#ESLChat The Hurdle of Native Speaker Requirement for #English #Language #Teachers

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The Hurdle of Native Speaker Requirement for English Language Teachers

By Abdelmounim Ait Hammou

Casablanca – A stereotype about the effectiveness and superiority of English taught by native-speakers remains as thousands of highly-qualified and certified non-native speakers are still struggling to land a job outside their home countries. 

Native English speakers seem to have no difficulties getting a teaching position in any country they desire. This is due to the recruiters’ preference to candidates from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa. Interestingly enough, candidates from the above-mentioned countries do not need to have a teaching background, and, in some cases, not even a teaching certificate is required to get a job.

Schools around the world announce vacancies online, using websites like www.tefl.com or www.bayt.com, with certain explicit and discriminatory requirements for prospective candidates. One of the requirements is that the candidate should be a native speaker of English, the expression so conspicuous between brackets: “Native speakers only.”

In Asia and the Arab Gulf countries, the requirement seems to have become an indispensable and irreplaceable condition for any job-seeker to the extent that employers blatantly state: “if you are not a native speaker, we will not consider your application.” This shows how deeply rooted the idea of ‘Nativeness’ has become for recruiters and school’s principals.

In fact, thousands of certified English teachers possess almost all of the mandated requirements and necessary qualifications, except the hurtful stipulation of being a native speaker, which not only disqualifies prospective non-native speaker candidates, but also disillusions them and negatively affects their psychology.

Teachers have voiced, and continue to voice, their disapproval, feeling discriminated against every time they try applying for a new position in Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East. The outcry and rejection of this biased recruitment is merited since many highly skilled teachers cannot use their teaching skills to explore the world and discover new cultures.

As a newly qualified teacher, a CELTA holder, and an English Literature graduate, I certainly wish to have an opportunity to teach abroad and gain both experience and cultural competence. However, the mandatory native speaker requirement for every job posting has diminished my previously high hopes of embarking on a teaching career in Asia or the Middle East.

Whenever I try to apply for a job, I get excited when I see that I have all the requirements, and simultaneously, I get disappointed, as do many others, when being a native speaker is considered a primary requirement.

It is incorrect to assume that only native speakers can teach English.

If this were the case, I may not have learned it from my Moroccan teachers, who I believe are better than many native speakers. I had the opportunity to be taught by, and teach with, native English speakers, and I can honestly say that the quality of their teaching is no more exceptional than my Moroccan teachers or the teachers I recently trained with at the British Council in Casablanca for the CELTA certificate.

I still vividly remember how difficult it was for a native speaker, who was a candidate with me at British Council, to teach grammar and explain vocabulary in a pedagogically, intelligible way. She even confessed that “non-native speakers are more competent and able in English teaching than many native-speakers.”

This statement should be taken into consideration by recruiters around the world. They should give any competent teacher the chance to showcase their skills and abilities and prove that employers have been wrong in their recruitment criteria all these years.

To conclude, it appears that the discriminatory selection process of English language teachers will remain biased as long as recruiters and school principals adamantly and advertenly turn a blind eye to qualified English teachers from other countries. Unless a law is passed to give equal opportunities to all candidates, regardless of their nationality, I think us teachers will still have to shoulder the difficulty to find a job overseas.

© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy

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Commentary: Thomas Jerome Baker

Native English Speaker Teacher of English

(CELTA, DELTA, teacher trainer, EFL author)

The sentiments expressed in this article come from Morocco, but could have come from anywhere in the world, literally and metaphorically. The author, Abdelmounim Ait Hammou, expresses righteous indignation at a state of affairs in EFL that can be traced back to Maximilian Berlitz in 1870. He is the founder of the:

The Berlitz Method®

The Berlitz story.

Maximilian Berlitz grew up in the Black Forest region of Germany, the son of a family of teachers and mathematicians. He emigrated to the United States in 1870. The language fan, Maximilian taught Greek, Latin and six other European languages there, using the strict, traditional “grammar-translation” method.

After he had successfully taught as a private tutor for a while, he joined the Warner Polytechnic College in Providence, where he became Professor of French and German. However, the college was not as impressive as its name. Berlitz was soon the owner, dean, head teacher and the only member of the faculty, all rolled into one.

As he needed an assistant for French, Berlitz employed a young Frenchman named Joly, who obviously came with top references. When Joly arrived in Providence, he found that his employer was completely exhausted, feverish and very ill. The situation only worsened when Berlitz found out that his new assistant did not speak a single word of English. Desperately trying to find a way to use Joly in his teaching, Berlitz instructed him to explain objects using gestures and to act out verbs as well as he could. He then returned to bed.

The birth of the Berlitz Method®

He returned to the classroom six weeks later, expecting his desperate students to be angry with him. Instead, he found his students engaging in an animated exchange of questions and answers – in elegant French. The normal venerable atmosphere of a traditional classroom had disappeared. His students were also much further ahead in terms of what they had learned than Berlitz would have achieved in the same period of time. Berlitz came to a significant conclusion: the “emergency solution” had formed the basis for a completely new method of teaching. The strict learning method had to give way to an animated process of discovery.

*****

Berlitz understood that a Native Speaker, who could not communicate with the students in their native language, had achieved much more than they would have achieved with him. He reasoned that native speakers are the best teachers of a language. Students, parents,  language institutes, schools and the public in general continue to think the same way today as Berlitz did over 145 years ago.

*****

Let’s now move on to discuss linguistic imperialism. We can easily understand it if we go to the Commonwealth Conference on the Teaching of English as a Second Language held at Makerere College, Uganda, from 1st to 13th January, 1961. What happened at that conference?

According to Phillipson, five basic tenets emerged from this conference which became unofficial and yet unchallenged doctrines underlying much of ELT work after the conference. These tenets are:

1. English is best taught monolingually.
2. The ideal teacher of English is a native speaker.
3. The earlier English is taught, the better the results.
4. The more English is taught, the better the results.
5. If other languages are used too much, standards of English will drop (p.185).

Phillipson argues that these tenets have become the cornerstones of the hegemony of English worldwide.

It is interesting to note that many of these tenets are based on arguments that are challenged by second language acquisition research. However, it seems that research loses its scholastic credence when it provides unfavorable results for the scholars who reside in the center circles.

Reacting against the first tenet, Auerbach (1993) argues that the monolingual tenet is solely proposed to denigrate the positive role of the learners’ mother tongue on route to acquiring languages.

Kachru (1997) also scoffs at the second tenet as another unfounded myth that aims at opening new job openings for inner-circle members. He also takes issue with the concept of native speaker, treating it as an ideologically loaded terminology. Kachru believes that the tenet intends to divert the attention away from the development
of local solutions to pedagogical problems and encourages the dependence of both outer and expanding circles on the capacity of the inner circles.

Cummins (1979) also raises serious objections against the third tenet by claiming that adults can be as successful as the younger language learners as far as the cognitive academic language ability is concerned. Hakuta (2001) also shows that there is no period within maturational termini at the end of which L2 learning capacity dramatically declines.

Widdowson (2003) also perceives the topic of the Standard English as absurd. He believes that such an argument is “based on the idea that one can take out a patent on the language and claim the right to exert control over it to keep it exclusive” (p. 36).

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Thus, we have the dilemma of the Non-Native English Speaking Teacher (NNEST). Despite education, training, and qualifications, the Native English Speaker Teachers are overwhelmingly preferred, and hired. Can anything be done about this situation that would make ELT equitable and just? The answer is YES, something can be done. Let’s look at some suggestions made by highly respected experts in the field of ELT.

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To set the ELT practice free from the shackles of hegemonic ideologies, an urgent call for a thorough reconstruction and revision of ELT at theoretical, pedagogical, and attitudinal levels is in order (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). At the theoretical level, he suggests, the profession needs to generate an environment that fosters multiple identities within the learner communities. A means to achieve this objective, according to Canagarajah (1999), is to move away from the prevailing notion of English as a culturally loaded concept to English as a communication tool that gives room to different varieties of English that are used for expressing norms that are typically local in tone and function.

At pedagogical level, Kumaravadivelu (2006) calls for a renewed relationship between the center and periphery regarding the major areas of ELT activity that include materials development, teaching methodology, and teacher education.

As for the materials development, Tomlinson (2005) considers the existing trends in developing language materials for global markets as flawed and advocates for a less biased approach that respects the local needs of the learners in the periphery communities.

*****

What can you do, the individual teacher? You could join a professional ELT organization. TESOL and IATEFL are ELT organizations with a long and distinguished history. One or the other, if not both, are most likely in your home country. TESOL has a Special Interest Group (SIG), called Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL. Their Statement of Purpose:

The Nonnative English Speakers in TESOL Interest Section (NNEST-IS) serves as a focus for the interaction of members who share a common interest in a wide variety of issues concerning nonnative-English-speaking professionals. It creates a venue for identifying and addressing NNEST-related issues and facilitating communication and networking both among IS members and those of TESOL at large.

Another thing you could do is write articles and books about this topic. The writing of this article is a positive step. For example, if this article had not been written, it would not have caught the attention of myself and other ELT professionals. This article makes people stop, and truly reflect on the current situation.  This preference for the Native Speaker has existed now for over 130 years. In the globalised world we live in today, with more non-native speakers of English than native speakers, it’s time for professionals in the field to take a stand and change things for the better.

It has long been widely accepted in ELT that the native and the nonnative teacher each has a skill set that complement each other. ELT professionals should be willing to make the public aware of the benefits that can be achieved when the weaknesses of each teacher (NEST and NNEST) are minimised and the strengths maximised.

Cooperation and collaboration between NEST and NNEST is a win-win situation. In my honest opinion, that is a way forward that has a high probability of satisfying all of the stakeholders; students, parents, business owners, schools, and publishers. We should not forget that ELT is a multibilion dollar industry, and that is a pie big enough for everyone to have a piece of the pie.

Commentary by Thomas Jerome Baker

Author of Teaching English Language Learners Worldwide

Bibliography

JOURNAL OF ENGLISH STUDIES
ELT: A Trojan Horse in Disguise? by Mohammad Mehdi Soleimani
Islamic Azad University, Karaj Branch, Islamic Azad University, Science & Research Branch, 1(3), 37-40, Summer 2011

Canagarajah, S. (1999). Resisting linguistic imperialism in English teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Dangerous liaison: Globalization, empire, and TESOL. In J. Edge (Ed.), Re-Locating TESOL in an age of empire (pp.1-25). London: MacMillan.

Phillipson, R. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tomlinson, B. (2005). The future for ELT materials in Asia. Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 2(2), 5-13.

 

 

 

 

 

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About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Authors, Culture, Debates, Education, EFL, Human Rights For NNEST ELT Teachers, Reading, Reflections, Research, TEFL Employment, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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