On 27 April at 9pm BST, #ELTchat tackled the topic ‘Non-native teachers of English and their insecurities about teaching a language that is not their mother tongue!’ This was the favourite topic this #ELTchat with 36% of the vote. This summary was first posted on Mike Harrison’s blog – @harrisonmike on Twitter – and it is reproduced here with his kind permission.
At first it seemed that the exact focus of the chat had been missed – everyone was discussing the relative benefits and disadvantages of being either a native or non-native speaker of English as a teacher, rather than identifying any insecurities either group may have.
@naomishema #eltchat Hi all! I work with a lot of NNesters and they have the advantage of having grown up in the system , know SS point of view well
However, after a quick reminder, we all got back on topic. Some insecurities that NNESTs had were identified as (brackets indicate #ELTchatters I think put forward these ideas in nice succinct tweet-form – and where I have been able to identify this in the transcript!):
- pronunciation, and in particular accuracy thereof and of being able to ‘pronounce words [they may] never have heard before’ (@hakan_sentrk), and especially…
- dealing with different dialects and accents in English-speaking countries and around the world (@ShellTerrell), and…
- general confidence using the language, especially when they might be ‘corrected by someone with a “how dare you” look?’ upon making a mistake (@hakan_sentrk)
- dealing with collocations (@pacogascon)
- dealing with a climate where the learners (for whatever reason) want a native-speaker teacher
- @ShellTerrell also mentioned colleagues she knew who hadn’t been allowed to speak at conferences as they were not native speakers
However, I think that areas where NNESTs might be more confident with were also identified:
- dealing with grammar (or perhaps, more accurately described, dealing with FORM) (@Marisa_C), because of…
- understanding learners’ errors better as they share an L1 and have grown up in an English language learning environment perhaps somewhat like their learners (@naomishema)
Some mention was also made of the relative NESTness and NNESTness of private and state-provided EFL, that is, the fact that there are relatively few native-speaker teachers in state EFL in some countries and the teaching body is predominately made up of non-native English speakers. When you look at private language schools where EFL is taught, the native speaker is king/queen. However, that is probably a question for another #ELTchat!
So, how can NNESTs deal with these insecurities. These were suggestions put forward (as tweeted):
@tarabenwell: @harrisonmike @Marisa_C […] we can all improve by focusing on “intelligibility” rather than “accent”. #ELTChat
@maikelfontes: RT @harrisonmike: Teachers can get a wide range of accents to listen to from podcasts like the BBC ones: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts #eltchat #pronunciation
@BethCagnol: RT @divyabrochier: #eltchat I think it’s healthy to use materials that show worldwide uses of Eng to debunk the myth that it belongs to any one culture/nation
@divyabrochier: RT @Marisa_C: So LOADS of listening – and more listening and more listening – and KARAOKE! #ELTchat for pronunciation practice
@lolonagi: @Marisa_C recording ur self audacity and listeing to ur recording #eltchat
@japglish: @Marisa_C skype based language exchanges for free #eltchat
@mkofab: Think we should do what we tell r stds.Read,listen,learn,study,travel,communicate with NS in every possible way.Create PLN with NS #ELTchat
In addition to those above, some great links were shared:
- On NNESTs:
- Raised by NNESTs by Natasa Bozic
- The NEST/non-NEST debate by Ken Wilson
- Any obstacles for non-native English-speaking teachers on the TeachingEnglish forum
- On pronunciation:
- Session by Robin Walker at IATEFL 2011: Pronunciation matters!
- My EnglishClub pronunciation activities from Tara Benwell
- @Cybraryman1 AKA Jerry Blumengarten’s Pronunciation page
- English Central, which has some good self-access practice activities
- Not tweeted, but sent to me after the chat by Elizabeth Anne: Stephen Krashen’s conjecture on pronunciation