In this post, Agi Bodis outlines some of the issues around native-speakerism in preparation for our upcoming chat. This chat has now taken place. Click here to read the summary.
Some of you may remember that an ad for a pronunciation course recently created an interesting discussion on our Facebook page. The course claims to help ‘overseas-born professionals’ fine-tune their pronunciation to improve employment opportunities. It is interesting to note that the word ‘native’ is not mentioned anywhere, but it prompted us to discuss the role of the ‘native speaker’ in ELT.
The ad addresses – or perpetuates – the so called ‘accent ceiling’ (Piller, 2011, p. 144), a boundary many L2 speakers of English experience at the workplace or when attempting to find employment in an English-speaking country. A few of us have questioned the concept of ‘native’ or ‘native-like’ accent as it appears to be a vague term, but it is still something that many students aim to achieve in order to advance professionally or avoid being judged.
So what is ‘native speakerism’? It is an ideology, a commonly held belief, which considers the native speaker as the ideal model for language use, and in ELT, ‘the expert’ when it comes to language teaching methodology as well (Holliday, 2006). The phenomenon thus has implications not only for what is taught and how it’s taught, but also who is entitled to teach the language itself.
In her recent plenary at IATEFL 2016, Silvana Richardson spoke passionately about the discrimination non-native speaker ESL teachers face and the negative impact this has on their professional identity even though the vast majority of English language teachers in the world are non-native speakers (over 80%, according to Richardson).
She questioned the legitimacy of the term ‘non-native speaker’ as it defines people by what they are not, and emphasised the need to shift from a native-speaker competence to a multilingual competence. She proposed that teacher trainers review their programs to make sure these issues are addressed. She also urged teachers to show their support at work and beyond, and join advocacy groups. One such group she mentioned was TEFL Equity Advocates, whose founder, Marek Kiczkowiak (), will be joining us in our Twitter chat.
Another related issue that has come up on our Facebook page is the effect of the market: “students want native speakers” or a certain variety of English. Richardson addressed this issue too pointing out that from research it seems that students value professional qualities more than nativeness.
Join us to discuss any of the following points related to native speakerism on Twitter on Sunday 1 May 8:30-9:30 pm AEST (This chat has now taken place. Click here to read the summary)
- The role of ‘the native speaker’ in teaching materials and/or language testing
- The market: student expectations regarding learning a certain variety of English (including accent); expectations regarding native speaker teachers
- NESB ESL teachers: any experience being employed as a NESB teacher; any experience with NESB teachers
- Teacher training and the native speaker teacher
Looking forward to our discussion!
Silvana Richardson’s plenary at IATEFL 2016: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2016/session/plenary-silvana-richardson
Interview with Burcu Akyol and Marek Kiczkowiak on the issue of non-native speakers in ELT – at IATEFL 2016: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2016/interview/interview-burcu-akyol-and-marek-kiczkowiak
TEFL Equity Advocates: https://teflequityadvocates.com/
Lexicallab on CELTA and the NS bias: http://www.lexicallab.com/2016/04/celta-the-native-speaker-bias-and-possible-paths-forward/
Holliday, A. (2006). Native-speakerism. ELT Journal: English Language Teaching Journal, 60(4), 385-387. doi:10.1093/elt/ccl030
Piller, I. (2011). Intercultural communication : A critical introduction Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
This post by Agi Bodis, @AgsBod