My IATEFL 2018 Highlights (4 of 6): the ‘Native/Non-Native’ Debate

A topic which is very close to my heart; it was great to see a growing number of presenters who viewed it from different angles. As before, you can see more slides and notes in my little database if any of the sessions below interest you.

1. Managing and developing teachers with lower English proficiency / Gerhard Erasmus

Gerhard spoke about a British Council project in Nepal and through discussion questions and stories led us to an understanding of what such teachers may need. He also mentioned the difference between teachers and any other language learners: they need to be able to use L2 in classroom communication. It’s very different from my own context: very proficient NNSTs, on the other hand, need to focus on other areas of language (not classroom instructions) and on increasing their level of confidence.

2. NNESTs’ professional confidence in the ‘standard British English’-model workplace / Yoko Kobayashi (poster)


This is a poster presentation which I missed because of all the running from building to building between sessions, but I still wanted to include the photo of the poster. It was inspiring to see that Malaysian teachers of English in the research were professionally confident, and this confidence stemmed from many years of training and (!) their status as NNSTs.

3. Teacher profiles: native, non-native, qualified, trained? / Jasmina Sazdovska & Zsuzsanna Soproni


Jasmina and Zsuzsanna presented the results of a survey of more than 300 ELT teachers about the most important qualities of a good English teacher. Perhaps not surprisingly, language proficiency was seen as the most important characteristic by native and non-native speaker teachers alike.
Their solution to the native/non-native issue? Pay more attention to language proficiency and review the contents of teacher training courses. I can’t agree more!

4. The only non-NEST in the village / Sebastian Lesniewski
This presentation was at the same time as Ross’s, but I was able to catch it on video later (thanks, Sebastian!)


Sebastian quoted IATEFL speakers from previous years and used his personal experience to reflect on the position of non-native speaker teachers in ELT. I agree with him that ‘non-native’ is not a derogatory term, but we do need to look for better ways to talk to students about our origin. He also said that as non-natives we need to try harder and be better teachers to compete in the market, but he sees this as a positive challenge – do you?

5. ‘Native’ & ‘non-native’ English teachers: contrasting opinions / Ross Thorburn 


I had already been familiar with Ross’s research and wrote about it here. What was particularly interesting in his presentation was the paradoxes that he saw in the customers’ attitudes. For example, students think that ‘natives’ are better at teaching pronunciation, but they often can’t tell the difference between a native and a non-native accent; also, they consider ‘non-natives’ better teachers of grammar and vocabulary, but at the same time are ready to pay more for a ‘native’. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but, to reiterate Ross’s quote from Dr House:





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s