deprofessionalization of our field. But in much worse-case scenarios, it results in illegal hiring practices, fuels discrimination, and cheats students out of the opportunity to work with truly exceptional teachers. And these are issues that affect all of us.

christina-lorimer-4258_hi-res11254Christina Lorimer is a teacher trainer, materials writer, and certified language coach with an M.A. in TESOL and 13 years in the field. After teaching in the U.S., Costa Rica, and Brazil, she founded Step Stone Languages, an English for Specific Purposes school for autonomous learners focused on providing real-life materials that increase student motivation and decrease teacher burnout. She is also an author and editor of teacher guides for National Geographic Cengage Learning. In her free time, she loves hiking to waterfalls and playing with her one-year old niece.

Native-speakerism and the complexity of personal experience: A duoethnographic study

‘Native speakers’ are better at teaching speaking and should be given conversational and high level classes, right? They can’t tell a verb from a noun, though, so don’t ask them to teach any grammar.

‘Non-native speakers’ know the grammar better and since they know the students’ L1, they should teach lower levels, right? They’re never proficient enough, though, so don’t give them advanced groups.

Stereotypes, misconceptions and prejudices about ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers such as the ones above are rife in our profession. If you join any discussion on the topic, you’re bound to see more than one.

When we talk about native speakerism, we also frequently think that it always benefits ‘native speakers’. They get better jobs. They’re paid more. They get to travel around the world. However, this is just one side of the coin.

While native-speakerism has gained much attention in recent years, the complex ways in which it influences the lives and career trajectories of individual teachers has often been overlooked. So in this newly published paper Robert Lowe from the TEFLology podcast and Marek Kiczkowiak from TEFL Equity Advocates show how things such as geography, teaching context and personal disposition can affect the influence that native-speakerism has on the careers of teachers. The paper is titled “Native-speakerism and the complexity of personal experience: A duoethnographic study” and was published in the journal Cogent Education. In it, they take an innovative dialogic approach where the voices and personal experiences of the two authors come to the fore.

The article is open access which means anyone anywhere can access, download and share it completely for free. You can read the article here, or by copying and pasting this link to your browser:

And if you enjoyed it, please Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it: social-media it around. And leave us a comment here too. We’d love to hear what you think.


Lowe, R.J. & Kiczkowiak, M. (2016). Native-speakerism and the complexity of personal experience: A duoethnographic study. Cogent Education 3 (1): 1254171. Available on-line:

Blame the idea, not the language by Luke Gaffney

[Note from the editor: this article was submitted as a response to Wiktor Kostrzewski’s post also published on this blog and which you can read here].

The Brexit debacle and Trump’s victory have no bearing on whether British or American English are optimal models of English language use. It’s a mistake to confuse the politics of the situations with the linguistic aspects. A politician espousing a nationalist ideology is one thing, the language they use is quite another.

If we establish the rule that using a language for distasteful political discourse precludes it from being the optimal model of that language we can rule out:  Castellano Spanish, Italian and French. These are examples I found after only ten minutes googling for recent events. If we were to continue and to extend our search period even further back, we could probably rule out most languages.

If we are to continue with this hypothetical rule, what do we do when we encounter the language being used for political discourse that we consider “good”? How do we apply the rule when we encounter exceptions such as Mary Fisher’s speech on AIDS to the Republican National Convention?” How about Tony Benn’s speech against war in Iraq? Do the good ideas conveyed in a language balance out the bad? Or do we only react when language is used in a way we don’t like?

The point was raised that after 2016 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. I fail to see the bearing this point has on this discussion. After 2016 100% of all native speakers of English will also be citizens of countries where their language was used as a means of communicating love, beauty, information, and a myriad of other concepts. Language is used. That’s the sole reason for the existence of languages, to convey ideas. Sometimes those ideas will be ideas we like, sometimes they won’t. Language doesn’t mould the idea; the idea moulds the way the language is used. If we dislike what people are saying it isn’t sufficient to simply challenge the language they use; we must challenge the idea behind that language as well.

It was also claimed in the original article that native speakers of English do not consciously learn or study their language and neither do they grow up having to experiment or question the message. With regards to the first point, English Language is part of the curriculum and a subject option throughout higher education in the UK and I’d imagine the situation is the same throughout the countries where native speakers reside.  To say that no native speaker studies their own language is a gross assumption. As for the second point; where do I begin? There’s such a breadth of evidence against the idea. I’ll start with some of my personal favourites: Hemingway and his unadorned style, Chandler and his elevation of pulp literature to an art form, Kerouac and his “spontaneous prose or Plath and her confessional poetry? All of them are good examples of writers experimenting with their language. I find it ironic that the author of the original article claims that native speakers do not experiment with their own language then later quotes William Burroughs, one of the finest Beat poets.  As for questioning the message, what am I doing right now? What do billions of people do every day? If people didn’t question the message we wouldn’t have had revolutions or shifts in what is accepted as the social norm, changes that came about through questioning the idea behind the language.

The original article really was one of two halves and it falls to me to challenge some of the ideas in the second half. In point five of the article the author claims that “everyday English” or “English as it’s spoken” is no longer the best option as throughout the recent American presidential elections and the Brexit campaign native speakers failed to fact check the claims, see through the rhetoric or demand evidence. Apparently, the only ones capable of this are multi-lingual speakers. I’m taken aback that this is put forward as a serious argument. It falls at every step. By inference the author is claiming that native speakers are mono-lingual. I’ll have to bear that in mind next time I speak with my girlfriend in Spanish. Apparently only multi-lingual speakers, which we can assume here means none-native speakers, can fact check rhetoric of challenge false claims. I guess that’s right, I mean I never once saw during the Brexit campaign people fact checking the numbers or ridiculing the rhetoric. As for the author’s claim that “English as it’s spoken” is no longer the best option I feel that yet again he is confusing politics and linguistics. As I have stated earlier, we need to challenge the idea behind the language, not the entire language itself. Again, if we were to demonise languages and native speakers for political outcomes then soon we would be left with very few languages that we consider “the optimal model”.

With regards to point six of the original argument I feel that the author has confused the notions of tasteful and distasteful, and correct and incorrect language. “None-native speakers make poor English teachers” is correct as a sentence but the idea is distasteful and false. “None-natives is well better teaching” is incorrect as a sentence but the idea is tasteful and true. To say that native speakers can no longer identify the correct use of English language due to a political result is a rather ridiculous argument. If I was to respond in kind then I would say the author cannot claim native prerogative to tell me that “pies spacerować szybki” is an incorrect sentence in Polish as he, as a Polish person, regardless of his political beliefs, elected a right wing, nationalist government. It’s a preposterous absolutism.

In point eight of the argument I feel the author has truly missed the mark. The number of languages you know doesn’t determine your political beliefs. It’s base vanity to assume that just because you speak more than one language you are a better person than someone who only speaks one. To say that Brexit and Trump being elected happened only because the people of the US and UK speak one language is naivety. What about voter backlash against the establishment? What people voting due to their economic situation? I’m from an area of England that has lost most its jobs due to globalisation and a lack of intervention by the government. I’m sure that affected the way people voted rather than knowledge or lack of HTML and Morse code.

The author also fails to account for the differences within English within native speakers. I use English differently when I’m speaking with my friends in a pub in Middlesbrough to the way I use it when I’m speaking to my students. I used English differently when I was speaking to my colleagues in the Navy then when I spoke to civilian friends. I use English differently when I am speaking to people about gaming then when I am speaking during a job interview. Each of these different social groups, social situations have rules and norms of language use and often their own jargon. The English I used whilst in the Navy even has its own dictionary. For all the variations on English I have someone from Australia or Ireland or Scotland will have a dozen more. Which bring me to point number nine. British and American English are just variations of the same language. There is no fundamental difference in the grammar or the building blocks of the language, there’s just a difference in the vocabulary. I don’t understand what the author dislikes about these variations. Is it the vocabulary? If so, what about Australian or South African English, are they acceptable? Is it the grammar structure? If so, does the author want us to completely rewrite the rules of English grammar? Or is it just the fact that these languages can be used for an end that the author (nor I for that matter) agree with? If so, what’s the solution? Should we create linguistic rules that prevent doublespeak and in doing so impose a form of censorship?

In the author’s tenth point we finally see something we can agree on. I agree that English teachers should be hired for their ability. Native speaker or none-native speaker shouldn’t come into it. If you have a passion for teaching the English language, if you appreciate its quirks and its oddities and if you can impart this passion and knowledge to the students you’re hired. What’s incendiary however is to imply that native speakers can’t do this if they are mono-lingual.  To say that native speakers cannot be treated seriously due to political events in their home country is as ludicrous as saying none-native speakers make poorer teachers.

lukeLuke Gaffney – 28 year old English teacher living and working in Spain. A fan of cooking, photography, The Boro, travelling, gaming, rugby and comics.


Reflexión: lecciones aprendidas después de dos años contratando profesores de inglés no nativos

[note from the editor: this post was translated into Spanish from this article also published on the blog by Andrew Davison by Marina Escalada]

Mi experiencia en cuanto a trabajar con profesores de inglés no nativos (NNESTS en sus siglas en inglés), comenzó hace poco más de 2 años, cuando empecé mi negocio, Learn English Budapest. No somos una escuela de idiomas al uso, sino una agencia que pone en contacto a profesores de inglés con estudiantes de toda la ciudad. Cuando comencé, la meta era ofrecer una alternativa moda a los folletos y a anunciarse en foros de expatriados.

Durante los primeros meses, yo, al igual que otras muchas escuelas tristemente aún siguen haciendo, tenía una opinión negativa de los profesores no nativos. Asumía que los profesores nativos eran, simplemente, mejores a la hora de enseñar el idioma.

No fue hasta que fui contactado por Marek Kiczkowiak, fundador de TEFL Equity Advocates (Defensores de la Igualdad en TEFL), que realmente tuve la oportunidad de cuestionar mi opinión sobre el tema.

Lo que empezó como un intercambio de correos sobre el tema de nativos y no nativos (NESTS/NNESTS*) se convirtió en un experimento por mi parte. Decidí empezar a aceptar a NNESTS en mi equipo para ver que resultados obtenía y tan sólo unas pocas semanas después, me di cuenta de que había estado cometiendo un error al no contratarlos.

En aquel entonces, compartí un sumario de mis conclusiones en una entrevista. Hoy, vuelvo a estar aquí y me complace anunciar el lanzamiento de mi nuevo sitio web, Teacher Finder. Es el mismo concepto, excepto que esta vez pondremos a personas en contacto con profesores de idiomas en más de una docena de ciudades alrededor del mundo. También nos expandiremos incluyendo nuevos idiomas: Español, Italiano, Francés, Húngaro, Arabe y Alemán, entre otros. Por supuesto, los profesores no nativos son bienvenidos.

Para todos aquellos que se dedican a la gestión de agencias o escuelas de idiomas y que tengan dudas sobre trabajar con NNESTS, comparto aquí algunos de los resultados observados durante los últimos 2 años.


Cuando se trata de enseñar, es obvio que las requisitos más importantes son, la habilidad del profesor a la hora de explicar el tema y, obviamente, enseñar. Esto es particularmente cierto en cuanto a profesores de idiomas. En un mundo donde la lengua franca internacional es el inglés y el número de hablantes no nativos empieza a sobrepasar el de nativos, es ridículo pensar que los no nativos no pueden ser tan buenos profesores como los “elegidos”, que han nacido en un ambiente donde se habla inglés.


Por supuesto, “nativo” sigue estando imbuido de un cierto estereotipo y, dada la opción, la mayoría de personas aún optan por un nativo. De hecho, solía haber una casilla en el formulario online de Learn English Budapest donde se leía: “¿Quieres un profesor nativo? Si/No. No es de sorprender que la mayoría de personas marcasen la casilla “nativo” o lo dejasen en blanco.

Decidí quitar esta casilla y reemplazarla con la siguiente pregunta dirigida a los estudiantes: “Describe como sería tu profesor perfecto”. Durante los siguientes meses, resultó evidente que los estudiantes no buscaban a alguien que fuera nativo. Estaban más interesados en encontrar a un profesor que compartiera sus intereses y pudiera explicar ampliamente el tópico en el que están interesados.

A partir de ese momento, no me ha contactado ningún estudiante para quejarse de haberle sido asignado un profesor no nativo de inglés. La mayoría están encantados al ver que los NNESTS pueden explicar gramática complicada (a menudo, mejor que los hablantes nativos) y establecer analogías con sus idiomas nativos.


Uno de los factores que más favorece a los NNESTS es que tienen experiencia propia de haber aprendido el idioma. Poseen una gran comprensión de lo que los estudiantes están pasando y de cuáles pueden ser los mayores obstáculos para alcanzar la fluidez.

Su propia experiencia del aprendizaje del idioma, ha menudo les ha enseñado algunas técnicas innovadoras sobre cómo explicar mejor y entender inglés. Cuando pregunté a mis profesores cuales eran los consejos y trucos que les son de más ayuda a la hora de enseñar inglés, en seguida vi que los NNESTS eran los que sabían mucho más acerca de la manera de mejorar sus habilidades lingüísticas, (y las de sus alumnos).


De nuevo, ya que los NNESTS han pasado por la inmensa tarea de llegar a hablar otro idioma con fluidez, han explorado las posibilidades, dentro del panorama de recursos de aprendizaje de idiomas, para encontrar los mejores. Mientras que los NESTS cuentan con el lujo de poder contar siempre con el recurso de ser hablantes nativos y poder elaborar “recursos” improvisados, los NNESTS normalmente, cubren ese espacio preparándose mejor las lecciones.

También son los que comparten con los estudiantes más métodos de aprendizaje alternativos a los libros y les ayudan a mejorar más rápidamente el manejo del idioma. También he observado que, por norma general, también hacen más esfuerzo en crear sus propios recursos y combinar estrategias diferentes para encontrar la mejor manera de enseñar a cada alumno.


Cuando rememoro mis días en la escuela y las clases de idiomas que nos daban, no puedo acordarme de, ni tan siquiera, un profesor de idiomas nativo. Cuando se trata de principiantes y niños, la habilidad de explicar el idioma en su idioma nativo y limitar la presión que el estudiante siente, es irreemplazable.

Cuando era joven y estudiaba mis primeras lecciones en español, no hubiera podido sobrevivir frente a una persona española oyéndome imitar su idioma; por lo que he aprendido de los comentarios que recibo de los estudiantes, a menudo, estos se sienten igual cuando están empezando. Los más avanzados puede que se sientan cómodos siendo expuestos a más presión, pero los niños no suelen progresar en ese entorno.


Incluso en Teacher Finder aún tenemos gente pidiendo profesores de inglés nativos pero, muy a menudo, no presionan sobre el tema. También hemos conseguido explicar con éxito los beneficios inherentes en el aprendizaje con profesores no nativos de inglés.

Diría que una de las ventajas de tener a un NNEST enseñándote, es que entiende perfectamente por lo que estás pasando como estudiante del idioma. Al haber pasado por el mismo esfuerzo frente a las cuestiones gramaticales, entiende lo que se necesita para poder explicar claramente las normas. Esto es particularmente importante con los niños, quienes pueden desanimarse si tienen a un profesor nativo.

A pesar de que, desafortunadamente, me tomó un tiempo llegar a darme cuenta, ahora se que los NNESTS pueden estar mejor equipados y preparados para enseñar que los profesores nativos. Al final, lo que realmente les importa a los estudiantes es encontrar a alguien con quien puedan conectar y que haga del aprendizaje del idioma algo ameno, indistintamente de si son nativos o no nativos.

andrew5041Andrew Davison es el fundador de Teacher Finder y también disfruta escribiendo y viajando en su tiempo libre. Vive entre Londres y Budapest.

*NEST(S): siglas en inglés de “Native English Teacher-s”. En español, Profesor(es) Nativo(s) de Inglés.

NNEST(S): siglas en inglés de “Non-Native English Teacher-s”. En español, Profesor(es) No-Nativo(s) de Inglés.

Challenges of a FB admin by Steve Hirschhorn

As part of the admin team for a professional TEFL Facebook group hosting more than eight thousand members, we have recently faced the task of managing the many job ads which are posted on our page.

Needless to say, many of them feature discriminatory language such as ludicrous age ranges (25 – 45), gender and of course the ever-popular ‘native speakers only’.

As a small admin team we tend to get along pretty well and yet we couldn’t all agree on how to work out a sensible way to handle these ads.

Should we simply ban them? That would do a distinct disservice to our membership since many use our pages to find work.

Delete those that use objectionable terms? Much as above and we would be accused of censorship.

Warn and then delete? What about those who don’t have the freedom which some of enjoy? In some parts of the world, advertisers have literally no choice, they are bound by law.

Eventually, after much discussion we agreed to post this friendly advisory:

“Just to clarify, recruiters and school folks… Ads which specify ‘Native Speaker Teacher only’ should be avoided, as noted in the group description. That means we prefer that you don’t post them as we believe that Non-Native Speakers should be treated just as Native Speakers. If you do post such an ad and somebody reports it, we will delete it.”

And then the storm hit!

First we were told quite aggressively that we would be wasting the time of non-native applicants who would apply and then not succeed. We were asked if we would apply the same criteria to age discrimination. We were informed in no uncertain terms that our post demonstrated a “tone-deaf misunderstanding of the diverse cultures around the world”.



[This graphic is not a genuine social media thread and is not associated with any particular FB group in any way] Designed by @tekhnologicblog

Under this rapid onslaught, we gathered our troops to counter-attack but had trouble getting a word in edgewise! We pointed out that our group description clearly states that we are against all kinds of discrimination but that the NS/NNS debate had surfaced and needed to be dealt with. Obviously I was then told that it was unrealistic to expect people to read the group descriptions!

In amongst all this to-ing and fro-ing, we were told that we should have consulted the group (of 8k members), can you imagine? And in fact we really were consulting since we were open to comments and actively asking for suggestions.

I have to say that there were very few active supporters of our position whether not wishing to stand in the line of fire or genuinely not supportive I can’t say, though my guess is the former. It’s pretty unpleasant to find yourself trying to support a clear anti-discrimination stance and being vilified for doing so – and all because one is working as an unpaid admin to help make services and ideas available to members!

Anyway, we drifted, like an overblown rubber dinghy into hackneyed waters where a somewhat bizarre discussion ensued about how students pick up non-native accents from non-native teachers – as though students actually pick up the accent of their teacher not to mention the self evident fact that many non-native speakers have excellent accents. Oh dear, we did toss and turn on that particular bit of ocean with claims of research on how learners would adopt their teachers’ erroneous accent – of course appropriate references never did appear because they don’t exist.

But then we got hit by another current and off we went in our flabby, by now somewhat tattered boat, off to the waters of what terminology might take the place of native speaker: native-like, near-native and so on. Levels of language were also mentioned with some wondering if the industry could insist on recognised language levels for teachers, C1, C2 and so on and then naturally we should apply the same criteria to native speakers shouldn’t we? Of course we should. All of these sometimes interesting and sometimes ridiculous topics interspersed with snipes at the admins for taking any sort of line at all on this!

And then, as is usually the case in these long, ill-tempered threads, someone writes ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ because they’re typing on a phone with a 3 inch screen and somebody else jumps on it because it’s evidence that non-natives shouldn’t be teachers!

It was around this time that several members became ex members, not through any admin intervention, you understand but because our position was so ‘absurd’, ‘unrealistic’ and ‘would change nothing’ oh, and one of my favourites: ‘perhaps you are unfit to lead this group’! Cheerio then.

Also around this point, we began to receive a little more support but that didn’t last long!

I don’t want to repeat myself but suffice to say, the argument went round and round for some time with some native speakers clinging to their rollocks (yes, back to the dinghy) in the vain hope of not sinking in what is rapidly becoming inevitable: the realisation that native speakers don’t own the language, don’t automatically make better teachers, can’t automatically speak better English and that non-native speakers should not suffer discrimination in our profession.


As for our group, we agreed eventually to post this notice when ads cross the line: “We understand that it is normal to specify native speakers in certain parts of the world. However, we strongly disapprove as it is blatantly discriminatory and based on the completely incorrect premise that only “native speakers” make good teachers. Kindly pass that message on, please.

The more we say it, the more likely people are to begin to understand and change this way of thinking. Thank you.”

In addition, when the ad is within the EU, we post an additional notice to the effect that stipulating native speaker in ad is illegal according to article 21.

So that’s how we resolved it, I use the term ‘resolved’ loosely, you understand since every so often, someone launches themselves at either the ad poster or our standard comment, so we can’t really win.

steve-hirschWith an educational career spanning more than 40 years, Steve Hirschhorn has worked as a teacher, DoS, trainer, Senior Lecturer, Principal and Vice President in the ELT industry. Steve has lectured and delivered workshops all over the world and continues to do so. He has published numerous articles in professional magazines and journals and contributed a book chapter in 2014. In the 1980s Steve trained as a teacher in Silent Way and Suggestopedia in order to understand better how the Humanistic Approaches might inform current methodology.  He is currently working on Informed Eclecticism as well as continuing to engage with teachers all over the world as part of their own professional development. He has been External Examiner to three UK universities’ TESOL and English language related programmes and was nominated for the prestigious National Teaching Fellowship Scheme in 2004. Steve has been at the forefront of ELT innovation for many years and his long experience and insistence on quality combine to create a passionate and demanding professional who continues to contribute to the sum of knowledge in the industry.

Recording of my Innovate ELT 2016 plenary

This is the video recording of my 10 minute plenary at Innovate ELT 2016 in Barcelona. Some parts of the original did not record properly, unfortunately, so I had to rerecord them at home. Still, I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear your comments. Below the video, you can read the transcript of the plenary.

If you’re interested in getting involved in TEFL Equity Advocates campaign, take a look at this page for ideas on how you can help.

Plenary transcript

How many of you in the audience are NNS?

And how many are NS?

And how many of you are English teachers?

This is precisely the point I’d like to make today. We’re all English teachers. And if we want to empower ourselves, it can only be done together. As English teachers.

So I have a very simple dream. A dream that one day we’ll all simply be seen as English teachers. That this artificial divide that seems to separate us, will disappear. Become irrelevant.

So my dream is very simple indeed. It’s a dream that soon we will be valued based on what we do best: teach English; and not based on an accident of birth. Because we are all English teachers. And what defines us is our professionalism. Our ability to teach a language that we all love.

So when I look around today, what I see is English teachers. Not NS and NNS. Simply English teachers. I want you to take a good look around you too. We’re a diverse group. We speak different languages. Come from different countries. But there’s one important thing that unites us: we’re all English teachers.

Can you see that?

We’re all English teachers.

And together we’re stronger. Together we have the power to change ELT. To bring professionalism back into our industry.

And change is possible. It is actually taking place right now. This conference is a sign of change. The topics discussed here are a sign of change. And I, you, we, as English teachers, we can become the driving force of change in ELT.

The story I want to tell you will hopefully show you that change in ELT is possible. No matter how insurmountable the obstacles seem. And all of you there have the power to change things.

There was a time when I didn’t think of myself as a NNS. I thought of myself as an English teacher. Call it naivete or innocence. That time is unfortunately gone. It was a happy time when you thought of yourself as an English teacher. But it all changed back in 2011.

I was teaching in IH San Sebastian. The IH transfer list came out and I applied for work at IH Lisbon. What I didn’t know back then was that I was a NNS. And NNS weren’t welcome in IH Lisbon. I received an email that said my CV wouldn’t be considered and I should try another IH school.

I was furious. My CV won’t be considered because I’m Polish?! This was utter nonsense. I was a qualified and experienced teacher who was proficient in English. What else do you want? Well, clearly, they weren’t that interested in qualifications or experience or proficiency. They simply wanted a native speaker.

I was furious. But thanks to an English colleague, rather than smash the computer screen, sulk, or even worse: give up; I vented my anger into an article. Mind you, I’d never written an article in my life. But I couldn’t just sit silently. I had to speak out. IH Lisbon wasn’t going to get away with it. I wanted to go after them.

I entitled the article ‘Nativity scenes’. I sent it off to several newspapers and magazines, and EL Gazette replied saying they’d publish it. Of course with changes. And there were a lot of them. Remember I didn’t have a clue about writing articles. I was just a young English teacher from Poland venting his fury.

The article must have created a bit of an impact, though, because the CEO of IH World wrote an official reply which was published below the article. And in the reply she promised IH would change their hiring policies. Which as far as I know they did. At least officially.

What does this story show you? That if you’re a young English teacher from Poland venting his fury into an article, even a giant like IH will not be safe.

But jokes aside, what I think it shows is that you also have the power to change things in ELT. We all do. As English teachers, we are ELT.

But change also takes time. It takes a lot of determination. It takes commitment. It takes grit. With IH it might have been a stroke of luck. To really change ELT, it will take time.

But it is possible.

Two years ago I started TEFL Equity Advocates campaigning for equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS teachers in ELT. The basic premise was and still is that we’re all English teachers. And we should be valued for that, for our teaching skills. Not for the language we unwittingly picked up as kids. And the stereotypes, the prejudices, they make us all weaker. They divide us when we should be united.

And equal employment and professional opportunities should be important to all of us. Because the current ELT recruitment model disregards professionalism. It disregards us as English teachers. It is based on a false assumption that the mother tongue of the teacher should be the most important criteria.

Since I started TEFL Equity, one of the most frequent challenges I’ve faced is people saying that things will never change. That I’m fighting a lost cause. There’s a certain defeatism among many ELTers. But remember, we, as English teachers, are ELT. And we have the power to change it. To shape its future.

So the most beautiful moments since starting TEFL Equity have been to hear from teachers:

Thanks, now I know I’m not on my own.

You’ve given me the tools and the courage to fight for my rights.

I used to accept this discrimination as a given, but now I know I shouldn’t, and I won’t.

This is what I call empowerment. And a call to action. If we want change, we need to act. We need to make it happen

So if the issue of inequality between NS and NNS in ELT concerns you, do something about it. Write an article. Talk to your DoS. Propose or give a workshop in your school on the topic. Give a conference talk. Or a webinar. Talk to your local teaching association. When you see a job ad that’s discriminatory, comment on it. Write to the employer.

And last by not least, talk to your students. Discuss this issue with them. As I’ll try to show later today in my session with the learners, it’s a great topic for debate. And as teachers we have the obligation to educate our students. To empower them.

English has changed. It doesn’t belong to the English any more. Nor does it belong to the US, the Irish or the Australians. It belongs to all of us, all those who teach it. Who study it. Who use it. It is an international language. A beautifully diverse one.

Let’s embrace this diversity. Let’s speak out for greater equality in ELT. For greater professionalism. For empowerment.

Let’s speak out for us, English teachers.

We are all english teachers

No more turning a blind eye to inequality in ELT – by Karima Ennouri

I was checking my Facebook account when I came across a post in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of advertising a job opening in one of the English schools in Turkey. The job advertisement was short and lacking important information such as working hours, salary, etc. Since the advertiser said we could contact him for further information, and although he did write “native speakers will be preferred although not limited by them”, I said to myself “why not message him to ask for more information; since he said it is not limited to native speakers, I might still have a chance; do not be too proud of yourself” (having to write that now I realise how much negativity did this particular thought hold?!)

So I sent my message, within days I got the response which I was not hoping for!

This is my message

I would like to know all the information about your job opening for English Teachers. I am CELTA qualified with grade B but I am non-native.

This is his response

Thanks for your kind applications but we have to prioritise native speakers first. I am hoping to contact you again after those applications.

This is my reply

Thank you for your reply, I no longer have interest in the job. You stated that you have to prioritise native speakers, but being a native speaker doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good teacher; what you should prioritise instead is qualifications, not nationality. Look at those leading centers around the world like British Council or International House, which don’t discriminate, but offer jobs to both NNEST and NEST, based on their qualifications of course. Again thank you for your reply.

Best regards


I have got to tell you it took me couple of hours to respond to him as I was angry that he did not even give me a chance to send my CV. This is not ”preference for NESTs” as he stated in his post, because you need to have two options in front of you to say that you prefer option a) to option b). On the other hand, not even giving a chance or considering reading a NNESTs’ CVs before deciding whether to accept them is called discrimination. In addition, I think he should have put himself in my shoes as he himself is a non- native English teacher. Sadly, I did not get a reply to my last email.

This is not the first time and I do not expect it to be the last, as I have been through even worse situations. This preference for native speakers is almost everywhere in ELT. For example, I was once interviewed by the manager of one of the local centres here in my own country, Libya. None of their teachers had a CELTA, nor did they know what this certificate was. After I finished my interview and explained my qualifications, the manager said that they are first trying to bring NESTs. Only if they could not attract them, they would offer me the job, to which I said “if you think a NEST is better than a NNEST how come you think you are good enough to interview them since you are a NNEST yourself?!”.

I normally do not speak about this issue of inequality in ELT. However, this most recent case happened to me right after seeing Adam Beale tweet about it (you can read the write up of the Twitter conversation in Adam’s article Stand up and be counted here), so I thought why not do something about it as well. I tweeted screenshots of the messages and TEFL Equity suggested I wrote my story, which might encourage more teachers to stop turning a blind eye to the favoritism native speakers enjoy in ELT.

Design @teflninja

Design @teflninja

Finally, I would like to thank all the teachers around the globe who are trying to speak up against it. And for those who still do not want to take action perhaps because they think it is not their problem, turn the table: imagine I am the native and you are the non- native, would you like to be ignored or turned down just because of your mother tongue?. If not, then these are my suggested ways to help fight it:

  • Fight the “industry demand excuse” by educating students about it.
  • Collect your learners’ opinion about it by conducting a survey.
  • Discuss the matter with your employer.
  • Write about it and suggest ways to fight it.
  • Respond to it by sending email to the discriminatory employer.
  • Do a webinar or a workshop and explain it.

upload-i4acn9jd6rmbnip1n6cgjd5a92486191.JPG-final (1) [242054]My name is Karima Ennouri. I am secretary and I have just started a new job as part time EFL teacher. I am also responsible for managing and organizing English courses in a training centre based in Libya. I’ve been teaching officially but not constantly since doing my CELTA in March 2015 in Turkey. I am constantly trying to learn new teaching approaches as well as gaining more experience in teaching. I am also looking forward to continuing my professional development and starting my own blog.

CATESOL position paper opposing discrimination against Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and teachers with "non-standard" varieties of English

In this quick post I wanted to share with you the CATESOL (California TESOL) position statement against discrimination of NNESTs and teachers with ‘non-standard’ varieties of English. CATESOL is a TESOL affiliate, largest in the US, and it was founded in 1969. As can be read on their website, “CATESOL represents teachers of English language learners throughout California and Nevada, promoting excellence in education and providing high-quality professional development.” The below statement was downloaded from CATESOL website here. They have also issued numerous other position statements, for example on Language Policy and on Second Language teaching in schools, which are all available here.

Similar statements have been issued by four teaching associations: TESOL International, TESOL France, BC TEAL (The Association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language ) and TESOL Spain. You can read them all here – if you know of any other similar position statements, please get in touch and I’ll add them to the list.

Let’s hope that more associations follow suit as this type of advocacy is very much needed now. A lot of great awareness raising has been done, however, what is still lacking is more advocacy and activism. So this is an open call to all the English teaching associations in the world: don’t turn a blind eye, support your NNEST members, speak out for equality, speak out for professionalism in ELT.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

CATESOL position paper opposing discrimination against Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and teachers with “non-standard” varieties of English

Passed by the CATESOL Board of Directors, October 5, 2013


CATESOL opposes any sort of discrimination against English teachers based on the “nativeness” of their English and / or their English variety. Sufficient proficiency in English should be an important criterion in the employment and ongoing assessment of English teachers. However, CATESOL does not condone job announcements that list “native English,” “native command of English,” “native-like fluency,” “standard accented English,” or similar, as required or desirable qualities. If reference is to be made to language ability at all in job announcements, suggested changes to such criteria are “high proficiency in English,” “proficiency in English suitable to the position,” or the like.


The best teachers of English language are those with experience and professional preparation in their field, regardless of their own linguistic backgrounds. Instructors with noticeably “non-native” backgrounds or accents are often excellent teachers possessing an advanced understanding of cultural sensitivity (and are in addition prime role models for English learners), while some English teachers who grew up with English and are thus considered “native” may very well be poorly prepared (even entirely unprepared) or inexperienced, resulting in ineffective teaching. In all cases, the work of English teachers should be judged, and teachers should be employed, on the merits of their teaching abilities, of which the “nativeness” of their English should play no part.

The same principle holds true for teachers with “non-standard” varieties of English (commonly referred to as accents or dialects). Excellent teachers speak a wide range of local, regional, and / or field-specific English varieties. Sociolinguistic scholarship testifies to the systematicity, legitimacy and richness of varieties such as those in the “Expanding and Outer Circles” of World Englishes, the various forms of English as a Lingua Franca, and the myriad local and regional dialects across the traditionally native English-speaking world. No judgment should be made about the value of any these varieties – indeed, each has great value in the context in which it is used – nor, in turn, about teachers who use these varieties.

Teaching job announcements that indicate a preference or requirement for a “native” speaker of English trivialize the professional development teachers have received and teaching experience they have already acquired. Such announcements are also discriminatory, as they commit the “native speaker fallacy,” the notion that only native speakers are the possessors and nurturers of a language, when in actual fact, language is a public phenomenon that belongs to no one and is subject to constant innovation and disruption*. Finally, such announcements ultimately harm all teachers (native or not) by devaluing teacher education, professionalism, and experience. Therefore, CATESOL opposes such discriminatory job announcements and does not condone their distribution.

*See Phillipson, Robert. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

If you’d like to further support TEFL Equity Advocates and its call for equal employment opportunities for native and non-native English speaking teachers, you can add this badge to your website. For more information, please click here.

Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic