'The strengths of Non-Native English Speaking Teachers' an infographic by Adam Simpson

This infographic presents the strengths most Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) have. It has been prepared by Adam Simpson (see Adam’s bio at the bottom of the page) with invaluable help from Michael Griffin (see his post “Equity without myths or stereotypes” here), Eszter Hajdics (her talk on NNEST strengths can be viewed here), Chio Rojas and Peter Lahiff, who all contributed ideas.

With this infographic we’re not arguing that NNESTs are better teachers than Native English Speaking Teachers (NESTs), or that they should be hired indiscriminately. However, they are certainly not worse and should therefore be given the same employment opportunities in ELT as NESTs are.

Consequently, we want to highlight the strengths NNESTs have which can make them a valuable addition to any ELT staff room and institution. This is especially important since “native speaker fallacy” (Phillipson, 1992), or the belief that NS are inherently better suited for teaching English, is still prevalent in our profession, with over 70% of all advertised ELT jobs being for NS only (see e.g. Mahboob&Golden, 2013; Reucker&Ives, 2014; Selvi, 2010).

NNESTs strengths overlapping those in the infographic have been recognised by many researchers (e.g. Medgyes, 1992, 1994, 2001; Reves&Medgyes, 1994; Arva&Medgyes, 2000;Llurda, 2005; Cheung&Braine, 2007). Also, students are very much aware of them and appreciate NNESTs for their teaching skills rather than based on negative stereotypes (e.g. Lasagabaster&Sierra, 2002, 2005; Mahboob, 2004; Pacek, 2005; Benke&Medgyes, 2005; Lipovsky&Mahboob, 2010)

To sum up, there is no doubt that NESTs can be good English teachers and that they have many strengths. However, so do NNESTs, and we hope that ELT hiring practices will soon start to reflect the fact that the mother tongue neither makes nor breaks an English teacher. Because the ideal situation, the best of both worlds, for any language school, as well as for the students, is to have both NESTs and NNESTs.

NNEST strengths

References:

  • Arva, V., & Medgyes, P. (2000). Native and non-native teachers in the classroom. System, 28, 355–372.
  • Cheung, Y. L. and G. Braine (2007). The attitudes of university students towards nonnative speakers English teachers in Hong Kong. RELC Journal 38, 3: 257–277.
  • Lasagabaster, D. and J. M. Sierra (2002) University students’ perceptions of native and non-native speaker teachers of English. Language Awareness 11, 132-142.
  • Lasagabaster, D. and J. M. Sierra (2005) What do students think about the pros and cons of having a native speaker teacher? In E. Llurda (Ed.), Non-native language teachers. Perceptions, challenges, and contributions to the profession (217-241). New York: Springer.
  • Lipovsky, C. and A. Mahboob (2010) Appraisal of Native and Non-native English Speaking Teachers. In Mahboob (ed.), 154-179.
  • Llurda, E. (2005b). Non-native TESOL students as seen by practicum supervisors. In Llurda (ed.), Non-native language teachers. Perceptions, challenges, and contributions to the profession 131–154.
  • Mahboob, A. (2004). Native or non-native: What do the students think? In L. D. Kamhi-Stein (Ed.), Learning and Teaching from Experience: Perspectives on Nonnative English-Speaking Professionals. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
  • Mahboob, A., & Golden, R. (2013). Looking for native speakers of English: Discrimination in English language teaching job advertisements. Voices in Asia Journal, 1(1), 72–81.
  • Medgyes, P. (1992). Native or non-native: Who’s worth more? ELT Journal, 46(4), 340-349.
  • Medgyes, P. (1994). The non-native teacher. London: Macmillan.
  • Medgyes, P. (2001). When the teacher is a non-native speaker. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.
  • Pacek, D. (2005). ‘Personality not nationality’: Foreign students’ perceptions of a nonnative speaker lecturer of English at a British university. In Llurda (ed.), Non-native language teachers. Perceptions, challenges, and contributions to the profession. 243–262.
  • Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford University Press.
  • Reucker, T. and L. Ives. 2014. White Native English Speakers Needed: The Rhetorical Construction of Privilege in Online Teacher Recruitment Spaces. TESOL Quaterly,
  • Reves, T. and P. Medgyes (1994). The non-native English speaking EFL/ESL teacher’s self image: An international survey. System, 22 (3), 353–357.
  • Selvi, A. F. (2010). All teachers are equal, but some teachers are more equal than others: Trend analysis of job advertisements in English language teaching. WATESOL NNEST Caucus Annual Review, 1, 155–181.

adam simpson

Adam has been living and teaching in Turkey for more than a decade, all of that time spent in the tertiary education sector in universities in Istanbul. His interests include descriptive rather than prescriptive curriculum design, developing flexibility in lesson planning and the considered integration of technology in the language classroom. He regularly talks at conferences and is talks about his life as a teacher on his blog ‘Teach them English’. You can get in touch with him here.