In November of 2016 more than 1,000 school were occupied in Brazil in response to the “MP 746” measure. The MP 746 is only one of the radical policy changes that the new right-wing government has proposed. Thenceforth, the discussions about this issue have increased. One of the claims in favor to this measure is that it will bring opportunity to the poorest student that do not have the possibility to apply to college, since it will focus on vocational education. However, the emphasis on vocational education along with making some subjects optional, such as philosophy and sociology, reflect on less incentive to critical thinking. Undoubtedly, students will need a job after graduating, but they will also need a critical point of view to engage politically in society, taking part in the voting process and electing the best candidates. Moreover, having critical thinking will help them to be more rational and make the best decisions in life without being manipulated by others.
Another belief is that the increase of the study-load would be a solution to the lack of fulfillment of the overloaded curriculum. In fact, it could solve the lack-of-time problem if all the public schools in Brazil had infrastructure to adhere this idea.
People generally take for granted that the appropriate models of the use of languages come from its native speakers (Cook, 1999, p. 185), projecting on NESTs (Native English Speaking Teachers) the image of an ideal ESL/ EFL (English as a Second Language/ English as a Foreign Language) teacher. This misconstrued belief is called by Phillipson (1992) as “the native speaker fallacy” ( p.185 apud Fathelbab) which has been brought up in many studies as a phenomenon that has been harming many NNESTs (Non-Native Speaking Teachers).
Most of those studies aim to deconstruct “the myth of the native speaker as the ideal teacher” (Llurda and Moussu, 2008, p. 316 apud Villalobos Ulate, 2011, p. 56) claiming that NNESTs can be as good as NESTs in ESL/ EFL teaching environment, hence they show that both can have different characteristics that are significant to the learning process. Medgyes (2001), for example, points out that “NESTs and non-NESTs are potentially equally effective teachers, because in the final analysis their respective strengths and weaknesses balance each other out” (p. 440).
Furthermore, discussion around the concept of native speaker has been emerged in this field. Davies (1991) affirms that an individual is a native speaker of a language by virtue of place or country of birth” (Davies, 1991, p.6 apud Lee, 2005, p. 3). However, the notion of native speaker related to birth has been put at stake when it comes to cases of children that move to a country whose language is not the same from the one they acquired first, or children that become bilingual very soon because their parents speak to them in two different language. (Lee, 2005, p. 3; Cook, 1999, p. 187; Medgyes, 2001, p. 430).
A few scholars have brought up the idea of a non-existence of the native speaker, Paikeday (1985) has even written a book with the title “The Native Speaker is Dead” (Medgyes, 2001, p. 431). Piller (2001) argues that because language status is a reification, native speaker status must be a reification as well (p.3). On the other hand, others defend that the label of ‘native speaker’ should not be removed (Cook, 1999. apud Lee, 2005, p. 9), instead some alternative terms should be used in the field of language teaching to eliminate the native speaker-nonnative speaker dichotomy which perpetuates exclusion” (Lee, 2005, p.9). Medgyes (2001) suggest terms like: “more” or “less accomplishes”; “proficiente” users of English; “expert” versus “novice speakers”; and “bilingual speakers” (p. 431)
All those studies that investigate the concept of native speaker, likewise those which intend to show the differences between NESTs and NNESTs, revealing the pedagogical strengths of a NNEST, are undoubtedly important to demystify the NESTs as the ideal teachers. Nevertheless, they do not reach the “protagonists” of the native speaker fallacy: people that usually are not informed about this issue and consequently, do not willingly access studies related to this topic. However, public opinion "has not been substantially affected by views in applied linguistics and the native/non-native distinction continues to appear, despite all the evidence provided by empirical and critical research” (Llurda, 2013, p.2). Therefore an effective alternative to change this reality would be encouraging non-native ESL teachers to talk about this to their students. In this field, is an open question whether or not they are dealing with the native speaker fallacy in class.
Regarding this native speaker fallacy many NESTs have struggled to be recognized as good teachers in a scenario where language schools choose hiring NESTs rather than NNESTs . The Chief Executive (CE) of Hong Kong, for example, announced in the Policy Address 1997 the implementation of a new NETs Scheme, providing more than 700 additional native-speaking English teachers for secondary schools from 1998 (Sutherland, 2012, p.2). Although this event has happened many years ago, the situation in Asian countries seems to be the same: there is still a preference in hiring natives than non-natives to take up the position of English professor.
Moreover, though each country deals with this scenario with different perspectives, this issue seems to happen in various different countries around the world. Medgyes (2001) explains that “teaching applications from even highly qualified experienced non-NESTs often get turned down in favor of NESTs with no such credentials” and presents a letter of rejection sent to a non-NEST by the principal of a language school in London: “I’m afraid we have to insist that all our teachers are native speakers of English. Our students do not travel halfway round the world only to be taught by a non-native speaker” ( Illés 1991, p 87. apud Medgyes, 2011, p. 432)
In addition, the misconception about NESTs as ideal teachers has resulted in many NNESTs feeling like “impostors”, a phenomenon called by the feminist psychotherapist Dr. Pauline Clance as “impostor syndrome” (Clance and Imes, 1978, apud Bernat. 2008, p. 1). The impostor syndrome is a “false belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill”, and it is “characterized by feelings of inadequacy, personal inauthenticity or fraudulence, self-doubt, low self-efficacy beliefs, and sometimes generalized anxiety” (Yates and Chandler, 1998, apud Bernat. 2008, p. 1)
Due to all those circumstances that have been somehow preventing qualified NNESTs to standing out as successful professionals in job market, a proposal of encouragement must be done to non-native ESL teachers, so that they can introduce to their students the phenomenon of the native speaker fallacy and take this issue out from the academic papers and into a closest-to-reality environment.
BERNAT, Eva. Towards a pedagogy of empowerment: The case of ‘impostor syndrome’ among pre-service non-native speaker teachers in TESOL. English language teacher education and development, v. 11, n. 1, 2008. p. 1-8.
COOK, Vivian. Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching. TESOL quarterly, 1999. p. 185-209.
FATHELBAB, Heba. NESTs (Native English Speaking Teachers) & NNESTs (Non-Native English Speaking Teachers): Competence or Nativeness?. AUC TESOL Journal, 2011. Available in: <https://www3.aucegypt.edu/auctesol/Default.aspx?issueid=8b20d438-
2b85-4462-9f25-9be82e3c63dc&aid=02a23d44-6b7a-4054-bed2-78cb8b6c3317>. Access in: Jun. 12, 2017.
LEE, Joseph J. The native speaker: An achievable model? Asian EFL Journal, 2005, v.7, n. 2.
LLURDA, Enric. Non‐native‐speaker teachers and English as an International Language. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, v. 14, n. 3, 2004. p. 314-323.
MEDGYES, Peter. When the teacher is a non-native speaker. Teaching English as a second or foreign language, v. 3, 2001. p. 429-442.
PILLER, Ingrid et al. Who, if anyone, is a native speaker?. 2001.
SUTHERLAND, Sean. Native and Non-native English Teachers in the Classroom: A re-examination. Arab World English Journal, v. 3, n. 4, 2012. p. 58-71.
VILLALOBOS ULATE, Nuria. Insights towards native and non-native ELT educators. Bellaterra journal of teaching and learning language and literature, v. 4, n. 1, 2011. p. 56-79.
Native and Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers: Their strengths and their weaknesses on English teaching and their importance in classroom.
This text is not concerned on neither favoring NESTs (Native English-Speaking Teachers) nor non-NESTs (Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers), it aims to indicate their behavior differences in teaching, and how they can be advantageous to student’s learning. Most of what will be raised here is mainly based on Péter Medgyes’ study. However, it is also relevant to call attention to some of Dr. Sean Sutherland’s ideas as a complement to call attention to some of Dr. Sean Sutherland’s ideas as a complement to Medgyes’ ideas.
Native English teachers are far more privileged than non-NESts in business market; they are rather hired than non-natives by many language schools around the world. Considering this scenario and the stereotype people have about NESTs being better than non-NESTs, it is quite necessary to point out some non-NESTs’ strengths as well as their weaknesses. Likewise, in order to avoid any kind of prejudice and to overcome any stereotype about this dichotomy, it is also important to compare those characteristics of non-NESTs to the NESTs’.
Medgyes (2001) carried out a survey whereby 325 teachers from 11 countries were interviewed; 86 percent of the participants were non-native and 14 percent natives. Interviewing non-NESTS, he found out that most of them viewed themselves as "poorer listeners, speakers, readers and writers and have struggle to improve vocabulary, pronunciation and listening" (p. 437). According to Medgyes (2001), all these problems together constitute the dark side of being a non-NEST. Thus,/ Hence he brings up in his article, When the Teacher Is a Non-native Speakers, the bright side of being a non-NEST. He claims that, if compered to NESTs, non-NESTs can: "provide a better learner model; teach language-learning strategies more effectively; supply more information about the English language difficulties; be more sensitive to their students; benefit from their ability to use the students’ mother tongue"(p. 438). Medgyes (2001) explains that Non-NESTs can "provide a better learner model because they are learners of English as well as their students and they can understand more easily their ESL (English as a Second Language) students’ difficulties in the learning process, providing them some good strategies to acquire the language faster and more efficaciously" (p. 438). Moreover, non-NESTs can be more sensitive to students’ needs than NESTs, since they have the advantage of speaking their students’ mother tongue and experiencing the same culture as theirs (Medgyes, 2001, p. 438).
On the other hand, Merino (1997) starts his article, Native English-Speaking versus Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers, presenting some of the non-NASTs’ weaknesses. He mentions Medgyes’ study, which says that non-NESTs tend to adopt two kinds of attitudes: pessimistic and aggressive; and explains that whereas the first type is obsessed with grammar, paying little attention to pronunciation and vocabulary, the second one has "linguistic insecurity that provokes a prescriptive and intolerant attitude" (p.71). Furthermore, he claims non-NESTs can commit errors that are afterwards transmitted to their students, because they have a limited lexicon and operate on mistaken beliefs about how language works. Lastly, in his conclusion, Merino (1997) mentions the six advantages of a non-NEST that Medgyes points out, however he does not go deeper into this, giving the impression that he is in favor to NEST’s, and actually, he is not. He affirms that it is wrong to say a NEST is always better than a non-NEST, as to state the contrary, which means that it is necessary to understand there is a misconception in saying that NESTs are better, however, it is also necessary to be careful in not falling in the opposite extreme and believing that non-NESTs are better.
To comparing NESTs and non-NESTs characteristics, Medgyes (2001) elaborated a chart, which shows the differences in teaching between this dichotomy divided into four aspects: own use of English; general attitude; attitude to teaching the language; and attitude to teaching culture (p. 439). The first aspect indicates that NESTs speak better English, use real language, use English more confidently while non-NESTs speak poorer English, use “bookish” language”, use English less confidently (p.439). Regarding general attitude, Medgyes (2001) verified that NESTs adopt a more flexible approach, are more innovative, are less empathetic, attend to perceived needs, have far-fetched expectations, are more casuals, and are less committed (p. 439). On the other hand, non-NESTs adopt a more guided approach, are more cautious, are more empathetic, attend to real needs, have realistic expectations, are stricter, and are more committed. The third aspect demonstrates that whereas NASTs are less insightful and focus on: fluency, meaning, language in use, oral skills, colloquial registers, non-NESTs focus on: accuracy, form, grammar, rules, printed word, formal registers (p. 439). Finally, the forth aspect suggests that NESTs supply more cultural information to their students than non-NASTs do (p 439).
The survey made by Medgyes (2001) is quite significant and somehow, very fair. It presents not only non-NESTs’ weaknesses, but also their strengths, and the same happens with NESTs. It is possible to observe that, regarding own use of English, the non-NESTs are apparently in disadvantage. Although they have some weaknesses in terms of accuracy, it does not mean that non-NESTs are bad teachers, it is quite the opposite, they can be as good as natives are and have strengths that NASTs do not have. This is clearly elucidated in the second aspect of Medgyes’ chart. Moreover, in his article Native and Non-native English Teachers in the Classroom: A re-examination, Dr. Sean Sutherland brings up Seidlhofer’s argumentation: “NNES teacher’s position is often seen as the weaker one, but I fact it is a stronger one because he or she has experienced what the students are experiencing and has reached the goal they are seeking to reach” (p.60) . Sutherland (2012) says that NES teachers can offer their students certain advantages. They can provide motivation to English learners and more exposure to accurate native speaker English. Nevertheless, he explains that non-NESTs also provide motivation to their students, since they provide learners a realistic model of English as it is used by successful non-native English speakers, besides exposure to accurate native speaker English is not necessarily what students need.
Considering all that have been raised in this text, it is worth to think over about this dichotomy of NESTs and non-NESTs and note that both have a crucial importance in classroom as English Language teachers. Whereas some students prefer native English teachers, there are also those that prefer non-natives, and the reason can be given by the different characteristics and peculiarities that each teacher has. Likewise, students also have specific characteristics and manners of learning a language that will coincide or not with the approach, whose teacher adopts in class, and with his or her way to teach. Additionally, good teachers are truly good if they love what they do, so it does not really matter if the teacher is Brazilian or if he is British, if they love their profession, they are both good and necessary in a different way.
First, it is important to clarify that this text does not have the intention to criticize native English teachers; it is quite the opposite actually. There are, indeed, many advantages of being native English teachers, not only in Brazil, but also in many other countries. However, there is a fallacy that native English teachers are better than the non-native ones, and this misconception has been driving many non-native English teachers to an insecurity zone. In order to overcome this paradigm, this text will present some advantages of being a non-native English teacher.
Non-native English teachers can understand more easily student’s mistakes
In his article, Justin Murray points out that “the biggest advantage, without a doubt, that non-natives have is that they have consciously learned the language step by step and can guide their students through the labyrinth of confusion that they have already conquered”. Before becoming English teachers, non-native has experienced the same environment that their students now experience, so they are more likely to understand students’ mistakes on language. Moreover, as most of the non-native English teachers undergone the huge struggle to learn English and to become teachers, they have developed empathy towards their students. This empathy translates into patience when they are teaching; it helps them to remember their difficulties on in the process of learning English, and consequently, to be aware of difficulties that their students are having.
They are also learners
Being an English teacher does not mean having plenty of knowledge about the target language and it does not mean there is no more to be learned. Both native and non-native English teachers are “eternal learners”, the difference between them is that non-natives recognize it more easily than native English teachers. Non-natives have self-consciousness about their identity as learners, which leads them to a humble position and it helps them to seek for an improvement of their lexical competences.
Even if they have not lived abroad, they can be proficient in English
Many language schools have been giving priority to hire a TEFL teacher that has lived abroad. It might occur because of the idea that people are more exposed to the English language when they are in a foreign country, and the more people have contact with English, the more they learn. Nevertheless, in the twenty-first century there are many other ways to be exposed to English, since people are surrounded by a whole culture coming from countries that have English as official language. It is even possible to learn English only by watching international films and series, playing video games, listening to international songs, talking to foreign people through social networks and so on.
Being proficient in English is not a matter of living abroad or having studied in well-regarded school, although these two things can help a lot to improve some language skills, there are many other ways to reach proficiency in English, due to the wide variety of material to be in contact with owing to technology. Today. one can make the whole world into a teacher; good teachers will bring that world into the classroom, and it doesn’t matter if that teacher has lived in Turkey or Tennessee.
They can be very good teachers
Non-native English teachers generally become teachers because they are in love with this profession. They feel motiveted to teach and they enjoy very much what they do. It does not mean that native English teachers are not in love with teaching or do not feel motivated to teach, but there are indeed, some natives that work as teachers as a second option, only to get some money or to live abroad.